Thursday, July 30, 2015

bvsa honduras update

my family just got back from a quick visit to bvsa-honduras.  more than a "bvsa site visit", it was definitely time to get the families together.  after 2 years together under the same roof, deep friendships were formed and everyone misses each other.  on that front, it was a terrific visit.  all the kids were lobbying for another day or two when it was time to go!

we left BV, guatemala on thursday morning at 4:30am and arrived puerto cortes about 8-9 hours later (a little slower with a 2 year old).  luci was a champ, but man that drive is brutal.  its almost entirely a one-lane road, lots of potholes, and full of semi-trailers that you have to pass one at a time in order to make up any time.  just a miserable drive.  thankfully, no big issues crossing into honduras (its a shady border) and we arrived in time for a late lunch together.

the davis fam is doing well.  they are living life in puerto cortes and travesia, engaging the people, acclimating to the culture and the environment.  you can tell whats legit and whats not in these settings - and their acclimation process has been nothing less than legit.  they are known/recognized right away by many of the locals, and welcomed in the schools, churches, etc..  they are out in the heat, sweating it up and mixing it up with the people every day.  this is critically important, because when bvsa travesia opens its doors, their credibility will have been established.  doesn't mean attacks wont come. but so often the failure of the missionary comes from not truly knowing the people and being accepted by them before trying to help.  our goal is that when the academy opens, paul, jess, axel and the girls are already considered familiar friends. on that note, things are moving forward incredibly well.

jessica and the girls are troopers. their house is hot, and the kitchen is the hottest room.  no AC.  steady 100 degree days.  they don't complain.  there are lots of mosquitoes (they make their own bug spray). they've created a nice home environment where almost everything can be done outside (school, meals, etc) where there is shade and a breeze.  every time i visit them, we spend most of our time outside.  as long as you can find shade, the ocean breeze provides a nice atmosphere.  they are hanging in there and making the best of it all.

axel is doing great.  paul continues to walk him through some things, but overall he is developing into a solid leader.  it was obvious on several occasions how the people in the village respond to him.  neat to see the people treat him as a friend, but also respect him.  we had some great talks while i was there, and overall i am really stoked at how he is coming along.  i love how the davis' and he live and operate as one family.  he is going to be KEY part in this initiative.

no doubt, just like here in BV, life in the mission field just sucks sometimes.
  • their car is constantly broken down with no good mechanics, no guaranteed work and not even a time-frame to know when its will be ready.
  • water (both drinking and tap), electricity, internet, cell service - are all hit or miss on any given day.
  • constant concern for safety.  cant just take a walk, go on a drive, or run an errand without your head being on a constant swivel.  your neighbor is a drug dealer and almost everyone is a crook.
  • virtually no meaningful friendships yet; tough to have deep conversations with people.  and when you try, its of course in another language which makes things complicated.

all of these things - and more - make life tough in puerto cortes/travesia.  but the davis' are doing a great job.  i think back to when mynor and i watched paul engage the community of travesia the first time we were there...  and watching him (all of them) each time i visit reminds me why we all felt certain that God called them to start and lead bvsa-travesia!

please continue to pray for the davis fam, the people of travesia, honduras, and the future boys academy!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

great showing in regional tournament


The rhinos finished the San Lucas Regional Tournament with a record of 6-2.  Yesterday's final was an intense match, but the boys came up short.  However, this tournament was great preparation for the US trip, as the teams were bigger and stronger kids who come from more developed (educationally, nutritionally, etc) areas of Guatemala.  We are proud of our boys performance!  They fought hard throughout the tournament and clearly left their mark and earned some respect.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

kerrie's dream and future travel with the rhinos

its no secret that the wealthy, comfortable christianity of the developed western world frustrates me.  anyone who knows me, knows that has been a passion of mine for quite a while.  we talk about it around the fire when mission teams visit.  anytime i have opportunities to preach, my messages usually involve this theme.  but living in the mountains of guatemala, my rants are usually relegated to my family (who listen so patiently), and to my journal...

anyway- my wife kerrie had a dream the other day that definitely got us thinking.  all she could remember was a 20 second "blip".  she said it was really strange.

in her dream, she was in the US during our upcoming trip with the rhinos, watching one of their games.  a friend sensed something was on her mind, and asked her whats up.  kerrie said, "i don't really know how to say it.  i'm struggling with my disgust of american culture, and i just don't know how to even reconcile it."  the friend responded, "then why did you bring the boys from the academy here?"

ouch!  kerrie almost felt bad even telling me about it!

do you believe God sometimes speaks to us in dreams?  i do...

the dream forced us to look a little deeper into the positives and negatives of a trip such as this.  after having done one last year, we already know that some of the benefits for our boys were obvious:

1. "seeing the world" a little bit can be such a positive thing for anyone who grows up isolated, especially in poverty.  it can open their eyes, minds, and hearts.  it truly helps when the boys see something other than the poverty, abuse, addictions, and closed-mindedness of their little village.

