Wednesday, August 29, 2012

make a memory

allan's dad is an alcoholic.

and i dont mean the guy who struggles with alcohol, occasionally getting drunk on the weekend.  i mean daily staggering in the streets drunk, until he finally falls, hits his head, and goes unconscious.

his mom has given up hope.  she works long days, sees very little of her kids and grandkids.  out of necessity, she is absent.

allan misses them both.

he has 10 brothers and sisters.  all older, all married.  all doing their own things.

on this day (pictured riding wilmer's back), he wasn't thinking about any of that.  he was having a blast.  making a memory that will last forever.

there are people all over the place in need of a new memory.  they are hurting, dying inside because of something going on in their lives.

might be divorce.  maybe one of their kids is struggling.  maybe they are out of work.  their husband/wife is cheating.  or they are cheating.  maybe they are living two lives...  and they hate it as much as they think they enjoy it.  maybe they are simply empty b/c they don't know God's love.

reach out.  who cares if you don't know them that well.

who cares if they are "totally different" than you.

love on them.  give them a new memory.  maybe its a lunch out - your treat.  maybe its a surprise gift.  a movie.  a hug.  a conversation.  a slip-n-slide.

a new memory does more than just distract people from their problems.  it softens their hearts.  it warms them up towards opening up about their situation.  it helps start friendships.

and a new friendship is a step towards healing.

allan is a great kid with a ton of issues in his life.  every new memory loosens him up.  it softens his hard heart.  it takes his mind off the troubles that surround him.  it leaves him feeling loved.

we all have allan's in our lives...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

exactly where we're supposed to be

its a great feeling when you know that you've never been more sure - that you're exactly where you're supposed to be.

despite all the issues and challenges that come with the territory, i love what i do.  i love these boys.  i love them when they do something well (improve in their grades, ask a great question during chapel), and i love them when they screw up.

i love the nuances of their personalities.

i love it that i know them so well, that i can tell when something is wrong.  and also when they are faking, lying, or hiding something.

sounds a lot like parenting!

that's our commitment - to treat them as our own.  share their burdens, joys, and sorrows.

today included an emergency hospital run for a sister of one of the rhinos who was in labor, checking in with a teacher, a check-up on one who is sick, 2 being punished, a lot of laughs, and some serious talks.

just knowing that you're exactly where you are supposed to be...  makes the hard days more do-able and the challenges more manageable.  it gives you energy for the daunting task that is in front of you.

i am thankful for clarity for where we are as a family, and where we are focused as a ministry.  thankful for the leivas and their shared passion and commitment.  and for the davis' who are on the way to help share the load.

together, with the other families on the ground working towards different initiatives, we are making a difference.  slowly but surely.  may God be glorified, and may the future generations reap the benefit.

i can't wait to see these boys as young men with families, following Jesus, loving their kids, respecting their wives, and bringing light to darkness.

just the thought reminds me that we're exactly where we're supposed to be.

Monday, August 20, 2012

cesar update: eyes open

after 2 months in darkness, cesar finally opened his eyes!

the first thing he said when he saw us was "oh my, how the kids have grown!" 

he spoke of the dreams he had been having, some of our family, of he and I playing soccer, of the rhinos, of jake and his son pablo, etc.

he was full of life and smiles as we visited.  he shared how special it was, during the 2 months that he was unable to open his eyes, to receive so many visits, hear our voices, and sing with us.  he recounted all the families, teams, and visits, and shared how each one brought him encouragement from God during the tough time.

he quoted scripture.  he talked about the streets of gold that await him us.  he told jokes, and we all laughed.  his wife andrea... smiling as big as i have seen her smile in quite some time. 

we left his house in awe, once again, at God's goodness.  cesar is amazing - and how much more amazing is our God!  his ways are so out of our league to fathom.  not too long ago, we were all pretty certain that we were saying our goodbyes to cesar.  today, he looked better than i have seen him in a long time.

as usual, he repeated his mantra: "if i live, for Christ i live - and if i die, for Christ i die..." 

there is not doubt that he lives for Christ. 

andrea told us that cesar ate beef stew yesterday.  unbelievable.  for months he has only been able to take liquids.

pray with us for healing!  God is the God of the impossible.  he amazes us.  he does miracles. 

cesar reminds me of that every time i see him.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

brooke's 14th birthday

brooke's friends from school are over.  they are funny.  they are loud.  they are sweet.

so special to hear my girls laughing, joking, singing...  in spanish.

i remember, 4 years ago, when they were just starting to learn the language.

