Tag Archives: challenges

Rites of Passage…

Boys everywhere have a need for rituals marking their passage to manhood. If society does not provide them they will inevitably invent their own.
-Joseph Campbell

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In 2012, I was in Tanzania and had just completed climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. I remember driving through the countryside and seeing young African boys from the Maasai tribe. They were dressed as typical Maasai, however, the cloaks that many of the boys wore were black and then there were some that had very colorful red cloaks. I asked my driver what the difference was and he told me the boys in black had not become men yet. I pressed the driver to explain, and he told me all about the Maasai rites of passage from boys to men. I won’t go into the specific details (because it’s gross), but I was fascinated, and it got me thinking about rites of passage in general.   So here I am, four years later…and I’m finally going to write about my feelings on them.

So what is a rite of passage?

I began reading articles on this to try to understand a little bit more about this cultural practice. I found out that sociologists have identified three phases that constitute a proper rite of passage: Separation, Transition, and Re-incorporation.

Separation:  During this phase, the boy is separated in some way from his former life.

Transition:  During this phase, the boy is between worlds. He is no longer part of his old life but not yet fully inducted into his new one. He is taught the knowledge needed to become a full-fledged member of the new stage of life he is moving into, and he is called upon to pass tests that show he is ready for the move. The boy would then participate in ritual ceremonies which often involved pain and endurance to prove himself worthy of such a transition.

Re-incorporation:   In this phase, the boy, having passed the tests necessary and proving himself worthy, is re-introduced into his community, which recognizes, celebrates and honors his new status within the group.

During all phases of the process, the men who have gone through the ritual themselves guide the boy on his journey. By controlling the rite of passage, the men decide when a boy becomes a man.

So I began to reflect on my own life…did I have a rite of passage?

Separation: In my case, I went away to The Citadel, a military college. All my former possessions were left behind, my head was shaved, and I was given a uniform to wear. During this separation phase, my old-self was broken down and eliminated, and a new me was being prepared.

IMG_0263 (1)Transition: From the day of my arrival as a freshman in August each day for next nine months, I was subjected to an entirely new way of life that included being yelled at, prodded, disciplined,
having to perform thousands of push-ups and running in place, marching, drills, inspections and everything one might expect in a military training environment. All of this was to prepare me to join the ranks of all those that came before me and were referred to as a “Citadel man.”

Re-incorporation: The nine-month period of daily preparation culminated in May just one week before the end of the school year in a ceremony known as “recognition day.” This day began early with nothing but physical torture. Running, push-ups, more running, more push-up all the while having trash cans of alternating hot and cold water dumped on us from four stories above us. Bodies cramping as a result and being forced to continue until exhaustion and then some… Then it all stopped. Then we were lined up as one class of freshman and one by one, each upperclassman introduced themselves and allowed us from that point on to address them on a first name basis. We had officially been “recognized” into the Corps of Cadets.

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I’ll never forget that day…and that moment. It is etched into the fabric of my soul.

So why do I think about all this stuff now?

Well, when I turn on the TV and watch the news, I see many young men doing stupid stuff. When I travel around the world whether it is in Africa or Latin America, I see many “boys” in men’s bodies still acting like boys. They are not providing for their families, they are not leading, they are not providing a positive role model for other young men to emulate. They have in effect abdicated the throne. As a result, the burden that men have refused to carry has been dumped on to the already excessive responsibilities that women are carrying.

I see this everywhere. Women are taking care of the home, the children, carrying the majority of the financial burden of the home and where the man is still in the picture (as rare as that may be), they are taking care of him too.  Also, when I think about many of the world’s problems, gangs, drugs, sex trafficking, wars, and violence it’s all mostly a bunch of men…searching for power, searching for control, searching to answer the question every man needs to know…

“Am I a man? Do I have what it takes?”

In our culture, we don’t have a traditional rite of passage for men. However, in many cases, military service has served as the best route for this to happen. But as fewer and fewer men are choosing this path, the question then becomes…where will they get this question answered? How will they know? Will other men identify them as men?

I don’t have the answers to all that. But I do know that the longer we continue to ignore this need in men…we, as a society will continue to unravel.

Which brings me back to the beginning.

The reason I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in the first place was to reaffirm the question that had been answered over 30 years prior, “Am I still a man? Do I still have what it takes?”

