Wednesday, February 29, 2012

do not seek wealth, cease from considering it - proverbs 23:4

does crazy wealth and ridiculous spending disgust you? it does me. something drastic changed when i fell in love with jesus and the word of God. jesus was incredibly content. if anyone deserved wealth, comfort, and all the glory it was the son of God... but he instead chose simplicity, modesty, and an appreciation for the basics.

i could go on (and on, and on, and on...) about this - what the bible says, what jesus taught about the pursuit of money. somehow we miss it as we pursue success and wealth, but its nothing short of astonishing how clear the teachings really are.

i just saw on the news that the oscars were this week. it was a story on the "total value of clothes and jewelry on the red carpet." does the title of the story alone make you want to vomit???

one actress, leslie mann, wore a $23k dollar dress, a $1.5 million dollar pair of earrings, a $1 million dollar bracelet, a $1k pair of shoes, and i dont remember the necklace, purse, etc... but her total outfit totaled almost $3 million.

God help us.

but at the same time, lets not let the absolute absurd help us justify the unnecessary car, house, upgrades, or daily purchases that tempt us every day.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

a story about Edilberto (Enrique's dad)

my blogs have been sporadic lately. different reasons. mostly i think just going though an introspective season lately. lots going in here - tough challenges, amazing praises, and some normal "life stuff" that just adds up. all in all we are doing well and we push forward. a quick update...

i have blogged about enrique several times. you can scroll down and see his pictures, his warm smile. he's a boy in the academy here who has a very tough home life. every day he enters the academy with a huge smile on his face, so happy to be here. but he goes home to an abusive father who makes life at home beyond miserable for the whole family. i have shared it before, but enrique goes to bed each night with 2 options - try to stop his dad when he starts hitting his mom in a drunken rage and get beat up himself, or lay in bed crying, trying to ignore what's going on. we've been praying for enrique, his dad, his home for a long time, and when i ask enrique how things are going, its always the same story...

some time ago, as i was praying, God challenged me to reach out to enrique's dad. up until this point the only interaction i had planned to have with this man was to walk into his house and smash his head through a wall. so hearing God say "go love on him" was difficult to accept at best.

after some time, i submitted begrudgingly to the conviction and began visiting enrique's dad. we would sit and talk. i struggled with balancing being kind with being honest and forward. i hated it when he would feed me "music to my ears" and tell me about his family, his wife, his kids. all seemed so fake.

over time, maybe 4-5 visits, i began to start liking him, sort of. i saw some of enrique's sweetness in him. even when he was under some influence (not drunk - when i've been with him when he's drunk he can barely stand up straight), i could see that some of his kindness was genuine. God revealed to me something i already knew but had struggled with in this situation - that this man has a heart, has a desire to know God, love his family, and do good - but that the addiction has captured him and he is trapped.

after spending some time with mom and the kids one day when dad wasn't around, i received their blessing to talk with him about going to rehab. i had done some research and found what seemed like a great option for a place in the city. to my surprise, mom and kids were overwhelmingly supportive. she described it as a last chance, because they had all basically reached the point where they were going to leave. (almost unheard of in the village, where women simply accept their situations and never stand up for themselves.)

so i asked mynor and anthony to walk down with me and present the idea to him. we all knew it was risky. we prayed against the enemy's desire to harden Edilberto's heart. he could easily write us off - 2 gringos and mynor - as thinking we know better than trying to take him away from his family, steal his home from him. he could portray it any way he wants. he could respond in anger and pride. after all, the program we were going to recommend he go to requires him to be gone for 9 months...

he listened. not much of a reaction. said he would think about it, talk to his family.

weeks went by. i would stop in, see what he had to say. he brushed it off, said they "hadn't decided as a family yet." meanwhile, mom and kids were telling me he had never mentioned it to them and refused to talk about it. the drinking and abuse continued...

i was at the end of my rope. in fact i mentioned it in a blog a week or so ago. just frustrated and feeling like there are no more options. i cant spend every day being this guys friend if he's beating his wife and/or kids every night. enrique would cry if i even asked him "how is your dad." i was done. throwing in the towel.

until monday, when enrique told me his dad wanted to talk. mark and i went down to see him right away. when i approached his home, he came outside and said "i need help, i'll do anything." we hugged and prayed. he probably thought i was weird.

