Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sozo Children Invitation


Some of you may realize that I have already returned from Africa. When I was there, we remained so extremely busy that my time to blog was nearly stolen completely. I hate when that is the case because truthfully blogging is something I don’t just do to update everyone what is going on, but it’s a chance to paint my thoughts on a blank canvas without any interruptions. It is rare, but I love it. I wonder if it is some sort of therapy. Anyways, there are many amazing things that unfolded while we were there. God opened doors we didn’t even knock on. He touched us once again in a way we never expected. So instead of throwing out the stories only because they don’t run in the exact time as they are being written, I am going to continue to tell them. I am actually only a week or two behind, but the stories are too great, God great, to sweep under the rug.

Before I continue with writing out the miracles that God’s hands directed, I want to inform everyone of a special event that is going on. In order to support all that Sozo Children International has been called to do, we are holding a fundraiser to inform the church (not the four walled institution, but the body of believers that are ready to build the kingdom of God) what is going on and give creative opportunities to invest in these children’s lives. More than one event is occurring but today I want to introduce and invite you to the Sozo Children International celebration dinner. Held on August 27th, 2011 at 7:00pm we will be holding a dinner at Inverness Country Club to share how Sozo began, stories that unfolded after, allow some children to speak for themselves, praise God for all He is doing, and spread the awareness of what it is that is changing lives across the world. We need you to be involved. Not want, hope, or desire, but the true need is beyond words on a blog. The need out is overwhelming, and Sozo desires to simply be a channel to allow you to pour into something that is greater than ourselves and only explained by the power of God. When it comes to channel, I want you to know how clean and pure of a channel it is. The donations that are made through Sozo Children International are set up in a way that 100% of every dollar goes to operating the orphanages. Every dollar is spent on food, clothing, shoes, bedding, supplies, school fees, and ways to develop these children into men and women of God. There is no percentage scraped off to pad our pockets. Every member of the Sozo team is completely self-supported. I have never taken a salary or any sort of cut from the Sozo donations. Some have argued we have to in order to make things work best, but we disagree. This is not a man made machine. This is a God breathed life that is taking shape that is now and will continue to be completely provided for by faith.

With all that said, I want to cordially invite you to participate in the Sozo Children International Dinner. It is an event you don’t want to miss. The impact that God could do through you, and even in you, is beyond measure. Take the step and join the church; the true church that motivates and mobilizes others to take action against suffering, injustice, and pain. Lets change children’s lives together. This is the opportunity you have been praying for.




Email me at allen@sozochildren.org or call 205-612-0338 for more information. Or if you want to go ahead and register your dinner or table email Misti Steed at mististeed@bellsouth.net


Thank you. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Angels with Fuel


Many miles were spent on the pavement and dirt roads in Kenya. We were constantly on the go, driving and walking from place to place seeing places of need and areas of ministry we could pour into. Our time was short so our mission was urgent. Many days, to save time and money, we would even make PB &J’s in the car from a bag of bread and whatever left over jelly we had. One afternoon we drove hours away to a village to see a child that Jon sponsors and has kept up with for years. As we drove the countryside became more and more what you picture Africa as, grassy plains, flat top acacia trees, with whirling dirt storms in the distance. As we soaked in our surroundings, I borrowed Colby’s pocketknife to fix my lunch. Our knives were the only ones we had on hand. He finished his sandwich and left it in the peanut butter for me to use. I jokingly, yet seriously, commented that we better pray before we eat just so we don’t catch something from this knife that I knew he had been carrying for weeks since we got to Uganda. We all had them, Colby’s just happened to be available that day for lunch. Colby chuckled as he said, “It’s clean, I germexed it a few days ago.” After I lathered on the peanut butter and had half way eaten my sandwich, Will chimed in with a poorly timed piece of information. My teeth were sinking into the chunky tasty sandwich when he says, “Colby… was that the same knife I saw you cleaning the dirt from your toenails last night?” The no longer hungry car full of men sat in silence as my stomach began to churn. Colby shot guilty eyes my direction and responded… “well…”

Thankfully the day held many more events and adventures that took my mind away from what I would have rather never known. We reached the village and Jon got to love on his boy that seemed to be on fire for the Lord. We toured his school and were pleased to find out that he was top in his class of about 300 kids. He also was telling Jon that he always shares Christ with those in his school. He is a great kid and it was great to see that sponsorships really do change lives. Be prepared... As we were out already 5 hours from Nairobi, somehow elephants came up in the conversation. Last year in Nakuru we got a chance to see lions, zebras, baboons, and all kids of wildlife, but Jon and I each said, I have never seen a wild elephant. “Are they in this area of Kenya?” The Kenyan’s with us that day said, “actually there are usually many of them not too much further from where we are now.” We immediately all got excited, not knowing fully what we were getting into, and agreed we should make the trek. On we went in search of the wild African elephant. Two hours later we see a sign that says Ambersoli National Park 18km. We were getting close, but with that sign the pavement turned to rough dirt roads. The car we were in was not prepared for what was to come. One hour later, we maybe had gone 9km because the road was so bumpy we were only able to travel about 10kph. Another 5km passes after about 45 minutes more and we thought the road may never end. Jon posed a question to the group that no one wanted to hear, “Have you guys seen a gas station in a while?” No one spoke. The silence was deafening. I thought to myself, gas station… I haven’t seen civilization in hours…much less a gas station. We decided that even though we were under a quarter tank of gas if we made it to the park there had to be some gas there for all the safari trucks that come in. On we went in great hope of some fuel and elephants. As we continued down the road we noticed grass huts formed into compound like structure. African men and women dressed in red garments and brightly colored beads began appearing everywhere. Kabu said, “This is the infamous Maasai tribe.” They have centuries of history in Kenya. We made it to the park, got good news that there was gas another 18 km, elephant sightings, and got to speak with a maasai warrior who had his earlobes pierced and pulled over the tops of his ears. “Why are his ears like that?” Colby asked. Kabu informed us, “He is a maasai warrior, and when they kill a lion in a battle in the wilderness, they do that to his ears to signify his achievement.” He was serious. Not too much longer we saw what we came to see, giant African elephants painted the horizon. Everywhere we looked we saw the gentle beasts moving slowly through the marshland. One would blow water in the air through his trunk as a mother guarded a baby closely in the distance. At one point the largest elephant of them all with tusks at least 8 feet in length we thought was going to charge the vehicles. It was incredible. I almost forgot to mention in the background of these elephants, zebras, wildebeests, giraffes, and ostriches, was the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, the largest peak in Africa. We crossed into Tanzania and couldn’t see the peak because it climbed past the clouds. It was all such an amazing sight. I try to not use the word awesome often, but this was truly awesome. It reminded me that we have an awesome God. We gazed at the elephants and finally pushed on to find our much needed gas.


 Unfortunately, when we got to the place they said that should have gas… what we feared, came true, they were all out. The tone in the group got much more serious. What were we to do? We are in the middle of nowhere and monkeys are trying to climb in our open windows! So we prayed for angels… hopefully angels with fuel on hand. We talked, prayed, and set back to get out of the park before dark to get back to civilization. We all were somewhat hopeless that we would make it back, but we drove on faith. After leaving the park we stopped by one Maasai village to ask if they knew of a place. This tribe still hunts their food and walks everywhere they go… not sure why they might have gas, but it was worth a shot. No gas, but they pointed us in a direction that said there may be hope. As we went back down the bumpy dirt road that took us two hours to go 18km last time we all became nervous and our faith was tested. We realized that it was pretty stupid to get out in the middle of nowhere without a full tank, but regardless of what we should have done… we were not in a good situation.

