Being Present… The Greater Work!

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.

She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,”
 the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,
 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”          Luke 10:38-42

I, Jesse Rivers, often think about this story above, and how God’s perspective is about being present more than about being productive (though productivity is also important in the right context)! Throughout the biblical narrative we encounter a God who makes Himself present and known by His chosen people, Israel. As we enter the gospels of the New Testament God makes Himself present with not only the Hebrew nation but with Gentiles as well, as He comes in flesh; Emmanuel, Jesus Christ. Then as we get into the book of Acts, just after the gospels, we witness that God desires for His presence to not only be above us (sovereignty) and with us (authority) but also to abide within us, as the Holy Spirit (company).

God’s presence is given to us for guidance, comfort, strength, and encouragement. As He desires for us to best reflect His love, we too are called to give our presence for guidance, comfort, strength, and encouragement. Jesus imparted an amazing reflection of this the passage above. Mary chose to be present with Jesus while He was present with her. Martha focused on details, results, and temporary and finite details. Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen the better option… to be present!

In my childhood I lived in foster care. During the summers the foster family had an option to send me away so that they could spend time with their ‘real’ family. While it greatly hurt me, and made me know that I was not really accepted or part of family, I made sure to take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy summer camp.

I remember the first summer at this one camp. I believe it was just my first week there. I was just 12 or 13 years old. One rule that we, the campers, were hearing repeatedly was, “Do NOT kick the volleyball!” Well, early on in the week something happened that upset me greatly. One of the other boy campers was talking to the girl that had caught my attention and that I liked, and she was laughing and flirting with him! Right near me was a volleyball laying on the ground, so in my anger I picked it up and kicked it as hard as I could! POP!! SSSSsssssssss! It exploded and exhaled the air it held! “Don’t kick the volleyball!” resounded in my ears and my heart sunk.

Later that afternoon I was approached by the camp Director, a great man of God named Glenn. He walked up to me, put his arm around my back and on my shoulder, and looked lovingly and gently down at me. “JR (as I am known by many from my childhood), I am really sorry to tell you that we are going to need to ask you to go home for the rest of the week. We need you to take a few days to think about your behavior. But I want you to know that I am waiting for you to come back next week, and you are more than welcome!” The loving presence of Glenn, even while he was having to discipline me, impacted and affected me more than I knew at the time. The next week I did indeed return, and I won the camper of the week award! Glenn was right at the registration table waiting to embrace and welcome me as I arrived!

Many did not want to be around me in my life as a child and adolescent. In the same above situation I would have received such a different response from most people. But Glenn was different! He understood the importance of presence, and his presence truly blessed me and helped me in many ways throughout my teen years. While others may have encouraged that I not be allowed to come back, Glenn welcomed me with genuine, God-given love, and it impacted my life for all of eternity!

Why do I share all of this? Well, in one of our ministries in Guatemala, there is a special young boy, whom we shall refer to as Thomas. Thomas is just 4 or 5 years old and comes from a very hard life situation. His mother left the picture almost immediately and wants nothing to do with him, nor with his father. His father also is not present with Thomas, is heavy handed and impatient when he is present, and much of the time chooses to just leave Thomas with his mother (Thomas’ grandmother). Due to all of this, Thomas has some attention, behavioral, and authority issues which he has to deal with and overcome.

One Saturday several weeks ago, while trying to catch Thomas while he was doing something a bit dangerous, I scooped him up into my arms. His immediate reaction was to grab my nose with his hand and dig his nail into my nose! Needless to say, it hurt and bled a lot! After calming him down and getting him returned to the same area as the rest of the children, I started hearing complaints from some of our volunteers. Many were saying that Thomas should not be allowed to come. My heart hurts that this is often our response in hard situations. I was not and am not in agreement!

Unfortunately, Thomas was not allowed to come back for a few weeks, because his dad and grandmother wouldn’t let him. Fortunately though, after some persuasion and insistence, just a couple of weeks ago Thomas arrived again. He behaved better that I can describe, and I think he really sensed my, and our volunteers’, love for him. His demeanor and behavior have improved drastically. While many wanted to not allow him to return, I remember how Glenn showed me the love of God through discipline, yet with a loving and inviting presence. His invitation to return really impacted me, and I am praying that our invitation to Thomas will have a lasting impact on his life as well.

Much of the most impactful things of my life has been when people have shared their presence with me. Some of the most impactful work of Abogar is to be present with the children. Hearing them, seeing them, loving them, leading them, guiding them, and to give comfort and encouragement may not provide immediate and tangible results, but the way in which we bear the love, light, and presence of Jesus to these children may be the most impactful, eternity changing, and life transforming work of our ministry. May we not be so distracted by details all around that we forget to be the presence of Jesus in the midst of the lives of these precious children!

 

A List of Needs… Interested?

I, Jesse Rivers, have been convicted recently that one of the reasons we encounter, especially in ministry, great need without great provision is because we do not ask. You have not because you ask not… Well, today I am going to just put up a list of needs that Abogar International Ministries and Abogar Guatemala have. Please look it over and prayerfully consider how you may be able to help us to have provision for the things that we need! Thank you very much, and God bless you each richly!

  • Microphone and speaker to be best heard in our ministries.
  • A large dry erase board and stand.
  • An Executive Assistant (US based) for Abogar International Ministries.
  • Someone to help design visual concepts of our plans for Homes of Hope.
  • Funding/Sponsorship specifically for me, Abogar’s Founder and CEO, to be able to receive a regular and fair salary.
  • Finances for our annual budget (~$8,000 a month).
  • Finances for food and materials for our Vidas Nuevas ministry.
  • Someone to help Abogar improve our social media presence and webpage.

If any of these areas of need peek your interest, or you feel called to join us in the ministry and work of Abogar, through prayer support, financial support, or investing time and talent… please reach out to us at info@abogarim.org and let us know! Rich blessings to you all, as you seek and serve God above all else!

Because You Ask Not… Daring To Dream!!

You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.      —James 4:2-3

In a day and age of self-sufficiency and overly promoted independence, at least in most developed nations, there seems to be a stigma against asking for help. There has become an expectancy that we shall just ‘pull ourselves up by the bootstraps.’ The idea of asking for help often has an attached stigma, and sometimes even condemnation, of such a person being a beggar or being lazy.

Having lived in Los Angeles for more than six years, I remember many times when people who were begging were exposed as actually not being in need, but rather just trying to get free money! They would dress up poor and dirty, and stand on the side of the road, or even in the middle, and beg. Knowing this to be true, I, myself, often subconsciously immediately judged people who were begging. Knowing that some were in the streets out of very selfish motives, made me distrust the great majority. It is sad but true. Fortunately, God has done work in my heart to not judge so much, but rather seek His voice to know if and when I should give to someone who appears to be in need.