I know for me, I will continue to challenge myself and check myself on these questions for the rest of my life. It gives me a grounding, a purpose and a peace knowing the answer to both is still…yes.

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Being lost vs. Feeling lost

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I spent last weekend with Oscar, Amy and Diego at their home in the mountains of Las Anonas, Guatemala. Their home is located within a beautiful compound and just behind their home are beautiful mountains, trees, and fields.

Late in the afternoon on Saturday, Diego and I decided to hike in the mountains behind their home. He had done it many times and called it a “small walk.” So we took off on a “small walk.” We climbed over and under several barbed wire fences and eventually found ourselves in the most beautiful pasture land and rolling hills that I have seen.

As we took a moment to take in the beautiful scenery, he pointed out to me where he had previously hiked. He pointed up to a mountain where there happened to be smoke about two-thirds of the way up the mountain and he said that once he had almost climbed that high. So we headed off in that direction.

Now the terrain was a mix of trees, open pasture and then a large section of brush. We hiked up navigating over dry stream beds, climbed over rocks, and danced around all types of thorned bushes. But through it all…it was straight up…like steep up!

Both of us realized just how bad we were out of shape as our hearts raced and we were gasping for our next breath. All the while continuing up and continuing to push our way through brush, thorns, and no visible path.

We finally reached a point to where Diego said, “Wow, I’ve never been up this far before!” So we took a moment to take in the view and then tried to decide our next move.

  1. Do we go down the same way we came up?  That answer was no.  We were not going to forge our way through all of that brush again.
  2. Do we make our way to the treeline and hope we can go down with less effort?  We tried that and were soon faced with a large deep washout that was surrounded by brush.
  3. Do we continue to go up and then try to find a road or another way down?  That sounded like a plan and so we continued up.

We finally reached and open field on the side of the mountain where people were working the soil planting corn. This is where the smoke was coming from that we had seen from the bottom of the mountain. We continued up to the top of the mountain. The view was spectacular, but it also proved to us that we were very far from where we had begun our hike.

We took a moment to consult Google Maps to get a look at where we were and the easiest way to get “home.” The sun was beginning to set behind the mountain, and soon it would be getting dark. I began to feel the tightening in my chest of the oncoming of some anxiety as I realized that our options to get home before dark were going to be limited to:

  1. Going back the way we came. Yuk.
  2. Hiking towards another mountain, thinking we would hit a road that would then take us back to Las Anonas.

I stood on top of this mountain and just looked at my options…none of them felt right. Then I did something random and completely by mistake…I walked about 10 feet to another area on the mountain…

What I saw in this new location was a clearing that led down the mountain to a treeline that would take us in the right direction…towards home. So that’s what we did. We took that path.

The clearing was an easy downhill walk to the treeline. I picked up a beautiful trail under the trees that led us down the mountain and dumped us back into the pasture where we had started our uphill climb.

10 feet…I just moved 10 feet…and everything changed.

I thought about the “life lesson” I experienced on this hike. Sometimes we find ourselves in a “proverbial pickle.” A situation that seems hopeless or filled with anxiety and risk. Our options at this point may seem limited. But what I learned to do was to change my perspective. Do something. Not big or drastic. Just do something I haven’t done yet…like walk 10 feet to get a new perspective.

How this might look in real life could be doing things like taking a drive, going a new way to work, getting up an hour earlier, journaling, working out, calling an old friend, taking a class…something…anything new and different.

We all get lost from time to time…but we don’t have to feel lost. We have a way home, and we may simply need to move a mere 10 feet to see it.

Looking back on my first year in non-profit Ministry

Wow. What a year this has been.   I am in the process of putting together our second annual report which has required me to look back on all that we have been able to accomplish this year thanks to many generous financial teammates.   So if it’s ok, I would like to share the impact that we as a team have been able to make…you’re going to love it…

Light of Hope School – Guatemala

Schools

  • We have 5 Christian schools still operating in Africa providing education to over 500 children and employing 34 teachers.   90% of our children come from Muslim families. Go figure!
  • We have a pre-k school in Guatemala that currently has about 60 children and 3 teachers.
  • A Guatemalan music teacher is using the incentive to play in the band as a way to reach children and keep them interested in school and making good grades. The band dreams of someday marching in the Macy’s Rose Bowl parade, and they had all the instruments they needed with one exception…they didn’t have a Tuba.   We got them a Tuba.

