Wednesday, December 23, 2020

the true meaning of Christmas

About 700 years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah who would come to save sinners (Isaiah 52 & 53). The Christmas mission he spoke of was that of a Perfect Savior, sent to dwell among sinners, with one purpose - to suffer in their place in order to save them.  It would be fulfilled, through God's son, Jesus Christ, who was "wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by his wounds we are healed."

The message of Christmas is not, “Behave and you’ll get a gift.” In fact, God and Santa could not have more opposite messages. (It’s no surprise at all that the world comes up with this stuff.)  “He’s making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty or nice…"

The true message of Christmas couldn’t be more opposite than that of an imaginary jolly fella delivering gifts to “good boys and girls.” While yes, the true message of Christmas centers on the delivery of a gift, the recipients of that gift are precisely the bad and naughty – and that’s all of us!  

And the purpose of the gift is so that we can avoid the terrible punishment we deserve.  Christmas is an announcement to the naughty and rebellious human race that says “The Good Gift – the only truly good person – has been delivered, and his mission is to suffer and die so that you can be made clean, and not get what you deserve.”  Christmas is about God's goodness, not ours.  His goodness despite our badness.  Christmas is about the cross.

The gift is exoneration. It’s freedom from death row and eternal punishment, complete with an invitation to true and eternal JOY.  It’s a message to all of us sheep who have gone astray, who have turned everyone to his own way.  This gift, this Perfect One, God in flesh and blood, will carry our iniquities on his back, and pay our penalty. Therefore, as Paul says, salvation is by God’s grace alone, because it has been accomplished by Christ alone!

Do we understand the magnitude of Christmas? Then let's not trivialize it with make-believe stories and empty "magic of the season".  If we are clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ, we don’t have to ever worry that God’s wrath will be put on us! He was stricken by God for you, making it impossible for your sins to stand against you. If you don’t get that, then you still don’t understand what Jesus suffered for you - and you still don't understand Christmas.  This was the mission for which we celebrate the baby in a manger.  Receive the true gift of Christmas, and you will never be separated from God's love.

Remember Isaiah’s words: “the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.” On the cross, he had our sins, our crimes, charged to him. He was judged for murder, adultery, sexual immorality, jealousy, lying, idolatry, impurity, gossip... every sin we ever committed in word, thought or action... and accepted the verdict “guilty as charged”.  He was then sentenced to the death penalty by means of torture and crucifixion.

He had our sins charged to him so that we might have his righteousness charged to us. He even became a guilty in His Father’s sight, so that we might be made acceptable and perfect in his sight. Yes, he was even abandoned by the favor and presence of his Father as he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

That is the Christmas gift of Jesus.  The star, the Magi, the baby in a manger, God incarnate, born of a virgin on a silent night in Bethlehem... was the beginning of His mission, sent by the Father, to pay the penalty of your sin by suffering in your place.  Receive that Gift, and receive true joy, true peace, true hope, and eternal salvation! 

That we would settle for an infinitely lesser celebration - that isn't even true - is tragic.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020


DECEMBER 22, 2020

thankful for the rare and sweet opportunity to all be together in the same place! the rolfe's head back to guatemala in a week, and we head back to west africa in early january. not sure when the next time will be, but we're cherishing the moments God gives us!  love my family!!!


thankful for this precious baby boy. james matthew rolfe made us grandparents on september 24, 2020.


thankful for the announcement of grand-baby #2!  
and for madi and todd for letting me do the "reveal"!

Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 106:1

Friday, December 11, 2020

allan being shaped by God's word

we are nearing the 10-year mark from when we opened bvsa-guatemala! with a season of changes/transition upon us, God made it possible for us to spend a couple months there before we return to west africa.  we left guatemala having experienced several things that deeply encouraged my heart.

  • mynor's return back from sabbatical. God has been faithful to bless his family with spiritual and physical refreshment.  there is much to that story... but the presence of joy he brought back to the academy was truly something to celebrate. i'll never forget the day he returned... the sweet welcome-back party... the hugs... the precious words exchanged.
  • the rolfe's adjustment to the mission field, and the decision they have made to dig-in and stay for the long haul. this was unexpected and exciting news!  God has been doing a great work in them as they have submitted to his will for their family.  with 2 years of marriage, almost 1 year in the field, and a new baby in the family, they have heard God say "this is home."  praise Jesus.
  • the strong spiritual leadership coming from the wilson's.  despite being new to the mission field, and still learning the language, ryan has been leading a bible study with the staff that has been super fruitful.  it was so evident that the team is being led well. praise the Lord!

finally, what i saw in allan
he has been working in the academy ever since he graduated as a Rhino. now married to glendy, with daughter stacy, and another child on the way, they have become really solid leaders. ryan had been teaching through the book of 2nd timothy with the staff and had asked me to lead the staff devotional one day.  we were in chapter 3, verses 10-17, where paul charges timothy to stay strong and continue forward, not forgetting all that paul had taught and demonstrated to him through his own life.

that day came and went... and throughout our time in guatemala i was repeatedly impressed with the growth i was seeing from allan and glendy.  not only within the academy and with the Rhinos, but in other areas as well.  for example, they are obeying God's leading to start a sunday gathering, open to "evangelicals" as well as "catholics" - with the purpose being to study the bible together and break down the divisive religious walls that exist in the village. so great!

the day we were leaving guatemala, allan approached me and said "i need to tell you something. our study through 2nd timothy has spoken to me as deeply as i have ever been spoken to through the bible.  God showed me that i am timothy and you are paul.  you taught me the truth and showed me how to live. now you are moving on and it's time for me to step up, get off the milk, and be a true man of God. like paul told timothy, its time to continue forward with all that i have been taught.  thank you for being my paul."

i was speechless.  we hugged, and that was that.  i had a lump in my throat the entire way to the airport!  i could not be more excited to see what happens with this young man and his family.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

tired of celebrity pastors

the ministry of desiring god ( has a platform called "ask pastor john" where john piper answers people's questions about theology, biblical interpretation, and life in general.  i submitted a question over a year ago, regarding a topic that had been digging at me for years.  it still is, actually.  

here's my question.  it's the only question i've ever sent in (and i never got a response).

Pastor John:

I have been living and working in the foreign mission field for many years. Most of our work is in areas of extreme poverty.