The sunset allowed us to snap a few incredible pictures, but we knew the darkness was not what we needed in this time. If we did happen to run out, we weren’t sure what the wild animals or maasai warriors would think of stranded Americans and no one within screaming distance. My imagination raced and all I could think of was Colby being drug away in the jaws of a lion. Of course, I would have tried to save him, but still… Suddenly, in the distance we saw a light! We went to it and met a police officer who again pointed a finger in a distant direction. Some sort of civilization surfaced, but no gas station. We stopped and asked. Remember this is not Birmingham; we were in nowhere, Kenya. Thankfully…  God sent angels. An owner of one of the shops in the small town had 20 liters of gas that we quickly agreed to pay for. Long day, amazing times meeting Jon’s boy, Maasai warriors, seeing God’s creation, and experiencing a laugh in hindsight of how closely we got to a bad situation.

After an amazing week God did produce fruit in Kenya. Sozo Children International has now spread its wings across borders. We are now sponsoring education for seven children that are in need through the local church in a community we got involved in. The pastor of the church identified children that were genuinely in desperate situations. We will support them with providing school fees to a school in Kenya that will truly supply to their needs. If you are interested in sponsoring these children in Kenya, we still need many sponsors. Email me at allen@sozochildren.org and invest in someone else’s life today. We have been given so much, use it to pour into others and change a life. It will truly make an eternal impact.

We arrived at the airport to fly back to Uganda, sad to leave our new friends, but eager to see our kids again in Uganda. God is doing so many amazing things; we are just hanging on right now and relying on His strength every day. A small plane took us back to the “Pearl of Africa.” We realized the reality in our “budget” flights by the hand written boarding passes. It gave us a good laugh. This is Africa.





Wednesday, July 13, 2011

One Year

God's plans should overwhelm you. I am overwhelmed. In a great great way. SO MUCH is unfolding, that I have no time to even sit down and blog, and I am terribly behind on updating what is going on. I have a ton to tell about Kenya, and I still will make sure I post the great stories, but I couldn't let this date pass without posting something.

One Year ago July 11th, God amazed us in a way we never expected. He spared our lives during the Kampala bombings. We are still in awe of what He has done and following every step He puts in front of us. 

Read through this. This scripture came to life after our group survived the bombings. 

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High 
   will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, 
   my God, in whom I trust.”
 Surely he will save you
   from the fowler’s snare
   and from the deadly pestilence.
 He will cover you with his feathers,
   and under his wings you will find refuge;
   his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
 You will not fear the terror of night,
   nor the arrow that flies by day, 
 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
   nor the plague that destroys at midday.
 A thousand may fall at your side,
   ten thousand at your right hand,
   but it will not come near you.
 You will only observe with your eyes
   and see the punishment of the wicked.
  If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,”
   and you make the Most High your dwelling,
 no harm will overtake you,
   no disaster will come near your tent.
 For he will command his angels concerning you
   to guard you in all your ways;
 they will lift you up in their hands,
   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
   you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
  “Because he[b] loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
   I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
   I will be with him in trouble,
   I will deliver him and honor him.
 With long life I will satisfy him
   and show him my salvation.”

I praise You God for all You have done for us and allowed us to experience. I thank You for the testimony you have painted in our lives and even in times of trial or question, I will follow you and trust you all my life. 


This is the post from last year that still gives me chills when I read it... I believe God typed these words with my hands. 







Thursday, July 7, 2011

Kenyan Journey


After stepping foot in Kenya this time last year, I knew I loved this country, but I had forgotten how much I loved it until once again placing my foot in the dry Kenyan dirt. The experiences and adventures have begun quickly after leaving the airport.

“Kabugute!” we all proclaim as we see our new friend and host approach us at the airport. “Karibu!” He welcomes us in Swahili. “Right this way,” Kabugute motions after we exchange hugs and meet his wife. Kabugute is a friend of ours that pastors a church in Kenya that he planted about two years ago. Just upon meeting him, you quickly see his heart for God and love for people. “You guys like… what you call it in the States… Bar-B-Q?” The word Bar-B-Q rang like music in our ears and made our meat deprived mouths water with anticipation. “Lets do it!” Cary tells him.

After a short drive through the Nairobi traffic we reach our destination. It did not resemble the Jim n’ Nicks I picture, but the smell rivaled. Smoke is rising from many different tent like structures all in one area. Cooked meat aroma floats through the air. My stomach is turning with excitement. We walk in and are flooded with men in long white coats, obviously the chefs. I realize it is a market of meat vendors, each selling their special product with unique taste. Cary, Colby, Will, and Kabu’s family sit down at a corner table clothed with red Coca-Cola labels, as Kabu pulls me over the side and said you come with me. After pushing away the hoard of people wanting us to buy from them, we step to the first vendor. Kabu and he exchange some Swahili as I sit and soak in the smell. “Taste,” Kabu says as he picks up a piece of fresh meat off the grill and pushes in my direction. I toss it in my mouth ignoring the scorching temperatures and delight in the taste. “… it’s goat! What do you think?” I knew I was enjoying it so the shock of the word goat was less damaging as if I would have heard it before I threw it in my mouth. I realized we were sampling the products. Like fine wine, we tasted a few and decided which one was best for our table to enjoy. Two goats portions and one beef. The chef prepares a large cutting board full of meat, bones, and knives, and brought it to our table. We sat around, prayed over the meat and dug in. Us Americans sat for a few moments realizing we were the only ones that thought silverware was necessary, but upon understanding we are using the “African fork,” which is two fingers and a thumb, we adapted and moved forward. Delicious! And a great experience to go along with it.

The word right now that comes to mind that God is doing is “stirring.” Things are moving all around us and deep inside of us. Steps are about to be taken but in what direction I still have yet to realize. I know in the perfect timing God will reveal what is next in Kenya and Uganda. All around us we are witnessing His Will at work. It is truly amazing. I have to remind myself to not be impatient since God is never early, and He is never late.

Many many many adventures to tell of all that has unfolded in Kenya… I don’t have time to write this moment as I sit in a hot Kenyan cyber cafĂ©, but for a quick preview… Camels… elephants… and a Maasai tribe encounter (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maasai_people) Check this out and I will tell more about it as soon as I can.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Remembering the Memories


I know. I know. These are the first words I have written that tell of the incredible journey we have already seen just in the past two weeks. Forgive me that they have taken so long. Honestly, this time it has been because of so much that is going on, time to sit and write has become a luxury again. Now I am sitting in the Entebbe airport waiting to board the next flight to Kenya. The Kenyan adventure I will tell about soon...

But for the past two weeks in Uganda, they have been wonderful. More than I can say is going on and God is continuing to stir things and push us into motion. The kids are doing wonderful. Thriving is a fitting word. Their English is improving and they have become closer as a family over the past months. Its amazing what a transformation physical care, love, and Jesus can do on lives. We have watched it take place. They have gone from visible rib cages to full bellies, from hopeless to hope filled. Only by the hands of God alone could any of it have unfolded. We are witnessing it again…

The things I had forgotten quickly came back to me after landing in Uganda. The smells… oh the smells. Even though certain ones are unpleasant, they bring a nostalgic feeling. A little like the aroma of cut grass reminding you of summer, burning trash reminds me that we are back in the place we love. Sounds backwards, but after experiencing it first hand, you fall in love with this place. I don’t know who “they” are, but “they” say, “You can never step foot in Africa once.” I believe it.

