Good morning everybody!
As I write this piece, I am in Guatemala back at Cesar´s house after a week of roughing it in the jungle. By the time you read this, my wife Nola will probably be here to join us for 10 days. After a month of “baching it” with Cesar and hearing his snoring every night, I´m looking forward to trading him in for Nola! While she is here, we will celebrate her birthday (February 4th) and will be doing some women´s meetings in several of the towns where we have Christian Rancher groups. At the end of our time here, we plan to do some relaxing at the beach and some sightseeing with Cesar and Elba.
Back to some Honduras Stories
Because of the pace of our travels, I have some catching up to do in the next few updates. Today, I want to go back a couple of weeks to our time in Honduras and share a couple of thoughts that came out of one question we ask in our Christian Rancher groups.
But before I do that, let me say that many of you have asked about the University of Agriculture. From what we know, the interim leadership team is sorting out the problems, and classes are scheduled to begin again next month. The last we heard from our friends there, the president did step down, and 200 security people were let go. But nobody we have worked with closely has lost their job. Beyond that, we really don´t know much. We expect that the projects we were planning to do with them will have to wait. We continue to pray for our student friends and faculty who want to get back to class.
The Silver Lining in the University´s Problems...
One of the unexpected benefits of the pause in the work at the University, was the fact that we got to know Belia and Jose Miguel Argeal, a Christian couple who work at the school. Both are mid-level professors in the Agriculture college, and both graduated from the college about 8 or 9 years ago. Jose Miguel was a bull rider for 12 years, so he and Belia have become faculty sponsors of the Bull Riding Club from the University. Because they weren't having to report to classes when we were there, they were able to travel with us to most of the places we worked, which for Cesar and me was a huge blessing. Belia´s dad is a rancher, and she knows and loves the life of those in the cowboy culture. She is a gifted organizer and administrator, and Jose Miguel is an authentic cowboy who also grew up on a ranch and in an evangelical church.
Within the first day of working together it became obvious that they could be the primary contacts for the work in Honduras. Already we are collaborating with Belia on the Rancheros Cristianos version of the Play.Story.Eat. Update. And in another update I will share about going to Belia´s hometown.
Rough Roads Sometimes Lead to Beautiful Places...
On one of the days that we worked with Belia and Jose Miguel, we drove almost 3 hours over bumpy and winding dirt roads from Catacamas to Poncaya to meet with one of our Christian Rancher groups. We met on the ranch of a friend who has several tilapia ponds in a picturesque tropical setting. So, after walking around his place, some of the wives had fried up whole fishes for about 20 of us to eat together. (Yes it was delicious!)
After eating, we pulled our chairs together under a big shade tree and got to the story time. Cesar spontaneously asked if one of the guys had a story from the Bible that they could share from memory. After a little bit of silence, David, one of the ranchers, mentioned that one of his favorite stories was that of the prodigal son.
“Tell it to us the best you can remember,” Cesar said.
So David, in typical Hispanic flair, animated the story with his hands and his body to share how a father had two sons and one ran off with his portion of his inheritance. When David got to the end of the story to tell of how the younger son came home in shame to a loving father, I think I saw David wipe a tear from his eye. And that´s when we asked the question.
The Question We Ask in Our Work with Cowboys...
“Ësteban, ask the question,” Cesar chimed in. “Okay,” I replied. “Here is the question."
"What bull are you going to ride?"
"What does God want you to do this week after hearing this story?”
Several chimed in about the idea of coming back to God. But David got real with us.
“I have a bull that I have gotta ride that is probably the toughest thing that I may ever have to do,” he began. “I have a neighbor who, this week, I vowed to kill.” When we chuckled a bit thinking he was joking, he pleaded with us, “No! Seriously! You can ask my wife. I was prepared to get my gun and in a few days either kill them or try to sell my ranch and move.” He paused and no one said anything. “But after thinking about this story, I am certain that God does not want me to do that. My heart has wandered from God, and I need to come back to His ways. I will not kill that person, and I will ask God to direct me about how to talk to them.”
Too Late for a Friend...
The next day we were looking for a friend named Saturnino in Culmi, another small town in the region. Saturnino and one other guy from Culmi had come to Nebraska a few years ago, and we wanted to check in with them and the president of the cattlemen´s association there. They had wanted to start a group, but we hadn't been there in a while. In addition, we wanted to check in with Norma, a cook who worked in our hotel a few years in a row, who started a Discovery Bible study group in her humble house that is in Culmi. Each week 20 people cram into her home.
We met the president at the arena for the association, and when we asked about Saturnino, he said, “I guess you haven´t heard. He was murdered a few months ago.”
“What happened?” Cesar asked.
“Well, he had gotten in an argument with a cousin of his, and a few days later, one of that guy’s brothers winds up dead. He assumed that Saturnino hired a hit man to do it. So a few weeks later, Saturnino walked into the city hall to meet someone there. Knowing that he needed to be vigilant, Saturnino had his body guard wait for him outside. When Saturnino came out the front door, this cousin of his jumped out with an automatic weapon, and from a few feet away, gunned him down with dozens of bullets from his head down to his chest. Saturnino´s body guard sprang into action and shot the other guy dead and then picked up Saturnino and rushed him to a local doctor. But it was too late. Two men were dead.”
When Cesar and I walked away, we looked at each other and almost in unison said to one another, “That could have been David.” The other day, David was right there where Saturnino was, but because of the Christian Rancher group and one bold question, his life and the lives of others were probably saved.
What if Saturnino had a group before his fatal day that asked him, “What bull are you going to ride this week?” Would he be alive today?
What about you and me? Based on what God is teaching you, what bull do you need to ride this week? No matter how big or small this one thing may seem, it is your next step in following Jesus. Tell someone about your vow, and then invite them to ask you how you did the next time you meet.
More Honduras stories to come.
Don't forget to sign up for the Play. Story. Eat. Daybreak International Retreat in Kansas City on March 17-19.