Tuesday, July 31, 2012

GUATEMALA 2012: (27) Alone In a Village

Sterling with flowers given to her by Kenya
Her brother told me that he was 10 years old, and judging on his age, I would place her around 12. Age is hard to estimate where malnutrition runs rampant. Her hair was dark and neatly combed and her head came up only to about my elbow. She wore a green and blue skirt, hand woven in the Guatemalan tradition of intricate patterns. Her blouse was an amazing blaze of white with hand-stitched flowers around the neckline. Great care had gone into the crafting of this textile, and it was spotless.

She called my name from across the cinder-block school and my ears heard her above the fray of 120 students at play. I turned to her and saw her running towards me as she continued to call my name… “Chad… Chad… Chad!”

Her hand locked into mine and I realized that I had to get my work gloves off. This beautiful little girl would not be made to hold a gloved hand. I remembered that my right hand was torn and bandaged and so I removed the glove of my left and then took her hand in mine. We exhausted our mutually understood words in about 10 seconds, things like: “how are you”, “I am fine”, and “you are pretty”.

She began pulling me through the courtyard of the school… and then up the stairs to the street… and then down the street. My feet stood still as I contemplated the situation. I was an American adult male holding the hand of a young Guatemalan girl in a remote village… and we were walking together away from her school. I considered that this was not a wise situation. A passerby could understandably see us and fear the worst.

Her name was Kenya (or at least that is how it sounds to me). She is the oldest of three siblings. This past June I worked with the team that built their house. I was nearly certain that this was her… but in the back of my mind I worried that I might have her confused, and if that was the case… then I had no idea where she was leading me.

But I was nearly certain… I weighed the risk… and we went forward. We came to the end of the street and turned right, walking up the mountain. I could see the path that led to what I hoped was her house! We walked up the dirt road, hand in hand, making sounds at the animals we passed by. We neared the path to her house. Thankfully she turned and began walking to the house. My recollection was correct.

We stepped through the trees and I saw the house that I built. It now had curtains in the windows, a chicken coup full of chickens, and a pot simmering on their Onil stove. I called out, “Hello… is anyone here? Mercedes? This is Chad.” I listened and heard only the sound of the wind in the trees.

I nervously chuckled as again I remembered that I was standing alone in a village in the mountains of Guatemala with a child that was not my own. I took a step back towards the gate.

It was at that moment that again I heard my name called out from a distance. I knew the voice even before I turned… it was Mercedes, the little girl’s mother.

The first time I met Mercedes was when I was attempting to foreman the building of her home. She sat nearby and watched as I led the team to incorrectly form her first wall, and subsequently had to disassemble it twice. Now as she called out my name, I picture the perplexed look of doubt on her face on that hot June day. I remember wondering what she was thinking. Probably something like, “Is that Gringo really gonna build my house? It probably won’t stand. I want another Gringo!”

But today the house stood strong and beautiful as Mercedes made her way across her courtyard and greeted me with a firm hug. Her two boys followed behind her as we all shared a group-hug reunion. She spoke rapidly in Spanish and I only caught a few words. It was apparent that she was both surprised and very happy to see me. She was telling me how much she loved her home, how it changed the lives of her children, and how she was forever greatful.

I was speechless. I just stood there in silence.

Luckily she saved me! I heard her asking about my spouse. I couldn’t believe she remembered! When I was here before I had shared pictures of Kellie and the full family. I laughed out loud, smiled, and said, “Si, Kellie, Me espousa es aqui!” Using my spanglish and hand motions, I communicated that I would go and get her, along with Caleb, Aleksandra, and Sterling. Mercedes smiled and laughed with delight when she learned they were all there and I ran with Kenya’s hand in mine to bring them to her house.

It was incredible to realize that we had all become family.
My hands were full all day long today. I walked around Michael Jackson style with my right hand gloved and my left hand free. I held shovels, pick-axes, wheel-barrows, hammers, trowels, buckets, and backpacks. When I wasn’t holding a tool… I was holding the hand of Kenya.