I had forgotten how cold the showers are. Every time I step back under the faucet, I feel like I should be getting used to it, but it is the same every time. A frigid shot of ice. I can count on consistent high shrills from Colby after hearing his shower water turn on. The pace of life is so much slower, sometimes it is an adjustment and we have to remain patient, and sometimes it is nice. At night, the sounds that fill the room are different than the normal Alabama suburbs. Crowing roosters, barking dogs, and many other interesting things that keep us awake. One even Sherry walked in the guys room because of an consistent beep of an alarm that would not turn off. “Guys!, who’s alarm is that?” With frustration from the sound and now Sherry’s confusion, Mitch quickly responds, “It is the BAT!” A large fruit bat that calls our home “home” beeps all night long. Mitch and Colby have made many unsuccessful attempts to end that sound and the bats life, but have yet to come through. If that were not enough, at 5:30 every morning the neighborhood mosque blares a singing man over the loud speaker to wake all that are in the area. Earplugs have become necessities.

We have a team of six interns, more on the way, and just welcomed in an adopting family. We had the amazing opportunity to witness this adopting family meeting their two new children for the first time ever in the airport. Everyone’s attention was directly to the mother and father embracing their entire family. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

We have been working hard at Rays of Hope school in one of the slums in Uganda. The need there is overwhelming and often we don’t know where to start. We have re concreted floors, built stairs, and now working on framing doors. We also met some amazing people doing soccer camps in the community with the kids.

I hate that this post is so general and lacking details, but for now I am just giving a general update. I will post more consistently about stories and other adventures that are unfolding. This is just a start.

Thank you for the prayers and support. That alone is making difference larger than any of us realize. One day we will know. God is opening doors I never dreamed could even be opened and continuing to amaze us as we walk this journey.




Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Beneath the Surface

Forgive me for just now posting a blog. This one is different in the fact that words are lacking, but I pray this video illustrates a little of what has gone on since we touched down in Uganda.
SOON I will have a post up about more details and stories of all that is happening around us. One thing for sure is that I have never seen God "stir" things like He is right now. He is moving in a powerful way. Psalm 34:8.






Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fresh Faith


It has been too long since I have lasted blogged. Even if this page was never viewed by a soul, writing allows God to heal me in a way that is hard to describe. It is a chance for me to exhale my thoughts onto a page, usually jumbled rambling strings of tangents, but thoughts that need to come out all the same. So much has happened since the last blog. I spent some time in Montana with the kids and missionaries. It snowed six inches the first night I was there… in April. God did not design me for the snow. My body was made for hot climates and water. The only exception to that rule is coasting down the ski slopes of a snow-covered mountain. (I wish I could say jumping moguls of a double black, but the humbling truth is more like exiting the ski lift on a nice blue slope as children pass me on the way down). All is well at Sozo Montana and all the children are growing quickly. Your prayers are needed.

Speaking of ski slopes, our children’s home in Uganda was officially NGO approved last week. That translates to: the government now allows us to fully operate, buy land, get more kids, build more houses, and change more lives. Hallelujah!

And on the topic of humbling, I have surely been humbled. I have recently realized that there is such a thing as “fresh faith.” My faith, even though it seems so young to me since I am still in my twenties, has been calloused by the world and the enemy. There has been trial after trial, and battle after battle, and sometimes hope collapses. I have noticed it all around me. Even after I see God do amazing things and come through in ways that only He can come through, a week later, there I am again scratching my head wondering if God is going to show up. The criminals named worry and fear break into the glass walls of my mind and convince me to trust in myself over relying on God. They run away with my joy leaving behind stress, emptiness, and a headache caused by brokenness that no Aleve can alleviate. I have realized who sends them though… and it isn’t Yahweh, my Creator. God is always faithful. He has never let us down. And the great news is… He is always faithful regardless of our faithfulness. Here is another quick tangent that runs parallel with fresh faith. God’s call on your life should overwhelm you. Yes, I know that sounds backwards, but it should. God wants to do something in your life that you could never do on your own. He wants to transform lives, feed the hungry and clothe the naked. He wants people all across the world to know Him. Put simply, He wants to change the world through you. Sometimes the question is; where do we start? Though it may be overwhelming he accompanies that calling with peace. It is a calmness of the heart that remains even in the most violent storm. (This I am still learning). Through His calling on your life, with His peace and His faithfulness, God will accomplish His plan and His will simply by you being a vessel and saying, “yes” to whatever he puts in front of you. I am recommitting that in my life. God, you always have my “yes.” Even if that means to push through the hardest walls, go to the furthest place, speak the hardest words, or make the most difficult decisions. That “yes” is the birthplace of fresh faith. That is what I want to reach out and grab, and the Lord is just waiting for me to do it. I have had it before, but after a year of trying times, I need to refocus to that and really set my eyes upon the love of my life, Jesus. Here is an example of fresh faith:
Last week, Colby skips into the house with his arms wrapped around an air mattress.
“Colbmiester… what are you doing?” I ask him inquisitively.
“Setting up for our guests from North Carolina.” He shoots back with giddy excitement, (I think I even heard him giggle.)
“They are coming down for a few days just to see what God wants to do.” He said.
I thought to myself, “Who? And what? Why are they coming to stay with us here in Alabama, literally in the middle of the woods?”
Quickly without diving too deep into questions I responded with, “I’m down, burgers on the grill tonight?”
I learned more about the situation and it really brought encouragement to someone that needed to see someone portray faith on their beliefs… me. Two North Carolinians (can’t believe that didn’t get caught in spell check) and one French guy, that had only crossed paths in church a few previous times, piled into a small Honda and headed South. They had heard of Sozo Children International through a friend and got online to check out our website, liked what it looked like and… just got in the car and drove nine hours to find out what God is doing. It blew me away. They got here and we sat in awkward silence for a few moments not really knowing why we were sitting in front of each other. It didn’t take but literally a few moments and we were all jabbering in our own conversations with each other about all the incredible stories God has written on the pages of our lives. They all had a heart for missions and opening orphanages and said, “Where can you use us? We will go?”             Oh! How I miss that! I thought to myself. Faith that is pulled back like a slingshot ready to shoot at full speed with no hesitation at the first sound of God’s “Go.” I long for fresh faith. Healing has to take place.


Healing is something I don’t believe many of us still believe in today. Of course we believe that skin regrows, our bodies fight infection, or counselors can talk us through something, but the miracle of healing from God has become obsolete. Why is that? This week has been one of the roughest I have had in a long long time. Long long time. Life has altered and my heart aches in so many ways. My fears have defined me over the power of God. I have sought everything else except for His peace. At times, I have ran. I feel like I shouldn’t feel that. I know I need healing. Sometimes I feel like the expectations on anyone in ministry are perfection, from God and from everyone around me. I always strive for the approval of both. I have learned a strong fact this week; I don’t need others approval and I already have God’s regardless of how much I fall. His grace covers all. I hate to disappoint those that may read this, but here is another strong truth… I don’t have this all figured out. I really don’t. At times I feel like I am wondering like a sheep away from the flock in the middle of the night having no idea where to turn. Nothing good in my life comes from me striving hard or working more, even though at times I think that. The truth is… I know a man…. Well… he is man… yet he is God….He has walked through every trial… He stood under every test…. And was tempted in every way… yet he remained true to His Father…. Some know him as Emmanuel…. Some call him Messiah… Some may refer to him as the Rock… but for the first time in a long long time, through some serious trials, I have come to know Him as my Friend. His is Jesus, and this week he has reawakened my belief in Him for true divine miraculous healing. I could tell many stories but you might stop reading, so I am going to leave it at this; Believe Him. Trust Him. I am learning now to trust Him more than ever. He is always faithful. He has never failed us. Jesus desires us to surrender the deepest parts of us to Him and let Him do the work. Like the father running out to throw his arms around the prodigal son that decided to come home… you don’t even have to know how to get there, just start walking in that direction and God will meet you right where you are and welcome you home. Then, he will guide you through the trials and direct you in your ways. I wish I had seen that truth months ago. Truth in trials bring out humility and transparency, and it finally allows God to truly heal.