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Community Development

  • We purchased and shipped six school buses to Africa filled with school supplies.   The buses are now being used to take people throughout the region.
  • We provided a Fire Truck that was donated from the City of Tyler, TX to the Guatemalan city of San Jose Pinula. This has also opened the hearts of several fire fighters that want to adopt the Guatemalan station as a “sister station.”   We actually brought two firefighters from Tyler with us to Guatemala this month.
  • We shipped a container full of Medical supplies to Guinea, West Africa in response to the Ebola epidemic. The container was filled with protective suits, medical gloves and unfortunately…body bags.
  • We held five medical clinics in Guatemala and treated approximately 1587 people.

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Training

  • We held a Pastors conference in West Africa in March and trained over 50 pastors.
  • We held a Pastors conference in Guatemala in December and taught over 100 pastors.
  • We provided 20 sewing machines to a group of women in Guatemala to begin making items to sell in the marketplace. Many of the women had never sewn before, and the learning curve is very steep.   However, while they learn they are also engaging in Bible study!

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Home Improvement

  • I experimented with a solar light bulb for people in Guatemala to use. It’s a liter plastic bottle that sits halfway in and halfway out of the roof. Light come in through the top and is emitted from the bottom. It produces the light of a 60W bulb and will last about eight years.   We have installed several so far. They love them. The only problem is getting on the roofs to install them…many of the roofs are not stable enough to hold the weight of a person.
  • We provided over 26 smokeless stoves for families that had been cooking over an open flame with no exhaust in their home.   This $250 addition to the home has been life changing to families. It is one of the best things we do!
  • We came upon a young girl in Guatemala that lost her parents and, is raising her five siblings in addition to her two children. All of them (9 people) have all been living in one room that a neighbor is letting them use. I’ve seen the room…it’s horrible.   We are building them a home now. It’s under construction, nothing fancy… but hopefully it will be ready by Christmas.

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Technology & Social Media

  • We have a Facebook page that has grown to over 167,000 followers!   That is more than many of the fortune 500 companies!   We engage an audience of over 20,000 people every day from countries all over the world. We have even had 20 decisions for Christ this year!
  • We started a similar Facebook page all in Spanish as well.   It mirrors much of the content we have on our main page, but we just wanted to engage our Spanish speaking friends in Central America directly.
  • Chuck’s son, Adam developed a training platform called Conscientia. We have been meeting with churches and hospital groups so they can put their training content on the platform. It’s a great tool, and we just have to figure out how to market it better. So far, we have one church using it and one hospital group (UT Southwestern Global Health Program). They have put about 15 courses on it and are loving it.

Creating Partnerships and Relationships

  • By investing all of our time and resources in one common area in Guatemala, we have developed a very strong relationship with the Mayor of San Jose Pinula in Guatemala.   He is also the Mayor of over 26 additional cities and settlements in a much larger geographic area.   This is fascinating to me because it is rare for a governmental agency to be such a fan of a faith-based non-profit organization…especially from the U.S.
  • We have developed the same type of relationship with the government of Conakry in Guinea, West Africa.   We met with them in March, and they will be working with us to get land to build a community medical and training facility on. Again, how does an African Muslim country partner with a U.S. Christian non-profit?

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Evangelism

  • I bought a computer, a projector, church presentation software and had it delivered to our Pastor friend Karim Koroma in Guinea. Having these simple tools is unheard of in that area and it allows Pastor Karim to do Christian outreach throughout the region. Within days of receiving the equipment, he had an outreach event in a city called Kindia. About 75 people attended to watch the Jesus Film, worship and learn about Christ. The following day 11 people were baptized.
  • We have also passed out over 15,000 gospel stories called “The Gift.” It is written in both English and Spanish. One interesting observation after giving them away…I’ve NEVER seen one of them ever discarded on the ground.

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Personal Transformation through Mission Trips

  • We took a group of six men to Israel this year and hiked what is called the Jesus Trail. It’s a route from Nazareth to Capernaum, and we calculated we hiked over 100K.   We did it over four days, and the trip was deeply personal for each participant.   Walking the route that Jesus walked has completely changed the way I read the Bible. I highly recommend putting this trip on your bucket list.
  • We have taken 57 people to Guatemala this year!   These trips are amazing in so many aspects.   Each one is different, and my favorite part is watching the Lord move in the hearts of each person uniquely.   Mission trips are special in so many ways. I don’t know who blesses gets blessed the most…the people we serve or the people we take!