Her and her two brothers followed my every step from about 9:30 to 5:00. I held them each nearly every free moment I had. I carried them all around Labor de Falle. We ran, we spun, we danced, we played ball… we even invented our own games.

Meanwhile Ramero, our construction foreman, relied on me to construct the block wall that supported the hypoponics project that combines 250 live tilapia with a veggie patch. Working alongside Margaret Updyke, we hand-mixed mortar and placed over 50 block, level and plumb, and then gave them a stucco finish. We transported 2 130 lb bags of concrete, 15 wheel-barrows of sand, and 7 wheel-barrows of stones down a hill, over a ditch, and up a hill to our worksite. We graded the dirt within the walls to create a base for the concrete bottom that will hold 6” of rock. The rock-bed will act as the filtration system for the fish and will also hold the vegetables.

Our progress just before inserting the tank and applying stucco to the walls.
I came back tonight, took out my knife and cut away the bandages from my hands. The palm of my right hand and the thumb of my left show the evidence of my work. While we don’t always have such a physical representation… it is true that the way we live our lives bears evidence.

The choices we make and how we spend our days… how we invest our time… the things we accumulate… the way others speak of us… all these things are evidence of our belief.

Today I was blown away by seeing familiar faces and thankful hearts. I was blessed to be a part of something far bigger than myself. I figure at the end of my days I may have the chance to look back and consider how I lived it.

I hope to have scars on my hands that remind me of the beauty of days lived like today.

GUATEMALA 2012: (26) Two Buckets of Sand

Aquaponics? I wasn't sure that it was a word, I confess I had to check out Wikipedia. Simply stated it is a combination of raising fish and vegetables. I was thrilled today to learn that I am on the aquaponic project team. I was warned that it involved digging, concrete mixing, and brick laying... all by hand. Sign me up! 

All the action started today when I heard words that sometimes haunt my dreams... <Ramero's voice> "Chad: 2 buckets of sand." And as I begin collecting it he ammends, "no Chad, 4 buckets." Let the mortar mixing commence!

This will be the second installation of the system, and were able to go take a look at the first that was completed 10 days ago. Shortly after we arrived at the site where we would install 250 Tilapia along with a patch of lettuce. This self sustaining system will provide the family food and dramatically improve their quality of life. This is more than simply giving out a meal for a day, this is life changing. 

Meeting Maria Elena, the mother who will now be able to feed her family healthy foods... was a powerful moment. The depth of her eyes spoke volumes. Her children now have a much better chance of living healthy and full lives.

Here is a quick look at our progress today:

Margaret is a machine!

Caleb was thrilled to contribute!

How cool is that?!?

Tank hole dug, first layer of block complete.
We also spent time with the children at the school Labor de Falle. As we pulled up, I heard the comment that it translates as working fault line. The road ends at this village. There is nothing beyond.

We spent the afternoon serving the children spaghetti with wieners, along with a soy milk drink. These cost of these meals is covered by the Breiel Church in Middletown Ohio. Each day the children and the directors of the school give thanks to God for the provision that comes from that congregation. 

It was incredible to be greeted by the sound of children shouting my name as I stepped out of the bus. Familiar faces rushed up to me with arms outstretched as I scooped them up and it was like I had never been away. Like in June, I swooped them off their feet as we spun in circles. The kids even remembered the fist bump handshake and explosion sound effects! I laughed even harder when I realized they were asking me, "where is your hat?"  I had to pull it out of my pack and put it on. They rubbed my head and laughed until I did.

The Common Area of Labor de Falla School
C.R.I. staff & school administration

Class is in session!

Left to right: School Principal & Teacher

Learning about the continents

This class sang to us!

Bringing out the spaghetti & wieners
These kids continue to make a huge impact in my life. The experiences and memories that we share fuel my drive. I am so grateful to God that I never missed the spins and fist bumps!

