Wednesday, June 27, 2012

please pray for cesar

cesar is not doing well. his wife andrea called all of us to please pray. later that day, gina texted all of us to come over because cesar was calling out for us. throughout the evening he would scream out "papito, ya no mas" (father, that's it, no more) and "papito, ya no puedo" (father, i cant do anymore). 

amazingly, as i watched him scream out from the pain he was feeling - he would also say "i love you father", "God is so good", "help me daddy".  he would wake from a complete sleep, quoting scripture by chapter and verse in a barely conscious mumble. 

finally, the doctor arrived from san lucas to give some pain medication and IV fluids.  when we stepped outside to talk with him, he shared bluntly that the "end has arrived."  i immediately looked at andrea and her head fell.  she has seen her husband - a true medical miracle - fight for 8 years after being told by medical professionals that he had no more than 1 year to live.

while we were there, cesar kept waking up and asking for jake. "he's on the way from practice with mynor" i would say, "he'll be here soon."  over and over again, he would be alerted from sleep and say in the form of a question "jake?"

finally jake arrived. cesar held him and cried. he gave him so much advice, thanked him for his smile and his friendship. he gave him scripture to "always remember". finally, as he squeezed jake's arm he said "jake listen to me...  you are going to be a warrior for christ...  he will give you your own ministry...  and you will be a warrior..."

i saw jake get tears in his eyes.  we talked about it later and jake said that he knows when cesar says something - it is true.  without knowing the way to articulate it (actually, he articulated it perfectly), jake knows that some people have the ability, based on who they are in christ, to speak prophetically. in my lifetime, i have never met anyone more qualified to do so than cesar.

i have never known anyone like him. right down to the end, he is ministering to others. speaking words of strength into people's lives. claiming God's goodness, quoting God's word, and literally taking joy in the toughest form of suffering - unbearable physical pain.

we prayed, sang songs, and sat in the quiet. today cesar is not doing much better. andrea told us that he is coughing blood and vomiting constantly.  please join us in prayer. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

night to remember

2 of the rhinos watching the game
i got an email from my buddy jon jackson: "hey bro, did you know that while our youth team is in guatemala, the US national team is playing against the guatemala national team in a world cup qualifier?"

that started it all...

about a month later, after some serious fundraising efforts on their part, we had chartered a school bus and were on our way - 48 people deep - to the national stadium in guatemala city to watch one of the biggest games to come to town in quite some time.

30 boys from poverty, rarely removed from their all-too-well-known lifestyle of dirt floors and not-enough-to eat...  got the opportunity of a lifetime to watch their national team play against the United States.

the phrase "kid in a candy store" doesn't even come close to doing it justice. all of these boys, who love soccer more than they probably should, sat and watched some of the best players in world for 90 minutes. they knew all of their names, and up until this had maybe only seen them play on tv.

to make it even more special, their team came back from behind to finish with a tie (1-1) with only a few minutes remaining.  it was an incredible experience, a ton of fun, and surely a moment in time that they will never forget for the rest of their lives.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

joy comes in the morning

brock & madi at dona juana's funeral
one word that describes juana's life - alone.

almost every time we visited, whether just our family, or a group of friends, she always let us know that she was alone. she reiterated over and over again that she had no parents, no brothers and sisters, and no kids. she would always say "estoy sola, no tengo nadie..."

her funeral felt just like that.

the catholic church did a small service. we carried her casket in the back of the truck from buena vista to magdalena with a few people walking behind us.  some local men helped dig the hole, we put her casket inside and filled the hole with dirt.  they asked me to pray a prayer, and that was it.

not even one member of the family whose house juana has lived in since we met her attended the funeral.

my daughter madi reminded me of my last conversation with juana the day before she died.  it was a beautiful sunny day but her back was towards the window and she laid in bed facing a concrete wall. when i asked her if i could turn her to face the window, she said "no, i dont like the sun. i like the rain."

madi said this to me as the rain poured down from above.

it was a moment that reminded me of juana's life.  alone.

i am thankful today for the truth of scripture.  thankful that "joy comes in the morning."  thankful that juana is finally with Jesus.

she will never be alone again.

"...weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning."  psalm 30:5

Sunday, June 17, 2012

lost a special friend today

those who sow in tears will reap in songs of joy.  (psalm 126:5)

Doña Juana has definitely sowed in tears. 

several times in scripture, we're taught that the least of these will be made the greatest.  that those who suffer the most will reap greater reward. 

today, Juana is reaping that reward.

she had no one.  no parents, no children, no brothers and sisters.  her distant cousins or nieces/nephews could have cared less about her.  she truly lacked any loving relationships.

but in her last couple years of life, God changed all that.  she was able to enjoy friendships, love, gifts, and birthday parties with dozens of new friends.  despite being from a different country and speaking a different language, it was perhaps the deepest love she ever knew.  she had medical bills paid, food and clothes donated, and many memories made.  she gave the glory to Jesus every time.

surely today she is with Him.  all of the heavenly images from scripture that we dream about are a reality for her today.  streets of gold, a sea of crystal, and best of all - the presence of God himself.  based on her life of suffering, i believe Doña Juana is enjoying the best of heavens riches to the fullest on this day.

thank you to all of those who knew her, visited her, brought gifts and paid bills.  whatever you did for Juana, you did for Jesus himself. (mat 25:40)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

celebrating the return of carlos & enrique

Carlos at the amusement park
its definitely been challenging with the older boys in the academy.  in this culture, by 15 years old, you are a no longer a boy.  so these "grown men" (14 to 17) don't always take well to discipline and rules.  its been a daily challenge.  i haven't been blogging about all the ups and downs.  but lets just say the downs are waaay down there.  you give your heart (and a lot more) to these kids, and so when they completely burn you, turn their back on you...  it hurts.

