Wednesday, January 10, 2018

No Heroes (Revisited)

This blog is a reposted from 2014. Why am I reposting it now? Because God has placed a vision in front of me that is bigger than I could ever accomplish. We need people to come and serve, but we don't need heroes. We just need real people with real strengths and real weaknesses who believe and trust in a very real God. Let's stop waiting for heroes to step up, and step up ourselves.

On a regular basis I encounter people who ask me how I ended up in Guatemala doing this kind of ministry. It is a good question, and I have spent a lot of time thinking about the answer. It is easy to throw out a quick response of “God called us.” But the actual answer goes even deeper than that.
How did I end up here? The real answer is that I discovered a secret that completely rocked my world. It was a revolutionary truth that had remained hidden for most of my life, but when I discovered it, it forever changed me and my family.
If you are interested, I will share it with you. Lean close into your screen and I will digitally whisper it to you. Ready? Here you go…

There are no heroes.

Did you catch that? It is an amazing truth! 
hero1For most of my life I assumed there were heroes. Through the first half of my Christian walk I would encounter people that just seemed better, brighter and more filled with faith than me, and I would put them on a pedestal. They were the missionaries. They were those who would begin ministries that would thrive and touch the world. They were the ones that I saw making a real difference for the kingdom. And I labeled them heroes.

They had it all figured out. They didn’t wrestle with doubts and fears. They knew just what to do. They never fell into discouragement. They never screwed up. They never wondered if they were doing the right thing. They heard God’s voice clearly and followed Him boldly.

And, of course, I did not place myself among them. I could never fit in with such a group. I could never be used in those ways. Sure, I could be faithful in a few little things, and God would probably bless some of them. But I could never be a hero. (And I was right.)

In my mind there were the heroes of the faith…and then there was the rest of us. Those who do great things for God and those of us who somehow survive intact. I knew, in my heart, that I would always be a part of the latter.

When I was about 10 years old my father, in a moment of anger and frustration, pointed his finger at me and spoke words that I will never forget. They scarred me so deeply that I still feel them 37 years later. They have governed the way I see myself and the way I have approached the world for much of my life. What did he say? 

“You will never amount to anything!”

I know some of you are wincing and thinking what a horrible dad I must have had. But he was not a bad father. He truly loved me, and I know it would have shattered him if he had understood the impact those words would have on my life and heart. I forgave him long ago, and understand that he was simply spreading the pain that had been heaped on him in the same way I have unintentionally splattered my own children with some of my residual pain. In fact, considering his background, I had a good dad who went a long way toward breaking the cycle of sin and ugliness that he could have continued.

FailureBut those words have deeply impacted my life. That comment sits in the back of my mind, waiting to rear its ugly head. In my heart I have always known that I would never amount to anything. So, as I watched this parade of heroes pass through my life, I knew that I could never be one of them. I could love my wife, love my children, do a decent job as a husband, father and minister, but I would never do great things for the God I love and serve. And every time things would go badly I would hear those words again... “See, you will never amount to anything.”

But then, like a bolt of lightning, it hit me one day. There are no heroes. The people that God uses to do great things wrestle with fear and doubt. They wonder, at times, are the doing the right thing. They stumble and fall and rely on God’s grace to be new every morning. They are not heroes.

These people are simply people who have decided to trust God, believe His Word and follow. They are broken and scarred, just like me. They face discouragement and failure, just like me. They have their own harsh words that play in their minds at times, just like me. They know the grip of fear, just like me. There are no heroes, just people who believe and follow, one step at a time.

And suddenly I realized that the world would not be saved by heroes, because there were none. If the world would ever be saved it would be saved by sinners who have been saved by grace, just like me. So I started believing more and following with greater boldness, knowing that I didn’t need to be a hero. I just needed to be His.

And since that day life has been an adventure. But I have never been, nor will I ever be, a hero. That is why it bothers me so much when I sense people are beginning to see me as I used to see those others, as somehow set apart or special. I am not special (except that I am God’s child), and I am not a hero. I am not some incredible man of God. I stumble and fall. I get discouraged and broken. I let others down and wound them with far too frequent regularity. And I still hear my father’s voice on the down days and, at times, I believe it.

Recently, one of my friends told me about his doubts he had about me when we first moved to Guatemala. He told me that when he met me I had just moved here, could not speak Spanish and did not know what I was doing. He heard me speak about our dream of a group home for children with special needs and seriously wondered if it would ever become reality. I laughed when he told me that, because I had the same doubts. Now, seven years later, I still struggle with Spanish and still don’t know what I am doing. Yet, somehow, God is accomplishing His purposes. He does that, not because of who I am, but because of who He is. And that is true for every missionary I know that is building God’s kingdom. 

20140522_114007So, that is my secret. There are no heroes. There is just you, me and the wonderful grace of God. If you are waiting for your doubts and fears to go away and for you to become a hero before you do your part to change the world, good luck with that. It is not going to happen. You and I are not heroes, but we don’t need to be. We just need to believe and follow one step at a time. 

The dying world around us is waiting, not for heroes, but for real people like you and I who love and serve a very real Jesus Christ. And, by the way, we WILL amount to something when God is finished, because His math is perfect and we are multiplied by His goodness.