So... today was an incredible merger of sharing in the provision of filling bellies for a day, as well as teaching a family to eat fresh fish and vegetables for years to come. There is something deep about meeting the immediate need before trying to tackle long term issues. I believe we have an incredible example of that in the gospels.

Digging a hole a meter square requires a specific set of skills that I do not have... tough hands. Although I had on gloves, I felt the burst of multiple blisters on both hands when I was less than 5 minutes into the day. I toughed it out until lunch when I could sit down, dress, and wrap my hands. Then with gloves pulled over the bandages... I was able to attack the job with renewed vigor! 

I know it seems weird to say so, but there is something about giving until it hurts, and then continuing to keep on giving that brings tremendous satisfaction and peace. I think it may be a simple as recognizing the value when you experience the cost. My right arm twitches from the effort of the day as I type. 

I am thankful to have 3 more days to wrap my hands and invest in living out the proof of the love of God. We all have pain in life. Make the pain meaningful. Find the incredible beauty in a wrapped hand.

I smile as I realize that the man who taught us to meet the immediate need of people first... also fed them with fishes.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

GUATEMALA 2012: (25) Bankrupted Miracles

...and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
~1 Corinthians

Capuchinas Convent Ruins, Antigua Guatemala
Confession time: sometimes in the quiet of the night I have fears about becoming a missionary and moving to Guatemala... but my fears may not be what you think. So far everything that has moved us closer to our big move has been all God. We have had big plans, and we have continued to walk forward... but we have continually hit walls, or mountains, that we simply could not pass. Each and every time, we have stood in wonder and with tears as God has made the impossible... passable.

My fear is that I lose sight that it is the love of God that makes this all work. I know that if I ever think that any of this is because of my actions, or even my faith... that it all will be worthless. 

The singular reason we are here is the love of God.

His love touched us and forever changed our lives and now we are compelled to be immersed as a part of His story. We reach this love that flows through us out to others. Kellie and I are on this journey for a simple reason: God opened our eyes to things unseen. He allowed our hearts to break at the emptiness inside us. He allowed us to see the beauty... the peace... the joy that exists in a heart that believes.

And now we find ourselves in this place.

We find ourselves involved in this wonderful busyness of living out our faith. This week we have multiple tasks, and it is easy to become task driven. And yet... we are called to ministry. The life of a missionary is not as simple as I once thought. Our ministry had to change our entire lives. It means that we are evangelists that tell stories of God to everyone we meet. And our ministry is multifaceted:
  • Our primary ministry is our relationship with one another and to God.
  • Our secondary ministry is seeing our children rise as true believers.
  • We also minister to our family & friends who see our walk and measure our integrity.
  • Through our walk of faith we minister to those who support us through prayer, finance, and assets.
  • Our actions and our faith affects those with whom we work directly on the ground.
  • And finally... we are allowed to minister to the widows & orphans of the world.
None of this can happen if we do not first have love. 
Our actions are empty without love. 
Our actions are meaningless without love.

The only thing we have to fear... is losing touch with God. No matter what we can accomplish... without the love of God driving our hearts and opening our eyes, then we would be a puff of air and a meaningless clanging that destroys the tranquility of the countryside.

We walked the streets of Antigua today and marveled at the beauty within the ruins. My heart broke as I suddenly saw the city as it once was. I could see the tall, gleaming white walls of the cathedrals. I could hear the sound of the horses as they pulled gilded and gleaming chariots over the cobblestone. I could see the merchants, the europeans, the beautiful Guatemalans as they basked in the light and wealth of this gleaming city.

And yet... what my feet pressed down on was dust and ruin. Earthquake and flood had destroyed this vision, and all the realized potential that had been achieved through dreams and hard work had been destroyed. 

I never want to hear the elegy of my own part in God's story. I don't want people to walk through my ruin. My vision must remain steadfast on my Father.  

~My life must be the proof of my love.~

...And though I bestow all my goods
to feed the poor,
and though I give my body
to be burned,
but [if] I do not have love,
it profits me nothing.