yesterday, mynor and i took Edilberto to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in guatemala city. later in the day, as we were eating lunch together, we both agreed that it was one of the strangest, most difficult experiences either of us had ever had.

it started when we picked him up. we watched as he said goodbye to his family. his wife was nowhere to be found. his 3yr old granddaughter cried, seemed to know what was going on. his mom (75yrs old) sobbed and didn't want to let him go. he cried too. his teenage daughters didn't say a word, just watched from their window, as if they were doubting he would really leave. both mynor and i felt as if they were giddy with excitement, thinking of the new freedom that would soon exist in their home...

knowing he would be gone for 9 months, all he had was a small backpack (like half the size of a normal backpack) of clothes. when we asked if thats all he was bringing he said "thats all i have."

when we got there, we listened through the orientation and toured the facilities. he had tears in his eyes the whole time. before we left, we gave him a large box that contained a month's worth of food, all necessary hygiene items, a bible, notebook, and pen. i told him that i had already told his family that i would bring them down to see him during visiting hours anytime they wanted to go. he responded "they wont want to, but thats ok, i'll be fine."

as we left, he gave us an unexpected hug and a sincere thank you. again, with tears in his eyes, he shared with us that he has no friends that would ever do this for him. that he realizes we are doing this to give him a chance to save his life and his family, and that he will always be thankful. wow. he had never talked like this before. i had always wondered if our "friendship" was real, or if he just thought i was annoying and strange. i silently praised God for this encouragement and affirmation.

so mynor and I left him there. we may have driven all the way to the fast food restaurant before we said much. it all just felt surreal.

oh, i almost forgot... something had happened on the way down to the rehab center that we will never forget. we were making small talk with Edilberto. you know, how many brothers & sisters, what ages, etc, etc. he said he is one of 3 but that his older brother died some years back. "how did he die", mynor asked. "the alcohol... he was an alcoholic and it eventually killed him." "how old was he when he died?", mynor asked. "42", he said.

"how old are you now", i asked. "42", he said.

silence came upon us. no words were necessary. we were all thinking the same thing. Edilberto doesn't want to end up like his bro. this was his chance to start over. God was throwing him a rescue line and he had finally decided to grab it.

will you join us in praying for Edilberto for the next 9 months? for strength during the tough days? for a soft heart to accept Christ's love and grace? for a changed man-husband-father to eventually come home to his family?

thank you so much for the continued love and support.

Monday, February 6, 2012

grinding away

funny i just noticed that my last blog was titled "good day". i say that b/c i started this post to say that the last couple weeks have been challenging.

about 12 hours after praying over berter (2 blog posts down), we received a knock at the door letting us know that he was dead. we were stunned. we know that God provided a miracle in order to get him to a doctor and get diagnosed. we were so optimistic. but the results came back worse than imaginable. maybe it was all so that his family could be prepared, i dont know.

another death. another widowed wife. more fatherless kids. sad and frustrating to say the least...

on another note, i continue meeting with enrique's dad without success. we are praying and wanting so badly that he enter into rehab and attempt to do something good for himself and his family. but he gives us no reaction. his wife and daughter's cry as we talk, and literally beg him to do it. but he is emotionless. his wife is ready to give up. his kids dont want to come home. please pray for them. i am beginning to think i've done all i can do.

last week we had to do one of the hardest things we've done since the boy's academy started. we had to remove on of the boys for breaking rules. he had received warnings, been pulled aside and told "last chance", but he boldly continued doing the same thing. we had no choice. as much as i know that it was the right decision, it broke my heart.

aside from all this, life just seems to be a "grind". in addition to the daily schedule of the boys academy and all that flows from that, in the last 5 days i have been asked for 4-5 houses, 2 loans to be paid, funeral expenses to be paid, help with employment, help with school supplies, help with food, help with transportation, help with medicine, help for a local church, and for help for new clothes. it is so hard to navigate and discern. i always pray that we make good decisions. lately we have been so exhausted at the end of the day. it has never felt so good to simply sit down and have a cup of coffee, and unwind. i am thankful to have my best friend since i was 15yrs old (kerrie), and an awesome family to share all of this with...

almost every day last week we had boys from the academy at our house for dinner. in fact, jose (and his sister luvia) just left after coming over for dinner and hanging out with us for a bit. in these boys i see the future of this place. if they turn out to be good daddy's, good husbands, followers of Jesus - it will be worth every tough day!