Friday, May 28, 2010

god speaking to me through romulo

today i was on the jobsite helping work on the current 12x12 home. during lunch break romulo and i were sitting talking (romulo is the foreman for the 12x12 construction ministry.) where we were sitting had us both watching the happenings of a next door neighbors place. as we talked, a drunk guy kept harassing us, shouting about how he wanted a new house. i told him we could talk another day. romulo finally nudged him off.

the neighbor's house we watched had 6 or 7 kids running around. all morning they had been on their own, occasionally walking over to hang out with us. the oldest looked about 14, and the youngest maybe 3. the oldest girl stayed busy sweeping and cleaning, and every once in a while she'd ask some of the others where the little ones were.

i asked romulo if he knew them, he said yes. i asked if the kids are always alone like they are today... again, he said yes. i asked if he knew where their parents are... he told me the mom is in another city, working a vegetable stand, and the dad is the drunk guy who just left us.

i know this guy. he is drunk in the street almost every single day. usually passed out on the sidewalk or street after taking a hard fall.

romulo and i continued to talk about how sad their situation is. he told me he has known their family for years. we talked about how these kids have no hope. they have no example. no one teaching them anything. no one encouraging them, nor disciplining them. no one loving them.

they dont go to school because no one cares if they do or not.

after a couple minutes of silence, romulo asked me "and you know who is guilty?" who, i asked. "the dad."

he went on to tell me that this family has never had a leader. he said these kids have no hope because their dad is their example, and they will likely follow his footsteps.

as i listened to romulo, i thought of our vision that we have been having for the boys of Buena Vista. for over a year now, we have been feeling led to start a ministry devoted to mentoring young boys, with hopes that they may see there is another way, and break the generational patterns they follow.

romulo doesn't know anything about this, yet i felt God was using him to speak to me, to remind me, to push me forward.

thanks for the reminder romulo. thanks for the encouragement God.

Monday, May 24, 2010


We met Candelario over a year ago. Romulo had recommended we visit his family as a potential candidate for a new home. When we arrived, he wasn't home, but his wife and daughter-in-law's were there.

It was a great visit. His wife was so sweet, and his daughter-in-laws had a similar sweet way about them. His wife told me she thought Candelario was out drinking. A little embarassed, she looked at the ground as she told me.

Since then, we have slowly developed a friendship with Candelario and his family. He is an alcoholic, and he admits it. He knows it is a problem. We intentionally talk openly with him about it (unusual in this culture), and confess our own struggles in an attempt to let him know that we love him all the same, and that God's grace is sufficient.

On Christmas Eve night, 2009, we showed up at Candelario's house with food baskets. The Moreau family was visiting us, and it was something that God had put on Paul's heart to do. We arrived with the food only to find out that they had NOTHING TO EAT on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day. Candelario's sons (young men) cried as they realized that God knew their hunger, and He had sent us to bring them something to eat.

Finally, in February of 2010 we received sponsors to build Candelario a new home, complete with a bathroom.

One of the challenges was that they have 8 children, 7 of which are adults who have their own families. So 19 people (Candelario, his wife, 6 of their kids with their spouses, and 6 grandkids) all sleep together - packed into a giant tin shack. One of our standard 12x12 Love Project homes would not be enough. So God blessed us with 3 different sponsors to build a home twice the size of our normal houses!

When we delivered the news the family was ecstatic. Candelario was a few drinks into his evening when we arrived, but i honestly think the news sobered him up! They cried and celebrated as we shared the plan to build a house big enough for all of them.

Over the months that followed, genuine friendships developed. Candelario is doing better, and he regularly initiates the conversation about his drinking and how he is improving. The conversation always seems to find a way back to the grace of God... to the cross of Jesus.

The key ceremony was a sweet moment. Candelario emotionally shared that this home is "beyond all of my dreams." He said that he had honestly dreamt about having a block home with doors and windows, that he could pass down to his children, but that it was always just a dream with no possibility of becoming true.

I asked Romulo (the 12x12 Construction Foreman) to give Candelario the keys to his new home. Fighting back tears of his own, Romulo said to his friend since elementary school, "with these keys, your dreams have come true."

I believe Candelario and his family are learning about Jesus. I believe God is using the 12x12 Love Project and it's supporters to open doors of true friendship and discipleship. He is using this ministry as an tool to make known his grace and love.

for lots of pics of the construction process and key ceremony, CLICK HERE

Friday, May 21, 2010

anna's family dry tonight

as i type it is pouring outside and i am thankful. about a month ago, our neighbor anna asked if we could help with her roof, which was full of holes and leaking water. we finished the project this week... and tonight anna & carlos, and their 3 beautiful girls are sleeping dry in the rainstorm. praise God.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

blanca's 15th birthday

here it's called a quinceanera. its the HUGE celebration when a girl turns 15. in latin cultures, its kind of like welcoming the girl into womanhood.

if you're unfamiliar with blanca suzanna, please give a few minutes to watch this video about her life and how we met her before reading on...

about 2 weeks before her 15th birthday, blanca asked me if we could all come to her party ("all the gringos", she said). of course we said yes, and began asking her more about it. there really wasn't anything planned, as normally a quinceanera resembles an all-out wedding bash... and this family has zero resources to throw a party. nonetheless, blanca was determined to have a quinceanera.

we decided to try to make it a little bit more special for her. kerrie and gina spent a day with her shopping for a dress, shoes, etc. they also took blanca out to lunch, which i'm sure was a first time experience for her.

blanca's blue dress was exactly what she wanted, and it fit her perfectly without needing anything done. they also picked up a new dress for blanca's mom.