Lord, renew my spirit. Be strength when I am weak. Refine me in the fire. Let me know you’re with me. To you I surrender. Give me faith that believes you for the impossible, fresh faith.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart  and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,  and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.” Psalm 37:4-7

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Decade of a Year




Sitting aboard a 757 in route to Lame Deer, Montana, I just want to exhale. Listening to the hum of the engines, I want to breathe out a long deep sigh of rest. I’m not sure if I have done that in a while. A sentimental date in my life just passed by a little over 2 weeks ago. It was not a date worth marking the calendar or a cake full of candles, but I surely spoke words to Heaven telling God how thankful I am for allowing me to take part in His journey. This time last year was the day that God changed my life forever. On March 31st, a slight measure of fear and naivity was inside me as I boarded a jet over the Atlantic Ocean destined to Uganda, but an even greater measure of trust that I seldom grasp covered all uncertainty. You know that peace that surpasses all understanding that scripture talks about? I knew that. I just knew. A year has gone by to the date that I stepped my first step in the continent of Africa. I glance back on the road that has been traveled, and I am utterly amazed. It was simply a road paved in my understanding as I stepped, but rarely before I lifted my foot in stride. It has been a rollercoaster of a journey that has been defined by adventure. Touching each end of the spectrum, we have experienced pure joy watching children’s lives transform to tears marking our faces after surviving the bombing of July 11th. We have hurt and we have laughed. Countless airlines, seven countries, three continents, immeasurable impact, seventeen Africans, seven Native American’s, wonderful relationships, and peace all centered on the one true Foundation. Peace that goes beyond all understanding has guarded my heart.

Last year, I remember being taught how to set up a blog and feeling like a lost dog in a city writing my thoughts. It felt foreign. It still does. I went back and forth about what to title the web address. At first, I thought maybe just my name.com. Then, I thought maybe something about Uganda. After an internal tug of war over something that seemed insignificant, I realized exactly what it needed to be. This journey that my life has taken has nothing to do with me, or the places I have seen. It is all about Jesus. Finally, after a long time of searching for the answers to life and filling my void with things that had zero worth, I found what it means to have a foundation set in Christ. I am daily still learning what that means and constantly fall short of taking the opportunities He gives me, but I know He is refining me through fire, proving my faith genuine. He is my Refuge. Nothing that has taken place over the past year could have ever been done without God directing it all. Thank God… literally.

All of you that read this… (Maybe just my faithful family)… thank you. I can’t tell you enough how thankful I am for you in my life. All of you that have supported me… thank you. All of you that believed in what I believed in and jumped on board with this team of servants, my heart overflows with gratitude for you. God places so many special people in my life and you being a part of it is the reason I am able to live out God’s call today. I will keep going even when it hurts. Even when the world and my uncertainty says that I should pursue safety, comfort, and stability and trust in myself to get me through, I will continue to set my eyes on the cross. I know I will stumble, but I will not fall. My foundation in set on the Rock. Daily I have to surrender to God’s plan to assure that I stay on track. My nature is to chase the world and all that is in it. You that pray for me… God has clearly heard your voice… thank you. All of you that bless me financially… you have made this possible and put my feet into motion… thank you. Those of you that listen to my heart… thank you. We are the body. Together, through the strength and power of Christ alone, we will change this world. Hope will be brought to someone that has never felt hope. God is fulfilling his Word and caring for the fatherless. God… Thank you. My heart is daily yours. Forgive me for when I have walked the other way and ignored you. Here I am. Send me. I still can’t believe what you have done and often I have to remind myself that this is real life. I’m amazed by You.

This has truly been a decade of a year. I eagerly await what the days ahead will bring. Thank you all for being a part of this team and making an eternal difference in many lives. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

"How do you describe Indescribable?"



“Incredible.” “Amazing.” “Fulfilling.” “Awesome.” “Beyond words.” “Mountain top.” “Indescribable.” At the end of our time in Haiti, we all circled as a group, hearts weighing heavy with sorrow knowing our time quickly passed and is now ending, and we shared it all. We talked about what expectations we had, and how greatly they were exceeded. We discussed the changes we knew the Lord is trying to do in our lives and how sometimes he never gets through to us until we break from all the distractions in the world or have our eyes opened to the worst poverty on the planet. What will it take? That is a question I ask a lot. Sometimes I think God has to bring us to our knees before we even consider coming to Him. As each person in the team uttered great descriptive words that tried to capture an uncapturable experience, we realized that we were all striving to put words on something that there are not words for. Ron prayed, “How do you describe indescribable?” The reason for all of the bonds, all of the work, all of the moments that we will remember forever is because the entire week we were truly in the pure presence of God. Those who read this and don’t know what that really means, I honestly don’t know how to describe it. It is overwhelming. As hard as we try to describe the presence of God and the experiences we just shared during the week, we couldn’t. There are not words in any language to bring that to understanding. Trying to describe the presence of God to someone that has never known Him is like trying to describe a sunset to someone that has never seen color. How do you describe indescribable?

Haiti was worse than I imagined. The city is dark and broken. Dust and dirt coat lungs. Rubble is now everyday landscape. Drains and now bathing spots. Tents are now homes. Children are parentless and parents are childless. The word destruction does not come close to what our eyes have taken in. Through it all, somehow they have joy. The people shine bright smiles past their dark skin. Their eyes tell a story of brokenness, while at the same time, sharing a testimony of hope. The light of Christ, like never before, has begun to spread across the dark country of Haiti. Just as buildings are still being cleared and reconstructed, hope is born.


The work of our hands only accomplished small tasks this week, but our hearts and presence amongst the people I pray impacted them beyond words. We know we were impacted. About half way through the week, a few Haitian children and teenagers would join us each night for worship. Music would echo from my guitar and voices would rise throughout the room. Carlton and one of our new Haitian friends played percussion on red Igloo coolers. The cook’s son, Ishmael brought along his small deep toned guitar to assist in bass. Before we knew it a worship band had formed and sung praises to our Maker. Eighteen Americans and a handful of Haitians all sat in a giant tent making an anthem about the joy of our Salvation. Deborah, a girl about twelve years old pulled on Christi’s shirt and requested a song close to her heart. She didn’t know the English so she began to sing the tune in Creole. After the first line, smiles spread across our faces knowing the tune that she was singing was Heart of Worship. We laughed. We played. We sang English and they used the familiar words in their own tongue. Two languages clearly distinguished harmonized into one song. “I’m coming back to the heart of worship, it’s all about you, it’s all about you Jesus. I’m sorry Lord for the things I’ve made it, because it is all about you. It’s all about you Jesus.”

The last night as we tried to tell each other what the week had meant to each of us, we realized there were no words that could reach the summit of the mountain where we stood. We closed in prayer asking the Lord to remain in us and allow us to remain in him. Just before breaking to clean and pack, two of our new friends, Ishmael and Deborah, stood up with something to say. In broken quiet English Ishmael shared his heart, “We just want to thank. Thank you. For sharing with us. For let us play and sing. For spend time. For being here. We see Jesus.” Our hearts already on overflowing with love just poured over. He said, “we have something small for each.” Deborah opened her binder she gripped tightly in her hands, and revealed a gift that each of us will cherish forever. She had used her artistic gifts to create drawings unique for each person on the team. Each illustrated ample amounts of time and intricate design. Everyone in the room fought tears as she passed out the drawings in silence. She would smile and give a hug with each present. Once she returned to her seat, we all sat in a silence of awe.