When I return stateside, I am always struck by the extravagant wealth of american "christians" and especially the swanky lifestyle of american pastors. Back in the old days, there seemed to be a much larger gap between the blatant prosperity gospel and the mainstream church. Today however, I can't help but notice that gap closing, as I see more "mainstream church pastors" living comfortable, suburban, country-club, if not flat-out lavish lifestyles.

I hate the prosperity gospel, whether blatant or subtle. I often find it sneaking into my own life and have to repent of it and eliminate it. It upsets my spirit so much that, nowadays, if I am encouraged by a bible teacher or christian author that I'm unfamiliar with, before I take their teaching at face value, I will look online to get a feel for their theology AND lifestyle. If I see they recently bought a million dollar mansion or wear $500 sneakers, for example, I dismiss their teaching and will completely avoid their influence.

I feel like I can defend my actions biblically, but I would love your opinion on this. I am so turned-off by pastors, authors, worship leaders, etc, whose own lives demonstrate the pursuit of material extravagance, luxuries, latest fashion, and so on. I mean, is there anything more dangerous for christians than for their "leaders/examples" to be mixing the gospel with a love and passion for the world? (1 Timothy 6:6-9)  I just feel like the whole hip-celebrity-pastor thing has gotten out of control.

Am I being judgmental or am I properly testing in order to discern what's good?

that was my question about an honest internal wrestling. i don't want to unfairly judge, but i can't deny the disgust in my spirit when i constantly come across these characters. 

the reason i am sharing this now is because i recently read something that john cooper, the lead singer for the band "skillet", posted on his blog.  i thought is was phenomenal and worth sharing.  i hope he doesn't mind, i'm just doing a copy/paste...


Make Pastors Uncool Again, By John Cooper

Pastors shouldn’t be rock stars. Yeah I said it. A rock star promotes himself, builds his brand, and entertains people. It’s his job. A pastor is supposed to lay his life down for his sheep. He serves, he protects, and he equips the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). So why does it seem like many of our celebrity pastors are obsessively self-promoting, building their own brands, and protecting themselves by never preaching or teaching anything that would put them in Twitter prison? Yes, it’s sad and devastating to watch our leaders fall into sin, but when the foundation is built so poorly it shouldn’t be all that surprising. 

Many Christians have been saying this for years and its past time that I join them: I’m tired of celebrity pastors. Pastors aren’t supposed to be cool. They’re not supposed to be fashion trend setters. We are ALL called to decrease, that Christ would increase both in our hearts and in our lives (John 3:30). HIS fame should be known, not OURS. Celebrity Pastors, get out of the way! You’re hogging the spotlight by making yourself the story. Instead, you should be taking some hits on the front lines by stating clearly what God commands. Celebrity pastors seldom do this. Instead, most of what we hear is rhetorical gobbledygook, veiled mysticism, and repackaged new-age movement self-help promotional material disguised as the work of the Spirit. 

My pastor helped change my life in college. “Really, who?” Exactly. He remains faceless, nameless, and will never get the adoration of the world because his desire was for Jesus to have all of the glory. He taught me how to read and understand the Bible. He took my midnight phone calls, he instigated the necessary but uncomfortable conversations, he taught me the importance of sexual purity, and he even taught me how to paint a house and balance a checkbook. It almost sounds more like being a father, doesn’t it? Working, serving, teaching your kids and never expecting a “thank you” or a hand clap is what pastoring is all about. 

Pastors, I am thankful for you. Many are serving faithfully and you will be rewarded by God. But for the pastors who are receiving their reward on earth, I have a request for you: please stop looking for adoration from the world. We don’t need you to look “awesome”, we need you to be fearless and preach the gospel according to the unchanging, authoritative Word of God. Stop finding clever ways to evade questions. You know the ones—God’s commands about sexual morality, Gods authority structure in the Church and at home, God’s righteousness that demands punishment of sin. Answer them. And answer them clearly for heaven’s sake. Please stop trying to find new ways to explain the perceived inconvenient truths of God’s Word. You ought to love what He loves and hate what he hates. This used to be a prerequisite for church leadership. Today, its deemed radical and even bigoted. 

Play time is over. The battle is raging, and the field is full of wimps and boys who have never picked up a sword because it just “feels mean.” We need generals and leaders who don’t care about their brand, their look, their “likes”,  or making allegiances with the world. In short, it’s time to make pastors uncool again.


wow!  couldn't agree more with john.  thankful he shared his thoughts on this topic...  

and i'll let you all know if i ever hear back on my "ask pastor john" question :) 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

who and where are the "unreached"

for the last year or so i have asked a question to several people in missions and church leadership that's been tough to find a simple answer for.  it's with regard to the word "unreached."  generally, the term refers to people and areas that have not yet been reached with the gospel.  there are ministries that do a deep dig into this, and i am grateful for them. for example, i love the joshua project and find it to be a tremendous resource.

but there are many areas in the world today that are considered "unreached" that were actually "reached" at one point.  modern day turkey, syria, iran, libya, north africa, even parts of asia and india, were places the early church started and grew the fastest.  yet today they are considered "unreached."  even italy and greece, where some of the original new testament churches were planted, are now considered 1% or less evangelical. 

so my question is:  does "unreached" simply mean "currently not reached with the gospel"?  ...or does it mean "never been reached with the gospel"?  ...or what about "reached at one point, but now under a twisted or false gospel"?

matthew 24:14 says once the gospel has been preached to all the nations (tribes/nationalities), the end will come.  and joshua project says 42% of the world is still "unreached."  but a lot of that 42% would have been considered "reached" at one point.  does my dilemma sense?

maybe i am overthinking it.  but the truth is- this topic can sometimes be a discouragement for missionaries who are working in places that have been labeled "already reached."  and when paul says in romans 15 that his ambition is to preach the gospel "not where Christ has already been named, lest i build on someone else's foundation..." it can make a missionary's work to an area tagged "reached" feel wasted.

perhaps in some cases that's exactly what God wants them to feel.  perhaps He's calling them to a move on because the gospel is alive and well where they are.  praise God!  but what if they are exactly where God has called them to be?  what if He wants them to stay where they are and continue working, not distracted by human definitions of "reached" and "unreached"?