For me personally, asking for things has always been quite the challenge. In the very abusive childhood that I lived, if I asked for something or showed interest or need for something, the biological mother would specifically withhold it from me and deprive me of it, just to punish me. This taught me to not express desire for much in life, so as to not be disappointed by the refusal of others to help me have what I wanted or needed. When it comes to asking others for things that would help me, I also have viewed how many people are only willing to give when they know that they will be getting a return for what they give. We, rather than living in faithful response to God and trusting Him to protect and use our investment for His glory, can often be tightfisted and reluctant and refusing to give!

Abogar Guatemala (AboGua) has some very real needs that I want to ask people to help with. As we are still not fully legalized or recognized as an official nonprofit association in Guatemala, many Guatemalans are reluctant to invest, as they will not receive tax receipts and have a desire for a more developed plan, focus, and more developed organization. There is also a lot of skepticism, due to a long history of horrible corruption. We do have a plan, and are in the works to get it officially drawn up and publicized for donors, supporters, and others whom are interested to see. However, in the meantime, we are working and functioning as the organization God is calling us to be. The Bible tells us to not despise small beginnings.

We have two ministries we work with… Vidas Nuevas en Villa Nueva is our direct ministry to children in a poor and at risk community, and we are also partnering with and sponsoring Special Kids’ School. Vidas Nuevas is a direct ministry of AboGua, and we have been blessed to lead many children to Christ, to distribute 40 Bibles (2017) and 10 Bibles this year to the children, and through food, Bibles lessons, recreation, and our invested time with them, have been able to witness and watch them grow and mature in the Lord! The Special Kids’ School that we sponsor and support, is a great refuge for children who, for the most part, come from homes and families involved in two opposing gangs. The school provides amazing education and lavishes the kids with God’s great love. It truly serves as an amazing refuge for these precious children.  The stories of horror and challenge are many, but so are the stories of victory and success. While it has been a slow go of getting Abogar Guatemala developed and started well, we have also witnessed so many incredible miracles and victories for the glory of God, in the meantime.

We are dreaming big, because we believe that God is a God of big miracles and provision! This year we would like to locate a building to become property of Abogar, here on the ground in Guatemala. We would like to use it as a multi-purpose center. We are developing the plan and proposal for finding and purchasing such a location. Part of why we are considering a multi-purpose center, as the first property of Abogar in Guatemala, is because we will no longer have a space or place to work with our kids from Vidas Nuevas ministry after October, 2018!

The scripture above tells us that we have not because we do not ask of God. Well, we are asking of God, and also are asking for you to also consider being a part of this step forward. Our motives are not selfish, nor pleasure seeking, but rather we aim to provide a place to help strengthen families, rescue and fight for children, teach classes, have a main office space for AboGua, and to be able to be involved in community enrichment and development! While it will not specifically, at least initially, be one of our Homes of Hope for the children, we sense that this could be a good direction for Abogar to move forward in the endeavor of fighting for and ministering to the precious children here.

So, daring to dream, I now ask intentionally… would you join us in asking God for great guidance and clear direction in this process? We invite you to invest in this dream, to help us make it a reality! We believe that God has good and perfect gifts for His children, and we want to join Him in giving these gifts to the children of His heart. Would you be willing to invest in a multi-purpose center for the glory of God? If you are seriously interested in considering a generous investment in this specific aspect of the ministries of Abogar, please contact us at info@abogarim.org today and we can consider together what God is inviting us into!

Sorry… Pocket Blog!!

Dear friends and followers of Abogar’s blog,

I, Jesse Rivers, want to apologize for the incoherent blog that was posted in the last few hours! While working with our Vidas Nuevas ministry this morning, I was taking some pictures. One special young boy was doing something dangerous and I went to protect him! I shoved my opened phone into my pocket, and somehow, in the process of chasing and helping the young boy, a new blog was written and posted while my phone was in my pocket! I’m sure some of you have been recipients of pocket calls! Well, now you’ve been recipients of a Pocket Blog! Sorry for any inconvenience! Hope you are laughing as much as I am! God bless you all!!

True Hollywood Horrors to True Hollywood Heroes!

My life is filled with some very dark and hard stories. You see, I am not one to publicize all the hurt, hardship, and darkness that I encounter in this fight for children… but today, finally, I am breaking down and want to share with you some true “Hollywood Horrors”. I call these stories I am about to share, “Hollywood Horrors”, because they are so dramatic, traumatic, and horrific that Hollywood would surely seek to make millions of dollars from the stories of these precious children. However, it is my hope and prayer that they don’t and won’t! But, in this sick and dark world, many would pay big bucks to go see those movies! But would many pay big bucks to help us fix these stories?

My brain, heart, and soul hurt so much just thinking about the realities that exist in this dark and broken world. So many children live in fear and darkness. A dear young girl watches in horror as her father beats her mother repeatedly in the stomach to kill the unborn baby inside. He succeeds, but later on decides that it is time to also kill the mother as well. The precious girl now must live in hiding, to be protected from the one who should be a loving father to her. Another dear precious child is inside her mother’s womb as the biological father tries to kill her before she is born! Praise God, that child survived the horrific beatings and was born! Though her body has suffered tremendous damage and challenges, I have recently hugged her, chatted with her, and seen the beauty of love in her eyes and a precious smile on her face.

A young boy fears returning home each day, as his father only touches him in one way… with pulverizing punches and horrible words. This child can not produce a smile, but rather has become reticent and withdrawn. A three year old child wakes up and walks out the front door to see the father hanging in front of the door, after having committed suicide. A child is in hiding, after the parents have been killed for someone else’s selfishness and gluttony of sinful living. Those who have killed the parents profited greatly from their death, and don’t want to be exposed… so they have also threatened to kill the child and others of his family. Another mother, after being violated and abused by a boyfriend, has become addicted to drugs which she uses to escape the pain and memories. Now her addiction causes her to violently beat and abuse her children, and others have to intervene to save their lives!

I, throughout my first 13 years of life, was raped, sexually abused, physically beaten until I was holding on to life (or rather God was holding on to me), emotionally, verbally, and mentally abused! Many may not be able to relate to the horrific violence and previews of horrific stories written above, but I can. I can see the faces of many of my abusers, and remember vividly paralyzing fear and desperation to find refuge from the pain, violence, and violations being done to me.

Dear friends, I am not trying to dramatize these stories, and these are just a few of a multitude that I have experienced and learn of regularly, not only in Guatemala but around Latin America and throughout the world. They each are actually toned down, and not very descriptive. What I want to do is remind each of you what Abogar International Ministries is truly about… helping these precious children to have a refuge… in safe, Christ-centered forever families, forever homes, with educational opportunities.

To achieve our goals in ministry, it takes supporters… champions who decide that they would much rather be a part of the story of rescue, redemption, healing, and opportunities. I challenge you, and myself, to invest ourselves in what I call, true Hollywood Heroes. We need to provide refuge, home, health, and hope to these children. The stories are not pretty, nor will our work to help in each one. We want and need to offer them the chance to become true Hollywood Heroes, by overcoming the horrific obstacles and disadvantages that they have been given. But we can’t do it just with words. We must fight for them… seeking justice, and hope of a brighter, better future with Jesus Christ at the center!