2. these trips load the boys up with confidence.  we've seen it happen, and i always seem to struggle to put it into words.  one thing i know is that the boys need more self-confidence in order to put into practice (in their village), the things they learn in the academy.  going on a big trip, seeing other parts of the world - even just seeing a big city, being on an airplane, and learning how to handle yourselves in different settings and events - brings a certain confidence back home.  again, its hard to explain, but all of us here see it and feel it.

3. traveling to the states is another opportunity to see friends and family that support us.  some of which have visited guatemala, but many of which have not.  that aspect of the trip is always special and helps solidifies lasting relationships.
but... there are clearly downsides to these trips as well.  with nothing but great intentions, the american experience showers the boys with excess.  lovingly and generously, the boys are over-entertained, over-fed, and over exposed.  and this is as much my fault as anyone...  its difficult to not want the boys to see and experience everything!

but after returning home from last year's trip, we noticed a few things that needed attention.

1. the boys came home with an assumption that good christians in america are blessed financially.  the size/number of homes, cars, TVs, and _______ (fill in the blank) literally blew them away, and they naturally associated it all with "blessing from God."

2. they came home thinking they needed nicer stuff for themselves.  some got their hands on smart phones and began buying internet minutes so they could look at facebook. others used what little money they have for food and school to buy cool clothes, shoes, or hats.  eventually, them and their families began to feel the pinch from those decisions. 

3. after returning home, we struggled deeply with a new sense of "entitlement" that crept into daily life here at the academy.  all of a sudden, it seemed like the training-table food wasn't good enough,  facilities to shower every day were no big deal, and team-issued cleats, uniforms, balls, etc, weren't very special anymore.      

little by little, we began coaching them back to reality and did our best to explain and teach on each of the mentioned topics.  on the bright side, we had several months of great devotions!  we were able to teach what the bible says about the prosperity gospel, how sin affects all cultures, and what genuine thankfulness looks like.


that purpose, we believe, was to get our attention before we take any more big trips.  he wants us to focus on the details more carefully.  he's telling us to think things through, be wise and strategic regarding the nuances i've mentioned above.

last year's trip was amazing and i have no regrets at all!  but i thank God for the constant fountain of wisdom that he is, and for the way he walks with us and teaches us as we live, learn, and grow. 

if we are issued visas for this year's US trip, it will no doubt be much more simple - attempting to accomplish the 3 positives above, with much more sensitivity towards the 3 negatives.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

culture shifts - one american christian's thoughts

two different themes have been heavy on my heart lately and i'm unable to shake it.  i can't just move on.  do you ever feel busy or consumed, just because you can't stop thinking about something?  like your heart and mind can't seem to find rest?

that's where i've been for a while, and i'm trying to put it into words.  my wife and kids have been getting the brunt of it lately :) so i'm attempting to put it on paper.  not because i think my perspective is valuable or needs to be heard.  but this is my journal.  it helps me unwind when i write down my thoughts.

the first theme relates to the persecution of christians around the world.  those who have the courage to take the gospel to places where either Jesus is unknown, or where following Him is punishable by prison or death.  it is projected that only 10% of christian missionaries who are sent out actually go to these places.  like me, most are in places (albeit dangerous) where christianity is openly accepted. 

the other theme that i've been wrestling with is the dramatic culture shift - away from the christian faith - in the U.S.  now i have never been one to buy into the "america is god's country" talk, mostly because i think our rich/comfortable/soft version of christianity displeases Him.  that being said, i've always been thankful for the religious freedom we have in america, and of the general appreciation of the bible and christian heritage.

but things are changing - and fast.  acceptance and celebration of "all things" is at an all-time high.  there are seemingly no more rules, as if the character of God has suddenly changed.  as if the bible no longer perfectly balances grace and truth.  as if true love never says "no", has no discipline, no boundaries, and simply permits anything that feels right.

