Wednesday, October 31, 2012

life is about to change

ever since my family started on our journey to follow Jesus together, life has been an adventure.

for us it meant saying goodbye to the mundane - but also to friends and family.  it meant having to trust God to use the generosity of others to provide for our needs.  it meant relinquishing choices - like choosing where we want to live, what schools our kids go to, and what church to be a part of.  it meant changing languages and cultures.

following Jesus means just that - following.  that means he leads.  we give up the driver's seat.  our ambitions and desires are no longer what push us.  in fact, his leadership often times cuts directly against our personal ambitions!

following Him also means being open to a life of changes.  changes stretch us and make us better.  changes expose us, and force us to work on who we are.  changes can be a blast, and changes can be difficult.

life is about to change for us again.

paul, jessica, and their 4 beautiful girls arrive in one week.  unlike those of us who have moved to guatemala ahead of them, they won't have suffer through the madness of renting an old home full of electric, plumbing, and flooding issues (hopefully, anyway).  why?  because they are moving in with us!

we converted our garage into a 2-level living space for the davis crew.  yep, life is about to get communal.

one thing i loved about our season of life in north st. johns county, FL was the community that God surrounded us with.  you know, the kind that you walk across the street, open your neighbor's door without knocking, and walk straight into their kitchen see what they have in the fridge...  that is a special kind of community life.  mutual comfort, appreciation, respect, and love for one another.  grace, acceptance, and honesty.

if chip or rich hung out at my place one night and emptied my man fridge, i'd come home a couple days later to find it replenished with a thank you note.  and if i needed to borrow one of their lawn mowers, i'd bring it back cleaned spotless with a full tank of gas.

those things sound easy, but not everyone ticks that way. 

but what about when parenting differences collide?  when you discover disagreements on bigger issues?  when personalities clash or certain "quirks" begin to drive each other crazy. 

unlike with most friendships, in a community-living environment, you can't just take a few weeks off of seeing one another.  like with your immediate family, you have to work it out.  and the sooner the better, before things bubble up.  you have to learn how to live together.  how to love one another.

life is about to change.  grace, honesty, and communication will be the key.

we are excited and nervous.  more excited than nervous, because from the time we have spent with the davis', we have really enjoyed being together.  but still a little nervous. 

- what if they have too high of expectations of us? 
- what if we made a good impression in the little time we've had together, and the "real johnson's" really let them down? 
- what if they have an expectation of what life and work will be like, and it ends up being completely different?
- what if it's not as "special" or "exciting" as they are expecting?

my list of what-if's goes on and on!

pray for us!  it's not going to be easy - but God is God.  one thing is for certain, we believe it is Him that has put the wheels in motion to bring the davis crew here.  we believe we have been obedient and prayerful in how we're approaching it.  so it's time to trust Him and His plan.

pray for the davis family!  no matter the circumstances, moving to a foreign country with your young kids is not easy.  new language, new culture, and the surroundings of extreme poverty...  it wears you down.  the first 18 months are the hardest.  it will be a roller coaster.  excitement, home-sickness, fun, depressing, rewarding, etc - all wrapped in one.  pray for their endurance and strength. 

life is about to change.  we're excited!  but mostly, just thankful to be followers of jesus.  thankful that life is full of changes.  and prayerful that the changes make us more like Him.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

grace - the gift we don't deserve (maximo's story)

maximo lost the use of his legs over 30 years ago.  as if extreme poverty isn't bad enough...  he has endured it for most of his life in a wheelchair.

i met him about 4 years ago.  he told me he did wood work, and showed me some cross necklaces he had made.  i started selling them in the teamhouse for him.  he was never satisfied.  honestly, he was a jerk about it.  his expectations were never met.  he always complained that people weren't buying enough.  after a while, i stopped selling them.  i was tired of his attitude and it was becoming too difficult to work with him.