but this blog is to celebrate a couple of the "ups" that do come and drown out the downs.

both enrique and carlos are back!  carlos (17yrs old), after a year and a half in the program (and a lot that we've been through together) decided a month ago to walk away from the program and never come back (long story).  but a few days ago, he came to us out of the blue saying he was sorry and asked for another chance. he was genuine.  he had been having major arguments with his parents, and his parents finally told him that he hasn't been the same since he stopped coming to the academy.  they told him how disappointed they were in him, etc, and encouraged him to come talk to us.  we agreed on an appropriate punishment, forgave him, and accepted him back in to the program.  its been great to have him around the last few days. 

enrique had left us about a month ago as well.  he had become hardened, rude, and mean.  similar to carlos, one day he just disappeared.  we have talked to him at different times throughout the month, and he just scoffs at us and acts like he doesn't care.  i have never felt a peace in my heart about it.  monday morning, anthony and i walked down to his house.  he was working in a nearby field, but his sister went and got him.  we talked.  the holy spirit clearly moved in this moment, and softened his heart.  he cried.  i mentioned many of his friends in the US - by name - and asked him if he remembered... that all of these people ask about about him and pray for him regularly.  he broke.  he cried, and cried.

finally, after talking about all the details, the opportunities he was missing out on (for no apparent reason), about how many people love and support him, about how we (johnsons, leivas, wideners, etc) love and care for him like our own son...  i told him that we had not touched his locker, that his shoes, uniform, practice gear, etc was all still there.  that the door is still open if he wants to return, but this is it... if you say no, we need to offer your spot to another boy who wants it.  he said "yes, please let me come back"!  yesterday he stood in front of his team and apologized, and they all accepted him back.

while we dont know what tomorrow holds, we are celebrating these stories of grace, love and forgiveness today.

if anything else, we are reminded how difficult these boys lives are.  most of them get ZERO support from their parents.  in fact many of their parents tell them they are wasting their time, that they should be working in a field for a couple bucks a day.  there is so much pressure on them.  we know that the enemy is real - and he does not want them in the academy, learning about Jesus every day.

please pray with us for these boys.  thank you for fighting the battles with us.  ephesians says that the battle is unseen - not against flesh and blood but against the authorities and powers of evil in the spiritual realm.  we feel it all around these boys for sure.  your prayers are powerful in engaging the battle.

and thanks for praying for and supporting us - we will keep you posted on the pains and the victories!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

the impact of inaction

do you care who made the first tent?  how about the first flute?  you should, and here's why...

have you ever thought about the fact that when you have an idea, a dream, or even a passion - and you don't pursue it - you may be impacting a lot more people than just yourself?

tucked away in the early pages of scripture, in context of lineage, some dudes are named with some seemingly random facts beside their names.

"Jabal, the father of those that dwell in tents..."

"Jubal, the father of those who play the pipe..."

"Tubal-cain, the forger of all cutting instruments of bronze or iron..."

admittedly easy to read through that without even stopping, especially since its in the middle of "X was the son of X, and he had a son named X, who had a son named X, who had a son named X, etc, etc."

but i am guessing that before Jabal made the first tent, everyone slept out in the open or under trees.  trees can only protect you so well from the elements.  so the "simple idea" to make a tent was, at that time, pretty cutting edge.  can you imagine it...  one day Jabal is chilling in his new digs, enjoying the shade, the cool, the calm...  and everyone else is like "what!  i gotta get one of those!"

if you think about it, Jabal's tent was the first step towards what you and i live in today.

how about Jubal?  the first to create/play a musical instrument?  are you kidding me?  so the unique and incredible way that only music can speak to our souls - all started with Jubal?  praise God for Jubal.

then there is Tubal-cain.  the first to make "cutting instruments of iron or bronze".  i am taking some liberty to assume that included weapons.  at that time it must have been pretty hard to kill a deer to eat, or protect yourself from a bear in the woods.  (remember, they didn't even have homes or "tents" to go into!)  so maybe Tubal-cain decided to finally create something to better his odds.  an invention that no doubt changed life for everyone from that moment on.

what is my point?

i am just wondering how many ideas we all have that we don't see through...  and how many people are affected forever by our inaction.

maybe we're not all steve jobs.  but its not just "inventions" that i am talking about.

what are you good at?  what passions do you have?  how about simple things that you have been "considering doing" for quite some time, and have yet to do?

have you ever considered that by not doing it, others may never receive the benefits or blessings that your doing it could produce?  i think its cool to look at real things that have happened around you and imagine the what ifs...

"if he/she/they had never have done X, then X may not have ever happened...  ...which means X, and X, and X may not have ever happened..."

know what i mean?  maybe this example is "cliche", but how about the one man who shared Jesus Christ with billy graham?  could he have known that millions would hear about jesus because of that?

maybe its as simple as reaching out to that person in need.  or inviting those people over that have been on your heart.  starting that ministry effort that you've been thinking about.  giving to that cause.  taking that step.  deciding to throw some caution to the wind, trust God, and just go for it.

we don't live in individual bubbles.  our actions, and lack of actions, greatly impact other people even though we cannot see it or predict it. 

we can be sure that Jabal, Jubal, and Tubal-cain had no idea how huge of an impact their actions would have on the rest of us.  they are examples for all of us to not let opportunities pass us by.