the culture of today simply says "follow your heart".  yet Jesus said, "for out of the heart comes evil thoughts; murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander."  or as the great prophet jeremiah put it, "the heart is the most deceitful of all things..."

meanwhile, american christians are softer than ever.  many are embracing and celebrating the new direction, just falling right into its tempting lure.  others, are cowardly avoiding it altogether.  which leads me to the connection between my two themes...

while our christian brothers and sisters around the world face the persecution of prison and death as they stand up for Jesus, many western christians are cowering due to fear of the persecution of being made fun of, or ejected.

did you catch that?  death versus picked on?

christian brothers and sisters around the world are being beaten, imprisoned, and killed for their bold proclamations for Jesus Christ.  meanwhile, we carefully toe-the-line because its simply "unpopular to go there"?  its unacceptable - and should anger us as christians.

consider a few recent headlines (only a few of literally hundreds):

*a 15 year old in oregon can now have a sex change without their parents permission - and have it paid for by the state of oregon.

*two men were arrested in california for reading their bibles on government property.  they were sitting on the curb, outside of a DMV building.

*bruce jennner, who won a gold medal in the 1976 olympics, will win the courage award at the espy's tonight because he had his male parts removed and replaced with female parts.  (meanwhile, the list of courageous nominees includes lauryn hill, a college basketball player who died of brain cancer after raising 1.5 million for cancer research...  and noah galloway, an army veteran who lost an arm and a leg in iraq, and still competes athletically at a high level.)

(note: i'm sensitive to anyone who struggles with their identity.  stories like jenner's are extremely sad.  but my christian faith says that we are the ones that need help, not God.  in other words, He didn't make a mistake when creating us.  and we certainly don't need to fix his mistakes in order to find happiness.  it is us who have made mistakes along the way - we've listened to the wrong people, fallen into convincing influences, etc.  we've been deceived.  and the answer is rarely "do what makes you feel better".  the answer is always found in the liberating person of Jesus.)

but on a more obvious note - most 15 year olds can't make a responsible decision about what to eat, much less head out the door to have a sex change!  yet that kid is now being encouraged by the general population, with its celebration of the courage of bruce/caitlyn jenner.

as christians, our silence on these topics is as equally detrimental as the loudmouth christian who responds like an insensitive idiot.  don't let his mistake cause you to be silent.  silence can be the loudest expression of what we do or don't believe.  an unwillingness to talk about our faith, fearing the resistance that may follow, is a shallow witnesses and trivializes the profound price that Jesus paid for us.

i was impacted greatly by something i read recently.  while an american missionary worker was visiting an underground christian church in china, a local pastor there told him:  "don't you dare give up in freedom what we would never give up in persecution... that is, the witness of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ."

the author says it was the one most powerful thing that anyone has ever said to him.

for me, at this point in our history, that means this:  as our country changes, it is the responsibility of Christ followers to stand up and testify to what Jesus taught.  not in a loud, obnoxious, mean way.  but in a clear, obedient, honest, and loving way.  we must remember that since the death and resurrection of Jesus, millions of people have been persecuted, imprisoned and killed for following Him.  the least we can do in our free country, is defend His teachings at the risk of being made fun of.

in other words, we must defend in freedom, what our family-in-Christ defends every day under persecution!

for american christians, we should embrace the changing times as an opportunity.  finally, we can, at least in a minimal way, join our brothers and sisters who suffer around the world!  use tonight's espys broadcast as an opportunity to start a conversation!  a conversation where you can lovingly share about the nature of God, the truth of scripture, and our responsibility to defend it.  

welcome the backlash.  let them mock you... let them pick on you... let them make fun of your beliefs... let them lie about you and label you as a hater.  read 1 peter 3:16.  God has proven throughout history, that when people are willing to suffer for Christ's sake, great revivals of faith take place!  the explosion of house churches in countries of persecution display this truth.  it is a fact:  where christians defend the faith in persecution, the church of Jesus Christ has the most success.

how beautiful would it be if the sudden attack on christianity in the U.S. ignited true followers of Jesus to awaken from their slumber?  what if the attacks against our faith is exactly what we need in order to be resuscitated from our spiritual deadness?