A member of the team said, “I just saw God today.”

How do you describe indescribable?



Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Inbetween


Sometimes…  I get so focused on ministry and missions, I forget about the people in between. I have schedules and phone calls, flights and destinations, and the people that get me there and help me along the way, I will often overlook. Becoming too focused on thigs that seem like good things, can make me miss the best opportunities in life. Why?! I say to myself that I am committing my life to ministry, but I don’t share Christ with those I pass in the airport, and sometimes don’t even smile at the lady selling me a seven dollar granola bar next to the gate I am about fly out. Regardless of what vocation we are in, whether it is behind the surgical mask, garage truck, or cockpit, we all have a calling. We miss it everyday we forget about the people in between.

I glanced at an awkward man next to the airport phone booth. He finishes his drink, as I was surprised to see whom he was talking to. Will and Conner, two guys on our trip that I have become very close with over the past years, are deep in conversation with the man.  I ease drop as I hear them giving this man hope in a situation that looks hopeless. They are telling him about how life with Christ is beyond what you can know before experiencing it first hand. I am blown away. These guys haven't even stepped foot into our destination and they are caring about someone in between. That is what it is about. That is truly "getting it." Impact has been made on us and on those around us just in the travel to Haiti. Honestly, impact like I have never seen it before.  These students… amaze me. All of them. Their faith, their boldness, their trust, their courage… I would do anything to have the faith they have when I was their age.

After boarding the plane bound towards Port-au-prince, we realize that it was full of about 90% mission teams. It was extremely uplifting being able to talk to others in the same route for the same reason. The new trip excitement began to set in.

Since I have been on a few flights before into the mission field, my new trip excitement doesn’t hit me like it used to. They call it the honeymoon phase. This time it wasn’t there much at all, which allowed God to impact my heart in a way he never has before, or a way I have never let him before.

After touching down on the runway, and weaving our way through customs, my heart was soon shattered walking out into the hot Haitian climate. The air is stiff and I can taste the humidity. My eyes first locked with a boy on the other side of a chain link fence that he happened to be gripping tightly while staring deep into me. Beggars lined the wall as we proceed through with our bags and bags of bags. Survivors may be a better word. Many of the men and children were missing limbs, which I am assuming was from he destruction that took place here nearly 2 years ago. It looks like it happened 2 weeks ago. Haiti is in shambles. Hopeless is a fitting word from the outer perspective. Buildings lay in ruins, people dressed in rags, and smells of sewage and poverty wreaked the air. Something I have never seen before…. countless fields stretching to the horizon of tents. Tents that are now homes to those that homes now lay in pieces. I still can’t believe the things we are seeing. Worse than I thought it would be. God is here though. We have seen it already. Hope is being restored to the hopeless.

So many more stories to come... 


Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Haitian Nation


Throughout life, chapters of life close and open. Some are joined with great joy and others deep heartache. Each one impacts who we are and the lens we see life through. Changes can shoot us into a tailspin if we aren’t set on a solid foundation. Change is the only constant in life, so why is it so hard to get used to? I don’t even feel like I have processed the experiences of the recently paused chapter of Costa Rica and today a new chapter is being penned in my life. Praise God (literally) that I am not the author of my story ever since I set my chapters on the Rock foundation.

So much is happening it is hard to wrap my mind around. Sometimes I don’t even believe it is real. Is this real life?

While gazing through the glare on my computer screen I am typing this on the way to Ft. Lauderdale to catch the next flight to Haiti. My eyes are heavy. 4:15 a.m. seemed to come earlier than it normally does. Once again, we are walking into an unknown land with foreign surroundings to see what God desires to do. Sometimes I wish I could tell people all these great plans and structures I see the Lord setting into place. My desire is to have it all figured out. Usually… that is not the case and I seldom see the end result, but I know when he is moving. He is moving. I pray that my transparency doesn’t cause doubt of what God is doing, but only shows how great He actually is. Plans for this world have been put into place for us to act on. Our “yes” has been uttered toward heaven and we are off to discover the next pages. We don’t step with ignorance but with complete trust knowing that when we put our faith in his faithfulness we can never lose. God is doing so many great things across the world. We have been so blessed to see it happen in Birmingham, Uganda, Montana, Costa Rica, and now…. Haiti.

If you will… pray for guidance. Pray for hearts. Pray for obedience. Pray that we are His hands, that we see with His eyes, and our heart breaks for what breaks His. Pray for His voice to be the only one I hear and the only one I follow. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lead Us Again


It seems like many of my blog posts are written while aboard planes. Like the others, I am now writing flying over the Caribbean Sea and attempting to break down the experiences that I have just left. New faces, events, languages, and cultures have flooded my mind. Though I cannot see it fully yet, God is up to something that is so much bigger than me or any individual project. I am excited to watch it unfold and eager to see what is going to come around the next turn. Regardless, I know it will greater than all I could ask or imagine. That is how God works. He always amazes. Ephesians 3:20



The past two weeks have been beyond encouraging. After spending time in San Isidro with Will and Yolanda, I spent the last two weeks with Will Faircloth, a missionary in San Jose, Costa Rica. Entirely different, entirely new, and an entirely awesome experience, I tried to soak in every second. Will and his wife Ella are in the process of building a children’s home just outside of San Jose. They are partnered with another couple, and each brings teams from the United States all year to continue work on this home for Costa Rica’s children in need. These are pictures of the home and this is also the place Sozo is talking about partnering with in Costa Rica. Will also teaches in the seminary in Costa Rica and holds a children’s club every Saturday in the slums that teaches about Christ. Both Wills I stayed with during this time in Costa Rica are incredibly Godly men. There focus is following Christ, living the Gospel, and building the Kingdom. (God continue to shape me in that way).




(I actually typed this post a few weeks ago) But now that today has rolled around, I have realized the significance in the date. Today is March 10th, otherwise just another day, but March 10th last year was not just ordinary day for Jay Clark. Most of you know, Jay is one of my best friends that lead the way into Uganda on this exact day one year ago. I can’t believe it has only been a year. I feel like I have aged a decade. The experiences that have passed in this year I never would have dreamed. I would have laughed if someone would have said something in advance. I remember vividly watching Jay hug his sisters the night before in the parking lot in the pouring rain as they all cried and said goodbyes. It was like a movie scene. I had to turn away. Jay stepped out onto the water, when everyone else told him it was crazy. Jay had faith and trusted in the Lord to guide every step, even when it seemed uncertain. Neither of us knew what to expect, but God had so many plans already penned on the pages of life eagerly waiting to exceed our imagination. Jay is now about to get married to a beautiful Godly woman, and I know him and his new wife will always glorify God in all they do and live for Him everyday. It is great to see. Love you brother.



Sozo Children International is continually working through the daily trials and joys of ministry. Some days are mountaintop, the next are valleys, but everyday we are trusting in God’s faithfulness to direct every step. Currently, we are talking with the missionaries on the ground in Costa Rica to discern how Sozo is going to get involved in a Costa Rica project and begin caring for children in Latin America. God is opening doors like we never imagined. Please be prayerful that healthy partnerships are created and overall the name of Jesus is glorified and children that otherwise would not, will have a family, a home, and a life.


We are also about to send out four mission teams on Saturday. Into the nations we go heading to Costa Rica, Uganda, Montana, and for the first time… Haiti. Please be in prayer for God’s will to be done, Kingdom to be built, and guidance for our teams.



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Today is Yours


Since returning from our journey into the middle of nowhere, these past days have sped by in a blur. A blur of work and life is passing time often quicker than I wish. My time with Wil and Yolanda has come to an end and now I am in San Jose with another missionary named Will. Later, I’ll write more on the transition and new experiences here.


The last week of work went exceptionally well. A team from Mississippi flew in on Saturday and we met them for dinner. I knew we would be instant friends when I heard them use the word “y’all.” I haven’t heard that word in over a month. That’s all it takes to connect people from the South. It is as if we slip it into conversation affirming the other and stating, “I’ve got Southern roots too.” If we try to stray from that word, finding a replacement throws us into frenzy. You guys? You all? Hey you people? Nothing seems to roll off the tongue. Even though I don’t remember it on School House Rock, “Y’all” is such a wonderful conjunction.

(This girl, Ashley, has stolen my heart.)

We worked hard all week in the hot Costa Rican sun. This week was even more grueling because as if we weren’t close enough to the sun already, we spent the majority of the hours on the roof. After hoisting about twenty-five, one hundred and seventy pound concrete boards to the second story by hand, we were able to drill down the floor. Support beams were welded into place and the entire upstairs was framed with aluminum structure beams. I learned how to weld and Wil and I worked on piecing together the roof structure. Exact measurements had to be taken followed by precise placement of beams. After we finished, the entire team carried the triangular roof structures to the house and lifted them up with only muscle and ropes. That was put into place and then multiple, thirty-meter steel beams were welded across them to add support. The tin that all the teams have been sanding and painting, and sanding and painting, was then drilled into the roof beams. I could see it actually coming together. A great deal of work has been done; not on the church, but by the church.

Here are pictures of progress:











My limited writing skills cause me not to know how to segway this, so forgive me for the abruptness in the next paragraphs. These past weeks have been eye opening in many ways, even past new experiences adjusting to in Costa Rica; news from home has shaken me. A fraternity brother and friend from Auburn went to be with the Lord over a week ago. At such a young age, the news is followed with devastation. Please pray for his closest friends that are struggling with the loss the hardest. 

Lord, write through me right now. Use my fingers on to type of your greatness and this situation to reveal your glory. My prayers are with his family and those closest to him to be comforted and drawn towards the heart of God.

Often, I find myself wading through this life, checking days off my calendar, and just surviving. I live, but occasionally I feel like I have never lived. I just pass through. I worry and stress of things that don’t matter. I overlook what truly matters. My eyes are consumed with the temporary. My thoughts reflect on the past and hope for the future, but rarely focus on the present. I remain in this zombie state until I am shaken. Something must stir me into action and birth passion out of this complacency. The end of this life is a reality we will all one day face. It always has the ability to break my heart, activate my prayers, and force me to examine my life in full.

I don’t think we realize that our days are numbered. This breath we just exhaled while reading was one less. Time we consider infinite passes like a flash of lightning. Minutes, days, years, decades go by and we just get by. We conform to the status quo and judge our lives based on the comparative success of others. I am so tired of just getting by and relating myself to this world. I don’t want to just survive. Do we realize the urgency of what we say we believe? If we don’t, then I beg we question what we say we believe. For if there is no rock to stand on than there is no purpose to our existence. If we are consuming just to please ourselves, who we don’t understand, inside this world, that we don’t understand, then I am afraid we have missed the meaning of life itself. If we truly believe what we say we believe, why do our lives often not reflect our beliefs? If we truly believe in the message of Christ, then what are we waiting on? Isn’t this message urgent to a world that is perishing pursuing itself?

Urgency has never been a word in my vocabulary. If I had a responsibility in the past, it could wait. When I was a child, my father would tell me to take out the trash or sweep out the garage. I thought, why do something today, when I can do it tomorrow? I have never realized how detrimental that can be. Truthfully the cleanliness of the garage does not matter, but the attitude of allowing tomorrow to come before a step is taken is deadly. (and I am not talking about chores). We are not promised tomorrow. Our life on this earth is like a vapor. It is here today, and gone tomorrow. It can change in an instant, a truth that is becoming progressively more clear since July 11th. We have no idea when that time will come. Many of us have even seen life flash before our eyes thinking it could be our last moment. Since that is the case why do I not apologize when I know I should? Not forgive when the sun is setting? Not speak when I feel God lead me to say something? Not live my life like it may be my last day? And something I have just seen, why don’t I live my life like it could be someone else’s last day?

Honestly, there are those close to me that I know are struggling. I know there are those around me that I can influence that I chose not to because it could conflict with my comfort, or theirs. I know there are people that don’t know Christ, or have had a bad taste of church, but really just want to know that someone out there cares. They don’t want a religion, they want a Savior. Jesus  offers a relationship and a community of others. As I say a silent prayer, I bank on that someone else will tell them that truth. This may be a strong statement... By praying, God often gives us opportunities to take a step. Sometimes the step looks like it is into rushing water with storms all around with nowhere to place our next stride, and he says step here, step out, trust me. Praying without stepping when a step is offered is worthless. We have to trust that God will keep us above the waters and hold us up when the world around us tells me the opposite. I know my life could impact the world if I truly let God use it. Every life can. Your life can impact the world. God, take my life and let it be a burning flame for all to see.

Do we realize that every interaction we have with another person either leads them closer or further away to God?

I trust in the Lord when He tells us of His unfailing love and forgiveness. I trust He knows my name. I trust he has paid for my debt and plentiful mistakes in the past. 

We all send a message with our life. It can be positive or negative, idle or driven, and many different combinations of messages, but everyone around us know what we truly stand for. What message do we send? Do we realize the magnitude in the message we send with our life? Do we realize present decisions affect eternal outcomes?

What if… my life, your life, our lives looked like this… everyday…

God,
Today is yours.
I lay it at your feet.
Forgive me of my failures.
I accept your grace that covers my past
And I will trust you with my future
But, today I will live in your freedom
Today, use me to change a life.
Give me courage to act
Boldness to speak
And strength to stand
For today, you are my God and I am your son.
Draw all of us close to you.
Influence the eternal with the impact of the present
For your glory
Your honor
Your praise
Today, I surrender my life at the foot of your cross.
I will go. Send me.

In Jesus name I pray, trust, and belief.
I surrender to you.
Amen.




Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Trek to the Tribe


Pre Journey - Monday, January 31st – 7:04 p.m.

Our journey before the journey has began. Already, I want to be able to write every detail on this page, but I am afraid it will be significantly lacking. We reached our destination to the outpost, at the base of the reservation, just before dark. We are staying here for the night and beginning the hike up the mountain tomorrow morning at 5 a.m.


Today before leaving, Wil and I loaded one hiking pack with food and one with clothes, and each of us are carrying our camera backpacks full of other supplies. I included everything I could possibly need on this mountain. I’m not sure if it was the former Boy Scout or deep desire to be MacGyver that came out in me. Probably the latter. I made sure my pack included everything from my knife, band-aids, and headlight to a deck of cards, zipties, and paperclips. I’m kidding… about the paperclips. I didn’t pack any paperclips. I’m not sure what it is, but every guy that was born in the late 70’s or 80’s holds MacGyver as a true hero. I think all of us secretly want to rescue a beauty only using paperclips, rubber bands, and a battery.

Anyways, after getting packed we loaded the truck, picked our friend Curtis and headed to the mountains. About 4 hours later we finally hit a dirt road that signified the destination was approaching. We could tell we were getting further from civilization as we drove. Houses got smaller, vegetation got taller, the road got rockier, and we began passing more people on horseback than in vehicles. I don’t think anything less than the Ford F-250 we were in would have made it. At one point we reached a suspension bridge hanging over the rushing river that swayed and creaked as we drove over it. All I could do was laugh. Finally, as herd of dogs welcomed us, we pulled up to the outpost.