after that, every time i saw him it was awkward.  sometimes he'd give me a gruff head-nod, but usually he'd just give me a stare.

until a couple months ago...  i was walking by his house and i heard him call my name.  i stepped inside.  he said "look at my roof."  i looked up.  it was super old, full of holes and rust.  he said "i know you'd never do this for me, but i thought i'd show it to you anyway."

i responded, a little frustrated, "so... are you asking me a question maximo, or did you bring me in here just to tell me that you already know i won't help you?"  he went on to say that he was embarrassed to ask, because he doesn't like asking for help.

i told him that i would be glad to share about his need and we'd see what happens.

several weeks later, we had some friends coming in for a visit from occ church in jax beach.  when i mentioned the whole story to my friend derek, he responded with excitement:  "i love it!  giving something to people who don't deserve it!  i know i don't deserve what Jesus did for me.  that's what true grace is all about!"

with that, i started ordering materials, and made preparations for maximo's roof job.

as we spent a full day roofing maximo's house, something happened that i will never forget.  maximo was sitting in his wheelchair out in the middle of the street, watching us work.  a man was walking towards him with a horse loaded up with firewood.  as the man drew nearer, he was saying "move it maximo...  move it maximo..."

maximo was trying to spin around in his chair so he could get out of the way, but the guy kept coming - until he purposefully banged into maximo's wheelchair, sending it into a 360 spin.  it could have easily knocked him over.  as the guy kept walking, he looked back at maximo and said "i told you, ass."

as i saw the expression on maximo's face, it left with me an empty feeling in my gut.  i had been quick to right off maximo as a mean old grump - and unwilling to empathize with his situation.  in his environment, his culture, he gets written off as a useless cripple.  probably even considered worthless and getting what he deserves.  sadly, in communities of extreme poverty, there is a tendency to think that "good people are blessed, and bad people are punished."  i felt like God was giving me a glimpse of maximo's reality. 

by the end of the day, maximo had a new roof.  i will never forget the moment that he began crying.  he shared how he and his son had talked about saving up one sheet of tin at a time until they could replace the roof.  he said they both knew they'd never be able to do it.  he praised God for touching our hearts.  tears streamed down his face.

the next day we brought a birthday cake for his mom, and a group picture from the day before.  we sang happy birthday, laughed and ate birthday cake.  he asked that everyone write their names on the back of the picture so he could continue praying for everyone by name.


the sweetest, most amazing thing imaginable.  none of us deserve it, yet through Jesus it is available to us all. 

i can be such a dirt-bag, and God still extends it to me.  out of thankfulness for that, i want to be better at extending it to others.

Friday, October 19, 2012

volcano hiking with the boys

from their village of Buena Vista, the natural beauty of Guatemala is all around them.  the view is literally breathtaking.  but when you've seen it every day of your life, you can eventually take it for granted.

Guatemala's volcanoes are incredible.  there are 36 of them total, 3 of which are still active - and its not uncommon that their explosions make world news.

the locals here in Buena Vista might hear about the volcanic activity, or see & feel the ashes as they sweep in after explosions. 

but thats about it.  while tourists come in from all over to experience these massive demonstrations of God's creation, the locals (at least the poor) are unable to do so because of admission fees, travel, etc.

last weekend, we were able to take all of the Rhinos on an excursion to hike volcano pacaya.  it was a wonderful day!  they were blown away as we hiked the volcanic mountain, and roasted marshmellows over the lava rocks.

it is always a joy to give an experience to these boys that they may never otherwise be able to enjoy. 

thank you to ruth, derek, dan, aaron, leslie, danny, mynor, hector - and everyone who supports the boys academy!

click here for more pics from the hike!