christians in america love to talk about grace.  and its is true, that by His grace we are saved.  but we must not let the amazing grace offered to us make us lethargic.  the availability of His grace doesn't excuse us to become lazy with our sin.  while His grace sets us free, let us not forget that he is a King of Justice who will return as promised:  "I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done."  (rev 22)

i don't know about you, but want to live for that day.  if persecution follows my beliefs, my words, and my lifestyle, so be it.  i am a follower of Jesus.  i believe every word of the bible.  i believe it must be studied and understood in order to see past the flippant claims against it.  i lean liberal when it comes to caring for the poor, and conservative when it comes to the protection of unborn life.  i believe God designed sex and marriage to be between a man and woman.  not only does the bible cover that thoroughly, but it also makes biological sense to me.  i believe in the saving grace of Jesus through His blood shed on the cross, and that is available to ALL, no matter what we've done.  and i believe in a God whose love is perfect.  like a perfect parent who uses combinations of rules and freedom, forgiveness and punishment, kindness and sternness, grace and truth.

i am ashamed of how many western christians have managed the cultural issues above, therefore damaging the definition of "christian" and leading millions to misunderstand Jesus.  and while that is unfortunate, it cannot lead us to water-down a gospel message that is no doubt quite offensive.  we are called to be loving and sensitive as we navigate these times, but we must never turn our back on the Author and Finisher of our faith.

it is true that love wins!  but remember... when Love (1 john 4:8) returns to put an end to His story, Love will arrive pissed off - with a sword to strike down the nations (rev 19:15).  Love...  is returning not only to rescue, but to judge.

the day He comes back as Rescuer and Judge, i'm sure i will feel scared and worthless before him!  but man...  how i want to be able to look my King in the eyes on that day, despite my multitude of sins, confident that i stood for His word, and didn't get swept up in the cultural shifts and changing philosophies that the world threw my way.

thank you Jesus for allowing us the privilege to follow you, share your teachings, and defend your truths!  we pray for our brothers and sisters in REAL persecution around the world.  let us join them in their sufferings - literally and in spirit.  may we commit to not give up in freedom what they do not give up in persecution.  help our kids grow up even stronger in the faith, as their world will be increasingly more difficult.  give us the strength to stay strong in this fight as we anticipate the return of our Rescuer and Judge.

indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 tim 3:12)
don't let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the powers of this world, rather than from Christ.  (col 2:7-8)

...guard what has been entrusted to you.  avoid the pointless discussions and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge.  although some claim to have it, they have abandoned the faith. (1 tim 6:20-21)

but even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed.  have no fear of them, nor be troubled.  (1 peter 3:14)

do not be surprised when the world hates you (1 john 3:13)

have a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.  (1 peter 3:16)

Monday, July 13, 2015

still working on our USA trip...

we are still working on the details of our US trip.  our applications for visas have been sent in, and we're waiting to hear from the embassy to schedule our interview appointments.

however, the venue for the tournament has changed.  i have already reached out to those who specifically sponsored a boy's trip and received their ok... but wanted to let everyone else know as well.

short version - we were unable to participate in the NY tournament because we have a few kids who are too old.  initially we were told it was no problem at all, but as the time came to apply for visas, we received a completely different message from the tournament leaders.  we were extremely disappointed.

however, our friends at Florida Elite Soccer Academy in jacksonville, FL, have invited us to play in a tournament during labor day weekend!  we are so thankful for this new opportunity.  even though we're still a little bummed about the NY trip, we trust God has his reasons.  and on the bright side, since so many of our friends/family/supporters are near north florida, the boys are thrilled they will be able to see them.

so...  instead of the buildings of NY the boys will see the beaches of FL.  i'm pretty sure they will be out of their minds either way!

please pray with us during this visa application process!  once we have visas in hand, we'll follow up with more information.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

a few recent updates...

we had the privelege of baptizing some more young men recently!  ivan, robin, and denilson.

ava luna is the newest member of the family, born may 9th!  congrats to the leiva family.  it is such a joy to have another baby in the house!

been practicing on the dirt field a lot more lately.  its a little tougher to control the ball, but gives us more space to practice 11v11 before our upcoming trip to the states.

can't believe how fast the time goes.  madi is entering her sophomore year in college, and brooke is starting her freshman year.  what happened to my babies?!

we had some friends from lake city, FL stop by recently.  thank you jackson's and friends for sharing your time, resources, and love with the people of buena vista!

love watching these 2 grow up together.  noah and luci are best amigos.

a few shots of everyday life in buena vista.  our friend grandpa marcos, who turned 90 this year and never takes a day off.  luci playing with a friend.  and bvsa tucked away in the guatemala mountains.