Wednesday, March 29, 2017

luis: from pain to joy, part I

luis (far right) with his mom (left) and 3 of his siblings
i am starting a "series" on luis...  in prayerful anticipation that a beautiful story of pain-to-joy continues to unfold.  

at only 14 years old, luis has experienced more darkness in his life than you could imagine.

when he was 8 years old, he fell from a tree not far from his house.  he landed on another tree stump that was coming out of the ground, with ragged branches attached to it.  one of the branches pierced his stomach - went all the way through - and came out of his back.  when his mom approached the scene, a crowd had already gathered around luis' motionless body.  his intestines laid on the dirt next him.

an ambulance finally arrived, and the responders told luis' family that he was not going to make it.  somehow, miraculously, he survived.

around that same time, some of our friends who also live here in Buena Vista met luis' family and realized how malnourished the younger kids were.  they started them on a milk program to gain strength, and would regularly make deliveries of large bags of nutritious powdered milk.  

despite much success with other children in the milk program, these children were not gaining weight.  sadly, the baby died due to malnutrition.  it was soon discovered that luis' mom was selling the milk for drugs and/or alcohol.  her selfishness and neglect killed her own child.

luis' dad is quite the character.  he has another woman and other kids, and everyone knows it.  he is an abusive alcoholic, a womanizer, and an all around bad guy.  

when it was brought to light that luis' mom was HIV positive, our friends took her to a center in Antigua that helps underprivileged AIDS patients.  when the people there saw her paperwork, they told her that her husband's name looked familiar.  come to find out, he had been receiving treatment for his own HIV diagnosis for years, without telling his family.  he didn't care one bit that his wife and kids likely had the fatal disease as well.

soon another one of luis' younger siblings would die of AIDS.

in january of this year, when a tall lanky kid from lower Buena Vista made the final cut at tryouts for the Rhinos, i did not realize who he was.  not even a good soccer player, we decided to keep him because of his height - thinking maybe we could mold him into a goal keeper.  it wasn't until a week later that i connected who he was, and what family he was from.

so thats why God compelled us to keep him!

as i have gotten to know luis better over the last 3 months, its clear that he has been living in denial.  like any young man with a troubled past and broken home, he does not like to talk about it, or admit any of it.  he prefers to pretend that all is well.

a couple weeks ago as we were visiting his home, luis was playing tough guy - telling us how everything was great, his family is good, his dad is a great guy, and on an on.  after a while, and some direct pressing, he finally broke.  in front of his mom, and siblings, the truth started coming out.  he cried.  his mom cried.  we all prayed together.  

little by little, the light and truth of holy spirit will soften his heart.

i am so excited to have this young man in our academy.  i trust God brought him to us with specific purpose.  and i am believing the light of Jesus will someday fill his heart, his home, his future home, and his future family.  luis will one day know the God who promises to turn our sorrows into strength, our sadness to joy, and our tears to laughter! 

luis is embarrassed of the scars across his stomach and back, from his accident of 6 years ago.  everyone has told him that when his mom approached his lifeless body, she was drunk out of her mind.  she exploded into a tirade of crying, laughing, screaming, and cursing.  unconscious, luis obviously didn't see or hear any of that...  but he's heard so much about it from others that he feels like he saw it with his own eyes.   

no doubt, his scars are a reminder of his dark past.  of his deadbeat mom - a village addict and floozy whose neglect is basically responsible for the death of his little brother and sister.  without question, his scars represent much pain, brokenness, and sadness he has experienced in his short life.  

but as i told him recently, those scars should also serve as a reminder that JESUS SAVES.  let your scars not only remind you where you came from, but also point to where you are going.  let them remind you that God is Healer and Redeemer, and that he holds your life in his hands!

i told luis to be proud of his scars - show them to everyone!  and if people make fun of you, reminding you of how your mom acted that day...  welcome that conversation!  let it be a pathway to sharing how the whole world can abandon you, but God never does.

for luis and for all of us, let our scars be a bold reminder that God uses our suffering to glorify himself (1 peter 4:12-13), that he holds our future in his hands (jeremiah 29:11), that he never abandons us (deuteronomy 31:8), and that he has a wonderful and specific purpose for our lives (psalm 139:13-16).  

please pray for luis.  ask God to fill his heart, and to draw him to himself!  pray for us too, that we use wisdom and sensitivity as we point this young man to freedom and truth.

stories in pictures: World Sports United

we recently had a visit from our friends from World Sports United.  WSU is an organization that uses a passion for soccer to help meet needs in under privileged countries around the world.  

it was an incredible week! in addition to the obvious blessing that it was from a soccer standpoint (the team included a Division I head coach, current and former Division I players, former professional players, and current professional trainers), it was a special trip in many other was as well.  
here's some stories in pictures...

 after practice with allan and the junior varsity boys

after a full practice, and friendly game against the varsity boys

some close friends of ours recently suffered a great loss.  our friend lazaro (one of the first 12x12 homes we ever built in buena vista) unexpectedly passed away.  he left behind his wife carmen and her 9 kids.  with the WSU team, we were able to bring some encouragement and love to the family.  we painted their house inside and out with bright colors, brought new mattresses for all the beds, 100lbs of beans, 100lbs of corn, and a bunch of fruits, vegetables, pasta, milk, etc.  we also gave carmen a "lady's bag" full of sweet gifts that all women would appreciate, such as soft towels, earrings, slippers, lotions, etc.  despite the tough time they are going through, it was a special day that hopefully allowed them to feel loved by God and not forgotten.