After unloading, Honorio and his son Josephat joined us. Honorio is our connection with the Cabecar Indian Tribe. He is a native Cabecar, which is easily distinguished by his dark skin and differing facial features. Honorio took classes at the Seminary in San Jose and spoke to Wil a few times asking him to visit. The time has come. We talked about the next few days as we walked down the street from the outpost to a friendly Costa Rican family that cooked us dinner. We stepped into their small house to be consumed by the smell of rice and beans. Wooden boards constructed the walls fit together like a puzzle and a wood-burning stove sat in the corner. We sat and ate. Three Americans, two Costa Ricans, and two Cabecar Indians were all in the room enjoying each other’s company. I just realized how difficult it is going to be for me to communicate. I speak English, they speak Cabecar, and the common ground is Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish, so in order for me to talk to one of the indigenous, I will have to talk to Wil, who will talk to Honoria, who will finally deliver my message.


The sun has set and the bed is calling my name. The alarm will be yelling it at 4:30 a.m. telling me to get up and begin our ten-hour hike through the jungle. God be with us.

Day 1 – Tuesday, Febrauary 1st - 2:10 p.m.

Morning came early. Very early. In fear of oversleeping, my mind woke me up every few hours. Eventually, at 4:15 a.m., I awoke and took my last shower for the next few days. Finally, after a long day of hiking we made it. I don’t think the word hike is appropriate… Let’s use trek. Let me tell you about the trek:

The rooster has yet to crow. The sun has yet to rise. I am lacing up my Soloman’s thinking about what is ahead of us today. Supposedly a long battle with rocks, water, and altitude. Honoria is preparing the horses to carry a few of our bags. I opened the Bible to get my mind focused for the day and I conveniently came to Psalm 46. Perfect for the morning and situation we are about to walk into. Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.” I pray this journey, that is going to take us deep into the jungle, will also take us deep into the heart of God. I pray we are able to simply learn.

The Trek Breakdown:
Hour ONE - We drove as far as we could in an offroad Jeep. A hill approached us, and as hard at the Jeep tried, it was unclimable. “This is it.” Wil said, “We start here.” It is 5:30 in the morning and the sunlight over the hill is beginning to illuminate the clouds resting in the valley. Our two horses carried most of the load. I thank God for horses. The journey we had been talking about for months had just begun. We are trying to get as many pictures as possible of the sunrise while watching the ground in front of us. A swinging wooden suspension bridge overhands a river in our path. I picture the scene in an Idian Jones Movie with the swinging, falling rope bridge. Hopefully ours doesn’t end the same way. Boards are missing from the bridge, so we hopscotch with keen eyes over the holes leading towards rock faces and rushing water. Our ambition however, is set and ready to conquer the world. This bridge is first.

Hour TWO – Honoria says, “just a few more minutes and around this corner we will reach the first church checkpoint to rest.” A few more minutes passes, corner after corner we turn, no church, no checkpoint, no rest, no water. I’m beginning to question his time estimates. The hike has become more of a climb. Breathing is now heavy and sweat is pouring down our faces soaking our shirts. Our hopes are still high.

Hour THREE – In the distance I see a building that looks like where we are resting. We made it. We sucked down water like we had walked miles across the dessert. We stopped and prayed over the land where Honoria is planting his third church.

Hour FOUR – The horses are beginning to slow and want to turn back. For a second, I thought I might be able to lead them back to base camp. No. Focus. Keep going. Only a few more hours.

Hour FIVE – Seriously, my legs are on fire. The incline is like double stepping up a never-ending staircase. Mud is covering my feet from crossing rivers and streams. My socks are wet. My feet are heavy. My hat looks like I dropped it in the ocean, but it is just sweat. There is no ocean nearby. My determination is running on a quarter tank, and there is no sign of a fill station.


Hour SIX – Were down to only a few granola 
bars and one bottle of water. We better make this last, but I know I could drink five. Wil and Curtis are hurting but persistent. “Are we sure this is the right way?” I ask, as we are jumping rocks moving upstream a river.

Hour SEVEN – The sun is now scorching hot. We are walking under hanging vines and crossing stream after stream. Honoria’s eleven-year-old son Josephat, looks like he does this everyday. We don’t. We are covered in mud and sweat and our eyes show their desperate need for a bottle of water and a comfortable bed. Honoria offers words of encouragement, “Almost there.” I think to myself… “I’ve heard that before. Jesus, a little endurance would be great right now.”

Hour EIGHT – We made it! It is a glorious site to climb the final hill to see the horizon reveal his house. I could smell lunch.

After Seven and a half hours, 4 rivers, 36 streams, rocks, waterfalls, jungle, marsh, mud, and muscles that are about to give out, we finished the journey. As we see the house appear in the distance, Wil lets out, “Hallelujah!” We’re looking forward to see what God has prepared.

Day 1 – Tuesday, February 1st – 8:18 p.m.



Wow. This day has been full of incredible experiences. Some challenging, some refreshing, but overall God has really opened our eyes. I have just lain down to sleep in a different way than I had imagined.


We are staying at Honorio’s house this week. It is what you would picture eight hours into the jungle. Outside the house are a variety of barn animals. Chickens and chicks, pigs and piglets, geese and geeselets(?), turkeys, dogs, horses, and hogs. With little access to any type of building supplies, the entire structure is built from wood cut down from the jungle. We stepped foot into the kitchen to eat lunch after a long day of walking. Uneven wooden planks built the walls, with uneven wooden bookshelves all set on an uneven dirt floor. His kitchen table, set right in the middle of the open room, is nailed together with the same wood. It was simple, and beautiful in a different way. Rubber boots and old toys lay around the room at the base of the walls. My eyes were trying to take it all in. We sat and ate lunch together and enjoyed the food and fellowship.

The church Honorio has built sits across from his house on the same land. It is a one room, wooden walled, tin roofed building that has a few windows allowing the rays of the sun to beam into the darkness. Every piece of tin that roofs his two buildings had to be carried here by hand.


After lunch and a siesta, the neighborhood came over for a soccer match in a small dirt field in between the house and the church. You can tell by Honorio’s laughter he enjoys hosting the community. At each end of the field, parallel Y-shaped sticks are shoved into the ground to hold up a single horizontal stick forming goals. One of the new soccer balls we brought to them is already seeing action. Most of them were wearing rubber boots. The three gingo’s (us) not being used to the trek to the house, had to sit out of the soccer match because of lack of energy. We spectated.





Just when it was becoming dark, Curtis, Wil, Anorio, and I walked over to his church to talk more about his native nation. We sat down on wooden benches about a foot off the ground. The last pieces of light were shining through the cracks in the walls. A white handmade banner hung on the front wall with a giant cross painted in the middle of it. Three Bibles of different languages were lying on the pew between us as we lit our flashlights beginning to talk. We talked of language, people, history, and their knowledge of Christ. It was intriguing just hearing the background of where were sitting. I won’t go into too much detail on this blog, but one thing I thought interested was Honorio’s story. At age eight he heard the name of Christ and at that point just “knew” that it was Truth. His family shunned him from the house from that point forward. When he grew old enough he began going to seminary in San Jose. Beyond the challenge of facing seminary in a secondary language, Honorio walked to class the same trek that nearly killed us. Eight or so hours there and the same back, sometimes in the sun, sometimes in Costa Rica’s torrential downpours, he walked every time. After five years he has graduated and now in the process of planting his third church. Now every member of his family are Christians. His story convicted me of the thoughts I had next about my comfort

After finishing our talk we went to our room to set up our beds. There were no foam pads as Wil had thought, so we laid out our fleece sleeping bags onto the wooden floor. All I could do was laugh. I never would have dreamed we would be here, and the fact that this would probably not be a comfortable night, I have to put behind me. I’m about to lay my head on a small pillow, my back on the hard wood, and my tailbone on a blown up neck pillow I packed just in case (thank you MacGyver). I can hear the rest of the family whispering through the wooden walls. Wil is tossing and turning across the room attempting to find a comfortable way to lie.