3 years ago when they were hacking through it.

2 years ago, starting to get comfortable - finally.

1 year ago, finally able to be themselves.

today...  it is second nature, completely normal, fully comfortable in their new language.

i am always shocked when they get together with friends, at how much they sound like native speakers.  i guess b/c we dont speak too much spanish to each other at home.  they speak it all day at school, and i speak it all day at the academy, but when we're together as a family in the evenings, we typically speak english unless people are over.

anyway - kerrie and i have been truly enjoying sitting back and watching them have a blast with friends.

check out the short video of brooke and her crazy friends.


Friday, August 17, 2012

softer hearts

team leader Sarah headed down the slip N slide with Axel
a team from savannah left this morning after spending a week with our family and the rhinos.

one thing i love seeing happen during weeks like this is how the boys' hearts soften.  something about the combination of:

- slip n' slide 
- twister
- daily worship
- human foosball
- prayer
- soccer (of course)
- mini bow-and-arrow fights
- delivering food baskets and good news...

add it all together, mixed with a lot of love...  and hard hearts tend to soften.

when boys, many of which who are abused at home, are genuinely loved on by grown men...  their hearts soften.

this team left the boys feeling special, appreciated, and loved.  this team left us with hearts just a bit softer than they were before, and that is something we can work with!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

a big lesson from a wee little man

funny how i still think of certain bible stories as "kids stories"...  and when i teach them to kids, they end up teaching me something real and applicable to myself.  if we're not careful, we can let the fun bible songs rob us of something deeper - making us think that these stories are "cute" instead of amazing, real, and profound.

you remember the song...  "zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he..."

if you grew up in church, i bet you just finished the whole song.

during chapel time at the boy's academy, we've been teaching on the topics of honesty and apology (out of necessity!).  God led me to the story of zacchaeus, so we've been digging into it.  zaccheus gave us an incredible model on how to apologize.  do you remember the story?

he was a thief who overcharged taxes and pocketed the overage.  (yes, he was also a tiny man who climbed up a tree to see Jesus...  but that is so far from the point!)  when Jesus visited his house, zacchaeus became ashamed of who he was and the things he had done.  so he apologized and confessed.  but following the words that left his mouth, were actions.

not only did he confess with words, but he repaid each person 4x what he stolen from them.

words, followed by actions.

thats what we've been teaching the boys here at the academy the last couple weeks.  and thats what God has been teaching me.

a sincere apology is great.  a confession of sin is great.  but what follows? 

zacchaeus showed us that genuine repentance is followed by actions.  it is the actions that prove the sincerity.  similarly, james taught us (in james ch. 2) that faith, without action, is dead.

i love how jesus responds to zacchaeus.  "today, salvation has come to your house." 

was it his beliefs or his works that saved him?

it seems to me that it was the combination of the two - that one without the other doesn't cut it.

similarly, an apology or confession, followed by nothing, is of little value.  if we're sorry, our actions show that we're sorry.  and if we confess, our actions that follow will show if we mean it.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

special rosibel

madi, rosibel, and brooke in front of tikal futura
her dad was robbed and murdered when she was a young girl.  ever since then, her mom has had to work full time, and rosibel has spent her days at home - cooking, cleaning, hiking to get firewood, and taking care of the baby and the grandparents.  what she accomplishes every day is nothing short of extraordinary.

rosibel has been one of our closest friends for several years now.  my girls have gotten extremely close with her since we moved to the village of Buena Vista.  she is in and out of our home throughout the week.  she comes by to hang out, sometimes for reading lessons, and sometimes to take a shower.

we talk with her about her value, about jesus, boys, and sex.  no different than we talk to our own girls.  last week, as i drove through BV, i saw rosibel behind a tienda talking to a boy.  i pulled up, rolled down the window, and after saying hello to them both i told the boy "i will only give you one warning.  be careful with this girl.  treat her with respect.  i love her like my own."  nervously he responded, "no, no, we're just friends."