It takes money to see these kids truly offered a better way of life, freedom from abuse, and the opportunity to have a bright, Christ-filled future! Join us in creating some Hollywood Heroes stories, by investing in the work we are doing already, but also by investing to help us expand our outreach and ministry to a multitude of children! PLEASE join us today and invest in helping us to change these true Hollywood Horrors to true Hollywood Heroes! Invest today at abogarim.org/support and let’s take back some of the ground satan has claimed in stealing, killing, and destroy. May we fight for life, and life abundantly for these precious children!!

Repositioned Repositioning…

In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.
— Proverbs 16:9

Recently I posted a blog titled, Re-Positioning and Strengthening… That blog was to announce some plans that I, Jesse Rivers, (and the board of Abogar) had made for the course of this year. It was with excitement and enthusiasm, and great faith, that those plans were made. But as we made those plans, we also submitted them to God; asking that He would truly direct us and guide us in HIS will and in the correct steps!

The month of February has been a revealing one, regarding our plans. In February I have had some conversations with several Guatemalans, whom expressed their concerns that Abogar Guatemala is not yet self-sustainable nor self-sufficient, without my guidance and presence. In February we also had a board member who stepped away from Abogar Guatemala’s board of directors for personal reasons. On top of this, after an honest evaluation (I can be too hopeful and full of faith at times, when reality may show a different face.), it had come to my attention that some of our set up leadership was good at receiving direction and my oversight, but are not yet prepared to take on a ministry and help lead it forward. There is not quite the self-initiative and guidance that we need to move things forward well here on the ground in Guatemala. Some of our leadership have full time jobs and full time families that occupy the majority of their time, and they just can not, at this time, invest as much time and work in this ministry as we are looking for.

Sooooo… we find ourselves now in a time of repositioned repositioning! What do I mean by this? As we reposition ourselves to have me here a bit longer than anticipated at the beginning of the year, we shall work on repositioning people in our organization, for their well being and for the organization as well. As of March 1st, 2018 we will no longer have anyone filling the position of National Director of Abogar Guatemala; until God guides us to the indicated person, who will be able to move forward with the call and mission of AboGua. I also shall continue as President and Legal Representative of Abogar Guatemala. These changes are not punishment to anyone, but rather are a repositioning to help strengthen the ministry that we are raising up here in Guatemala.

We also have recently had some different individuals step up with self-initiative to help us further our networking and growth of ministry here on the ground. We are hopeful that in the next 6-9 months we will find some more people to join our team, who will come with calling, commitment, and self-initiative to help us formalize and move Abogar Guatemala forward! I will continue seeking to raise up a director for our Special Kids visits, as well as a National Director candidate to join our team.

As God is determining the steps that we need to take to move forward, it looks like my return to San Diego shall be temporarily delayed. I want to be very clear that I am actually at great peace and excitement for what this year may hold on the ground here in Guatemala, for me and for Abogar Guatemala. To prevent burnout, I have been cutting back my excessive work hours, socializing more, exercising more, and eating a more healthy, balanced diet. I am feeling great! I am very excited about this repositioned repositioning, and would ask you to join in my enthusiasm and excitement. Your continued prayer and financial support will help us to continue forward well. Thank you for being a part of what God is calling us to do for His glory!

 

By Myself, I Can Do Nothing…

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me.     —Words of Jesus, from John 5:30

Have you ever told God that He has got the wrong person? I know several biblical figures have struggled with this feeling, and I am certain that I am not the only human who struggles with this sense of insufficiency in the call that God has placed on my life. Today, right now, I was just feeling frustrated with God for calling me to the position and call of life that He has, when He gently reminded me of the above verse! He says to me, “I know, and I have not called you to do it by yourself!”

Several years back I had the tremendous privilege to stand beside a very anointed and dear brother, Jay Smith, on a ladder in Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, London, England. This was not my first occasion and I felt tremendously blessed to preach the Gospel in this unique open-air venue once again! As I stood upon the ladder, surrounded by paid hecklers, naysayers, and a largely Muslim population of people, I boldly was proclaiming Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior… when a familiar face of a Muslim heckler showed up just below me. He had, on previous occasions, spit on me and tried pushing me off my ladder. Now though, he was yanking on my pant leg to get my attention and with a serious and sincere face, asked me, “If Jesus is really God, why does He say that He can do nothing by Himself?”

I remember looking into that man’s eyes in that moment, and seeing a desperation and desire to understand; even if the reason he was asking was to try to ‘trick’ and frustrate me into trying to explain the trinity. (Fortunately for me, the trinity has never been confusing nor a stumbling block for me.) I asked him for the reference, opened my bible, and then read the verse in context, out loud. The verse emphasizes the unity and inseparability of the triune Godhead. I, then, got to evangelize the people around me with a clear articulation of how God works in three parts, but is one and the same!

Sometimes, due to my past of lots of rejections and not truly feeling like I have belonged, I often feel that I am all alone; by myself. This feeling, along with accompanied attacks and lies from Satan, causes me to become frustrated and feel like maybe God has set me up for failure. But this is when I must recall that even Jesus, as a human walking this human filled sphere, knew His own limits! He could not do anything by Himself.

I am not called to carry Abogar alone. Nor have I been carrying it alone. At the very least, God has been, and is, with me. But beyond that, many of you have joined in prayer and financial support of the ministry, and for me as well. Also, there are many involved in volunteering, staff, and board positions. While it has not yet been easy, and may never be, God has carried me, the staff, board, and international volunteers and staff to the place we are at today. Your prayers, encouragement, and financial support have also carried us this far along!

We have witnessed, and been a part of, several homes built, medical clinics, Jesus Film being shown, Christmas blessings being given, many bibles being distributed, hundreds of children (and even some adults) receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, fighting for and rescuing children from violent and horrific situations, and communities and families encouraged and strengthened. I am not very good at sharing the positive results, though that is what our supporters really desire to hear, because I often feel like it would be to boast and brag! However, there are so many successes and victories that we have witnessed in the past six years! Today, I want to say clearly that I can do nothing by myself. It has been said, “It takes a village…” and I agree! These results are also because of YOU and your intentional involvement as well!

So, today, Abogar and I want to say, “THANK YOU!!” to the many who believe in the call of God upon us to be fighting for and working on behalf of precious children of Latin America! We need many more to join in prayer and/or financial commitment and support! If you would like to get signed up for our monthly Newsletter or both our monthly Newsletter and a prayer request/praise reports email, email us at info@abogarim.org and specify if you’d just like the monthly Newsletter emailed to you, or the Newsletter AND our prayer requests/praise reports emailed to you! If you sense God calling you to join the call and fight for these precious children financially, visit abogarim.org/support today and find your preferred way of giving, whether one time, or monthly commitments!

By myself I can do nothing! Praise God that He is with me/us! Thank you as well, for joining with us to be about God’s heart; loving on precious children and helping them to know forever families, forever homes, and educational opportunities! God bless you as you seek and serve Him, however and wherever He calls you!

Re-Positioning And Strengthening…

In early January, Abogar International Ministries held an annual retreat for our Board of Directors to plan, budget, and prayerfully consider how best to serve God throughout this year. In this retreat it was recognized and decided that Abogar is in a re-positioning time for the ministry. Nothing has changed in our mission, vision, or focus as a ministry, but, for several reasons, it has been determined that it will be in the best interest of Abogar to move our Founder and CEO, Jesse Rivers, from Guatemala back to his home city of San Diego, California in mid-April.

First, we are very excited about our continuing work in Guatemala. Actually, we see this move as way to reinforce the 3 years of service and investment that we have made, with Jesse being present, on the ground, in Guatemala. Abogar is currently legally formalizing as Asociacion Abogar Guatemala (AboGua) with a lawyer and the government of Guatemala. We have a full board of directors (7 persons) and 2 collaborators, as required by Guatemalan law and governance. We see this move back to San Diego as an opportunity to see the Guatemalan team take the initiative to lead and guide our work forward in Guatemala. Jesse will continue to attend AboGua’s monthly board meetings via Skype, and he will also make some trips back here to Guatemala for continued leadership development and to keep things moving forward for the glory of God! He shall also maintain communication with our leadership and team in Guatemala, via phone and social media.

Secondly, we are very excited to focus on the continued growth of Abogar International Ministries. As we are based out of San Diego, we would like to get an office set up in San Diego and try formalizing a local team in San Diego! We also are looking forward to exploring some options of potentially starting a Vidas Nuevas (New Lives) ministry across the border in Mexico!

Thirdly/finally, Abogar would like for Jesse to intentionally take some personal time for restoration, healing, and relaxation while being back in San Diego. We are looking forward to helping Jesse have a more balanced and healthy lifestyle… work, social, spiritual, rest/relaxation, physical health, and personal growth and development!

For any of Abogar’s San Diego connections… This re-positioning will require for Jesse to find a place to live (on a very low salary of a missionary), a vehicle to purchase to be able to do the work he needs to in San Diego and Mexico, and potentially a second source of income! Please advise Jesse of any opportunities that you may know of for housing, work, and/or vehicle in San Diego! Thank you very much!

We are very excited for the re-positioning and strengthening of the overall ministry of Abogar International Ministries. We appreciate your joining in our excitement, and for your continued support and encouragement! Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and investment in the wonderful work that God is calling us to! Blessings and peace to you all.

While we do not generally post prayer requests here publicly, if you are a praying person and would like to support us with your prayers, please see our list of prayer requests below. You may also contact us at info@abogarim.org, if you would like to be added to our prayer updates’ list!

Prayer Requests for Re-Positioning and Strengthening…

*** Pray for Abogar and Jesse, for provision and guidance for our re-positioning to San Diego in mid-April!
*** Pray for continued success and expedience in the process of legally formalizing Asociacion Abogar Guatemala (AboGua).
*** Pray for our AboGua team on the ground in Guatemala, to receive favor, encouragement, and blessing from God to continue moving AboGua forward!
*** Pray for Jesse to remain focused and diligent with the many things he will need to get done in preparation for this re-positioning!
*** Pray for Jesse and AboGua as we get ready to start up our two active ministries in Guatemala; Vidas Nuevas and our Special Kids support and visits!
*** Pray for Jesse and AboGua as they prepare for a board of directors’ retreat in Guatemala towards the end of February! (Feb. 23-25)
*** Pray for the precious children!! Pray that many will grow in their knowledge and love of the Lord this year, and that we may be able to truly help many to know better home situations with a forever family and educational opportunities!

Abogar’s Year End Campaign… $25,000 in 25 Days!!

A Genuine Challenge From the Heart of Abogar’s Founder…

Please consider making an important, life-changing, eternity-impacting investment today!!

Give your generous, year-end, tax-deductible gift and/or become a regular monthly financial donor and friend with Abogar International Ministries by visiting http://www.abogarim.org/support today!

From The Father…

3 Sentence Bookmark & Trifold PictureFor the first thirteen years of his life, Abogar’s Founder and President, Jesse Rivers, experienced unimaginable neglect and abandonment, as well as verbal, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. At age seven, after a particularly damaging beating, young Jesse prayed a three-part prayer: 1) that he would get into a vehicle accident, 2) that he would die, and 3) that he would hover above his casket to see if anyone cared about him enough to show up to his funeral.

God did indeed answer most of Jesse’s prayer about ten years later, when Jesse was declared dead three times due to a car accident. In the hospital, after Jesse awoke from a coma, God spoke these three sentences to him:

 

 “Look around you and see that you are loved!”

“Know that I love you!”

“See this as an answer to prayer.”

 

In that instant, Jesse’s life changed as he encountered the truly life-giving love of the Creator, of a God who sees him, of God the Father. Many children in Latin America have experienced similar situations of neglect, abandonment, and abuse. They may be praying their own seven-year-old prayers. Our goal is to provide forever families, forever homes and educational opportunities to those children. But above all else, we want the children to personally know these three sentences and to know that they are loved by others, that God loves them, and that God hears their prayers.

Please prayerfully consider investing in the work of Abogar to impact the lives of a multitude of children in Latin America. We are looking to increase our base of monthly donors, but also are blessed by one time year-end tax deductible gifts, as well! Click here to make a donation.

And we hope and pray that you and your family may also know these precious truths!

Mike Holland                          Karen Wilson                        Laura Stoner

Vice President                        Secretary                                Treasurer

“Ask”

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Words of Jesus)       Matthew 7:7-8

I write today in a humbled state of need, on behalf of an organization and a people (precious children) in need. One of my many roles, as Abogar’s Founder and CEO, is fundraising, and to be honest I feel inadequate and insufficient in my efforts. However, I know the importance and necessity of the funding that I am required to seek. It not only provides me with an income, but also enables our organization to love on, provide for, and fight for the children of Latin America!

So, when you do a fundraising event, people say the most important part is the “Ask”. I have, in the past, found this to be the most difficult part of speaking and presenting for me. I have not always been the best at the “Ask”, and have had to talk with God a lot about it. His response and insight to me have been very important!

Coming from a very poor and neglectful situation, I have often felt that to ask someone for something is almost an equivalent of begging, or admitting weakness and need. As I have never wanted to be equated with poverty (fear from my own childhood life experience), I have seldom asked for help for myself. God has been faithful to provide for me, and has kept me better that I can even keep myself. However, God has shown me that this perspective concerning the action of asking is a bit skewed from reality.