here's my reason for bringing all this upi was in guatemala a couple weeks ago and we were studying romans 15 together with our local guatemalan staff.  (guatemala is a country that has for the most part been reached with the gospel in most areas.)  towards the end of the study, one of our workers, nicho, asked to speak.  nicho is normally a pretty quiet guy.   

here's what he said: 

"when we read romans 15:20-21 it made me think of how you guys left your home in the united states 12 years ago and came to our village.  over that time you've been teaching us what the bible really says and to read it for ourselves.  before you came, the people here thought that only a leader in a church can understand and teach the bible.  and we have always believed what they said, even though its been wrong.  i don't know if anyone in our village would have ever read the bible for themselves if you hadn't come to our village.  that's what i think of when i read romans 15:20-21, so i just want to say thank you."

nicho's comments, under any circumstances, would have brought me to tears.  but in light of the recent thoughts and conversations i've been having about the "unreached", it was even more special.  i received his words as if directly from the Holy Spirit.

while i do think the definitions and distinctions made by ministries like the joshua project are very helpful, the only One who can truly define "unreached" is Jesus.  and as we abide in Him, hear his voice, and obey what he says, he will lead us to reach them - wherever they might be. 


Romans 15:20-21

...and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, 21 but as it is written,

“Those who have never been told of him will see,

    and those who have never heard will understand.”


Friday, November 20, 2020

grateful for the last couple months

we are so grateful for what God has allowed over the last couple months. despite the frustration and "unknowns" that were involved with coming back from africa, borders closing, and unrest everywhere in the world... we have rested in God's sovereignty and seen his purposes in all of our steps. 
not only did we want to get to Guatemala for the birth of our first grandchild... we also just wanted to be there for our daughter and son-in-law. brooke and matt literally found out they were expecting only 1 day after moving to Guatemala!  it had been a crazy first 8 months in the mission field between unexpected transition on our team, the covid-19 shut downs, and of course the surprise pregnancy!  combine that lots of new dynamics within the ministry team, and we had been fervently praying that God would open a way for us to get there. 
a path 
after some flight cancellations due to Guatemala's border not being open to flights from the US, we booked our flights into Honduras.  being legal Guatemalan residents, we figured we'd try crossing the land border. plus, this way we'd get to visit our Academy in Honduras...

With Jason & Axel in Hondo
we were able to get to Hondo and spend some quality time with our academy missionaries and staff. they were going through a tough season, and the timing of our arrival was God ordained. not only had they recently been broken into and robbed, but a shoot-out next door involving a "hired killing" left bullet holes in our academy classroom. thankfully it didn't happen during academy hours, so the only damage was to property.  still, digging bullets out of the marker board in the classroom had left our team a bit unnerved.

some tough conversations were necessary with the Rhinos and staff, and it was a blessing to be able to be there to handle that and take it off their shoulders.  it was a blessing to be able to pray with and encourage our team on the ground, and we're now looking forward to returning soon in order to help them work through some transition with new team members.

our time in Guate has been more meaningful than we could have possible imagined. not only were we able to be here for the birth of our grandson, but also for the transition of our leadership team on the ground, mynor's return, and re-opening of the Academy.  there has been so much going on here, unique challenges, spiritual warfare, etc, and we could not be more grateful to God to have been here to walk it together as a family.
baby James
The pic we receieved after a long 90 min
it wasn't without a scare, but so thankful for the healthy birth of our grandson, James (Santiago) Matthew Rolfe on Sep 24, 2020.  my daughter brooke called me from the hospital after a full day of trying to induce... crying and with desperation in her voice, she said "daddy, i'm bleeding really bad and they're taking me to emergency surgery right now, i'm scared..."  
she hung up abruptly and my heart absolutely sank. we immediately gathered together in prayer with the wilson family and God's promises began filling us with peace and joy. specifically, we claimed the promise of Isaiah 26:3 that says "you will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!"  brooke and matt told us later that when she hung up the phone, they began praying together as well, were filled with supernatural peace and all their fears were gone! 
after 90 minutes of radio silence (felt like forever!) a picture came through our family text chat of a healthy boy with his happy parents. πŸ™πŸ™πŸ™
time to go
it was sep 9th when landed in san pedro sula, honduras.  we never could have imagined what the last 2+ months had in store! thankful for every minute of it... 
  • Chamusca!
    the time in honduras with our ministry team there
  • the tough meeting with all the rhinos in honduras after many things had been stolen from the property 😐
  • sweet times with jason and axel
  • our entire time in guatemala with our ministry team
  • serving brooke and matt after having baby James via unexpected c-section
  • sweet time with our grandson!
  • Allan teaching the bible
    witnessing my son-in-law become fluent in spanish in a matter of months
  • sweet time with the leivas, wilsons, rolfes, marroquin's, nicho, mash, johanna, and ruth
  • visiting Quiche on a scouting trip, and getting to know the precious walton family
  • being able to help with the re-opening of the Guate academy and the transition of new ministry roles for everyone
  • With Cesar and fam
    watching luci and the wilson kids form deep friendships
  • many 4v4 battles with mynor, oso, nicho, mash, hulises, ivan, kike, jake... they still owe us a pizza
  • weekly worship with wilsons, rolfes and marroquins
  • watching my own baby girl (brooke) become a loving mommy - incredible! 
  • witnessing what God is doing with allan and glendy, creating pillars for years to come
  • Happy grandparents!
    sharing in some challenges, surgeries, tears, etc with the wilson family and rejoicing in God's faithfulness!
  • seeing allan come alive through God's word, watching him passionately teach the rhinos πŸ”₯
  • the joy of welcoming coach mynor back after a 6 month sabbatical! sweet reunion with the team
  • watching ryan lead and teach God's word with all his heart
  • getting to know the wilson kids and stacy better - and giving some new nicknames :)
  • sweet reunions with several rhino graduates and local families, cesar's family, the schmidts, and many more...

in other words...  witnessing God's faithfulness!!!

it's always hard to say goodbye but such an adventure following God into whatever adventure he has next!


God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  1 Corinthians 1:9

Friday, July 31, 2020

how should Christians handle politics, racial tension, and covid-19?

the combination of racial tension, covid-19, and the upcoming presidential election, has led America into complete pandemonium.