Tomorrow begins our work. 
May our eyes remain focused on things unseen.

GUATEMALA 2012: (24) Ordinary People, Provisional Impact

The full team is now assembled: Larry, Emily, Margaret, Ben, Pam, Natalie, Katie, & the Shepherds. We will be working with Edgar, Ramero, Luis, Diego, Rafe, Caesar, and Manuel. Also joining us will be additional missionaries who will be joining the work team.
Donations brought by the team, and given by friends and family.
Thank you, it will make a difference in the lives of many!
Our projects are: two homes, two Onil stoves, a tilapia pond, and interaction with the Labor De Falla school children and families. Each home has a price tag of about $3200 and includes two beds, basic furnishings and some food supplies. The chosen families will for the first time sleep in a dry, warm, and safe home. This is often the first time the children will sleep in a bed, typically sleeping directly on the dirt floor of an adobe & cornstalk shack.

The stoves consume about 1/15 of the amount of wood of a traditional open air fire. They also vent outside of the home, allowing the family clean air and soot free walls and ceiling. Lung diseases and breathing problems are frequent with the traditional stove or pit that many Guatemalan families have inside of their living space. An Onil stove can boil a liter of water in 20 minutes, using only a handful of wood. The cost of an individual stove is about $300. It not only reduces the work necessary to obtain wood and efficiently helps prepare meals, it also increases their life expectancy.

The tilapia farm will be hand dug and will be stocked with 250 fish. The rock bed that provides filtration also is a water source for lettuce and possibly other vegetables. After the pond is established, it will yield the family about 5 lbs of tilapia for consumption or sale per week. The garden will provide enough fresh veggies that they will be able to also generate income by selling the excess within the neighborhood. The model we are using has been perfected in other villages and the pond we install will be the second for this community.

These projects really are simply the by-products of our real mission. We seek to build relationship and sustainable improvement to the lives of individuals by the pressing of our lives on theirs. Our motivation comes from the incredible love that God has shown us, and this love compels us to then do the same for others. While we meet the immediate needs, our mission has inter-generational… and yes, even eternal consequences.

What good is belief if it does not change your life and compel you to action?

Today has been a day of rest, a day of gathering, and a day of preparation. Tomorrow will be a day of recovery for those who traveled today, and a day for the team to meld together with common purpose.

Even the smallest among us wanted to be involved in the action today. It is contagious!

This evening we were privileged to go along with Edgar to his church in Campanero. I was reminded of my first day in Guatemala back in 2010 when I was captivated by the worship. Today I found myself swaying in time to rhythm, brass, and voice as my heart reached out with a congregation of Guatemalans in praise to the God.

Total abandon to God is all that he asks of us. To open our arms and allow Him to touch into our deepest fears, secrets, hopes, and to show us love. What an incredible end to this day to again allow God to show me that He is the focus.

We are all simple, ordinary people… in need of, and the conduit of...

 His extraordinary provision.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

GUATEMALA 2012: (23) Legend of the Tooth Fairy

"Dad, will the Tooth Fairy find me in

I eased open the door that led from the patio of the apartments at Mimi's House and closed it with a hand on the knob and a hand on the threshold, taking care that it came together without a sound. In sock feet I padded across the tile floor in the darkness and moved like a phantom to the top bunk that held my gap-toothed princess. I waited in the silence until I could anticipate the rhythm of her breath.

The night seemed to watch with anticipation. I could hear the woven fabric of the curtains rise and fall with the breeze coming through the split pane windows. Even the dogs in the distance fell quiet as if listening with standing ears.

Taking care not to knock the rail with my wedding band, by touch I found where the pillow met the sheets and began to ease my hand between the two, easing up her head as my fingers searched for the Ziploc bag that held the tooth. 