Dear Lord, 
... please let my exhausted body fall asleep before my running mind can realize how uncomfortable I am.


Day 2 – Wednesday, February 2nd – 7:48 a.m.

The night was what could be expected. I woke up at least once an hour either to soreness, roosters, or to someone else rustling through the house. Comfort was not reached, but at least I had a pillow. One thing I didn’t expect was the frigid cold that somehow blew in during the night. My toes and fingers are still lacking feeling because they have yet to thaw. We didn’t prepare for cold. It is Costa Rica, why would we? However the morning got much better once I smelt coffee coming from the kitchen. Honorio told us of something that is happening today that is going to be an incredible opportunity. I will write about it after because I don’t think my words before will be able to come close to the experience.

Day 2 – Wednesday, February 2nd – 11:15 a.m.

We have returned from a trip to the river to experience the opportunity Honorio told us about. We are in awe. They asked Curtis to be a part since he is a pastor in San Isidro. He was floored by the chance and agreed graciously to participate. We hiked down to the river and found a spot that was away from the rushing rapids. On the rocks around this swimming hole, the community gathered. There were at least twenty other Cabecar Indians that came to watch and a few dogs and pigs followed from the farm to see what was going on. Honorio had been pastoring ecah of them for some time now and today was an eventful day. Everyone listened intently as Honorio and Wil gave a message about what it means to follow Christ. After, each Indigenous Indian  stepped into the chilly water with Honorio and Curtis… and I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story…






  
                                                                      All glory to God.

Day 2 – Wednesday, February 2nd – 8:24 p.m.

Another incredible moment we just shared with the Cabecar people. God is truly present in this place. After the message and six baptisms in the river we hiked back to the house to play soccer and relax for the rest of the afternoon. At six o’clock, just before the sunset, we walked to the church for a service. Honorio spoke in Cabecar and Spanish, both of which I understand little of, but I could at least follow. Curtis, Wil, and I shared some of our experience in the past and our thoughts of these amazing people. I told them I feel like we can learn so much from them. Their love and pure joy and passion for Christ, amidst circumstances we have never experienced, surpass anything I have ever known. After, we shared communion. Something they and we have each done many times before, but this time with a different culture, language, and tribe. I will remember forever the sound of their voices and the look on their faces as they pass through remembering who Christ is and what his Grace mean for all of us. Moments like these are why I wake up every morning.



Tonight is going to be another cold night on a hard floor. I’m prepared sleeping in my hiking pants, rain jacket, and wool socks. Morning is going to come early. 4 a.m. we leave for the trek home.

Day 3 – Thursday, February 3rd – 1:30 p.m.


This is not how I imagined this story ending. Not the exact triumphant trek out of the jungle I had pictured. My pride took a shot today. Pride I should never have had in the first place, was stirred in me and even made me think; I’ll scrap the detailed blog and just tell one nice story of our journey. For the sake grasping confident humility and destroying the rest of my arrogance, I will tell the story.

It was still dark when we got up. We finished packing and drank a quick cup of coffee before we hit the trail. After loading the horses, we began the trek home at 4:30 in the morning with flashlights lighting our path for the first hour. My knee was beginning to bother me after the first ten minutes and I knew it wasn’t good since we had seven hours left of hiking. It felt as if the fluid in my joint was replaced with sand and glass. Every step, pain shot through my body. I continued for nearly three hours toughing it out, thinking the more I walk the better it would become. The opposite occurred. After a long uphill climb and jumping rocks during a short downhill decent, it was jarred again. Wil and Curtis offered help but my testosterone denied knowing I could do this myself. I got here myself, I can get out. It became excruciating. I prayed to God, “Now? Why is this happening now?” It got to the point I couldn’t bend my knee at all and had to walk over rocks and rivers attempting to keep my leg locked in position. Finally, my pride could no longer sustain me. Curtis offered to carry a backpack and let me ride on the horse’s back. I reluctantly accepted. As much as it killed me to ride as others walked, the situation revealed truth to me about myself and the character of God. So often, I get in this mindset that I have abilities or qualifications that prove I should be able to accomplish any task in front of me. I think to myself I got here, I can get out. I can finish. Too often I think if I try more, working harder, pushing further, I can finish and set of goals set before me by myself. As is God didn't give me the very ability to breathe, I think that I have done something myself. That’s why I didn’t want to quit the hike giving into the pain. Sometimes, that pride even seeps into my faith. I reason that I can do more and earn God’s approval. I think I can finish my walk with God on my own, with self-discipline and self-righteousness. That is the exact opposite of the Truth. That is the opposite of what God desires for us. The truth is, we will never be able to work more towards God. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s love or forgiveness. It is a gift. Disciplining ourselves enough does not merit us to receive God’s Grace. If we think that our judgment, determining our entrance into heaven, depends on our good deeds weighed against our bad deeds, we have got it all wrong. If we get to heaven with pride thinking we have lived a good enough life to enter we will never see the face of Christ. That is not the Gospel. That is not the Truth. I am still learning the sweetness of the words GRACE and SURRENDER. We have never done, and will never do, anything that is valuable enough to earn Jesus’ sacrifice or to be in the eternal presence of God. What are our works in comparison to a Holy God? God is holy, perfect in power, set apart from all that exists, and cannot be in the presence of anything unholy. Who are we to think that if we try hard enough, or do more, or live a good life, we will be able to attain salvation and see God face to face? It is unattainable through our own attempts. There is nothing we can do. That is it though… that is the Good News. That is the reason God had to send his Son. That is the reason Christ had to die. God is holy so he cannot compromise his justice. He can’t just say, “Well, you guys tried really hard and… did some good things so… I’ll let it slide.” Forgiveness is not just a conscious thought. Our debt had to be paid. Our lives were paid for at a price we will never comprehend. In order for us to attain forgiveness, Christ had to shed his blood, and we have to have faith. Jesus hung on the cross with nails driven into his hands, and took the punishment for all of our sins once and for all. With his last remaining breath, he cried out, “Tetelestai.” meaning, “It is finished. Paid in full.” ONLY through faith in Jesus and those words are we saved. Works are merely byproducts of our Faith and Salvation.

In a Max Lucado book I recently read, he ends the book with this powerful quote, “Salvation is the work of Christ, Compassion is the consequence of Salvation.”

As I was riding the horse today, I again realized I can’t rely on myself in my faith. I have to trust in God for my salvation and for Him to equip me and to perfect my faith. Trusting in myself is the opposite of trusting in God. If it is up to me then I am eternally in trouble. Just as Curtis carried my pack and the horse carried me to the house, I have to let Christ carry my burdens and trust Him to guide me Home. I have to receive His Grace and daily surrender my life to Him.

Ephesians 2: 8-9 “For it is by grace you hae been saved through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so no man can boast.”


Our time with the Cabecar Indians was indescribable, extremely hard to put into words on a page. It is really difficult to describe all we saw and experienced. The name of Christ is extending to every nation throughout the world. It is awesome to witness. I pray that seeds were planted on the reservation but also throughout the world by this tribe and our experience.