Christian or not, politics seems to be the filter for everything.  Satan is working overtime to assure that every angle on every conversation is steered by politics, and firm loyalty to one side or the other.

it's crafty on the enemy's part, as it keeps everyone mired in the world; eyes fixed on temporal problems and temporal solutions.  it's why these things always lead to "get out and vote" movements. 

the logic suggests that electing the right candidate will solve everything.  but it never does.  why?
because the true problem has been the same since the beginning of time: our own sin. 
the only solution remains the same too: Jesus.  (1 john 2:2)

if i'm not careful, i start to drift down that same cultural/political train of thought.  my daily time abiding in God's word is the only way i can maintain a kingdom perspective.  there's a reason its called "daily bread" for Christians.  we starve without it, and end up feasting on the junk food of this world.


i don't claim to be a special voice on all of this, but i do want to share some thoughts rooted in Philippians 2:12-14.  as i studied it recently i felt it couldn't be more apropos for today's climate.  i've separated the section by it's commas so you can recognize the beauty of each line:

"Do all things without grumbling or disputing,  
that you may be blameless and innocent, 
children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, 
among whom you shine as lights in the world,  
holding fast to the word of life..."
the middle line (in orange) identifies the scenario: Christians living in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.  the surrounding 4 lines tell us what to do about it.   

but before we can dig into "what to do about it", we have to establish that we too are living in a crooked and twisted generation.  honestly, i'd call "crooked and twisted" (politically and ideologically) an understatementin fact, the two parties that supposedly work together to form governance seem to have both lost all sense of reasonableness.


many on one side are refusing to wear masks, rejecting data and safety protocols, and running with every covid-19 conspiracy theory out there.  some in this camp would say systemic racism isn't even real, and racial injustice is just an excuse that black people use.  despite claiming to be the party for evangelical Christianity, their favorite "conservative personalities" influence their worldview much more than their bibles do.  sadly, they justify their own hate and judgment, based on the fact that the extremists on the other side have gone too far.
on the other side, you've got violence, rioting, and pure mayhem being justified as "protest."  a culture is forming that bullies people by saying "you must agree with every single thing we stand for, or else!"  for example, while the phrase "black lives matter" is of course true (and a worthy mantra right now), the organization itself has other objectives that are questionable, to say the least.  many of which are not even race related.  yet if anyone dare speak about it, or even hesitate to join the movement, they're tagged bigot, racist, sexist, or homophobe... then annihilated via social media, and rejected by all.

several factors contribute to this madness.  divisive leadership on both sides.  biased media on both sides.  unwillingness to empathize. fear of retribution (cancel culture), and much more.  as a result, the valid concerns coming from one side will never be appreciated by the other.  

it's a true impasse.  gridlock of the worst variety, with nowhere to turn around or free things up.

as Christians, what are we to do in such a crooked and twisted generation?  which side do we support?  what if there's truth on both?  and lies on both?  how do we form our viewpoints on these matters, and handle these conversations? 

first, we have to change filters.  toss out the political and cultural filters, and upgrade to a biblical filterlets go back to Philippians 2:14-16, starting with the last line:

holding fast to the word of life...

in order for a Christian to live in this world, the bible must be our source for everything.  God's word has to be the influence forming ALL of our opinions, leading ALL relevant conversations, and shaping our ENTIRE perspective.  it is the living, breathing word of God - always true, always right, and always giving a better way. 

when we know the Word, keep to the Word, and abide in the Word, our opinions and actions become like Christ!  this is what prevents us from conforming to the crooked/twisted thinking of the world.  as the Christian grows in knowledge and wisdom, devotion to a political party or even a "nationality" begins to seem trivial by comparison to devotion to King Jesus. 

Do all things without grumbling or disputing,  
that you may be blameless and innocent

when we abide in Christ and grow in knowledge, we begin placing our identity in Him alone.  as He conforms us into His image (which He promises will happen!), grumbling and disputing become less natural of a response to our circumstances.  eventually our combative and argumentative nature gets replaced with a genuine desire to be blameless and innocent, which flows from humility.
among whom you shine as lights in the world
finally, as we abide in His word, and put on His character, we get to shine Him. the ability to shine Jesus is especially important during dark, chaotic, confusing times like these.  oh, how this crooked and twisted generation needs the light of Christ!  

what made Jesus shine uniquely bright was his perfect balance of Grace and Truth. as we grow in those characteristics, we gain the ability to better discern right from wrong - and then lovingly engage. through this, God gives us the opportunity to stand out from the world (shine!)... by not fitting perfectly into any worldly "camp"...  and showing political and cultural objectivity based on commitment to biblical truth. 

you can read more about replacing your filter in colossians 3:1-17.


returning to the current state of chaos in America...

to Christians on one side: if racial injustice doesn't truly bother you, something is wrong. a Christian should be appalled by any partiality, for God shows none (romans 2:9-11).  try to understand the reality of systemic racism, and empathize.  it's good to be patriotic, but not without appreciating how the process-out-of-slavery left huge hardships for black people, some that remain to this day.  here's a great short video to learn more, by American icon, Phil Vischer (creator of Veggie Tales).  trust me, he's brilliant :)

regarding both the racial climate AND the politics surrounding covid-19, measure your arguments (and level of passion) against scripture.  aim for empathy and understanding.  pursue humility and objectivity, and ask God to help you recognize when your news source - or your president - might be wrong.

to Christians on the other side: be willing to call out the serious blemishes in what's going on.  an important cause doesn't justify all means (violence, bullying, cancelling, etc).  don't dismiss/shame people who might be wrestling with different nuances of it all.  and be careful not to let the bad apples ruin the whole bunch, so to speak.  most importantly,  if you feel oppressed or persecuted, remember the Lord is for you (psalm 9:9). that should free you up from having to fight so hard, knowing that He fights for you.  

you have a captive audience.  in the long run, it will go to waste if the most audacious, unreasonable voices steal the limelight.  separating from the extremists, and leading a shift of tone towards considerate dialogue, could lead to monumental and overdue change. 


we don't need more political banter.  grumbling and disputing isn't a way forward.  yes, vote... and yes, defend biblical truth.  but as Christians, we must realize that in the end, Biden, nor Trump, nor Perfect Candidate C, is going to make everything better.  the magnitude of the situation, and our own human depravity, makes "electing the right candidate" far too simplistic.

what's needed more than ever are brave Christ followers, shining like lights in a crooked and twisted generation. 