God has revealed to me that the “Ask” that I am to give, in my fundraising attempts and presentations, is more to be an offer and opening for donors to enter into an opportunity of investment into eternal purposes, for the glory of God! As I “Ask”, it opens an opportunity to those who have the ability to bless and financially invest in the ministry and work of Abogar, that not only changes the current lives and situations of these children, but also offers them a change in their eternal destination; as they encounter the Gospel love and transforming power of God in their lives through our ministry! The “Ask” that I am to give, is an invitation into partnership with God’s heart and command for us to care for precious children who are orphaned, abandoned, abused, and/or homeless, throughout Latin America!

Abogar International Ministries is currently just over $30,000 short of it’s budget for 2017. These funds help us to be present on the ground in Guatemala with gas and a running vehicle, to help feed, love on, share the gospel with, and encourage and strengthen family for these children, who come from very severe, traumatic, and poor conditions. We need funding for materials and foods, for administrative costs, travel, website, fees, our partnerships with other organizations, and general needs. We support the education for 15 children in the Special Kids school, and in 2018 we will also financially cover the salaries of three of the school teachers. The funding we receive enables us to have mobility on the ground in Guatemala and in the US to advocate for, and minister to, these precious children. These funds enable us to grow our outreach and ministry, and to have an even greater impact on the lives of these children!

So here I now “Ask”… Would you be willing to invest in the great work of Abogar International Ministries? We are seeking to raise up monthly donors, who support us every month with a consistent amount ($5, 10, 25, 40, 50, 75, 100, 200, or however much God impresses upon your heart), as well as year end one-time givers, who might be able to give a larger amount, as led by the Lord!

I have a dream that one day Abogar will be at a financial state that the year end fundraising trip will become a year end celebration of the generosity and overflow of our donors, that we will be future planning, and not having to scramble to catch up for our budget to be fulfilled! Would you prayerfully consider giving a generous donation and gift this year, and help us raise and maybe even exceed our financial need? For me, it is not about the money, but about the investment and opportunity these funds provide, to see precious children’s lives changed for the glory of God.  If God touches your heart for this same cause, you can visit http://www.abogarim.org/support and see what the best option is for you to make your donation. Thank you in advance for considering investing in the ministry and work of Abogar International Ministries. God knows that we need your help, and there are treasurers stored up in heaven for those who are investing in the lives of these children! Please make a great investment today!

A Crazy Story…

Tell him a crazy story! Tell him your testimony!    —God

Yesterday was a sort of culmination to 6 weeks of horrible drama and stress and mistreatment. For those who don’t know, I was in a vehicle accident on September 23rd, that did some damage to Abogar’s vehicle (aka Big Red)! I immediately sought out a mechanic who has been the epitome of manipulation, deception, lies, and fraud! For nearly 6 weeks I have been fighting to get him to actually do work on Big Red, as I and Abogar have paid him ~$1,300 to buy parts and get to work!

Yesterday morning I arrived at the mechanic’s house, where Big Red was parked and just propped up on some wood, on the side of the road. Nothing had been worked on or done to fix or improve the damage from the accident. This propelled me, along with two sisters from the church, to urgently seek out a lawyer, some police, and government officials to help us! We received so much favor from the Lord, yesterday, as everyone who heard of my situation were opposed to the mechanic and in favor of fighting for justice for me, Abogar, and for Big Red. It was great!

When the tow truck finally arrived last night, a young guy jumped down from the drivers seat and told me that his name is Moises. He was all smiles with a great personality! After saying goodbye to the sisters from my church who were helping me, and to the police, Moises and I set out in the tow truck, pulling along Big Red right behind us! The mechanic’s home is just a few miles from where I live, so it should have been no more than 15 minutes to arrive to my condominium, but wouldn’t you know it… there was a huge line of traffic!

We spent more than an hour and a half stuck in traffic. But almost immediately God spoke to me, and spoke very clearly to me… “Tell him a crazy story! Tell him your testimony!” I thought that is was just my own voice in my head, but when I asked God, He again repeated His order to me. I looked at Moises and asked him if he wanted to hear a crazy story. With a big smile, he said yes.

Over the next hour and a half I had a chance to testify to God’s love, light, power, and truth that He has worked in my life. I shared the gospel message with Moises, and about God’s desire for a love relationship with His children. I felt really blessed to have the opportunity to share about God’s crazy love, as well as the crazy events of my testimony and life, and Moises seemed to listen intently. We, then, arrived at my place, set Big Red up on a jack, I blessed and thanked Moises, and he left.

As I was starting to sit down on the edge of my bed, I distinctly heard God ask me, “Jesse, was it worth the six weeks of stress and hardship, if the only reason I allowed it was for you to meet Moises, and to share of My love?” The question knocked the air out of my chest and lungs. I had been feeling like quite the victim, and in some ways rightly so. But God was convicting me to remember the truth that He truly does use ALL things, good, bad, or indifferent, for His glory! It was worth whatever challenges I had to face, even and especially if the only reason was for Moises to hear a crazy story!

Jesse’s Condensed Testimony: 3 Sentences That Changed My Life…

“Look around you and see that you are loved!
Know that I love you!
See this as an answer to prayer.”
— God

3 Sentence Bookmark & Trifold Picture

Over the last 10 months God has convinced me of an error I had been walking in! I had come to a conclusion that people were tired of hearing about my testimony, or that new connections I’d make would feel like I am very egotistical and self-centered for sharing it. God has recently been communicating quite clearly to me though, that He has allowed for, and given me, my story and testimony to be used for His glory, and to engage others’ hearts to be about His heart for children! So I am going to give a very condensed and shortened version of my testimony here, because there are 3 very important and eternity changing sentences that God has spoken into my life when I was a teenager that I’d like to emphasize and highlight! I hope that in some amazing, supernatural way God will use this testimony to touch your heart and life for His glory.

My first thirteen years of life, though beautiful, were horrifically filled with violence and abuse beyond what most people could imagine or fathom. I was born into a situation as an unwanted child, experiencing overwhelming neglect and abandonment. In fact, the biological father left the biological mother because, and while, she was pregnant with me! He did not want kids and was not willing to stick around to know the third child that he and the biological mother together ‘created’.

The biological mother blamed me for the biological father’s leaving, and for the first thirteen years of my life she strove to punish me and remove pleasure from my life. This worked out in more ways that I can describe here, but suffice it to say that the punishment extended all the way to how little and what types of food I was allowed to eat, and the deprivation of using the bathroom like a normal human being. I also was not allowed to wash myself or be clean very often. I did not end up having full control over my bowels nor bladder until I was 19 years old! I smelt like urine and excretion, was dirty, smelly, and disheveled, and nobody wanted to be around me!

Throughout the first 13 years of my life I was sexually abused, physically abused, verbally abused, mentally and emotionally abused, and suffered significant neglect and deprivation. The ramifications of the abuse were not just within the abusive home situation, but also affected many other areas of my life; in school, church, and society in general; as most people would not want to be around me or interact with me, because of my bad smell and obnoxious behavior.