kerrie and milena sharing the ladies gifts, and some laughs, with carmen and her daughters

eddie realized right away how big of a barcelona fan cesar was, and made his day by giving him his barca hat!  it was a very special morning with hermano cesar...

elder, jake, wisman, and cam during a tough workout out in the village.  the workout included a run through the mountains to a neighboring village, a hike up into another mountain, lugging firewood to a family in need, some soccer drills, and much more.  i think all the gringos would agree that everyone gained some respect for the physical condition of our rhinos!

eddie and his group carrying firewood through the village

after an early morning 5v5 game with some the guys...

coach ruiz doing his thing...

cam, jack, mauricio, and milena with our dear friends abuelito juanito and abuela delfina

Friday, March 17, 2017

stories in pictures

a well-timed picture can tell a story.  this one is from a random day out visiting families in the village last week.  the young girl was taking a break from making tortillas.  the (live) chicken hanging from my 4-wheeler was a gift that a family had given us earlier in the morning...  

our friend maximo has been paralyzed from the waist down for 30+ years.  in the last 8 years we've given him 3 wheelchairs.  (buena vista roads are tough on a wheelchair!)  but we've never given him one like this.  a friend from the states bought this one for him.  it's the cadillac of wheelchairs - the best that money can buy!  heavy duty, soft leather, moveable leg rests, etc.  he was moved to tears...

luciana is loving having the boys living with us in the house.  her and darwin watch the show "blaze" together almost every day.  denilson comes down from rhinos and goes straight to her little playroom to spend time with her.  they are all so good to her.  and she adores them all.  this picture is of her and allan together at lunch.

our weekly grocery shop with 7 young men living in our home.  should we be going through 5 gallons of milk a week?!  

with some friends visiting from the states, helping out in a local lettuce farm.

celebrating robin's 16th birthday.  our family now includes (left to right) jake, pato, robin, darwin, enrique, darwin (on the floor), and allan (not pictured)

another family visit - the view from their back porch...

Friday, March 3, 2017

recent story - bridgette and priscila

been a while since my last post.  if you've read the last couple of entries, you probably understand why.  man - things never slow down!  under "normal" circumstances, the time i like to write is between 10pm - midnight.  but so far this year, that time slot has been filled with...  sitting in my living room chair snoring :)

so much has been happening.  more than i can possibly keep up with in my writings.  but a recent quick story has been sticking in my mind.

we hosted a group a couple weeks ago.  my brother, chad, brought a bunch of his friends - as he typically does every february.  it was an extraordinary few days, full of memories.

among other things, they brought a bunch of gift bags for grandmas and widows in the village.  you know... stuff women love.  basically a big, nice shoulder-bag full of goodies.  things like soft towels, slippers, earrings, chocolates, hair brushes, blankets, lotions, etc, etc.

btw... this is stuff that women in our village have never received in their life.

translating for bridgette as she shares with priscila
but one of the women we chose to give this special gift to was not a widow or a grandma.  priscila is perhaps worse than a widow.  she is a victim of regular abuse - both physical, verbal, and every other kind you can imagine.  

she is the mother of one of our rhinos, so we hear all the stories.  we have tried to intervene.  we have confronted the husband face to face.  we have called police.  we have surrounded him in prayer.  but he continues...

on this day, chad and his friends arrived with gifts to lift priscila's spirits and remind her that she is special. my job was to simply translate, as bridgette showed her all of the gifts and explained what they were.

but i couldn't help myself.

there in the background, against the wall, stood priscila's husband.  with a stone cold expression on his face, he was probably bothered by the fact that we were in his home.

i took advantage of the opportunity, and went on a rant about how special women are.  i explained that this group of friends were here to remind the women of Buena Vista that they are loved and cared for.  i shared what the bible says about how men are to treat women.  i looked directly at his eyes and told him that his wife is soft, gentle, delicate, and precious...  and that his job is to protect her, provide for her, and make her feel wonderful.

it was a long and exaggerated - on purpose.  my hope was that the spirit of God, through the truth of His word, would pierce the heart of this mean, alcoholic, abusive man.

i can't say whether it did or not.  but i know it meant something to priscila.

as bridgette lovingly shared all of the items with her, she graciously received them, but showed no emotion.  just a slight smile and "thank you" - nothing more.

until her husband left the room.

one of the group members had asked to see the family's property, so the husband walked out to show them around.  the second he left the room, his wife broke down into tears.

thankfully, bridgette was there to hold her.  priscila needed a woman's understanding arms around her.  as bridgette held her into her neck and shoulder for several minutes, priscila let out her unexplainable pain with a hard, emotional cry.  

unable to speak spanish, bridgette could do nothing more than simply cry along with her - which is exactly what was needed in this moment.

as soon as the voices and the rustling sound of the group returning towards the house were heard, priscila swiftly wiped away her tears.  within seconds, the lifeless expression she had on her face before had returned.

the moment was such a symbol of the oppressive cruelty and abuse that men hold over women in our village.  we see it over and over again through daily life experiences here.  for generations, women have been considered worthless outside of sex, cooking, cleaning, and caring for the kids.  they are often treated like garbage.

not any more!  a new generation of young men are rising up.  soon the village will be full of rhinos,  and those discipled by rhinos.  young men who will break these awful chains of abuse towards women.  young men who will fight to defend these precious, innocent daughters of God.  

indeed, the girls of Buena Vista will soon reap the benefit of all the years of tireless work and effort invested into the buena vista sports academy for boys...