the morning of the party, kerrie and gina took blanca and her mom to get their hair done. probably another first...

it was a sweet day. blanca cried as people hugged her and told her how beautiful she looked. her mom and family members made chicken, and others chipped in to bring salad, tortillas, and drinks.

considering her life story, blanca sadly gave up a normal childhood long ago. but i hope she always remembers her 15th birthday party.

see all the pics from the event HERE

Sunday, May 16, 2010

no soy doctor

struggling with the new role of doctor, taxi, and ambulance. word has hit the street that we've taken some people to the hospital, helped with medicine, helped some people get surgeries, etc. but it seems like someone made a public announcement in the last 3 days!

yesterday i was asked 4 separate times for help with medical surgeries. each one started "i heard you are taking people to the hospital."

today i was asked another 3-4 times (twice inside a 10 window about an hour ago - 9pm). 2 separate knocks at the door asking for a ride to the hospital. the first was for a 9 month pregnant woman, the 2nd for a baby that her mom thought needed to get to the hospital.

man... talk about difficult to discern. God, help us know what are emergencies and what is not. obviously we can't be a full time medical shuttle to the city.

kerrie and i went and checked on the 2yr old. gave her some fever reducer and some gatorade and we'll see in the morning. as for the pregnant mom, turns out she wasn't even in labor... just wanted to know if we would take here when her labor starts! she thinks it will be tonight or tomorrow...

wheww... it is already impossible to get through the to-do list each day. running around to hospitals on a daily basis doesn't seem possible. sure would appreciate the prayers. needing God's help in discerning...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

cecilia's cancer scare

the child pictured to your right is named elda. she is 6. she thought her mom was dying of cancer.

a month ago cecilia walked into our medical clinic and told jon, one of the doctor's, that she was dying of cancer. she had already been diagnosed and needed a surgery that she couldn't afford. in tears she asked us "who is going to take care of my 5 children?"

the next couple of weeks was spent learning more. doctor's, blood tests, and a cancer treatment center... not to mention long and difficult talks with the family.

as is becoming the case more and more, we are realizing challenges that we never could have foreseen. to make a very long story short, this ordeal has taught us more about:
  • the corruption in the guatemalan health care system, where the poor are exploited and told they need expensive surgeries when they really don't. knowing they cannot research things, go for second opinions, etc, the doctor's know that the poor will return to their villages, borrow money from friends and family, sell their things, and collect the necessary money "so they don't die."
  • the challenge of educating the poor as they receive medical attention. with no education whatsoever, and no ability to read, they simply listen to doctors with no idea what they are saying, and are too intimidated to ask questions. (we discovered cecilia had a surgery that removed a cancerous cyst on her uterus and she didn't even know it)
  • the challenge of educating the poor as to the importance of hygiene. cecilia and her husband do not bathe regularly, and told the doctor it's because of old stories passed down from their grandparents about the danger of water getting inside your body through your private parts.
  • the need for the poor to have a voice - an advocate who can speak for them and defend their rights so they can be taken seriously.
through all of this, the good news is that cecilia is fine. she is cancer free, the infections are cleared up, and she seems to have a healthier life ahead of her.

and elda, who hasn't left her mom's bed (thinking she was dying) can finally return to school knowing that mommy is ok.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"why do they do it?"

a while back some friends (who wished to stay anonymous) donated the funds to build a home for a local family named the Marroquin's. at that time, the Marroquin's lived in a mud and cornstalk home. click here to watch a short 2 min video about them...

ever since then, a friendship has been developing. we love to visit the Marroquin's, hang out with them and their kids, and just sit and visit.

another friend, who had connected with the Marroquin's while he was here visiting, sent money for Christmas gifts for the kids. you can watch that little video here...

not long after that, the same family that donated their home sent birthday gifts to the family. we brought the gifts...color books, toys, etc. there was also a spanish bible included.

recently, the anonymous family also donated bunk-beds and linens to the family, so that the 5 of them no longer had to share the same twin-size bed.

as we were installing the beds, Maria (the mom) told me she had to tell me something. beaming with excitement, she began explaining that on the evening the birthday presents were delivered, her husband Eulalio asked her out of the blue: "why do they do it?".

when she asked what he was talking about, he went on to explain that he didn't understand why the gringos keep blessing them. it did not make sense to him, and he was convinced that there must be some reason. something selfish or self gratifying, he thought.

Maria explained to her husband that she thought it was because "they just love God and they want to help people."

Maria went on to tell me that after a few days had passed, Eulalio said to her, "if that's the only reason they are doing it, than i want to know more about their God."

so she recommended he start reading the bible that was given to them...

he read the bible each night for several weeks (praise God he can read, as most in the village cannot). one evening, to Maria's amazement, he told her while laying in bed, "I think want to follow Jesus." she said they talked all night... and he went on to commit his life to Jesus and was baptized in his local church the following week.

in tears, Maria said their family life has been completely different ever since - "full of joy and peace." still poor... still struggling to get by... but full of joy and peace. she told me that Eulalio is a different person, husband, and father.

she said to me as she wiped her eyes: "i want you to know that it's all because of you guys. you have shown us God's love and you have shown us Jesus. we learned about His love by the way you love us."

for me there is nothing more encouraging than seeing people come to Jesus through seeing Him, feeling Him, and being touched by Him.

i'm sure Eulalio has "heard" about Jesus his entire life. but until recently, he had never been radically loved on in Jesus' name. that's our job as the church.

when asked what is the greatest commandment of all, Jesus said: "love your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength... and love your neighbor as yourself."

thank you to everyone who has loved the Marroquin's as themselves. one has been added to God's kingdom as a result.