Wednesday, October 16, 2013

from friday's joy to sunday's sorrow

friday night was so special.  (see my last blog, "set me free".)  such a sweet moment for all of us here.

jhoni and his friends at his dad's funeral
the next night, kerrie and i went on a double-date with paul & jess, and we all couldn't stop talking about how amazing it was.  a sign of God at work in the lives of the boys.  a sign of good things to come.

then came sunday, when jhoni's dad killed himself.  

it was a day that was supposed to represent celebration for our village.  it was the conclusion of the weekend's fair festivities, full of little parades and marching bands.  it was also the day of the men's championship game for the local soccer league.

that's where jhoni was, watching the game, when he noticed his brother screaming and crying.  he ran home to find his dad hanging from a rafter in their home with a rope around his neck.

i can't imagine the level of despair that would lead someone to do this.  but the reality is, its all around us.  physical poverty, spiritual poverty, emptiness, and hopelessness - which ultimately lead to premature death, addiction, abuse, and suicide.

jhoni and his family are suffering.  we are suffering with them.  i cant describe the pain i felt personally, while holding a sobbing boy in my arms - a kid that i love as my own - just moments after he saw what he saw. i can't fathom the pain that he, his brother's, sister, and mom are feeling.

i hadn't experienced death much at all before moving to guatemala.  but man...  here in the village it literally seems like every month or so.  this one hurt more than most.  jhoni is unique.  everyone who has ever visited us here knows that.  he is joy.  silly, free, funny, and full of personality. 

he hasn't done anything to deserve the pain that he has already experienced in his life. 

but he's going to break the cycle.  God is changing his heart.  he's going to be a wonderful husband and father.  he will be a man of God - a man of integrity.

there is hope.  good things are happening!  and when good things are happening, there is always an enemy who comes to steal and destroy.  he doesn't like what happened friday night, when the boys shared the gospel publicly with their entire village.  and he doesn't like that jhoni is changing.

i think satan would leave us alone if we weren't doing anything to bother him.  but we are.  so let him come.  we are here.  and "greater is he that is in us than he who is in the world."  (1 john 4:4)

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a picture that will forever be engraved in my mind happened the next day, when i arrived at jhoni's house to take his dad's casket to the cemetery.  jhoni was in his house crying.  all of the rhinos had caught a ride with me, so they jumped out of the pickup to be with jhoni.

after i turned the truck around, i saw all of the rhinos walking alongside jhoni from his house to the church.  2 rhinos had their arms around him from each side.  i watched them walk - filling the street from one side to the other.
jhoni (holding my daughter andrea) with a few of the rhinos

that's when i noticed the back of jhoni's shirt.

it was the one that says on the front: "alone we are nothing"... and on the back: "together we are rhinos."  there has never been a better situation for that shirt to make sense.

jhoni was not alone.  he will never be alone. 

true friends - rhinos - are always there for each other. during the best of times, like friday, and the worst of times, like sunday.

Monday, October 14, 2013

"set me free"

its october...  which means the Buena Vista Fair is in town here.  its known to be a month of parties, drunkenness, and nonsense in our little village.

a bunch of the Rhinos decided to put together a presentation for the night of "performances" on friday night.  we had nothing to do with it - it was all them.  they asked if we'd come watch it though, so paul, jake, and i went down on friday night to partake in the festivities.  after literally a couple of hours of provocative performances with scantily dressed women, our Rhinos were called up.

what happened next was nothing short of AWESOME.  these are not the same boys we started with 3 years ago!  God is luring them in.  the fact that they did this in front of their entire village, during the fair festivities, is astounding.  their performance was one of the last ones, and there was probably somewhere around 1,000 people watching by that point...

the video tells the rest.


Monday, October 7, 2013

something special about these boys

one thing i love about our boys in the academy is how they don't shy away from hard work.  its why, for our opponents, we're such a tough team to play.  we may be small and not as talented as the city boys... but no one likes playing us because of our style of play.  we don't get tired.  we hold our ground.  we body-check.  the words "hustle" and "scrappy" and "heart" define us.

i'll never forget, when we were a few months into the academy, and mynor said to me "dude, i will take this all day long over what i was coaching before."  mynor came from an elite private missionary school in the city, where he coached american missionary kids, and wealthier guatemalans who enrolled their kids in the school.  while there was more talent for sure, mynor said the difference was that none of the boys here in the village complain about anything.  "no one says they are tired.  no one quits.  i can run them and work them all day - all they want is more.  i can definitely work with this!"

the picture is jhoni and denilson.  last week, they overheard me telling mynor and paul that i needed to find or hire someone to help with a construction project on campus - someone to mix concrete.  a couple minutes later, jhoni and denilson asked me if they could do it.  they said they'll stay after class and work until 5.

a couple weeks ago, all the boys got a new pair of cleats to take home - a donation from some friends.  i noticed after jhoni and nicho finished working, that they were both wearing their new cleats.  filthy and covered in wet concrete, they didn't even care. 

i thought to myself how most kids would have never done that.  there is definitely something special in the hearts of these boys.