My hope was that it would be near the edge... but no, my daughter seldom makes things that easy. And so I withdrew my arm and again began inserting it underneath the pillow, this time a bit higher, near the headboard. I had to raise up on the tips of my toes and stretch as for the second time my effort lifted her head off the pillow. She began to move and her breath lost its pace. I froze. And held my breath.

In that moment, I heard her voice behind me as she softly cleared her throat. I had the wrong bunk! So, I slithered my arm from underneath Caleb's head and eased back down from my toes. The Tooth Fairy had to stifle a chuckle.

Pivoting on my heels in the darkness I stood like a sentinel for a full minute as again I counted the rise and fall of her breath. Did I dare go on? Was the operation busted? What if she had witnessed my lame fae attempt on her brother? No... surely she would have laughed, or cried, or startled... something?

I had to go on. The fate of the Tooth Fairy in Guatemala resided on me. My daughter's happiness in the morning was dependent on my resilience. The weight of the world! Hold onto the magic as long as you can... this world needs more dreamers. 

And so... having mastered my technique on what I now considered my practice run, I deftly ran my arm under her pillow, floated up her head with a smooth motion, spread my fingers and felt along the cotton weaves... and found nothing.

Does the Tooth Fairy ever get stiffed? I dropped to my hands and needs, and began timidly feeling along the edges of the wall, searching for the baggy holding the solitary canine. Although my eyes were blind in the opaque air, my imagination was on full blast. I knew that I would hit my head in rapid retreat on the bottom of the bed as my unprotected hand came into contact with a hairy spider, or the sting of a scorpian's tail. 

But still... the wonder of my daughter, and the memories that she would always carry were at stake. I pressed on... swiping frantically across the floor, beginning to feel sweat now bead along the spine of my back, and realizing that my own heartbeat was now desperate. 

Nothing was there.

In confusion I stood and assessed the situation. Surely I had missed something. This was supposed to be a simple task. Take the tooth... make the drop. What had I missed? 

And then I saw it. She had two pillows. One atop the other. And so, now a professional at this maneuver, my hand shot like a serpent between the pillows, grasped the plastic baggy, deposited the 10 Queztales bill and the 1 Queztales coin, and I left the shadowless room in triumphant retreat.

The sun arose softly over the mountainscape and Aleksandra silently has pocketed her booty. Nothing has been spoken about the exchange. Childhood has been salvaged for another day. The magic of possibility continues. Imagination has been fed and energy has been stored for another day. My children will be dreamers. They will embrace the impossible.

I want them to be visionaries. 

So for today... the question has been answered, like it was before we left and she posed the question. I remember my answer, delivered with a gleam in my eye and a sideways smile:

"We'll just have to wait and see."

GUATEMALA 2012: (22) Glimpses of Our Way

Aleksandra in the C.A.G. Cougar's Gymnasium
Welcome to the Christian Academy of Guatemala

In the fall of 2013, Caleb will enter in the 8th grade and Aleksandra will begin in the 5th. We spent the morning touring the 8 acre campus, exploring the primary school, the secondary school, the administrative building, the playgrounds, library, science lab, art hall, chapel, soccer field, and massive gymnasium. We were absolutely thrilled with the size and beauty.

The school is nestled among mountains, flowering trees, and palms. We learned that the school has sent graduates to both Harvard and Yale, along with many other respected universities. The student body is diverse with children from all over the globe, and small enough that camaraderie and community are key strengths.

Our kids were thrilled and excited to begin. The hardest part is waiting nearly a year before we get here. They even offer a day care for infants!