Because of Him,

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Dream With Me

Recently I had some friends visit our homes here. As I was introducing them to children and showing them our two homes, I casually mentioned my personal dream for this ministry. They are good friends, so I assumed that they were already aware of this vision, and I was surprised when they seemed clueless as I spoke.

That led me to stop and think. Have I shared this dream with anyone beyond my immediate friends, family and ministry team? And the answer was, surprisingly, no. It has been such a part of my thinking for so long that is seems like it is a part of me. But, as I look back through my blog and Facebook posts, I realized that I have never shared it publicly. So, that needs to change today.

So, come and dream with me…

Currently, our ministry is comprised of two group homes for children with special needs and our growing rural village ministry. (There is also our new birthing center in Escuintla, but that does not play into this particular dream.) In order to house this work, we are currently leasing three properties here in San Antonio Aguas Calientes:

  • Our main home, which is 6000 square foot and serves as our largest group home and offices for me, our social worker, our accountant, our psychologist, and our therapist. (Rent Q.8900 - $1240 USD)
  • Our second group home, which is around 2500 square foot. (Rent Q.3500 - $485 USD)
  • Our warehouse, which is 5000 square foot and serves as storage and work area for vehicles, food, wheelchairs, medicine and medical supplies for our rural village. (Rent Q4000 - $555 USD)

While each of these facilities are excellent for our purposes, this means that we are paying approximately $2280 USD a month in rent. And that is a huge hit on our budget.

These facilities are also spread out. House 2 is about 100 meters down the road from house 1, and our warehouse is over a kilometer away in the main town. While this is functional, it does create logistic issues. And, as we add additional homes, these logistical issues will increase.

And that is where my dream comes in. Imagine all of these ministry sites and more on one piece of property that we own. I can see it now in my mind, and it is beautiful!

I envision a large piece of property that is ours. Twenty or thirty acres that is a paradise for children with special needs. Every building and piece of equipment is built with them in mind, and it all exists for the glory of Jesus Christ.

The Homes:

There would be ten homes built that would serve as family-based group homes for children with special needs. Wide doorways and hallways, spacious bedrooms, a centralized bathing and changing station, handicapped accessible bathrooms, and a large family room where there is room for every wheelchair and person.

And each of these homes would be built around a large central building that includes the following:
  • A commercial kitchen, where nutritious meals will be cooked for all the homes and staff
  • A well equipped therapy center, where each of the children will receive top quality therapy and where therapists will be trained to be the best in Guatemala.
  • A school where children can receive special education and teachers can be trained to be the best.
  • A medical clinic with a full-time doctor providing care for the children.
  • Offices for our entire team.
  • A large multi-purpose room that will be used for special events and for a church on Sundays, where everyone is welcome to worship.
  • A beautiful outdoor playground that is equipped to accommodate every special need.
  • And connecting it all are beautiful handicapped accessible walkways with flowers and shade trees.

The Independent Living Section:

As children grow to adulthood, what happens? Once the courts release their cases, do we simply send them to an institution? Of course not. They need to have a place where they can continue to grow and receive care in community. 

So, I envision accessible apartments where those who are more independent can live. There will be staff to assist them where needed, but they will also be able to do all that they can on their own. Those that can work will have jobs within the ministry, and will receive pay and be taught to budget and spend responsibly. They will even pay a modest rent and help with their expenses. 

The more-abled will help the less-abled. And they will live in Christ-centered community.

The Rural Village Ministry Section:

There would be a large warehouse that will serve as storage for vehicles, wheelchairs, medicine, medical supplies, food, and equipment. Within that warehouse will be workshops for woodworking, metal work, and general repair. There will be a prosthetic shop, where braces and artificial legs and arms will be constructed. And there will be a garage area, where our fleet will be maintained and repaired. Within these workshops, teens from the homes who are able will receive training in these skills and will be employed when possible.

The Farm Section:

There would be a barn and riding area where there will be a therapeutic equestrian program, with horses and adaptive saddles. Children who cannot walk will find freedom and mobility on the backs of horses. Children with emotional needs can find comfort and companionship with animals. I can see a large grazing area and chicken enclosures, where animals will be raised to provide meat, eggs and milk for the homes. I can see a vegetable farm. And I can see children and teens learning to grow and raise the food that sustains them while learning valuable life skills.

And I can see the doors swinging open each day to the community. I can see families coming for therapy, medical treatment, therapeutic riding, counseling and education. I can see them coming to worship with us. And I can see families who were previously alone, finding love and support in the body of Christ.

I know. This is a huge and seemingly impossible vision. How on earth will we find the money to purchase that much land in Guatemala? How will we fund those facilities? What about the staff? How will any of this become reality?

I can honestly say that I don’t know. But I can also say that it is a good vision. It is a vision that maximized resources and enables us to accomplish all that God has called us to do for the least amount of money.

I am not a Name-It-And-Claim-It believer. God is not my genie that serves my desire. I am His slave, and I serve at His pleasure. But I believe that God wants to be the Author of our dreams, and I believe He is the Author of this one. So, we are praying and doing all that we can to pursue this dream.

And I am asking for you to join with us in dreaming this dream and praying to make it a reality. This is a God-sized dream, so only He can accomplish it. 

So, will you dream with me?

Blessings from Guate!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew