Friday, June 8, 2018

recent updates: june 2018

volcano tragedy

the recent eruptions from volcan fuego ("volcano of fire") have left over a hundred people dead, hundreds still missing (likely dead - buried under dried lava flow), over 3,000 evacuated, and almost 2 million affected.  according to rescue workers on the ground, the disaster is much worse than reported through the media.  in fact, a group of prosecutors and politicians have opened an investigation of criminal negligence by CONRED (guatemala's emergency response agency), after not heeding the warnings given by the national institute of seismology and volcanology.

in countries of extreme poverty, disasters such as these lead to unnecessary death and destruction.  not only are the warning systems archaic (if not absent), but the poorly built homes simply give no protection.

the varsity rhinos went down to the disaster site the day after the tragedy.  they worked in the relief center, unloading donations such as water, food, and clothing, and helping organize the distribution area.  as expected, it was complete chaos.  please pray for those who have lost loved ones, are still searching, and whose lives have been turned upside down.

if you are interested in donating towards this cause, we have friend-ministries who are directly working the disaster relief.  these are trusted ministries who will assure that the donations meet the greatest need.  you can donate through deepstream guatemala HERE, and we will pass the donations through.  please note "volcano relief" with your donation.


farewell night with Rhino grads

as we prepare to leave guatemala in 3 weeks, official goodbyes have already begun.  we are excited for what God does in the coming months, as we prepare to plant more BVSA academies in tough places around the world.  but the excitement is currently dampened by the sadness of leaving.

we recently had a group of rhino graduates over to explain more clearly why we're leaving, and encourage them to stay strong in their efforts to win Buena Vista for Jesus.  it was a special night as we reminisced on 10 years of ministry in BV, and 8 years of BVSA.  the oldest who was present (now 25) was myro marroquin, a 2011 graduate.  he, and almost all of the others, shared their favorite rhino memories, and encouraged us personally about the impact we made in their lives.  it was tough to hold back the tears.

for me, one of the sweetest moments of the night came from josue (abuelo), who is now married with 2 children.  as he reflected on all that he learned at BVSA, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, "but something i always told myself over the years was that i want to be a dad like brock and mynor...  and now i'm doing it."

while our emotions are all over the place right now, we are excited to turn over the leadership of this special place to mynor and walda leiva.  we trust they will continue the vision of BVSA with passion, and many more young men will come to faith in Jesus.


gymnasium naming rights

one of the things i've wanted to do for a couple years is officially name our gym.  as our time in guatemala is coming to an end, we finally did it.

we gathered the rhinos and i explained to them how most sports arenas, fields, stadiums, etc, have a name.  usually, the name reflects a financial donor or sponsorship.  in our case, we want to name our gym after someone who has "sponsored" us through fervent prayers.

this man prays for us every day - not only in general, but for each person by name.

this man has encouraged me so many times over the years.  his counsel to keep fighting has motivated me time and time again.

his insistence that BVSA is a church - not just a boys academy - has helped me keep my focus on being a good pastor, not a soccer coach or administrator.

his example as a godly husband, father, and lover of jesus has inspired me like no one else.  he is a modern day hero of the faith, not unlike those listed in the hebrews 11 "faith hall of fame."

such an honor to give our gym the name:  CESAR GARCIA GYMNASIUM.  you can watch the video on our may 25 instagram post (@BVSARhinos).

it was also pretty special to see his son pablo's reaction.  and encourage him to always be proud to say "i'm cesar garcia's son."


jake and E

i've been saying that phrase - "jake and E" - for the last 15 years...

they possibly played in their last game together yesterday.

best friends since 2 years old, God has been sweet to allow them to grow up together in 3 different cities and 2 different countries.

they will be uniquely linked forever.  missionary kids.  lovers of Jesus.  lovers of soccer.  fluent spanish speakers.  funny, handsome, genuine, soft, strong, well-rounded over-comers.

they've faced challenges together and overcome obstacles like not many young men their age ever will.  they've fought and made up.  they love and defend each other like best friends should.

i have no doubt they will rock their college campuses with something different - not just as lovers of life, but also as lovers of Jesus.  able to influence those around them because of their love for the world, while walking against the ways of the world.

2 unique MK's - actually missionaries in their own right.  2 future awesome husbands and dads.  2 future world changers, with desires to carry the love of Jesus to the nations.

would God have their paths cross to share another chapter of life together in the future?

after yesterday's game
we shall see.......

Monday, June 4, 2018

pastor marcos, local BV church plant

pastor marcos (orange shirt), wife olga (red shirt)
several years ago, i heard about pastor marcos through the rhinos.  he was a "new pastor" in town that was "causing problems."  given my history with the pastors in our village, i was very curious...   

the religious climate in our village is extremely legalistic. the churches are difficult to work with, and have even expressed their anger with us for teaching freedom and "women's rights."  now, when an american hears "women's rights", certain thoughts come to mind - discrimination, equal opportunity, equal pay, etc.  but in rural guatemala, its something completely different.

i'll never forget our first visit from the group of local pastors.  it was late in the afternoon when i responded to the knock on the gate.  6-7 men asked to come in and talk with us.  masked with handshakes and niceties, they proceeded to tell mynor and i that we are "outsiders" and don't understand how the village works.  they requested that we don't teach "american ways" to the boys.

never in a million years would we want to americanize the village of Buena Vista!  in fact, its part of our ministry philosophy not to do so.  so i was genuinely interested to know what they were talking about.  maybe there was something subtle we were doing that we needed to rethink...

after pressing them several times to please share what specifically they were talking about, the lead pastor for the main evangelical church finally shed some light.  "here in the village, the women have their place.  their job is to cook, clean, and take care of the kids. the boys in your academy are saying that you are teaching them differently.  telling them that the women's opinion values the same as the men, and a man should even help with cooking and cleaning." 

wow.  our academy had only been open a few months, and God was showing us what we were up against.  generational roots that may take a generation to dig up.  as the years went by, the number of challenges and conversations with the local churches mounted up. there's so much more to it than i can possibly explain here...

i've been asked a million times why we don't partner with a local church, or "plant a church" in our village.  you can read my answer and philosophy behind that question here if you'd like to.  nothing has changed there.  

sunday school class 
but back to pastor marcos...
when i finally met him, i immediately felt his passion.  clearly passionate for youth ministry, he was convinced that the next generation could make lasting change.  he had married a woman from nearby magdalena and described how he eventually felt a specific call to the village of Buena Vista.  but after working to plant a church in BV, he had been beaten down by the legalism.  he had already made the mental shift from the adults to the young people.  go figure!

pastor marcos has worked hard to develop relationships with the other local BV churches.  he has organized get-togethers with the other pastors, and has worked to host several concerts with the other local church leaders.  he describes it as having been a long, tough road.

one time, several of the pastors asked him to come to a meeting.  he was excited, thinking he was finally being welcomed into the network.  when the meeting began, he was blindsided... by an "intervention" that was focussed on his "lack of respect for God" because he wore jeans and flip flops, and had hair that was too long.  ugh...

despite all of the set-backs and discouragements, pastor marcos pressed on.  he relentlessly pursues the youth of Buena Vista with ministry opportunities.  he hosts camp-outs, barbecues, and concerts.  he is ALWAYS working.  that being said, i still felt the need to be patient in "endorsing" any local church.

last year we invited pastor marcos to our tuesday-night bible study with our older Rhinos.  the topic was "sexual purity", so i was a little concerned how he would respond.  after all, we hit these topics head-on and don't mince words.  

after the first gathering, pastor marcos approached me and asked if he could begin bringing his teenage son.  he said he'd never heard this topic be discussed so openly and honestly... and felt like it was something that he and his son should be working through together.  it was during this bible study that i truly gained a great love and respect for pastor marcos.  i saw his genuine heart and desire to honor God with his life, both as a pastor and as a dad. 

we have taken the idea of getting behind pastor marcos' "church plant" to God many, many times.  but every time we committed to pray about it, God said, "not now... just keep doing what you are doing."  He not only said that to us, but to the schmidt and leiva families as well.  

marcos and olga (with mynor and allan) singing with kids
as a side note, i am grateful for my friend mark's investment in pastor marcos over the last couple years.  he has truly come alongside and given countless hours of counsel.  in addition, the leivas have begun attending pastor marcos' church, and digging into the community of believers there.  its been awesome to see the various families and ministries reach out in support...

for me personally, it was last november when God spoke clearly and directly.  a group from ocean city church in jax beach was in town visiting, and we had gone to visit the home one of our rhinos, named wisman.

after the visit, wisman said he was headed to church, and i asked if we could go with him. he was thrilled to have us come along!  when we showed up unannounced at pastor marcos' church, i peeked in before anyone saw us.

pastor marcos was in front of his church, mostly all kids, leading them in the "chicken dance."  it was a sweltering hot day.  he was sweating profusely. a huge smile on his face, there he was...  as free as can be, dancing, doing the movements, encouraging the kids.

it was in that moment that i heard God's voice say, "its time."

praying over marcos and olga
its not that i had ever doubted pastor marcos' sincerity.  but there was something powerful about walking up - unannounced - and seeing the guy joyfully giving his heart and soul to the kids of BV, in jesus name.

over the next few months, we prayed over what that meant.  i knew it meant taking our support/partnership with pastor marcos to another level, but wasn't sure how.  finally, i asked him directly what could help him the most at this point in his ministry.  he eventually responded, "a clean, dry, dignified place to gather together..."

since then, mark and i have had several meetings with pastor marcos and our local builder.  we've designed a large multi-purpose room that will protect them from the primary BV elements (rain, cold, heat, and dust), and also allow room to grow.  

the initial cost will be $15,000.

as usual, because of the mountainside incline, a large retaining wall and leveling process is necessary pre-construction.  that part is already underway, and construction will begin next. 


if you are ever able to visit guatemala, we would love to introduce you to pastor marcos, his wife olga, and their church family!
to support the project, please contact me or donate by CLICKING HERE and note "pastor marcos" in the donation.

we have already received $5,000 towards the project!  
current remaining need is $10,000.

let us know if you want to help.  thank you!