Each of our kids found their place as we toured the campus:

Caleb in what will be his 8th Grade classroom
Aleksandra in what will be her 5th Grade classroom

Sterling is convinced that this should be her classroom!
 Here are just a few more glimpses of this amazing campus...
view through a class window 
elementary playgrounds

campus view & outdoor hall
Outside approach to gymnasium
Best soccer field in the city!
A Vocabulary Lesson

To our delight, some insider missionary jargon and secrets were shared with us today. We learned the names given to local streets and landmarks used by the missional community:
  • Big Tree Road (a main street that has a very big tree)
  • Dog Street (a main street that has many dogs for sale)
  • 3 for 10 Street (a main street that features 3 pineapples for 10Q
  • The Boulevard (the main road in San Cristobal)
  • Big Taco Bell (near the business plaza)
We also learned the Zones of several essential locations:
  • Zone 14: dentist, orthodontist, salon (near Big Taco Bell)
  • Zone 10: safe shopping district
  • Zone 1: underground market, Presidential Palace
Some things seem to make sense, and others are simply things that must be learned, such as knowing that the main level of a garage is labelled PB (still not clear as to why). There is great adventure in learning even the simplest of things!

Convergence & Provision!

We also have met several families who are also missionaries here and have children near the same age as ours! It was a genuine pleasure getting to know the Cherry family & the Harmon family today! I have met more incredible people that I can even recall! I hope if they read this... they extend me some forgiveness in the days to come.

Even more so... it has been incredible today to spend time with Fontaine & Paula. Sterling loves them both! She cracks us up with laughter as we watch her run to them with waves, smiles, and blown kisses. It is amazing watching our 3 kids meld with the girls here at Mimi’s House. Language is no barrier. It already feels like we have been here forever and we simply belong.

Today we were able to get a glimpse of a possible property that would perfectly meet our needs. Sharing our vision with the Greene’s has been a series of amazing conversations. The way our heart’s desire has been intertwined with theirs is a clear signpost from God.

We talk of children that are available for adoption. We have already heard incredible stories of unforeseen roadblocks that were swiftly met with provision as steps of faith were taken. We stand together believing that God is in this… even though we can not always see the clear path. Our hearts are quickened and our faith is bolstered.

I look forward to sharing our part in this mission with more friends, family, groups, and congregations when we return. What an incredible partnership we are forming. God indeed can use ordinary people to accomplish the extraordinary.

The wind blows down from the mountains tonight and whispers through the surrounding trees. Lightening softly rolls down from pacaya and lights up the dark horizon. Rain is coming our way tonight, and the Spirit of God likewise has blown across our faces.

Tomorrow our full team from Journey joins us. We stand on the eve of an incredible week, and the ledge of our forever.
A ledge can be viewed with fear
or seen as a place from which to fly.
Faith gives us wings.

Friday, July 27, 2012

GUATEMALA 2012: (21) The Seatbelt Sign Is Off

It is incredible be here for the first time with my entire family. Shepherds historically are nomadic, and I suppose that characteristic has helped us arrive at this place. Somehow I breath easier when I am here, and after watching my wife and children in this place for a day… I can tell you we all know that this land is now our home.
We boarded our flights today with feelings of peace and excitement. Aleksandra was in full blown chatterbox mode as she watched the earth fall away and greeted the clouds. Caleb had pointers for everyone on ear-popping techniques and flight seat operations (tray-tables, armrests, earphone jacks, lights, air), and Sterling was an absolute riot, making us all laugh while we watched her laugh and squeal during takeoffs and landings. The bumpier the ride… the more she loved it. The only times she cried was when the flights were smooth (and boring). That child demands to always be on the move!
By our second flight… I had two cool-cat veterans. They kicked back and joined me with my love for flight. We spoke some about the 10 days to come. I thanked them for being willing to embrace this life that we chase, and I gave them my expectations for the week. Keep your eyes open, keep your minds sharp, listen for deep truths, be respectful, be flexible, and most of all… do everything with love. The plane held us with its’ deep rumble and carried our dreams across the gulf.  Several diapers, bathroom breaks, head bobbing naps, and mild head-thumpings later… the seatbelt sign was lit and our wheels met the tarmac. Welcome to Guatemala!
We moved smoothly and quickly through immigrations and customs, picked up our bags, and made our way outside of the airport where Edgar was waiting to take us to Mimi’s House. It was amazing catching up with him… like we had never left. We carried our bags into Mimi’s House and immediately set out on our first excursion. It was time to pick 9 of the girls up from school. So the five of us loaded up with Fontaine and made 3 right turns through the city and then pulled into the compound. We listened as the monitor called through the intercom and out bounded the girls, dog-piling us with greetings, beaming out smiles, and burying us with hugs.
We returned to Mimi’s House where I took the kids and set up home for the next couple of weeks. Kellie was off with Paula on an errand run and quick tour of the city. Welcome to the Shepherd Apartment at Mimi’s House! The five of us have our run of 8 beds, a full bathroom, and an incredible porch with a view of volcano Pacaya (active volcano Pacaya).
Outside of our window… the girls laughed and played with Caleb and Aleksandra. Aleks ran up to me and said breathlessly, “Dad… I don’t know how, but this place is awesomer than you even said it would be!” She told me about all her new friends, calling them by name. Yes, we are at home.
Sterling certainly felt comfortably at home! She stood still with rapt anticipation as I unpacked and assembled her sleeping pad for the week. As soon as the pink blanket was in sight… she was reaching for sleep. This evening she has been a miniature socialite, going from arm to arm, sharing smiles, giggles… and even snot drool. Our story of adoption rings out loud and true in this place. We feel our souls deeper entwine with each return.

