Monday, September 16, 2013

This Unexplainable Experience of Daily Saying "Yes."

I am overwhelmed by what I have seen and am experiencing. Where to start? I could begin writing and never stop. So broken and rebuilt, repeatedly. But I have a story to share, and I am searching for words to this unexplainable experience of daily saying "yes".

Some day I hope to be a writer, but today the best I can do is to simply try to show you these past 90 days through my eyes.

Shortly after arriving in Guatemala I sign a lease agreement for Journey Church Guatemala to to meet in the auditorium of the Christian Academy of Guatemala. We haven't met together a single time, but my name is on the line.

Kellie & I attend a month of language school in Antigua. We spend a day at a pueblo in San Antonio, Guatemala learning about local culture and customs. Kellie re-enacts part of a wedding ceremony as mother of the bride.

We stop outside of the city in awe of the landscape. Our training for now is complete and we take some time as a family to explore some of the ruins of Antigua

With the ruins explored, we find ourselves with a week before we can transition to the grounds of our mission and so we trek out to the nearby Pacific coast for a few days of family time. For about $100/day, we found ourselves in paradise.

We arrived at our home on the hill above Mimi's House.
The kids & Kellie begin at the Christian Academy. Caleb 8th grade, Aleksandra 5th, Sterling pre-school, and Kellie teaching English

I spend some time in Cerro Alto and Labor de Falla along with the final couple of teams of the summer.

Hanging out with the kids...

...just sharing smiles and the days

practicing English & Spanish and learning that smiles
are a great place to start.

Watching chickens grow & 
a small business change lives

a house for a family, a safe place 
for their children to grow

seeing an installed ONIL stove that is both
efficient and much healthier for the family...

...and seeing projects develop for the future.
This one is an aquaponic system of tilapia & veggies.
$80 will buy a solar pump!

Over the past 7 weeks we have been a part of the new
Journey Church | Guatemala

Seeing it grow with an all Guatemalan worship team, and 
volunteer staff from around the globe. We come together 
to be the family of God... to worship, to inspire others 
to Live Big, and to do life together.

Inspired by Coach Ernie, Caleb is now 
on the CAG Soccer Team

And I have somehow become the boys
substitute Physical Education Teacher
(2 days a week).

I have also found myself a discipleship leader
for the 7th grade boys at the academy, as well
as a chapel speaker at two local English schools.

I have had the joy of watching a team come together
to make possible the youth group of Journey Church,
Big Student Ministries!

We have begun processing our residency paperwork with these lovely photos & some incredible help from family
in the states!

And had time for some amazing moments of service and intense self-reflection. This is a couple in their 80's which is a rarity in these parts. They asked for beds so that they could rest off the floor for the first time. My heart breaks daily as I find myself intensely challenged... how great is our love? How much are we willing to give? 

In the words of mother Theresa... do we give out of our wealth, or do we give out of our poverty? Do we know what it means to give until it hurts? To push through that pain and find the joy that is available when we give out of our own suffering? Have you ever spent 80 years sleeping on the ground with plastic over your head to keep the rain out?

And recently God has absolutely blown us away as He has shattered our expectations of establishing a baby home for 4-6 infants. He has dropped in our laps this amazing opportunity to care for many more. This is by his grace. This is our most recent miracle. This is the site of Casa de la Abuelita.

We are now on an 18 month endeavor to meet requirements set by the government to receive abandoned children, ages
0-7 years old. This is our mission.

We begin raising money now by establishing a partnership wall in the main entryway. Our logo will be the central tile, and surrounding it will be tiles with the names of the families who partner with us at $1,000 each. Some paid all at once, and some paid over time. These families will help us build this mission like the people of Nehemiah built the great wall.

By the end of the year we will be selling world-class Guatemalan coffee... shipped directly to your door. We will profit about $4.00 from each pound sold.

We also will be seeking sponsors for our babies at $30.00 per month. We will provide you will the child's story, monthly updates, prayer concerns and needs... and the opportunity to even come and hold her.

This has been our first 90 days.
All I can say is that it has been...

an unexplainable experience of daily saying YES.

Contact me if you have questions or want to be a supporter of the baby homes of C.R.I.

House of Hope ~ The Herman Family, Directors
Casa de la Abuelita ~ The Shepherd Family, Directors

Monday, September 9, 2013

Maybe I'm Amazed

Maybe I'm amazed at the way you pulled me out of time,
You hung me on the line.
Maybe I'm amazed at the way I really need you.

Baby, I'm a man, maybe I'm a lonely man

Who's in the middle of something
That he doesn't really understand.
-Paul McCartney

I really am a grounded person. I understand that things will not always be beautiful... but I would be untruthful to myself if I did not shout from the rooftops that I am in awe of these days. I know the difficult times will come... Jesus himself told us that it would be so when we said that we will have trouble. But we hold tightly to that promise... "take heart, for I have overcome the world."

These days are so much bigger than we are. 13 years ago tonight Kellie and I made a trip to Kettering hospital in Ohio. We had rehearsed and prepared for the moment. Kellie had said all along that this night would be the perfect night to give birth to our son. She even had it in her planner.

And wouldn't you know it... she was right. She said it was time and so we drove to the hospital to give birth. And on that next day, September the 9th, she gave birth to our first child, our son Caleb Thomas Shepherd.

I remember how terrified I was that day when I picked him up in my arms for the first time. This tiny life that had been entrusted to us. We were so overly prepared... and we felt so utterly unprepared. He was ours. 

We have had so many days since then where we felt so incredibly unqualified and tiny in the world. Maybe I'm amazed. Maybe I'm amazed at the way I really need...

I'll just let that trail off... because my needs are more than I can explain, and yet these days are bigger than I can imagine. Each time we think we have our life figured out, God shows us that our vision is not big enough.

We sleep here tonight in Guatemala with our teenage son who the doctors said could not be conceived, our (nearly) 10 year old daughter from Russia who was placed in an orphanage for terminally ill children, our daughter from China who was abandoned premature and gasping for air at a street corner. We sleep here with the realization that this week we sign a contract for a property that is too big, too expensive, too aggressive, and out of our reach...

...but it wasn't out of the reach of God. This was His plan. He simply made it happen. How can I express to you how I am so much just a passenger on this incredible journey.

God has covered our faults, my missteps, my impatience, my arrogance, my foolishness... He has covered it all with His grace and provision as we have learned through the beatings of life how to simply be obedient. We still learn daily.

Can I just tell you... can I simply challenge you... to step out on obedience to God? The thrill that comes with obedience is unbelievable. Our life has been hit with miracle after miracle. 

I don't know where it stops. I don't know when the storms come... but I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Maybe I'm amazed.