Thursday, October 11, 2012


i may not be "liked" very much for this one...

i was looking for some information on a friend, and decided i'd browse my wife's facebook page to try to find it.  i was mesmerized.

the most ridiculous waste of time i have ever witnessed in my life - and it sucked me in for more than a half an hour!

i have never seen more nonsense.  if the posts weren't shallow or self-absorbed (look what i did today! look what i ate today! look what i saw today! guess how i feel today!)...  they were at a minimum pointless.  i felt like i was in the online version of a 10-minute class-change during high-school.

maybe i am just lame and not getting it.  but even among the social network of my own wife (whose judgment i trust more than anyone's) i couldn't believe the silliness of the content.

it would be one thing if facebook was a casual and well managed tool.  i'm sure for many of you that's exactly what it is.  but lots who facebook are straight up junkies.  if not posting constantly, they are checking in constantly.  obsessed with what comments their posts are getting, where their "like" count stands, or simply what the latest chit-chat is.
as i scrolled my wife's account i did notice a few nice posts - sharing a family photo, asking for prayer, or wishing a friend happy birthday.

but i would estimate somewhere around 90% was pure junk.  just like during that high-school class change, everyone is into what everyone else is doing and saying, and apparently pretty consumed by how many people "like" them.

my little experience gave me a simple reminder as to why i don't facebook.  it's not that i think it's inherently bad or wrong.  i know there are benefits.  and my wife is a great example that it can be managed well.  but for me, i just don't see sacrificing the 90% for the 10...  seems to add up to a lot of wasted time.

Monday, October 8, 2012


there are few things as wonderful as feeling free.

free to be who God created you to be.  free to laugh, cry, joke around, and dance.  free to pray.  free to hug someone.  free to share about jesus.  free to be who you are.

i feel honored that God has allowed us to give that freedom to the boys in the academy.  here, they can act freely without fear of judgment.  they can be who they want to be.  they can tell that joke, dance that move, or goof around.

sadly, for most of them, they don't feel free to be that person at home.  i am reminded of this over and over again when i am out in the village and i am with the boys in their home environment.  they respond differently, a little bit paranoid as their family watches them around us.  no way they are going to let their dad or uncles see (what i have learned to know is) their true personalities.

usually at some point during these exchanges, they will give me a winkish-type of a smile as if to suggest that their real self is in there...  just tailoring it down around the homestead...

poverty, legalism, abuse, addiction...  they all choke out our freedom that we have in Christ to be who we were made to be.  it has taken about a year-and-a-half being with these boys every single day to finally start seeing them in their truest form.  completely free.  and it is beautiful.  (watch video below!)

its no wonder that so many of them ask if they can stay.  its a common question...  "can i stay here for dinner?"  "can i stay here and do my homework tonight?"  "its warmer in your house, can i just stay?'

our prayer:  for God to transform these boys so deeply that their love for God, love for others, and freedom to be themselves, would slowly seep into their everyday lives at home - leading their siblings and even their parents towards gradual change.  eventually, when they are young husbands and fathers, they will do things differently, breaking these generational chains of bondage.

God, please help us and bless our work!  bless our work as we seek to change these boys and their future families!  we believe it is your heart and your desire.  let it be done by your power alone.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

davis home project update

After a slight tweak of plans, we are down to only $2,000 needed to finish the construction project for the Davis home!  Plus a little more to help them with appliances...

Heeding some counsel from many, we've decided to go ahead and add a kitchen into the Davis home.  The upside is that it will allow our families to wake up and start our days with some brief family time, and close out the evenings with some as well, when needed.

Thank you for letting us share this new journey with all of you!  The idea has been changed and tweaked a few different times now, but we think we're settling in on where God has been leading us.  

Many loved and trusted friends have given this advice, to allow for separate spaces to be together around the table as families as needed.  In addition, with as many visitors as we have, it will allow for each of us to host company without being on top of one another the entire time.

We are no less excited about getting communal in our approach, and are excited to begin sharing life with the Davis'!  

Please let us know if you would like to help out in this area!!  You can make a donation by clicking here, and noting "Davis Family Home" in your check memo, or in the paypal information box.