Sunday, June 19, 2016

My Dad Rides a White Horse

This is my dad. He rides a white horse and wears a white hat because he is one of the good guys. He raised me to know that there are both good guys and bad guys in the world, and that I need to know the difference.

I need to know when to stand, when to yield, and when to fight. I have to be discerning and wise in this world. I'm tired of those who claim to be good guys, but are afraid to voice an opinion, stake a claim, or make a judgment call. I'm ready for John Wayne and Ronald Reagan. Let's get this moving.

The world needs good guys. My Dad has always taught me to be truthful, to mean what I say, and to honor my word. He taught me how to shoot and clean a gun, the value of a good set of tools, the importance of honoring our military, and he's taught me how to be a man. A man of integrity, grit, and values. 

I'm so thankful to be one of the good guys. Happy Father's Day, Pappy... the kids say to tell you that they love you too!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


There is no relief from this heat. It wrangles down on my shoulders like a piggy-back toddler with a sweaty bottom. Even in the shade it presses down with a hidden sweaty hand. The darkness only brings thick, syrupy air that floats the fangs of mosquitos. There is no relief.

Life without walls reminds me that my biology is raw. My heart beats and my pores sweat while rodents scamper in the residual light from electronic devices. Their clawed feet are better accustomed than my own in this place. 

The wind teases with a small breeze that reminded me of a cool day, only to disappear and again I am stifled under the humid press. Dinner was lukewarm beans in a thin black broth with scrambled eggs swelling on the side and bits of hotdog floating on the surface.

I observe my heat-induced responses with an eerie third person perspective as I gain awareness of an old man with a crotchety response, only to realize that he is me. 

A single rain-drop slaps on the aluminum sheeting above my head and shatters the desert.

It’s falling now, the solitary announcement yielded to a soft song and now a riotous roar. Winds are now in full pursuit as they carry a longed for restoration. I regain perspective and turn a thankful heart heavenward. 

The lights are out and the sounds of the night are more vivid than my memory of the light as my cot rests on the edge of the concrete. Nine students sleep on the slab behind me, a community of cots and hammocks. This is night one on the road for Emmaus 2016. 

Keep up with our team at:

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Burning Hearts

They said to each other, 
“Did not our hearts burn within us 
while he talked to us on the road, 
while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

This is that calm spot before the storm. I can taste the anticipation in the air. This is the moment that the wick burns down on the firecracker, the microwave counts down to the zero alert, the slow trigger squeeze just before the firing pin strikes the plate and activates the gunpowder. 

There is nothing I love more than this moment. 

Honestly demands that I admit that I doubted that I'd find this place this time. Sure I've faced the odds of doubt before and found myself to be unexpectantly successful by the grace of God... and yet, this particular task was daunting.

After all, it was only three short years ago (to the day) that Kellie and I woke up to "Day One" in Guatemala. We were wide-eyed, ready to conquer the world, and scared out of our minds. I reflect back to all the lessons learned and I give thanks. We appreciate Catalyst Resources International that believed in us and welcomed us in with open arms. 

We thank God for the relationships that we've solidly formed with our family here. 

We recognize the heritage that has brought us to this place. I am rendered speechless when I consider the history that has found us here.

There are giants that shoulder the foundation of our walk. Two dear women have made this way possible, and I will be studying their words over the next five weeks as I lead 10 students through four nations, as together we seek Jesus Christ along the road. Those women are Grace Henry and Roma Lee Courvesier.

Roma Lee is a rare gem in this modern age. She is in her twilight days and yet her missionary service shines a fierce light on the path that I am called to walk. Her faithfulness has captured hearts and broken generational cycles of poverty. I read of her life and I am humbled and broken. I seek the authenticity of her walk. I read her words and I give thanks to our God. 

Her influence has shaped my own life, and I am in awe to learn that she has shaped the lives of two students now in my charge: my cousin Cameron Mathis, and his friend, Adam Roe. They both speak of the power of her work and how she has shaped their lives. 

And now here, in this place, at this time, we seek Jesus along the way, as we serve in the Emmaus program of Catalyst Resources International, and are influenced by her faithful walk. 

Even so... I am struck nearly dumb even more so by the words of another sainted lady, Grace Henry. 

Grace was the mother of my great-grandfather Elden Henry. Elden was white-haired old even when I was young. I remember his slow, purposeful steps. I remember him showing me how to fold the perfect paper airplane... and I remember his room of African artifacts. 

Elden was a missionary like his mother. Grace served with a lady named Faith... and together they encountered Jesus along the road south of the equator... just as I find myself now. 

My heart BURNS within me.

How can this be? How is it that I am here, in this place, continuing in the passion that burned within the heart of my great-great-grandmother, aligned with young men inspired by the same lady that inspires me, using the tools gained over the last three years of service? 

There is only a single answer that I can provide. It is God. 

And so here I stand. Tomorrow is Day One of Emmaus, as I am tasked to lead 10 students, for 5 weeks, in 4 countries. We will paint, construct cinder block walls, build airstrips, teach children about Jesus, and gain meaningful relationships that extend beyond time, language, and culture. 

And I am nothing more than a passenger. God has provided our van, God has sent us 10 students, and God has connected us with contacts in 4 nations. 