Shortly after my birth, and because the biological father never returned, the biological mother remarried. She married a man who was very tall and weighed over 200 pounds. The stepfather did not want children at all, and suffered problems fighting against and trying to control his anger, as he came from a very abusive home life as well. Unfortunately he perpetuated the cycle of abuse from his childhood, and I was often the selected and main target of his rage and violence.

When I was seven years old, I suffered such a violent beating from the stepfather, one morning, that my ribs and armpit were literally torn open and bleeding! The stepfather, in his anger, proceed to jump on my bleeding body and caused my hip to pop out of joint as well. Needless to say, I could not walk well and was in a bit of a mess.

That day, as I arrived to a school where classmates always picked on me and made fun of me, and where teachers were quite distant from me because of my strange home situation and obnoxious behaviors, my life was dramatically impacted. On that day, those same teachers and classmates who were distant, cold, and cruel to me, they hugged me and cared! They saw my wounds, that I was hurt, and genuinely expressed care for me!

I returned to the abusive home situation that night, realizing that being hurt had genuinely made people care about me! That night I prayed my first prayer request to God, after my salvation prayer. It was a very specific prayer request. We all long to be cared for, loved, and belong. It’s an inevitable and integral part of what it means to be human. That day people had truly cared about me because I was hurt, so I prayed to God a very specific three-part prayer request:

  1. God, let me get into a vehicle accident.
  2. Let me die.
  3. Let me hover above my casket and see if anyone will show up to my funeral, to see if anyone could really care about me.

I so desperately wanted to know that someone could love me, that I could matter to someone, that I was willing to die! I was not suicidal. In fact, I have always enjoyed the beauty of life, regardless of the pain, trauma, and horrible experiences I have lived through. I have never struggled with thoughts of suicide, but I just wanted to know if my life would truly matter to anyone; if anyone’s heart would care enough about me so as to visit me in my funeral. At seven years old this to me was the greatest sign of someone caring for me: to show up at my funeral to pay their respects.

Praise God that He is wiser that I am, and that it was not His will at that time in my life! However, fast-forward a bit! When I was 13, I was rescued by the government, placed into protective custody because the stepfather had threatened to kill me if I ever told, and then placed into foster care. I really longed to belong in a family, but it was not to be. So instead I sought attention elsewhere. I was none to shabby in my academics, my soccer abilities, and then became quite popular, and friendly with the ladies. As you can well imagine, I am sure I did not excel in humility! God is a jealous God, who wants our whole heart committed first and foremost to Him. However, in my life, God had taken a seat on the back burner. He was not my focus or attention. So He decided to give me exactly what I asked for in my first prayer request.

In early September, 1994, during the first weekend of my high school experience, I was spending time with youth from my church. We decided that we wanted to go in to the city, go to the mall, watch a movie, and do teenager things. We convinced a father of one of the teens in our group to give us a ride. We piled in the back of his pickup truck, and headed for the city. While driving, the father was distracted, and he swerved off the road. The pickup slammed into a tree, and the vehicle entered into a 360 degree spin. As the truck spun, and as I fought to hold myself in the back of the pickup truck, my head hit the tree and I immediately went unconscious!

To make a long and dramatic account shortened, I was pronounced dead 3 different times, went into a coma for 6 days, and was in the hospital for a month. The damage to my brain and body due to this accident were traumatic and intense! I received a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a traumatic closed head injury (TCHI), lost short term memory and retention, lost 100% of my lower body strength, lost 70% of my upper body strength, lost some of my ability to talk, to walk, and to write! All glory to God for His healing and provision though it all, and for the miracle of life that He has given me.

When I was coming to from my coma, one of the most supernatural and marvelous moments of my life took place! As I came to from the coma, God chose to speak directly and audibly to me, in a loud and clear voice! He only spoke 3 sentences, but they have changed my life for all of eternity!! If you view me as a persistent and strong man, all of my strength and persistence have come from this event in my life… God speaking to me audibly!

God said to me…

Look around you and see that you are loved!
English 1 you are loved rev-2
Know that I love you!
2 I love you
See this as an answer to prayer!
3 answer to prayer

My life changed! Many wanted to say that it was because of the brain injury, but I know the truth of where this change in my life came from! God, the Creator of all that exists, decided to see me, speak directly to me, and convey His love for me! I will never be the same! He heard my prayer, answered it in an amazingly thorough and life-giving way

Life has not gotten easier, as I serve God as an evangelist, missionary, motivational speaker, and advocate and friend to precious children. Right now I am in the midst of many attacks and challenges from Satan. But God continues daily to remind me of those 3 very important sentences that He has spoken over me and to me. The second sentence, those 5 words… Know that I love you!… are the root and source of my strength and persistence in life, to serve Jesus and love others!

Maybe today you need this reminder… If you will walk in a love relationship with God truly as your Lord and Savior, obeying Him and letting Him guide your life, you too can be assured that He speaks those 5 words to you as well. I am trying to impact the lives of a multitude of children to know these 3 sentences personally in their own lives… that they are loved by others, that God loves them, and that God hears their prayers! May you too know these precious truths! God bless each of you, and may His love and light guide and lead you in better paths than you could ever plan for yourselves! Richest blessings to you all, from a man who knows that he is loved by God!

 

Be Special to Special Kids…

My writing has waned a lot, and I find very little time to sit, reflect, or write. However, today I want to write to encourage our supporters and friends to be special to Special Kids! I have just finished sitting in a meeting with the Founders and leaders of Special Kids School, and my heart is full of pride and joy at the amazing work and service to God that is carried out in the Special Kids School.

Over the past two years I have been able to visit Special Kids School regularly, and develop relationships, not only with the Founders and leaders, but also directly with the precious children. The first time I arrived the children ran to me to embrace me. Since returning many more times with our team of Abogar Guatemala volunteers and workers, we usually are greeted with the same response… shouts of joys, our names being shouted out, and kids attacking with hugs and love. This has been very impacting to me, especially because of the situations most of these children come from!

Special Kids School is a very unique and amazing educational center and ministry. The children range from just 2-4 years of age, but they are at one of the most impressionable stages of life. The love that they are encountering and receiving, as well as the quality education, can be very impacting and significant in their growth and maturity, and offer them a potential to choose a different path of life than their parents/families!

Special Kids School is located in a small town, a village, in Guatemala… and many (most) of the parents and families are somehow involved with gangs and societal problems. Many of the children are coming from families that are part of two opposing gangs. These children are exposed to (and even suffer) violence and abuse of great intensity. Yet, while parents from opposing gangs battle and threaten each other, the children play together, learn together, and are shown the love of God in this school.

