Saturday, December 28, 2013

HAIR in GUATEMALA


Bald is no more. It is time for something new. I never have appreciated half measures. This should come as no surprise to those who know me, or even to those who have observed me from a safe distance.

I lived life as a bald man for 30 months. Overall it was quite the positive experience. I felt distinguished, I felt bold, I felt unique. Somehow it helped me face giants during a difficult time in life. I tip my hat to the bald. You rock.

This time in life calls for a new adventure in hair. Having experienced life as a bald man in society, now I embark on a mission to live life long. I was first inspired by this man… 

Cullen Bohannon, lead character on AME's Hell On Wheels.
"What you suppose the Lord's gonna think about a man like me?"
After all… he wears a hat and I love the grit and tenacity of his character. I love that he lives by his beliefs and he lives by them no matter how great the challenge. He inspires me.

Realistically, I will never have the wavy flowing mane which Mr. Bohannon frontiers through the west. Mine is very straight, unapologetically so. I have spent most of my life despising it's stubborn straightness. Now the time has come for me to embrace it.

It seems that long hair has been done well recently though. While I know my mug is a far cry from this gent, he does give me a path (and I also respect the sunglasses).


Besides, bald gets your head sunburned a lot. I live in Guatemala now. I figure it is natural sunblock.

It's gonna take a while. From the starting point of bald, I've been growing it since the beginning of September. Progress so far… about 1.5 inches (or 3mm).

Hair we go!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Very Guate Christmas (Movie Trailer Spoof)


Nationwide Midnight Fireworks, an early morning wake-up, driving Miss Sterling, and a little dancing. Ah yeah… bring it Guate.  The Shepherd's are ALL IN.

video

Our first Christmas in Guatemala! A huge thank you to all of our friends and partners! It was amazing to spend Christmas with my parents who came bearing 25 pounds of peanut butter, cash, and a trampoline!

The fireworks are STILL going… so we're off to the rooftop! Merry Christmas from the Sheps!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Where the Love Light Gleams



your old men will dream dreams,
    your young men will see visions.
-Job 2:28b

"I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams." Then I most certainly am home. I have dreamed of being in this place for years. Yes, I have had visions of what the years will bring. I am confident of the plans God has for us. The path ahead will surely surprise me along with the way… as it already has, and yet I have glimpsed the end. I know where we will finish, and I can tell you that right now, I am home for Christmas.

Home for Christmas… it is a silent place. A place that is somehow slightly set apart from the world. You may know that moment… maybe you have it now, or maybe you find it in your memory. It is that quiet and tangible place where you sit in the silence of a Christmas eve and you simply contemplate the shining of a single bulb on the tree.

This moment becomes a part of who we are and we reflect on it for years. That Christmas where things felt, well… they just felt right. Sure, things are still chaotic, the world is a mess, you are a mess, you are aggravated by those you love most, and yet… for a small quiet moment… you see, and even feel the emotion of the night.

It is time for us all to hit our knees in humility on this silent night and to simply invite that baby… our KING, our FATHER to speak to our hearts and bathe us with fire, and cover us with blood, and purify our souls. 

This for me, is where the love light gleams. It is the fire of His star. And wherever that light shines down on me… that is where I am home.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Little Red Stool

This was my greatest secret weapon. My red stool. My mom and dad tell the tale of me using it in the dark of night, a toddler wobbling on unbalanced legs, dragging it to each light switch, mounting the stool, and turning on the light. By the time they wiped the sleep from their eyes I had managed to illuminate the entire 3 bedroom ranch in that Preble County field. A little red stool. I pulled it behind me to illuminate the darkness. 

There are so many days that I long for that little red stool.

Six months here in Guatemala. So many days… and some days are simply a dragging of a stool to accomplish the basic. Today was somehow one of those days… and still, it was also an incredible day. A day that FAR exceeded any expectation. 

Today my accomplishments were: awaken, cook a 4 egg omelet (that broke), drive to Antigua to purchase blankets, drive to San Cristobal to pick up my wife and children, drive to the capital city for a medical appointment, find dinner, and drive home.

But… in a different view (dragging my stool to illuminate the darkness) my day looked this way: bring together a school, a mission agency, and a Guatemalan family to accomplish the goal of delivering the message of Jesus to a community, connecting people in ways to fund a mission of pulling hopeless children into God's amazing idea of adoption… through internet coffee sales executed on a cell phone in transit, assuring my children that our love still holds them in this all out abandonment of mission and God's calling, and an amazing evening of simply being family with my mom and dad… watching them love our children.

I was struck tonight by my mother's efforts to comfort our youngest daughter, Sterling. Earlier in the day, while in a traffic jam in the capital, trying to get Caleb to his orthodontist appointment, I weaved defensively in and out of traffic, glancing in the mirror to see my mother shielding Sterling from the sunlight with a jacket belt in the beam. I commented at the moment… "the windows are tinted, she is fine!", and yet my mother's arms still held back the sun.

Later in the day… as Sterling's head bobbed from side to side as my turnings of the wheel shifted gravity within the vehicle from left to right… I saw my mother's hands comforting Sterling's head and cushioning it with a soft jacket. 

At first I thought… this is meaningless, let the girl sleep. She doesn't need a pillow…

…and then I realized that this was my mother's desire to comfort her grand-daughter. The grand-daughter that she had been unable to hold for the last six months. Sterling… my daughter, mom… my mother. The two of them had been separated by 1700 miles these last 6 months… and now in this Christmas season, my mother was able to reach out and extend comfort and love to my daughter.

My heart melted. Yes. Yes… this is what so much of our live is about. This is what our calling is about. This is why we are here. This is the natural longing of our souls.

We long to provide love and comfort. It is natural for a grandma to want to ease the travels and sleepings of her grandchild… and it is natural for children of God to feel the need to provide comfort to the suffering.

This is why we are here.

Clarity shattered the obsessed nature of my mind that was concerned about negotiating the complex patterns of traffic and shouted to me at unbearable decibels… LISTEN CHAD… the message of God is here, at hand. 

Carry your little red stool to the spot on the wall and turn up the light switch. Flood the room with my light. It starts HERE. It begins with your family. Love each other. Celebrate these moments. Pull them so tightly to your chest that your eyes squinch shut and your heart oozes out LOVE.

This is that moment… I flip on the light from my little red wood and straw chair… and I glimpse the reality that my God is the light that illuminates everything.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Juxtaposed


180 days into life as a missionary, this word is at the forefront of my concepts. As Google puts it, "Juxtapose: place or deal with close together for contrasting effect."

My life is an existence between overlapping plains of juxtaposition. We are surrounded by indescribable beauty, and incomprehensible poverty. National Geographic Traveler repeatedly lists Guatemala as one of the worlds most best destinations, and Happy Planet Index ranks Guatemala #10 on the World Happiness index, while Guatemala is in the top 5 of all nations in this hemisphere for suicide among young and expectant mothers. 

The grip of poverty seems inescapable. So many can not bear the thought of watching her baby starve and slowly die. It is common in the city to see a mother, holding her child… step off the El Incienso bridge in Guatemala city in a desperate act to end the suffering and sense of hopelessness.

We see powerful faith that rises above circumstance in defiance of unsurpassable odds. We see smiles and laughter and love that hold families together that have nothing. Dirt floors act as beds and concrete holding tanks act as drinking water, cleaning water, and communal baths. And there we find people willing to share the meager food they have with strangers.

We clothe students and see them thrive at schools that are supported by many of you in the States… and we are also keenly aware that children simply disappear, the victim of a trafficker or collateral taken against a debt unpaid. And these are the children that survive birth, with infant mortality rates at 25%.

We see beautiful smiles from faces that have little or no dental care. Lost teeth are an inconvenience when the reality is that people frequently die from tooth decay gone bad. Simple, curable disease… still claims easy victims.

The textiles here are incredibly beautiful and filled with meaning. Each region weaves with it's own colors and patterns, often investing months into a single textile. The skill level requires decades to learn and the girls begin as young as 6 or 7. But despite the high level of skill, the average wage here is unthinkable for many of us. 

$5 a day, for 12 hours of labor on a mountainside harvesting coffee seems to be very common. And yet food prices are just as expensive here as in the U.S., where college students complain about making $8.00 an hour to pour coffee.

Justaposed. Yes. And then there is the story of me. I am unqualified to do what I am doing. I am a pastor, a missionary, the founder of an orphanage, and beginning in January, the Administrative Coordinator of a school. My undergraduate degree was in psychology. I've managed retail for the last 13 years. I've had no formal language training. I have 3 kids, the youngest being just 2.

And yet… I find myself here. Here in this place of impossible contrast. Impossible beauty and impossible pain. It is the happiest place in the world, and also the darkest. It is here that I find my faith the strongest. Contrast is everywhere. I cannot miss the power of it.

Light stands out the sharpest among the darkness. It is here that I find myself Juxtaposed. 

And justified. 

One of my favorite TV shows. Compelled me to thinking…. 
"knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified."  -Galations 2:16