Hidden away in the mountains over looking Guatemala City, there sits small village called Buena Vista (meaning “good view”). At just over 7,000ft in elevation, the air is cool and the streets are incredibly steep. A little over three years ago, you would have found the majority of the “homes” had outer walls made of adobe mud, tree branches strung together, and a patchwork of corrugated tin sheets (referred to as “laminas”). The floors were dirt, the roofs leaked, there is no electricity, no running water, the bathrooms are “outhouse” style, and the meals (consisting mostly of corn tortillas) were all cooked over an open flame wood fire… Did I mention the average family had 8+ people living here?
Well, that was then.
In June of 2008, the Johnson Family (deepStream Ministries) arrived in Buena Vista. With the backing of a small Jacksonville church, their mission was to build and give away 12 homes in 12 months to the most needy families in the village. (It only costs $3,000 to build a 12′ x 20’cinderblock house.) As of today (37 months later), the 12×12 Love Project has successfully built and given away 41 homes to the families of BuenaVista! (learn more / donate here: http://www.1212loveproject.org
Before: (click to enlarge)
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After: (click to enlarge)
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Last week, Bonnie and I had the opportunity to visit Buena Vista again (our first trip was in May ’09) and work with Johnson’s in their latest venture: The Buena Vista Sports Academy for Boys.
Over the past three years, as the Johnson’s integrated themselves into the community of Buena Vista, they discovered that the affects of extreme poverty ran extremely deep. Not only were families living in sub-standard homes, they were malnourish from the lack of food, they were uneducated as most all of them quit school after 5th grade to work in the farm fields for a wage of $1.00 / day, and the men / fathers are largely absent due an epidemic of alcoholism (moonshine). When the father’s are present, there are often issues of physical abuse in the home towards both the women and the children. On top of this, the common theology they were being taught was “performance-based” as opposed to “grace-based” so many of the people believe that they are poor as a punishment from God. With no way out, hopelessness ran rampant.
In an effort to break this cycle, the Johnson’s identified that it would be through the boys of Buena Vista that change would come through. As is most all cultures, where the “men” go, the society will follow. If the men are strong leaders, the women and children will follow and the society will prosper. Where the men are weak, the women will be left to fend for themselves and the children and the society will struggle. So, in order to bring hope to the village of Buena Vista, the Johnson’s committed to raising a “generation of boys” to be come “Real Men” who are educated and care for their families. How, you ask? Through soccer, of course!
Buena Vista Sports Academy – Intro Video:
The idea for the Buena Vista Sports Academy was only a few months old when the funding started pouring in by the grace and will of God… Within 9 months, the entire dream went from conception to reality. A full-sized gymnasium, built on the side of a mountain, complete with classrooms, locker rooms, a weight room, and an indoor soccer field. The land was bought, the facility was built, tryouts were held, and 30 boys were chosen (150+ tried out). Now, everyday the 30 boys (age ranges from 10 – 14 and 15 – 18 ) visit the Academy for study / tutoring sessions, facility chores, team practice, showers and a Cliff Bar snack. This may not seem like a big deal to many people, but most of these boys had never had a shower. They would only take “bird baths” at the water station located in the middle of the village. Additionally, the Cliff Bar snack is most likely the most nutritious meal they get all week.
Through the daily soccer training and academic tutoring, the BVSA hopes to instill knowledge, teamwork, respect, responsibility, and an appreciation for the love of Jesus Christ. As I know it’s impossible for me to communicate the awesomeness of this program, your can learn more from the website: http://www.bvboys.com.
Since meeting the Johnson family over two years ago, both Bonnie and I have followed their faith journey closely and we have been inspired by it daily. This family, led by a Real Man and a Real Woman, are not only raising three absolutely incredible children, but as a family they are working to raise an entire generation out of the hopelessness in which they currently live. They’ve surrendered everything to chase radically after what they believe God has called them to do… And God has been faithful and blessed them mightily.
As wonderful as the Johnson’s are, the part that is most inspiring to me is the fact that they’re just a “regular American family” and yet God is not only using them to change an entire village in Guatemala, but he’s also using them to change the hearts and minds of most everyone they come in contact with, myself included. These accomplishments are not a testimony to the greatness of the Johnson’s (though they are great), but more so a testament to the greatness and grace of God!
And if He can use the Johnson’s in this way, why not me (and you)?
The answer is He can use us, all we have to do is make ourselves available, and follow His call obediently.