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Summary

So, not bad for 12 months of Ministry huh!

I have never been more uncertain about what the future holds. But I’ve also never enjoyed the level of pure joy and peace that this year has brought.   I’m working extremely hard. I’m working on something related to the ministry just about six days a week and about 13 hours a day.   But I love it.

Added to the workload is the fact that I’ve gone back to school in order to gain the necessary knowledge and expertise that will allow me to teach better and lead in a multi-cultural environment. I’m enrolled at Fuller Theological Seminary and I’m working towards a MAGL degree (Master’s of Global Leadership). That’s what I want to do…train leaders in underdeveloped countries.   School is tough, but I love all the work that is involved because I can apply what I learn immediately to the
ministry. So far, I’m straight A’s!

I’m hoping this update has brought you a little insight into what 2014 has meant to me and I hope it has demonstrated how God is using Hope Ignited in a unique and significant way to help bring the light of Hope to some very dark places on our planet.

I cannot begin to tell you how much doing this type of work has meant to me. We’ve got a lot of work left to do and 2015 is already shaping up to be a very busy year.   I can’t wait to see what God has in store!

Thank you so very much and I hope you enjoyed this report.

Blessings,

Bob

Taking it to your Giants!

We all know the story of David and Goliath.  Well, I read it again this morning and as usual…I got something new out of it that I would like to share…

Setting:  The Philistine army is encamped on one hill and the army of the Israelites is encamped on an adjacent hill.  Each day for 40 days the 9′ tall Philistine, Goliath screams insults, taunts and challenges anyone from the opposing army to fight him.  Whoever loses would become the slave to the winner.     Each day, the Israelites…listen and do nothing.

Fast forward:  David arrives on the scene.  He had brought some food for his older brothers, who are in the Israelite army.   While he is there, he hears the insults being shouted by Goliath for the first time.  David was ticked off that anyone would be saying these things about the one thing he loved more than anything…his God.

Fast forward, again:  David convinces King Saul to let him go out and confront Goliath.  David knew that God had proven himself faithful in the past when he had successfully protected his flock from lions and bears.  So in David’s mind…what’s the big deal about a 9′ tall giant!

King Saul  tries to protect David by allowing him to wear the King’s armor.  David tries it on, but he can’t move in it and declines wearing it.  David grabs 5 smooth stones and puts them in his pouch and goes to confront the giant.

Goliath and David exchange some “smack talk” and then something really cool happens…

The Bible says, “David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.”

David took the fight to the giant.  David relied on a strong offense.  He ran towards Goliath as he reached into his pouch, grabbing a stone and launching it from his sling.  He didn’t wait.  He didn’t plan.  He acted.  He trusted.  He took the fight to Goliath.

Fast forward to today:  Many of us are facing our own giants.  Many of us are afraid.  We are fearful of the unknown.  We are fearful of losing our jobs, our retirement, or our future.  We may be facing giants of sickness, loss or disease.  We may be being subjected to insults being hurled in our relationships, at our jobs or even within our own families.  We all have giants that are looming over us to some degree.  We all know what it is we need to do and want to do…we just don’t…or can’t bring ourselves to do something about it.  Like the Israelites, we stand on the hill and listen to the giants in our lives hurl insults at our very character.

Here is what I have learned:  Having read the Bible several times, it seems that God blesses a “strong offense” as opposed to a “strong defense”.  In case after case, battle after battle, God instructed his chosen one’s to “attack the giant” rather than to defend.

Think about yourself, don’t you naturally feel empowered when you take on a challenge, be proactive, make the call, have the conversation and attack rather than to defend?   Isn’t it more powerful to run towards our giants rather than to hope they don’t choose to come after you!

How would your life be different if you chose to run towards that which you are most afraid of?  Run towards that call or conversation you don’t want to have.  Run towards all those situations where giants have been on the hill shouting their insults for far too long.

Like David, we are to use the tools we already have and are comfortable with.  We don’t need anything new.  We need to trust that we are uniquely gifted to take on the giants in our path.  We can do this!  It must start with me!  We don’t need someone else’s armor.

Also, when we are choosing our weapons…we also need to fill our pouch with smooth stonesWe can kill many a giant with a smooth stone.

I hope this little insight makes you feel empowered.  We all face Goliaths from time to time…it’s what we choose to do next that makes all the difference in the world.

Just remember…trust…. run towards…and take your shot.