Saturday, July 23, 2011

can we stay and play in the grass?

sitting here on a saturday night, downloading pictures onto my computer from the last week, and noticing how many are from the boy's of bvsa hanging out on the property after practices and classes. i love that they love being here. usually we have to tell them its time to go because either its getting late or kerrie and i have to leave! in fact today is saturday and they have been knocking all day asking to play. right now as i type a few of the boys and one of the neighborhood girls are playing in the grass with our kids. kerrie and i are enjoying watching them play...

the grass has been a real blessing. once the boys kept starting to ask to "play in the grass" all the time, we started thinking about how little grass is in buena vista. we had never thought about it before unless jake and i were wanting to go hit or throw baseball, and had to go find a park in another place. for the most part, buena vista is only dust and concrete. we are so thankful to those who donated to grass the property....

we are making memories, building relationships, setting foundation for all that God has to come!

here's a little video of the kids enjoying the property, playing with our kids, and dog piling anthony!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

looking back...

crazy... i just came across the letter we sent out to family & friends back in june of 2008, explaining what God was doing in our hearts and our intention to move to guatemala. having been here almost 3 years now, i am in awe - again - at how amazing God is... and how he longs for us to surrender and follow... check out these excerpts from the letter:

"Two months ago, our family visited Guatemala for a week and we fell in love with the people. We saw the tremendous needs...we were able to love beautiful children who were longing to be hugged... we were able to take part in home-building projects... we met local christians desiring to bring sports and activities to the poor neighborhoods.. we left Guatemala longing to come back, our hearts and minds spinning with thoughts and ideas...

Each of us (our family) believe fully with our collective heart and soul that God is calling us to serve and live amongst the poor in Guatemala. We would be naïve to suggest that we know every detail God has for us, but what little he has already shown us is enough for now...

For now, we are simply responding to the unmistakable voice of Jesus, saying “go and see what I have for you.” Through whatever vehicle God provides, our desire is to help transform communities where poverty has stolen the hope, joy, and life from the people. These are communities we have seen for ourselves. We believe that once we get there, learn the language, and seek God’s path for us, he will give us specific avenues to make that vision a reality!"

for me to read those words right now is breathtaking. seeing how he has blessed our desires, because they matched up with His own heart. the sentence where we shared our "desire to transform communities where poverty has stolen the hope, joy, and life"... is precisely what we pray to see happen through ministry to the boys of bvsa!

and to re-read about our connection with mynor, bringing sports to poor communities, and even the connection with home building projects... all pretty amazing in hindsight. at the time we sent that letter out, we could never have imagined...

as kerrie and i read that letter again tonight we were blown away! praising God tonight for his faithfulness...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

there is hope for enrique

last friday, enrique (pictured here) began crying during conditioning drills in practice. by the time we got to the bottom of it, we determined that he hadn't eaten all day, and was now being pushed physically and experiencing a migrane headache. after a nutrition bar and some gatorade, he was ready to go.

yesterday after practice, enrique approached us in tears, and explained that he could not continue in the academy. things had gotten tough at home, and his family needs him to take on a job to help out. if he works from every day after school until 6pm, he could earn Q10 per day (just over $1). i will never forget coming around the corner and seeing anthony on his knees bear hugging this sobbing child and praying God's peace over him.

today we went to visit enrique's home. when i walked into the rough, dirty, dark home, i immediately recognized his dad. the only times i had seen him before he was belligerently drunk. in fact, his own mom and sister had apologized to me in the past, saying "don't listen to him, he is always like this."

as we shared with the dad about enrique - how well he is doing, how sharp of a kid he is, and how much potential he has - the dad smiled. he told us how good of a boy enrique is, and how respectful. he assured us he could continue in the program. we need to talk to enrique's mom - it seems clear that the dad is absent and she is the one providing for the family (she works every day from 5am to 7pm).

we (myself, mynor, and anthony) all got the feeling that enrique's dad was simply telling us what we wanted to hear. but at one point he looked at enrique, took a deep swallow, and with tears in his eyes, told him "enrique, the truth is, i don't want you to become like me." it was clearly hard for him to say this.

later that day we were talking with enrique. we reinforced how good of a kid he is, how much we love him, and how much jesus loves him... and that with jesus, he has hope. we agreed to pray for his dad and their family. i also told him that he we are always here to talk to, and he can share anything, anytime... that we are here to help.

thats all it took... with tears in his eyes, this precious boy shared how his dad gets violent when he drinks. "he hits my mom, and he hits all of us."

enrique is an incredibly sweet boy. he is in 6th grade. young enough to be led, shaped, and taught. his heart is very soft.

i believe enrique exemplifies why God created this boy's academy. without help, without somebody loving enrique towards something different, what ever stops him from becoming his father? the reality is (and odds are) that enrique is just a few years away from being an abusive drunk. this is the case because it is all he knows. it is a vicious cycle.

i pray for enrique, his family, his dad. i commit to be here for him. to tell him (and the others like him) about jesus, love, and hope... for as long as it takes. God, help me love these boys as my own... help all of us who are working with them to be patient with them, and lead them to you.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

stealing and growing

finding the need to blog more frequently... so much is happening everyday and i dont want to forget! i always love going back and reading old entries and being reminded of all God is doing and has done...

background: we believe God wants us to help the boys nutritionally, so we have started a cliff bar ministry. every day after practice, the boys get a cliff bar - to help recover from their workout. more than that, this bar is loaded with good stuff and is by far the best thing each of these kids eat all day long. most of them eat only two meals per day, both of which are usually tortillas. its the cheapest and most practical way to get full...

each day there are 15 bars on the table outside the gym after practice. today we had one come up missing, so one boy missed out on his bar. mynor and I gathered all the boys in the lockeroom - no one leaving until we figure this out.

we explained that we all make mistakes, we all sin. if the guilty one speaks up, there will be no punishment. "coach mynor" then interjected... and if not, we're all running until everyone pukes - today, tomorrow, and each day going forward, until we figure it out.

after a little more talking & encouraging, one of the boys, Luver, pulled the stolen bar out of his bag. we could see in his eyes that he was extremely nervous, burning inside.

unexpectedly and beautifully this led to a conversation about Jesus and the cross. we celebrated Luver's decision, and explained to the boys that this is what the cross - the blood of Jesus - is all about. we all steal cliff bars (sin in different ways), and the cross allows us to come before our God of Grace, repent, and be cleansed.

after the team meeting, mynor and I had a moment with Luver outside. we shared with him that he did a couple of things today, one bad and one great... and that the GREAT one completely erased the bad one! we told him we loved him, that Jesus loves him, and that no matter what else is going on in his life, no matter what other sins or darkness, it can all be cleansed at the cross.

after a couple long and tight hugs (something men dont do to boys in this village), Luver walked away with giant tears in his eyes.

i have been praying for Luver ever since. praying that he knows Jesus better, maybe experienced His true nature the first time. as mynor and i talked afterwards, we both sensed by the way he was looking at us that he was waiting to get smacked. knowing a little bit about his family life, that would probably make sense. we could both see the fear in his eyes as we spoke with him.

but what he got instead was something he had likely never experienced before. grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and a hug.

i can't judge Luver. he very likely could have been trying to take something good to eat home for his mom or brothers. i cannot relate to being hungry so i cannot assume that i wouldn't do the same thing. but i can point this young man to a God who upholds honesty and righteousness, no matter what the circumstances. and i can point him to a God who knows all of his needs, and can meet every last one.

i just pray that Luver continues his journey towards Jesus, and for my own sensitivity and patience to be a help along that journey. will you pray for him too?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

reflecting...Jose and more

most of us grew up playing sports or other activities. i couldn't even try to count how many teams i was on, how many "seasons" all with uniforms, equipment, and half-time snacks. it was so common that, even for an avid lover of sports, i'm sure i took it for granted.

i can't even imagine how different it would be if i had grown up here, in the village of buena vista guatemala. take Jose for example. jose has never owned a ball much less hopped from season to season, sport to sport with new uniforms, shoes, and equipment for each one. Jose takes care of himself all day. he doesn't go to school, instead passing his days on the streets, usually getting into trouble. he has a mom, but hardly ever sees her. his dad died years ago.

Jose has never taken a shower or a bath (at least the way we think of them). he has an old concrete sink outside his house that his family shares with other families. it gets refilled every other day with ice cold water. to bathe, Jose and the others stand outside the sink in their underwear and splash water on themselves. this scheduled "cleaning day" happens once a week.

for a bathroom, jose's family shares a concrete hole with 2 other families. i have never seen toilet paper there.

ADVOCATE: an intercessor, a person who pleads the cause for another.

the boy's academy has allowed us to be the advocate for Jose and many others. Jose now showers under hot water with soap and shampoo at least 3 times per week. he uses toilets that flush. he has a private locker with "JOSE" on the front, equipped with his jersey, shorts, shoes, socks and underwear. at the academy, Jose has his own desk and school supplies, and is beginning to learn how to read and write.

i don't mean to glorify the material things that the boys are receiving, that is not the point. (in reality, it is the love and affection they receive that is infinitely more valuable.) but the thought of it all does overwhelm me. when i think about my own childhood, or that of my own kids for that matter, where it is "normal" to have these basic things and so much more. i just cannot imagine how Jose and the boys must feel, coming from where they come from, and receiving all of this at once.

thats why this one particular day was overwhelming. it was the second week since we opened the academy, and all the boys were receiving their equipment bag with all of their gear. we had our friends in town, the youngs and hults families. we called each boy's name and they came up, received their duffle bag, bathroom kit, socks, shorts, jersey, shin guards, and shoes. they tried to play cool but the smiles said it all...

then came their moment... fully dressed, first time in new soccer shoes, they entered their gymnasium together as a team. we all watched with chill bumps. we could sense the excitement and their hearts exploding from their chests!!

i made a little video that doesn't even capture a fraction of what it felt like.

please pray for us, pray for Jose and the others, and for the future of this place!

Monday, July 11, 2011

fun with the boys

hanging out after tutoring with the varsity boys today. as is often the case when guys hang out, somebody ends up getting their head shaved....

i love the opportunities before and after classes & practices, to hang out and get to know these boys...

always read more about what's going on at

bienvenidos wideners!

on thursday, anthony and denea widener arrived in guatemala on one-way tickets! they are committing a year to serve here and jumped out of the gates ready to go on day one... fridays are set aside specifically for strength training at BVSA and anthony knows a little bit about that... so he led both sessions, JV and varsity, with two 2-hr training sessions.

denea got started this morning helping out walda and kerrie in the education center and is already getting to know the boys. i am so pumped about their arrival here... and looking forward to all God has for them, the boys, and all of us.

Friday, July 8, 2011

first 2 weeks at BVSA

we now have a couple of weeks under our belt at the Buena Vista Sports Academy for Boys. it has been nothing short of amazing, at least to me...

we have a rough & tough roster of 30 young men that we have started to get to know. there are orphaned kids, abused kids, kids with absent parents, kids who work full time jobs, and kids who were raised on the streets. these boys are tough. i would not want to be the "other team" if a brawl ever breaks out during a game...

at the same time, under the tough skin and hardened hearts, there are sensitive boys full of potential. in only a few weeks some basic things have become obvious, and given us so much hope for them. at the Academy, the boys feel like somebody. they love being here, and i believe that is because the feel some self worth. here they feel loved and appreciated.

there is one 17yr old young man who has a particularly tough-guy image. i have intentionally put my hand on his shoulder or neck during impromptu team meetings (like a do my own son), simply to show him some affection, that he is loved. i have not had any idea how he felt about this until today, when he gave me a hug goodbye. i was shocked. you would be too if you knew this kid.

to me, this is ground-breaking, bigtime stuff. this is the beginning. there is a long road ahead, but i believe it will be a road full of hope, laughs, tears, challenge, and joy. all for your glory, Jesus.