"God, i know the only way to shine your glory in this world is by abiding in you, knowing your word, and being brave enough to live it out in unashamed obedience.  convict me of my own sin daily so i can repent, be renewed, and keep fighting the good fight, for your glory alone."

Friday, July 17, 2020

my plans / his plans

i've been having to remind myself lately that there's much more to what's going on in the world than how it affects me.  if i forget that even for a moment, i become myopic and selfish.

if not for the coronavirus pandemic,
  • we'd be in africa right now, making progress toward our senegal ministry plant
  • we would have already gotten to one of our existing academies with our 3 missionary families (who are currently preparing for the mission field) to do onsite academy training
  • we would be planing a return to guatemala to spend some time with our ministry team, and God-willing witness the birth of our grandson!
  • and the list goes on...
but as i abide in Jesus, he reminds me that He is accomplishing more than i can possibly imagine.  his ways involve all people, all cultures, all hearts, all governments, the earth and its ecosystems, the sea, the sun, the moon, the stars, all the galaxies, and so much more! 

its preposterous that i slip into simply seeing "barriers" to what i otherwise want to get accomplished.

"Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." (proverbs 19:21)

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" (psalm 8:3-4)

so i come back to Jesus. when i abide in Him well, perspective and priorities are realigned. instead of frustration that i can't be where i want to be, making progress on initiatives that i want to be making progress on...  i am able to re-set and ask, "what would you have me do today. Lord?  right now?"

this shift has led us to better minister to people right where we are.  it's also led us to do our 5-week missionary training via Zoom...  to spending much needed time on the phone/Facetime with our missionaries in the field...  to re-thinking ministry vision and procedures with our officers on the board... to beginning a weekly all-missionary devotional via Zoom... to helping transition leadership for ANSL... and much more.

because of being unable to get back to africa, or visit any academies, we've been able to be available for some things that we never could have expected. 

for example, we have friends who are currently helping foster a young girl who is from guatemala. she doesn't speak english and kerrie has been able to spend the days with her, not only translating but helping encourage her delicate heart, as she has been through much tragedy and abuse.  it's been sweet, and only possible because of God's perfect timing.

all of this to say: God continues teaching me what it means to fully surrender my plans to the Lord, again and again, day after day. 

dying to self, which is arguably the most commonly woven theme into every book of the new testament, is a constant battle

not only does it mean fighting against our sin nature - which is hard enough
not only does it mean surrendering our ambitions and dreams - which is totally counter-cultural.
but it also means surrendering our plans - even the plans we believe are God-honoring.

as Christians, our aim in this life is to be used by God for his glory.  but that means however He sees fit

i am learning more and more that the way to best be used by God has a lot to do with surrendering my plans (even the ones i made for Him!) and instead humbly seeking His. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

stress levels - you won't believe this

anyone heard of the "holmes-rahe stress test"?

it's been around since the late 1960's, and is still widely used by health professionals to determine a person's stress level.  still used by the american institute of stress, the scale - which is based on life circumstances - helps predict when a person's level of stress is likely to cause serious health problems.

the test
most people score between 50-150 on the scale.  here's how the results are to be evaluated:

150 or less = relatively low risk of serious health problems due to stress

150-300 = 50% chance of a health breakdown* within the next 2 years.

300 or more = 80% chance of a health breakdown* within the next 2 years

*health breakdowns mentioned are heart-attack, heart disease, mental breakdown, severe depression, diabetes, stomach ulcers, gastrointestinal disease, and other severe illnesses causing hospitalization.

missionaries break the scale
in the late 1990's, doctors' lois and lawrence dodd of heartstream resources began using the holmes-rahe scale to determine the stress levels of foreign missionaries serving overseas.  what they discovered is amazing, not to mention sobering.

✔foreign missionaries not only average well over 300, but have sustained scores of 300 year after year.

✔foreign missionaries average 600 on the scale.

✔foreign missionaries in their first term average 900 on the scale.

the results are remarkable.  and they explain a lot too - like why 75% of foreign missionaries return home within the first 2 years, never to go back to the field.

one missionary who took the holmes-rahe test noted that he scored a 532... and this despite "no way to account for the fact that i almost crash every day that i drive in my country, don't speak the language, and daily instruct my children what to do when a cobra wanders into the yard."

for me, it has taken years to admit it.  but i know it's real.  i lose weight and have severe stomach problems. i know it's stress related - directly connected to the field - because when i am stateside i gain weight and my stomach is fine.

i'm not writing this to provide answers- i'll save that for another post!  i'm just sharing the information because i think this is serious stuff.  and rarely gets talked about.  i guess my only hope is that knowing this information might inspire people and churches to be intentional about caring for missionaries serving overseas.

and i'm definitely not writing to complain.  because the truth is (and i think i speak for most long-term missionaries), despite the stress, i feel most alive in the field!  i always feel most at peace when i'm obeying God, no matter what.

it's paradoxical, that's for sure.  as christians, our spirit tends to be most thankful and content when our flesh is being challenged.  we know our joy is fullest when we're being sanctified.  for me, i also feel the opposite effect- when a season of "comfort" leaves me feeling spiritually lethargic.

if you've never lived in the foreign mission field, it's simply impossible to put into words how constant the stress is.  our missionaries at BVSA all deal with it in different ways.  but we all have one thing in common - we consider it to be worth it.  and we wouldn't have it any other way!

james 1:2-4, romans 5:3-5, 2 corinthians 12:10, philippians 3, galatians 6:9

Sunday, May 17, 2020

the trivialization of philippians 4:13

it's gotta be one of the most cheapened and misused verses in all of scripture.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

most often, we see philippians 4:13 used to motivate achievements, accomplishments, and winning.

what a crime to trivialize something this profound.

consider- paul wrote the book of philippians while imprisoned in rome.  we know paul's missionary journeys included near-death beatings, sickness, hunger, being shipwrecked at sea, running from killers, etc. from what he wrote in the previous 3 chapters (1-3), we can presume he had been beaten badly, to the point of death's door, as he wrote this very book.