last year, it came up that rosibel didn't know how old she was.  she guessed 13, but wasn't sure.  we got her down to the Registry for National Citizens and were able to obtain her birth certificate.  she was 15 years old.  while we made the best of the moment by joking with her and laughing it off, the reality of not knowing your age by 2 years when you are that young left us feeling quite sad.  her childhood had for the most part been stolen from her when her dad was killed.  for years, she had already been living the life of a grown woman. 

today rosibel turned 16.  we asked her to come over so we could celebrate...

when she arrived we asked her if she had ever been to the capital (guatemala city).  nope.  how about if she'd ever gotten outside of her own village of Buena Vista/Magdalena?  nope. 

so we decided...  today, rosibel was going to see and experience some new things!

first we went to pollo campero, which even though it is nothing more than fast-food chicken, it is the most talked about and longed-for restaurant in the world according to anyone living in Buena Vista!

we went to the big city.  we went bowling, got ice cream, and picked out some earrings for a birthday present.  some of her comments included "wow, where are all these people going?", and "i didn't know there were so many cars in guatemala."

we ate, hugged, played, and laughed.  watching her walk around hopping between my wife and my girls - wrapping her arms around theirs - made me smile.

the experiences of climbing an escalator and rolling a bowling ball were precious to watch.  saving her piece of chicken to take home and share with her family, even more precious.

at one point we were talking and i asked her if she was embarrassed when i pulled up and spoke to that boy.  she responded with a smile, "no, i liked it."

she is a 16 year old girl who wants to feel special.  i hope she felt special today.

because rosibel is as special as they come.

Friday, August 3, 2012

chick-fil-a madness

i saw something on the news about the chick-fil-a thing going on back in the states, then this morning was talking about it with some friends who were more up to speed on it than i was.

i have to say that while its always encouraging to see well-known christians be open about their faith (chick-fil-a owner), i think the "christian reaction" to controversy such as this is so often mishandled.

do i agree with the owner's views on marriage?  yes.  do i agree that he has the right to say what he believes and no city or city's mayor should be able to prevent them from doing business there?  yes, of course.

so as far as all the talking points, i guess i agree with the general "christian" response.

but why, when these things come up, do we as christians come out in groves, to join the political/religious/social chaos?  is it to make a statement?  to defend the cause?

as if we're victims.

i guess my main issue is that there are causes - real causes - and there are victims - real victims - that deserve that passion and energy.

its wild to me how we're packing into a fast-food restaurant to support this cause.  "chick-fil-a is being 'wronged' so i am going to eat their chicken like crazy in support of them." wow!  go christians!!  way to get out there and shine that light!!

how about visiting prisons and sharing christ with them? (that's allowed you know.) how about hanging out with the homeless, getting to know them, lending them a hand.  how about getting involved with sex slavery, help for drug addicts, prostitutes, orphans, etc, etc.

if you already do that, go eat all the chicken you want.  but the reality is that most christians aren't doing much of that.  why?  because its messy.  its dangerous.  much easier to go eat some (delicious) chicken and support a restaurant franchise that's getting "mean things said about them" and having their freedom of speech rights questioned.

come on christians!  lets learn how and where to focus our energy.  lets sacrifice for larger causes.  lets get our hands dirty.  use our time, money, and skills towards things that matter, and try to actually leave a desire for Christ everywhere that we go.

does anyone think this chick-fil-a madness is drawing those that don't know him to Christ?  especially the gay and lesbian community?

Paul wrote in 1 corinthians 4:12 that when we are reviled, we bless...  when we are persecuted, we endure...  when we are slandered, we answer kindly.

i love that the owner of chick-fil-a spoke openly about his beliefs.  i applaud him!  but a negative response from the world is to be expected!  jesus told us so.  paul told us so.  no big deal.

i think that instead of "fighting for our rights" and getting "loud and proud" as if we are such victims in this silly chick-fil-a ruckus, the passage above is saying that we should ignore the noise, welcome the criticism - respond in love, bless others, and endure.

not to mention re-channel all that energy towards a cause where the victims truly are suffering.