This morning, as I sat with Ginnie (Founder/81 years old) and Sonia (Founder/late 70’s), as well as with another Sonia, we discussed the future of Special Kids school. It is a refuge to the children from homes of violence and abuse, and there is a great need for this ministry to continue. However, Ginnie has been the chief fundraiser but this past year has suffered a stroke and needs to, after 35 years serving the children and people of Guatemala, retire and rest. The school is in a precarious situation, and needs help of people like you and me!

This past month Abogar International Ministries, after evaluating the situation thoroughly, has made a commitment for the year of 2018; to raise $1,000 monthly to support the work and ministry of Special Kids School. The $1,000 that Abogar will give to Special Kids School each month will help cover the salaries of three of the teachers/workers for the school, ensuring the children continue receiving the great quality, God-centered education. It is a great way for us to be promoting and investing in the education of the children.

One of my responsibilities in my position is to see the funds come in. While I am not the best fundraiser, nor do I always give the best ‘ask’, I would like to invite you to prayerfully consider if you might be called/willing/able/and faithful to make a commitment to give a monthly donation for 2018, specifically to the Special Kids campaign! $5 a month, $10, $20, $50, $100 a month, or whatever you sense God putting on your heart, will help us to continue supporting the education of precious and special children! We want to be special to the special kids, and we invite you to also join us! Please consider donating here! Be special to Special Kids!

Abogar Is Seeking An Executive Assistant.

Blessings to all. Abogar International Ministries would like to inform you that we are currently in the process of seeking an Executive Assistant, to work alongside our CEO, Jesse Rivers. This is a part time position with a small stipend, and can be done remotely from home, as long as there is internet/wifi access and the ability to maintain clear communication. Please look over the job description below, and if you are interested, please contact us at info@abogarim.org to move forward in the process. Thank you for your interest, and God bless each of you!

Executive Assistant – Abogar International Ministries

Job Description

The Executive Assistant position for Abogar International Ministries will be responsible for providing administrative support for (and report directly to) the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Responsibilities will include, but not be limited to the following:

  • Management of day-to-day operations
    • Send/answer emails; answer/make phone calls regarding Abogar operations
    • Maintain and update the Abogar Executive Calendar
  • Organization and maintenance of files and records
    • Including board meeting minutes, master documents, donor and Abogar contact information, Xposure Xperience applicant information, and all other Abogar documents
    • Maintain and update project planners, records, and other organizational materials
  • Plan and schedule meetings and appointments
    • Schedule Weekly Executive Sessions with the CEO to discuss tasks to be accomplished for the week
    • Assist in setting up speaking engagements and help organize fundraiser events
    • Set up interviews with applicants for Xposure Xperience trips
  • Prepare and edit correspondence, reports and presentations
    • Prepare/send Follow-up Thank You Notes
    • Assist in publishing the monthly newsletter (and upload newsletter to website)
    • Create promotional documents/material and applications
    • Assist in creating PowerPoint presentations for fundraising events and speaking engagements, as needed
  • Make travel and guest arrangements
    • Purchase flights, arrange lodging, rent vehicles, etc. for CEO travel, as needed
    • Be ready to assist Xposure Xperience participants with questions about their international health insurance and flights for their trip, if requested
  • Assist executive(s) in making consistent decisions
    • Help evaluate applicants for Xposure Xperience trips
    • Participate in determining networking and travel plans
    • Help evaluate service projects, endorsements or partnerships with other organizations, plans for Home of Hope development, Xposure Xperience trips, etc., to determine their consistency with the mission and vision of Abogar 

 

Qualifications

Applicants for the position should have a bachelor’s degree and one or more years of administrative experience in a non-profit organization. Applications must be detail-oriented and possess an ability to articulate themselves well in written and spoken communications. Organizational, computer and interpersonal skills, as well as proficiency in Microsoft Office, Skype (or another form of video chat), and Google Calendar are required for this position. Applicants must also have references attesting to Christian integrity and character. The Executive Assistant must maintain a professional demeanor in all situations and be able to withhold and manage confidential information with complete integrity.

This position requires approximately 10 hours per week and will be accompanied with a set stipend. The Executive Assistant may also be asked to be available on nights and/or weekends. Please note, this is a position that can be completed remotely, so there is no need for relocation. There must be consistent, clear, and timely communication maintained with the CEO… so constant computer, WhatsApp, Skype, and Facebook access are needed for communication purposes.

Abogar International Ministries is in search of an Executive Assistant to join the team. Please see the job description below and contact us at info@abogarim.org if you qualify and are interested!

Executive Assistant

Job Description

The Executive Assistant position for Abogar International Ministries will be responsible for providing administrative support for (and report directly to) the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Responsibilities will include, but not be limited to the following:

  • Management of day-to-day operations
    • Send/answer emails; answer/make phone calls regarding Abogar operations
    • Maintain and update the Abogar Executive Calendar

 

  • Organization and maintenance of files and records
    • Including board meeting minutes, master documents, donor and Abogar contact information, Xposure Xperience applicant information, and all other Abogar documents
    • Maintain and update project planners, records, and other organizational materials

 

  • Plan and schedule meetings and appointments
    • Schedule Weekly Executive Sessions with the CEO to discuss tasks to be accomplished for the week
    • Assist in setting up speaking engagements and help organize fundraiser events
    • Set up interviews with applicants for Xposure Xperience trips

 

  • Prepare and edit correspondence, reports and presentations
    • Prepare/send Follow-up Thank You Notes
    • Assist in publishing the monthly newsletter (and upload newsletter to website)
    • Create promotional documents/material and applications
    • Assist in creating PowerPoint presentations for fundraising events and speaking engagements, as needed

 

  • Make travel and guest arrangements
    • Purchase flights, arrange lodging, rent vehicles, etc. for CEO travel, as needed
    • Be ready to assist Xposure Xperience participants with questions about their international health insurance and flights for their trip, if requested

 

  • Assist executive(s) in making consistent decisions
    • Help evaluate applicants for Xposure Xperience trips
    • Participate in determining networking and travel plans
    • Help evaluate service projects, endorsements or partnerships with other organizations, plans for Home of Hope development, Xposure Xperience trips, etc., to determine their consistency with the mission and vision of Abogar

 

Qualifications

Applicants for the position should have a bachelor’s degree and one or more years of administrative experience in a non-profit organization. Applications must be detail-oriented and possess an ability to articulate themselves well in written and spoken communications. Organizational, computer and interpersonal skills, as well as proficiency in Microsoft Office, Skype (or another form of video chat), and Google Calendar are required for this position. Applicants must also have references attesting to Christian integrity and character. The Executive Assistant must maintain a professional demeanor in all situations and be able to withhold and manage confidential information with complete integrity.

This position requires approximately 10 hours per week and will be accompanied with a set stipend. The Executive Assistant may also be asked to be available on nights and/or weekends.

No Lions, No Tigers, But Bears… Oh My!!

Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kazbeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.      II Samuel 23:20 (NIV)

I am not Benaiah… I have never killed a bear, though as a child I did kill a porcupine for sticking its quills in the face of my dog. I was defending my dog from further attacks, but I felt really remorseful after having done so. I don’t know if I would have the guts or valor to chase a lion into its pit and kill it. BUT I wonder why Benaiah did this. Was he defending someone or something? Was it retaliation for a vicious act that the lion had committed? Was Benaiah just demonstrating his strength and valor? I hope and believe that somehow it was an act of courage and fighting for a higher cause than just to kill something.

This past year I received a great book, Chasing The Lion by Mark Batterson, and  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! It’s a book that I recommend everyone pick up and read. As it spoke about a courage and valor to encounter life with a tenacity, it caused me to reflect on my life. While I have not yet encountered, nor chased, nor killed a lion or a tiger, I have twice in my life had very up close and personal encounters with bears… oh my!! The first encounter was when I was somewhere between 14 and 16 years of age, and in foster care, and was chased by a mama black bear for playing with her two baby bear cubs in the wild. Not my wisest or brightest moment, but definitely a fun (and sometimes horrifying) memory to think back on! However, the second encounter with another black bear is the encounter I want to share about and focus on.

In 2014, while serving at the YMCA of the Rockies as a camp counselor for Deep Camp, in partnership with Kingdom Building Ministries (now known as Forge), some other counselors asked me if I could share my testimony with them. Due to the demand of our schedules, we met up late one night in a lounge in the main building basement, so that I could tell of my story. As we sat there and I was sharing, a petite worker from the camp came walking through the lounge with a full garbage bag in her hands, to take it out to the dumpster behind the building. As she began to open the door to exit, she immediately slammed the door shut without leaving and screamed at the top of her lungs!

The petite worker (weighing 90 pounds soaking wet, by my estimation) slammed the door with such force that the building shook, and screamed so loud that I and the whole group were quite startled. She then looked at us and screamed, “Bear!” Immediately, without thinking, I was on my feet and ran out the door! Sure enough, as I arrived at the dumpster, there stood a huge black bear, about 10 to 15 feet away! Thinking of all the kids at camp, and counselors and workers, I did the only thing my body would let me do in that moment. With courage (and some would say, stupidity) I charged at the black bear! I startled it, as it had startled the worker, and it started off running for the woods! I chased the black bear for about a quarter of a mile, until it entered into the woods, before I returned to check on the worker. Though startled, she was doing well.

While most would not encourage anyone else to do what I did, I think I would. There is a time for running after and running away. Some would say, “Just leave the trash inside and take it out to the dumpster in the morning.” I would say, “Chase the bear!” Too often we opt for safe, comfortable, and easy living. The adrenaline and desire to defend others motivated me immediately to do what was not easy. While I in no way killed the bear, I am certain that I shocked it into not messing with a human too quickly after that.

In life many circumstances seem like lions or bears, and may not seem logical to chase after or attack… so big, so furious, so challenging… that they cause us fear and desire to slam the door, scream, and run away. What might happen if we responded differently to those giants in our life? David encountered Goliath, and ran toward him and not away. In courage he conquered the mammoth man in front of him! Noah faced a crowd of people mocking him as he had to provide a place for lions, tigers, and bears… oh my… and all other animals as well, due to an impending flood. Moses had an attacking military pursuing him and the people of Israel as they were wedged between the Red Sea and a sea of angry men approaching. Elijah faced the 450 prophets of Baal. Peter and Paul faced prison and persecution. There are just way too many stories to tell of all the giants faced by so many biblical heroes, not to mention the plethora of missionaries and servants of God throughout human history! There is one defining characteristic though, that each of these people have had… Courage.

As I serve here in Guatemala, it has not been bears nor lions, but rather scorpion stings, ants, cockroaches, spiders, false accusations, gossip, lack of commitment, health issues, car problems, car accidents, lack of financial support, different languages, lack of friends, deep loneliness, lies of Satan, etc. During that summer of chasing the bear while being in a discipleship training, leadership development time with Forge, God gave me a new name, and this name defines who I am and how I now strive to encounter the lions and bears of life… Courageously Contagious Freedom Fighter! God, and God alone, has made me courageous to chase lions and bears! How about you?! Do you accept and receive God’s gift of courage to get out of the comfortable, logical, and safe ways of life?

There is a world full of darkness and hurt, and only God-given courage will enable us to encounter and change it for God’s glory! I dare you to not buy into the world’s gods of comfort, safety, and entertainment. I dare you to start chasing bears, chasing lions… muster up or ask God for a deeply convicting courage that enables you too to become a giant of the faith for the glory of God!

As it is estimated that more than 150 million children live without family or home around the world, this is the giant I want to slay with God-given courage, the bear I want to chase, and the lion I want to kill! It is possible. We just need more men and women of God to live in the courage of God to combat the situations and problems that leave these children in such need! It is not too big of a problem! It is a matter of us deciding to chase the bear or lion, instead of running away! What will your choice be? Will you become courageous and join in the attack, or will you run away, seeking comfort and safety?! I pray that God will give you the courage to become a world-changer, eternity toucher, child advocate… to join me in a call to be courageously contagious as we fight for freedom, and slay the lion!

When It’s Bad… God Is Still Good!!

Many people have heard me say that I have never had a bad day in my life. This is true. What many don’t understand, is that this does not mean that I have not had hard days, sad days, and even very problematic days. These days I have had. But the reality is that to give the circumstances of the day the power to destroy your full day is an option I have never been willing to choose, nor will I ever!!

Today, right now, I am sitting stranded on the side of the road in the middle of Guatemala City. I’ve been going through a season of incredible hardships, challenges, and frustrations in my life this year. If Satan is alive and active, and yes I believe he is, then right now he must be really threatened by me and by the ministry of Abogar, because he sure is attacking us an awful lot.

In a year of false accusations, people abandoning me, relational problems, work problems, financial problems, and just the reality of life issues and problems, including all that is happened in the last 24 hours, many would say that today is a bad day. I, however, greatly disagree. Because God has not left His throne, nor has He left nor abandoned me. God is still good!

Right now, as my car stopped working, a van pulled off the road right in front of me; also not working right. But as the vehicle pulled off the road, the driver only pulled halfway off the road.  God clearly told me that He was calling me to save that man’s life from an impending accident. So, at God’s direction, I jumped out of Big Red (Abogar’s Honda CRV) and ran up to the man. After directing him to put the van in neutral, I then successfully pushed his van up over the curb and out of harm’s way. I don’t share this to be applauded, but rather for perspective.

God is good! Though I am still stranded on the side of a road, I just got to be obedient and bless someone else. That man’s life is in God’s hands… and today He invited me to be part of the blessing. Though there are many bad things happening… personally in my life, around me, and throughout the world… God is still good! 

What problems are you facing? Do you know that God is still good? His arms are open to us. Let’s rest in Him!!