as he pens chapter 4, before the famous verse 13, paul lays out several encouragements on how to live the christian life.
  • rejoice always.  paul is not talking about happiness based on circumstances here.  he is referring to deep joy, despite circumstances.   
  • give thanks in all things.  in all situations, good or bad, maintain a thankful heart towards God, knowing that he is working it out for your good.
  • do not be anxious about anything.  it's tough for anxiety to coexist with the peace and joy that come from the Lord.  paul is saying that true contentment in Christ thwarts anxiety.
  • let the peace of God guard your hearts.
  • be careful what you dwell on, as it will be produced in you. spend your time thinking about honorable, pure, praise-worthy things. don't waste time consuming garbage.
after setting that grand stage, paul leads us into some of the deepest waters of the christian faith.  he closes it out with the famous verse 13.

i have learned to be content in every situation. i know how to be brought low, and i know how to abound.  in any and every circumstance, i have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  i can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

in other words...  because of Christ who strengthens me, i have learned to find as much joy, peace, and thankfulness while suffering, as when everything in my world is perfect.

in other words... because of Christ who strengthens me, i am content no matter what happens to me. whether i feel TERRIFIC or i'm being TORTURED, my joy in Christ remains the SAME.

what paul is saying defies all common sense.  it's completely unnatural.  it actually flips the generic, clichΓ© version of 4:13 directly on its head.

athletes put 4:13 on their shirts, shoes, and under their eyes.  albeit well intentioned, the context is incorrect and the point of 4:13 is being missed entirely.

instead of a charge to "success" or a motivation to achieve and accomplish, 4:13 is more of a commitment to losing well.  it's a conviction to endure, and praise Jesus in the losses.

instead of pointing up to give glory to God after throwing a touchdown, 4:13 is about the fortitude to point up and give glory to God after getting sacked.

accurate representations of 4:13 look more like:
  • my friend Cesar who worships Jesus as deeply and joyfully as anyone i've ever known, while agonizing in constant physical pain from a terminal disease.  "i can do this through Christ who strengthens me."
  • my friend Johanna worshipping Jesus with all of her heart, hands lifted high, singing at the top of her lungs, at her husbands funeral who had tragically taken his own life.  she say's to her 6 year old daughter who is suffering from a broken heart, "the devil won't steal our joy, we'll get through this, through Christ who strengthens us."
  • a mother and father who recently lost their 4 year old precious baby girl, praising Jesus and sharing their confidence in His sovereign will, the very day that she passed away.  "today their is sadness and hope; it is Christ alone who strengthens us."
4:13 is about praising God - even giving thanks to God - amidst unthinkable tragedy and pain.  it's about being content in any and all circumstances.

4:13 is usually misused because its easy to be content when we're pursuing or receiving the things we already want.  contentment when "all is well" comes naturally!

but the "secret" paul is referring to?  it's about unexplainable joy and thankfulness in the midst of failure.  supernatural peace in the midst of the pain.

"i can do all things" is not motivation to succeed and achieve, its resolve to praise Jesus no matter what.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

missionaries and coronavirus

i am so thankful for our financial support team. since the coronavirus pandemic began, to my knowledge we have not lost any financial support. thank you friends, and thank you Jesus!

i also want to take a quick opportunity to speak on behalf of our entire BVSA missionary team. for the last couple weeks, i have been on the phone for the majority of each day with our missionaries in different countries.  they are all navigating their own situations with tremendous faith and courage.

from a missionary standpoint, today's circumstances are unique in their own right.  not only are missionaries impacted financially like everyone else, but they are also navigating the uncertainties of third-world medical care & governments, complicated food distribution and broken financial systems.  meanwhile - and most importantly - embracing the big opportunities that "tragedies" create in opening hearts to the gospel.  

and don't forget that missionaries are also making decisions on how to best care for their own families too.  when you add it all up, it can certainly increase stress levels.  which leads me back to my point.  your continued support - both financially and prayerfully - serves as a MAJOR encouragement to missionaries during these crazy times.

we know the current situation is having an economic impact on everyone.  if your support of missionaries, and the great commission of Jesus, is a greater sacrifice at this time, you can be certain that God receives and uses it in greater measure.  

as you support faithfully during this season of financial instability, may Christ be blessed like he was by the widow who gave sacrificially in luke 21.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

from florida to africa... and back

it's been slightly 2 months since we arrived in west africa. now we're back stateside. what is going on!

i have such mixed feelings. when my head hit the pillow that first night - after a straight 24hrs of travel - my mind was swirling.

on one hand:  so thankful that God cleared the way for us to get back (too many stories to tell here). thankful to see our son and pablo, who have been uprooted from their universities. and thankful that God has shown us time and time again that it's his will for us to be here.

on the other hand:  oddly enough, i miss africa already. we had gotten "over the hump" of some tough initial challenges. luci absolutely loved her school as well as her friend next door.  we were growing and improving in our french classes, and making new friends too. we were making progress.  our house had become our home.  to be honest, we were starting to really like it there. all God!

when coronavirus hit, returning to the states wasn't even a thought. as time went on, the US was getting more and more cases while africa was seeming to avoid it all together.

but potential issues with our visa status were brought to our attention. the impact of coronavirus had closed offices and procedures that we needed to get done before our tourist visas expired. after digging into it and ultimately acquiring legal counsel, we were warned that even though coronavirus was the cause, local authorities are very stringent in this area and there was no sign that they would give a grace period to those who were caught in the middle. we were advised that a permanent stain on our visa status could be detrimental to our future initiatives over the long term.

after discussing with our board, and our missionary team across other locations, that's when we looked into flight options out. departing and re-entering would automatically re-set our tourist visa, and allow us to get back and help our son and pablo navigate things in the meantime. with help from family using skymiles, we booked tickets one week out.

but thats when panic in our country, not to mention around the world, began to ensue. the virus had reached africa, and our west african country was one of the hardest hit. the president eventually shut down all schools, public gatherings, international flights, etc. we were told that our flight, still almost one week away, would almost certainly be cancelled. the US embassy arranged emergency charter flight evacuations for US citizens in the country immediately.

as we prayed through all of this, God overwhelmed us with peace. we continued moving about our lives in africa, going out to shop and prepare. not knowing if we'd be able to fly out, or be in longterm lockdown in africa, we semi-prepared for both. we felt the Lord allowed us to view it in a simple way that provided us a lot of peace: if our flight holds, we'll go... and if its cancelled, we'll stay.

after several more twists and turns, our flight ultimately departed. a smooth travel day with minimal inconveniences... and just like that we're back in florida.

amazingly, i woke up to 2 emails from the embassy. the first saying that no more flights for US citizens are available. ours had been the last one.  the second, that all visa/residency immigration services are cancelled indefinitely and US citizens are basically at the mercy of local government decisions regarding visa status.

such sweet confirmations!  as we continue abiding in the Lord daily, enjoying his presence and his faithfulness, we look forward to His purposes in bringing us back during this time.

we're thankful that our french classes are moving to an online format so we can continue progressing with the language.  thankful that luci's school in africa is doing the same.

here we are Lord, sanctify and renew us, and use us however you see fit.  and please let us know when you are ready for us to return to africa.  we remain excited to return to the purpose, and the life, that we left there.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

christians & corona

the practical measures regarding coronavirus are our responsibility, and we should take necessary precautions. but even more important is our reaction to the situation as Christians. we must stay in our bibles, praying, and worshipping. we must ABIDE in Him! scripture gives us much to lean on in times like this.

while its tempting to get caught up in the hysteria, as Christians we are called to be set apart. we're called to be salt and light in a world that is tasteless and dark. how much more-so in times like these! our confidence and peace comes from knowing that ALL POWER AND AUTHORITY ON HEAVEN AND ON EARTH HAS BEEN GIVEN TO JESUS (Matt 28:18), and even the wind and the seas obey him (Mark 4:41)!!!

for Christians, moments like this bring big opportunities! 1 peter 3:14-15 tells us that when we "fear not" it will open up opportunities to tell people where our hope lies. we do that by showing peace in the chaos, confidence in His sovereignty, genuine belief in His promises, and valuing the advancement of the gospel higher than protecting our own life.

during this ordeal, we should be asking questions like:
  • how can this be used for the glory of Jesus? 
  • how can it be used to point others to Jesus?
  • how can it be used in my conversations with family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers?
  • how might God use this to strengthen my relationship with him, and for my own sanctification?
  • how can i serve people who are in greater need than myself during this time?
  • who do i know living/serving in other countries where unstable governments and poor economies make things even more complicated? how can i be intentional and strategic about caring for them and praying for them?
most of all, lets ask God to make himself known to ALL peoples in ALL nations, at ALL costs, and bring glory to himself through all of this.

Monday, March 9, 2020

we need your help!



hello Rhino friends, family, and supporters:

we need your help!  

between our Guatemala and Honduras academies, we still have 30+ boys that need sponsored.

the Rhinos Sponsorship Program helps cover all of the Rhino's needs throughout the year.
for $40 per month (or $480 per year), your Rhino receives:

  • a nutritious meal every day
  • unlimited pure drinking water (not such an easy thing in Guatemala)
  • all necessary hygiene care
  • all the resources of our soccer and education programs

even better than that, we will make sure you and your Rhino get connected and STAY connected.
~ you'll receive a refrigerator magnet to remember to pray for your Rhino(s)...
~ you'll receive pictures, videos, and letters from your Rhino throughout the year...
~ and you are welcome to write and communicate with your Rhino as often as you like!

the RELATIONSHIP side of this program is what the Rhinos love the most. just to feel loved and know they are cared for, and prayed for, can truly be a life changing thing for them. by sponsoring a Rhino, you become another key voice in their life by which they can hear the gospel, and receive the love of Jesus.

would you consider sponsoring a Rhino?  
Go to for more information and to see who is still available.  

Thursday, February 20, 2020

one month in west africa

today marks one month. it hasn't been an easy, but we're good and things are looking up!

out of tears
emotions have been all over the place.  not gonna lie, we spent the first couple weeks crying a lot!  not only was the situation here pretty hard, but we couldn't stop thinking of our kids. each of them (and new son-in-laws) are in new/different seasons of their lives, and we wanted to be close to all of them.  we're also missing the friends and fam that we deeply enjoyed during our year stateside. 

while we knew God was bringing that sweet season to a close, we felt pretty miserable for a while once reality actually set in.

on top of that, no running water, no AC, a rough apartment, no language skills - and no clue what to do about any of it - left us struggling for sure.  thankfully much of that eventually got dealt with, and we began settling in. 

where's our meter?
for the most part, we didn't have running water for our first 5 days here. we finally were able to get a cistern and water pump installed and we thought our major water problems were over. until 2 days ago... when the water company came and took our water meter (literally cut the pipe and removed it!).  they shut us off, saying the bill in this apartment hadn't been paid in 5 years. 5 years?!  (of course i only figured all of this out after numerous trips up and down the stairs, calling translators, and finally sitting with our security guard navigating google translate.)  and i still wasn't positive! lol.  

so...  another couple days without water, borrowing from nice neighbors, etc... but praise God it all got sorted out quickly and we got the meter returned.  thank you Jesus.

je ne parle pas frances
french class is hard, but its been good. we are enjoying our teachers and classmates. it's 4.5 hours per day - so definitely information overload! it's a totally different method than we did with spanish, but really interesting. instead of using a book, curriculum, learning conjugations and memorizing verbs, the first 100-150 hours is only listening.  then you start to listen and repeat - similar to recreating how a baby/child learns their native tongue

phase 2 then gets into speaking and forming sentences, etc, but still no reading or academic learning. it's called the GPA approach for language acquisition.  anyway, we are learning... petit a petit... :)

luci happier than ever
one of the most incredible things about this move is how much luci LOVES it here. her joy hasn't dipped at all since we arrived. hasn't cried once. hasn't complained once. its all God. otherwise it makes no sense. we left her sisters, brother, mimi and papa, all family and friends...  and she is the happiest we've ever seen her.  we praise God for this EVERY DAY. honestly, if she were miserable, crying coming home from school, etc - on top of everything else - i don't know if i could do it.

wonder woman
my wife is incredible.  she always toughens up and says "yes" to whatever God has for us, whatever the cost. and she's always willing to follow me as i follow Christ.

this last month has been spiritual "game on"... and my wife is a gamer!  my heart smiles as she dives in... struggling to get a taxi, shop the markets, and read food labels.  she's a totally different person than when we did this 12 years ago in guatemala.

just like then, her world has been turned upside down.  her friends, family and comforts of home stripped away. a true woman of God, she leans into Him fully, and He sustains her joy.  up early every morning spending sweet time with Jesus, she gets refilled by the Living Water.  i'm so proud to be the husband of this amazing woman. 

grateful for bigger reasons
i am truly grateful. not only do we get to "pioneer" another academy and remain committed to the call to the unreached people group we've been called to... but God is also reminding us how hard mission work is - especially in the beginning.

which reminds us how important "missionary care" is.  it was a big topic of conversation for us while we were stateside, and its being reinforced during this tough season.  we want to be good at taking care of our missionaries. we don't want them to get so overwhelmed that they quit.  we want them to endure over the long-term.  a soft landing in the field is helpful, not like the one we're dealing with now. we want them to feel supported, cared for, have a team, and ideally a community.

the wehmeyer's will be joining us here late this summer. we're thankful that we'll have some basic things sorted out by the time they get here. it will be a softer landing for them and their 2 little babies.

most of all, its good to suffer for a while 
i'm not claiming to be suffering in any mighty way.  but its good for me to be humbled.  its a blessing to be uncomfortable.  

and its good for us to be the "newbies" again.  wandering aimless and clueless, and sounding like 2-years olds when we talk. 

its good (even though i hate it) to feel scared for my family's safety, nervous to run a simple errand, dirty and sweaty all the time, and feeling helpless and intimidated in basic situations. 

it strips me of my rights and exposes my control issues. it reveals the needy, and smug, american in me.  it illuminates my sin. ultimately forcing my full dependence on Jesus.  

it helps me die to myself, probably the most underrated and disobeyed command of Christ. 

its a painful process, but i am so thankful for it.  it sharpens me, making me a better warrior for the kingdom.  not to mention better husband, father, and man.  but best of all it leads to deep sanctification and intimacy with God.

my morning abiding (time with Jesus, in the bible, in prayer, and in worship) has been sweeter than ever this last month. when i abide well, He puts it all in perspective. 

times like these can easily be mistaken for the worst days (flesh perspective) when in reality they are the best days of my life (kingdom perspective).  

1 peter 5:10, romans 5:3-5

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

cesar's new bed

it is such a blessing to be a part of this man's life.  cesar garcia - a hero and mentor in my life. he sets the bar high for what it looks like to truly follow and walk with Jesus.  i am often convicted by the Lord's voice reminding me to consider cesar...  his steadfastness...  his abiding habits...  his patience, endurance, and his perspective.

like training in sports, it's always good to have people around us who are ahead of us. it helps to have real life examples to look to and learn from.  we need that as christians, too.  for me, cesar is certainly one of those people.

which is one of the reasons it is such a privilege to be a blessing to him and his family.  with the help of a friend who wishes to stay anonymous, we were able to get an orthopedic, adjustable bed brought in for cesar. at the touch of a button, he can adjust the angles of his back and legs. not only does this help reduce pain, but also assists with therapy.

he and his wife andrea voice texted me in the middle of the night thursday, the first night sleeping in the new bed. they were emotional because it was truly helping cesar rest.  it was was one of the sweetest messages i've ever heard!

there is an awesome story about how this all came to fruition, but i will save that for my anonymous friend to tell as he chooses.  to that friend:  thank you for hearing the Lord's voice and responding immediately!

and thank you dr. carlos for being that guy who's always willing to jump in and help get a project  done.

love and miss you amigo checha!!!

Saturday, February 8, 2020

so hard, but so good, to go through this again

leaving our home for school
my stomach has been cramping for days- sometimes stopping me in my tracks. i'm tired. a ten-day headache lingers on.

we have been in west africa for two and a half weeks. not going to lie... it’s been hard.  we we're supposed to be "veterans"!!!  lol...

i remember
12 years ago we did this in guatemala.  we landed in a new country, new culture and started a new life.  with no language, no sending organization, and no "team", it was just us.  me, my wife, and our 3 young kids - just trying to figure things out.

i remember feeling helpless. worthless. scared. inept. humbled. i literally remember pretending to be confident and strong for my family's sake... while whispering desperation prayers to Jesus all day, and crying through my prayers at night.

i remember my wife crying. a lot. i remember her telling me she didn't like herself: that her former identities such as "super-mom" and "women’s bible-study leader" – even “friend” and “daughter” and “neighbor” – had all been stripped away and she hated what she found underneath.  i knew exactly what she meant... i was going through something similar myself.

i remember my kids coming home from school and crying, saying they didn't understand a single word, and that all the kids laughed at them every time they spoke.

but i also remember...
bonding with my family more deeply than I had ever imagined possible.  we experienced things with God and with each other that shaped us into who we are as a family to this day.

i remember how sweet the joys, and how exhilarating the victories.

most importantly, i remember how close i felt to Jesus in those moments of desperation and dependence.

when it takes full dependence on God just to run a simple errand, it does wonders for your sanctification!

when you are humbled to the point of losing your 1) comforts and conveniences, 2) past identity, 3) ability to communicate, 4) any chance for a routine, and 5) all your friends, family, and home church… you either quit, or you grow fast.

as christians, suffering shapes us.  our best growth comes by fire (romans 5:3, 2 cor 12:10), and the process brings you closer to Jesus than ever before.  it’s always worth it!

and THAT is where i am today.

there are moments already where i’ve wanted to quit.  i've had a few situations where my chest swells up and my breathing turns to short breaths.  or my stomach ties up in knots...  and i start justifying reasons why it makes more sense to not do this after all.

in the midst of all that, my time with Jesus is extraordinary.  it fills me so much, I feel like I could explode.

i can’t read scripture or worship without tearing up.  His faithfulness showers me – completely flooding my heart.  it’s remarkable, hard to explain.  best thing ever.  words of life, ministering to my soul.  more than “reading” them, I hear them, I feel them, my soul drinks them up.  living water!

my stomach pain is still there. i’m always tired. my ten-day headache lingers on.

but I hear your voice Jesus. and there’s no other place I want to be.