Sunday, August 25, 2013

the simplicity of the gospel

death struck our small village of Buena Vista again recently.  this time a young man, 17 years old, fell down and died on his grandfather's porch.  no one knows why, what, or how...

his grandparents are good friends of ours.  when we heard about it, we went down to visit.  we had a team of college age and young adults visiting, so they came along.

when we got there, a dark, sad atmosphere welcomed us.  his mom was silent, sitting on the porch, staring into space.  his grandparents greeted us.  his grandpa told me the story.  he explained that he got home from work to find his grandson on his porch.  "i knew he wasn't sleeping by the way that he was lying there.  i got him up and into the bed.  he was already gone.  please believe me that there was nothing i could do."

the next 20 minutes or so was spent just sitting there, being with them as they mourned.

i couldn't help but notice the setting around me.  the place had been trashed.  one cultural tradition in our village that i really don't like, is what happens after someone dies.  the family of the lost one is expected to feed anyone that comes by for the next 24 hours.  unfortunately, in places of poverty - where people are hungry - people will go to the home of a lost one just for the meal.

this family had been hustling for the last 24hrs to feed hundreds of people who had recently visited.  having just gotten back from burying their son/grandson, the place was completely destroyed.  trash everywhere.  chairs and tents that had been rented to seat everyone.  it was just a mess.

together as a group, we were able to spend the rest of the afternoon helping out.  we swept, picked up trash, broke down tables, disassembled the tents, stacked chairs, etc, etc.  when we left, the place was spotless.  a simple way to show them that we care.

as we left, grandma gave me hug and said "thank you brock.  i dont think any of us had the energy to do that.  it feels so good to know that it is done."

later that night we were talking about the gospel of jesus christ.  as trivial as it may sound, i believe that visiting someone in their time of need, giving hugs, and helping clean up - describes the gospel of jesus christ as well as anything.

when Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment of all, his reply was simple.  love God and love your neighbor.  he went as far to say that everything else hangs on those two things.

as we cleaned up the property that day, i noticed that lots of men were standing out in the street watching us.  none offered to help... but none were heckling or laughing either.  it just seemed as if they were looking at us, confused, wondering why we were doing what we were doing.

i feel content knowing that the gospel is that simple.  in such an extremely difficult moment for this particular family,  i didn't have to share any message, or try to explain how God has a purpose for everything.

sometimes simply loving our neighbor and lending a hand is enough. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

carlos & quitting

carlos (left) with josue
carlos is one of our varsity boys who just turned 18.  made possible through a sponsor from the states, he has been studying English on the weekends at a private school.

a couple weeks ago, he told us he was going to quit his English classes.  he said it had gotten too hard, and he was finished.

didn't see that one coming.  he was doing great- speaking english to us every day.  he was passionate about it.  he had dreams associated with it.  an already charismatic kid, he wanted to work in tourism - maybe at a hotel or resort in Antigua.

we heard from other players that he had started hanging with some wrong people who were influencing him.  we sat down to talk with him several times about it all.  no matter what we said, it didn't matter...  he was done.

a couple days ago, we had our final talk about it.  he asked me if i was mad.  i said no, but that i was disappointed.  i told him i thought he was being an idiot for throwing this opportunity in the garbage.

i remember telling him that, while there is nothing wrong with working the fields, that this decision, at age 18, could possibly mean that's where he's headed.  there just aren't a lot of other options for young men in our village without an education.

i told him that when he leaves the academy at the end of the day, the door is closed.  you can't come back in a week - a month - saying "i made a poor decision, can i change my mind?".  i explained that this is a big-boy decision and that he's going to have to live with it.  (there are past experiences that i felt dictated this approach.)

at the end of practice, carlos came up to me.  said that he felt a burning in his chest.  he said he knew it was God, telling him he was making a mistake.  with tear filled eyes, he asked me to forgive him.  "i don't want to quit.  i want to keep going.  the things you told me are true.  i want to do more with my life."

sweet moments such as these are often times the wind in my sail.  there are so many days with no wind.  just seemingly sitting out there, floating along.  but it's working.  little by little...  one conversation at a time...  one day at a time... one boy at a time.

that night, a young man in his twenties who was visiting with a mission group shared his testimony with the all the boys.  raw and beautiful, he shared about his absent father, his struggle with drugs and alcohol, and the death of his little brother.  as he struggled through his words and emotions, he said, "i've had a hard life, made a lot of mistakes, and continue to make a lot of mistakes.  but i will not quit.  i am not a quitter.  with God, i can keep going, i can face anything.  he will always be there for me."

right then, i looked at carlos.  he had tears in his eyes.  the second i saw it, i immediately teared up as well.  i winked at him and he smiled back. 

for now, carlos is not quitting. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

we are Rhinos!

josue riding the big one!
quick follow up from my last blog...

along with some friends in town, we took the boys ziplining at "finca filadelfia".  like i mentioned before, a very high-end coffee plantation resort in antigua.  we had a blast!!

it was incredible watching the excitement on their faces as they raced through the mountains.  i set off on one of the first groups, so i was pretty far ahead from the majority of the team.  at one point, i was standing on a platform and i stopped for a few minutes to enjoy the sounds.  all over the mountain, i could hear the screaming and laughter of all of the boys.  such a sweet sound...

but my favorite part of the day happened at an unexpected moment.  as we prepared for the longest line of the day (only the varsity boys were allowed because you had to meet the weight requirements), something special happened.  josue was having second thoughts.  he and a few others had climbed down from the platform and were standing below us in the forest.  i could hear him saying "i dont think i'm going to do it.  its too far.  i can't do it."

then i heard alex respond, "come on man, we are Rhinos, we can do anything together!  we are Rhinos man!  we are Rhinos!"

i've been thinking about it ever since... 

on the gym wall of the academy there is a giant rhino logo.  below it, it reads: "Together Everything is Possible".  this simple example with alex and josue is an encouragement to me that they are starting to get it.  they are unifying.  encouraging each other, there for one another. 

"being a Rhino" means something to them.

the future is bright.  together, in Christ, they will change this place.

and the best part is that josue did the zipline - that's him pictured above!