I spent the evening on the porch sharing plans and vision with Fontaine and Edgar. It is powerful how God has drawn our stories together in this place. We come from different parts of the globe to find ourselves brought together with common belief.

There is peace that is greater than the unknown. There is contentment that reaches beyond comfort and convenience. There is strength that is found in something bigger than ourselves.

Over the coming days we will continue to cast vision on our future, and we will work with the people in Labor de Falle to construct 2 homes, dig and set up a tilapia pond, and share a day with the children of the local school.

I look forward to sharing our experiences with you each day. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

GUATEMALA 2012: (20) Signposts from God

Cincinnati to Detroit is a nice drive if you ever have the opportunity to make it. There is a great Chinese restaurant in Springboro if you need a place to recharge. It isn't marked from the highway, but all the locals know it well.

I counted the miles as we travelled north towards Toledo and listened in as Caleb & Aleksandra discussed the various signs. They both cracked up when they figured out that MPH stood for mile per hour. I'm not sure why it was so funny... but we all laughed!

Today was another one of those days that reminded me again that there is indeed a God  and I am in His story. Things do not happen as I expect them, and they do not happen as I would (and try to) plan them.

Today I was called in to the human resource office along with my entire district team of 22. We were told that in two weeks our district is being absorbed into 3 surrounding districts. I was one of 9 who were to be displaced. There was panic throughout the room, and even some tears. I am again surprised by the timing of events in my life.

I type this from Detroit and in about 7 hours me along with my family will board an airliner to Guatemala City. I made the decision a couple of months ago to tell my company of our plans... knowing that I risked demotion, replacement, or even termination. To my relief, they have been extremely supportive and I have gained several partners in our mission. They are an incredible company.

We have had several discussions of how my phasing out would look... but today's announcement trumped everything. My transition now has specific dates and I have a specific assignment.

Somehow... in this story that I am living, on the day that I travel with my family to make our arrangements for next springs move... on this very day... I learn that the position I have held for 3 years is being dissolved.

On the very same day I am running towards my future... the door on my past swings closed. Yes, there is a God. Yes, He speaks to me. If you have read my Jericho posts, then you know how powerfully I feel about this.

Wherever you are, whatever questions you have... what do you have to lose? Try Him. Simply ask Him for help. Talk to Him and specifically tell Him you need Him. Ask for specific needs. Try reading James, or Timothy. 

Seek Him wherever you are. The creator is found in His creation. We go now to bring sunshine to our friends in need. Indeed... we also know what it means to need a friend. I do not always know the way. I wouldn't have planned everything the way it has come to pass... but I know that there will always be signposts along the way.

The locals know all about it.