I write this words as the world spins by underneath my window. A semi-trailer engine breaks as students rest in the house below. My sermon is ready to deliver for tomorrow morning and I give thanks for our staff, Otto Lopez and Antony De Leon as they prepare to lead our team tomorrow in preparation for Journey Church. 

Monday morning Antony and I'll set out with: Vince, Kaylee, Iexa, Dalton, Cameron, Logan, Nada, Jacob, and Adam as we travel up the Guatemalan highway towards Rio Dulce, and then later in the week up into the highlands of Totonicapan as we serve with local Guatemalan pastors, churches, and communities. 

Our mission will be chronicled in a blog, "Burning Hearts," that captures the reality of our journey, uncensored and unedited. Our crew has the freedom to post the highlights and the failures, the successes and the struggles... for the world to consider how followers of Christ react to reality.

I sat in La Aurora International airport tonight as our little God-ordained team assembled... and I realized something... I'm created for this time. 

So... let's do this.

Friday, June 3, 2016

My Failure to Consider the Cost (and yet God is faithful).

Some truths we know all our lives, but we don't understand until we've violated them. Jesus often communicated truth in the context of common knowledge. 

He was speaking to a large crowd about what it meant to follow Him, about how nothing else could come before him, and then later about how those who really hear his words and commit to them, will go on to be change elements to the world.

He was explaining that the highest of prices had to be paid to follow him, and in the context of considering that cost, he told a story that would agree to the crowd.

Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 
Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, "This fellow began to guild and was not able to finish."

I've sat in plenty of corporate meetings and church services where the speaker uses a common example to make his point... and everyone chuckles and agrees. Certainly I've always done the same when hearing this story...

... and yet, today I find that I am that fellow.

I was approached with a generous donation a couple of months back and given the idea of a team house on our property. We believed the amount to be enough to construct a wood frame structure on a concrete pad, complete with: two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchenette, and a full bathroom. We also thought we could then furnish it with 4 sets of bunk beds, appliances, a dining room table, a couch, and then top it off with WiFi.

It was the perfect idea and it would be wonderful to house our student teams in this summer. We believed that we had both ample time, and ample money.

I was wrong on both accounts. Our first team arrives June 11th, and I am out of both funds and time. 

Fortunately, the house is not critical to the success of the team. We have a smaller apartment that is complete that we can place the ladies in, and the men can "rough it" a little in the partially completed team house. 

We hope to have it plumbed and have a toilet, shower, and sink ready for installation. With five guys... this is without a doubt the highest priority! I also anticipate electricity to be installed, and will need to put 4 ceiling fans with light kits on a credit card.

We spent the final $400 on a set of french doors for the main entrance, and I've ordered a single door for the bathroom. The bedrooms are just going to need to be doorless... after all, it's a group of guys... surely they can handle that.

Beautiful windows were on order that would frame the incredible view of the city below, but we've decided to simply tack screen over across the empty view to keep out mosquitoes.

We had to cancel the order of beds because the $1500 price tag simply is no longer a possibility with our blown budget. Fortunately, our student team Emmaus, is traveling with cots and hammocks, prepared to stay in extreme environments throughout Central America. 

Appliances and furniture can wait for another day, we are thankful to have a table in our main house, and a beautiful kitchen that was funded this year by Mt. Victory & Ridgeway United Methodist churches in Ohio. 

Without question, 2016 has been a banner year for our work here in Guatemala as God has richly blessed us. Our partners and supporters have donated funds as we've purchased a beautiful 15 passenger Chevy van, a motorcycle for my friend and employee, Antony, we've relocated Journey Church to a wonderful rent-free environment, we've scheduled our first furlough after 3 years of service in Guatemala, and we've been blessed with interns.

The easy answer here would be to turn to our supporters and ask for money to complete this project... but after prayer and consideration, I distinctly hear the voice of God saying, "No." I've learned to follow His voice.

This situation is do to my own lack of planning. It's due to my own failure to consider the cost... and it has a natural consequence. It simply will not be completed. I must subject myself to ridicule that I have laid a foundation that I cannot complete, rather than to try to shift the path that God has clearly laid before my family. 

My parents taught me long ago that one mistake does not fix another... it just compounds to create a habitual pattern of poor judgement.

And so... I write about this because we value transparency. You all know us, and you know us to be imperfect. In our imperfection, may we remain humble, and obedient. 

We'll take a look at this project for our 2017 budget, and we'll approach it with a better consideration. I can tell you that Kellie and I are at peace with this situation, because we are confident that God honors faithful steps, even when we bungle a situation. I have no doubt that this project will either be completed or not... in His time, by His will. 

As we hit the US this fall, we will be meeting with our partnering churches and giving an update. We'll also be talking about our two non-profits, Journey Church Guatemala, and the Guatemala International Christian Education Foundation, and our partnership with Catalyst Resources International, Emmaus (check out the information packet here). 

God has great things in store as we provide US students opportunities to serve in Guatemala with Emmaus, connect people to Christ and the Church with Journey Church, and provide sponsorships through people like you to break the cycle of poverty and provide a child here in Guatemala with an education and a path to university in the US.

Kellie and I thank you for your prayers, partnership, and we deeply appreciate that you walk with us... when God does great things, and also when we encounter situations that enable us to be more faithful and wiser servants moving forward.

We give thanks to God for all these things, and we give thanks to Him for you daily. We consider the cost, and it is always worth the price.