Swooping Beemer

I wasn’t there.

But the reports came in fast and furious as soon as we returned to our home following a morning of teaching Vacation Bible School.

This is what I was told: our two brothers, Tony – who grew up in Telica, Nicaragua and went on to a Major League baseball career, and Oscar – who grew up and stayed in Telica, traveled to our building site in Oscar’s pick up truck. The building site is where two houses were being constructed for two families in need. Black plastic and stick shacks don’t cut it when you’re trying to raise a family.

We had three team members mixing concrete and laying blocks to assist the six local workers we hired to lead the construction. As soon as they parked the truck, Beemer came swooping down on them like a hawk plucking a salmon from a river. She was mad, and she wanted answers.

Our teams had build most of the houses in the neighborhood on previous mission trips. We built Beemer’s house. And we built the one in question.

Third hand news, passing through translation from Spanish to English, and amplified by a lot of hand gestures, finger wagging, and facial scowls can sometimes become distorted, but this is my best shot: Beemer’s brother owned the house in question and had died. Beemer didn’t like her brother’s family and accused them of unbecoming behavior. Beemer believed she was entitle to her brother’s house, and not his wife or his family.

In fact, Beemer claimed she had hired a lawyer to obtain what she believed was rightly her own. She wanted to know what Oscar and Tony were going to do about it!

Few people thrive on confrontation. Even fewer are comfortable with dealing with it. News of Beemer’s aggressive assertion was upsetting to our mission team, especially to Oscar and Tony. What should we do about it? we asked.

The front porch consensus that evening was simple: we help build homes for needy families. Legal issues are their problem.

Or, are they?

Though I nodded my consensus, I was left feeling spiritually uneased.

Tony’s spouse and our mission trip host, Halyma, told me that in Nicaragua, any lawyer can be purchased for any price to do anything under the law. God bless Halyma, for the next morning she sought out a local lawyer she knew who could provide an honest legal opinion. The long and short of the story is that Beemer hired a lawyer who had been disbarred, was unscrupulous, and was taking her money.

Let’s call this victimizing the poor.

It is easy for me to pass judgment on a man I never met, based on facts I can’t confirm, from my privileged office thirty-eight hundred miles away. However, this narrative has caused me to consider how I victimize the poor in my life. Most of the time, I don’t even know it.

Lord, have mercy.

I try my best to help others in need, but rarely do I ever reflect upon unintended consequences, or how I participate in circles of privilege, power, and hubris. It’s easy to lend a hand to a peer who falls on hard times, but how about someone taking shelter under a bridge to find refuge from the cold winter wind?

Christ, have mercy.

When I shop with abundance and consume my daily bread, how often, I ask myself, is the food I’m eating being misdirected directly from the table of someone who is in greater need? Goodness knows, I could benefit from fasting.

Lord, have mercy.

I leave with a blessing, riding my full-of-myself moral high horse, returning to my wonderfully comfortable family home, knowing full well the gathering of friends I just left will return to a group home they never selected and living with room-mates not of their own choosing.

There is no splitting of hairs between sins of omission and sins of commission. Sin is sin. And sin will remain sin unless, and until, we break every yoke of oppression. I’m up for breaking a few yokes. How about you?



Strawberry Candy

It was gone.

Nowhere to be found. Panic swelled within and quickly overflowed like magma from the local volcano.

The reason I love international missions is that it is incredibly honest and raw. It’s hard to be phony; completely impossible to maintain a false facade or keep a turd polished. What bubbles up is as pure as the driven snow.


The strawberry candy I had laid out on the teacher’s desk was gone and after a quick scan of the room, I was frantic. Most distressing was the fact that it was central to my lesson about Mary, the mother of Jesus. The whole morning hung in the balance.

“Must have been one of the kids,” I quickly assumed. I recall an earlier encounter with my Co teacher who warned me about keeping the door closed for fear of theft.

Youth are such easy targets, especially for an old fool like me.

“Tony!” I pleaded, as quietly as possible. “Someone’s stole the candy.” “Let me check. I’ll see who is eating candy.”

The week of lessons had gone so incredibly well. We experienced growth in both youth and adults each day. Everyone was enthusiastic, genuinely thankful, and loving. There was no reason for me to jump to this conclusion.

None. Nada. Zip. Zero.

Toy’s eyes scanned the crowd like he was back on the mound in Baltimore pitching for the Orioles.

My Spanish speaking Co teacher came over and began to speak with him, even as opening exercises were concluding. Tony called me closer, and smiled.

“The teacher just told me she hid the candy in the class room. She didn’t want it to be stolen.”

There it was. My sin, my biases, my stain hanging out for all the world to see. I had left the door open.

If I can’t polish it, I better fix it.

That’s what short term mission trips do for me. How about you?

Don’t Sit Next to Me

I was relieved.

The gentleman sat in the pew across and in front from me. He had shuffled down the center isle during the priest’s sermon, stood silently at the front pew on the other side, until his presence was felt and everyone scooted over to give him a wide perch. He silently sat. The priest never missed a beat or sweat a drop.

If preaching was an Olympic sport, I’d give him a perfect 10.

I’ve had people disrupt sermons I’ve been delivering on a few, rare occasions, but nothing like a shirtless, shoeless man in obviously soiled britches. Wow. His body odor could set off the Telica volcano.

But it didn’t.

I assumed this man was drunk. Intoxicated. Really lit. After the service, other visiting friends seated in the back had likewise taken note of this man’s slow shuffle to the front of the isle. They also noted that no one else in the Cathedral had reacted with behavior out of the ordinary. Kids weren’t holding their nose and adults weren’t rolling their eyes. He was one of them and we were mere visitors.

Hum. I could sense the Spirit’s daring, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. What’s up, God?

The youth hanging with our missionary team on the front stairs back home shed the light. No. He wasn’t intoxicated. He wasn’t crazy. He was dying. “Infermal” was the word they used.

Why, oh Lord, would you smack me like that?

I think of church as a community of faith, people who are tightly connected, yet always looking to add to the circle. Church is where we can love God and love neighbors and love enemies alike. Church is the boat we take together on the river that leads us back to God.

Church is where we weather together life’s storms. You know, like illness and death. Like terminal illness. Like infermal.

Thank you God, for the cross and blood of Christ. Because I’m so full of assumptions, biases, and sin that I could make the Telica volcano blow. I think I just did!

Have you ever thought to yourself while in church, “I hope he doesn’t sit next to me “? If you have, you’re in good company. This sinner is right there with you.

Next time, I pray he sits next to me.

You in?


Certainly God can raise the dead, but I’m thinking a town full of roosters could do the same. This early morning rousal doesn’t take into account the cemetery on the edge of town.

Hum. More to ponder.

It felt good to offer an orientation tour of town and our previous building sites to to the 4 other missionaries making their first trip to Telica. “We built this house, and that house, last time we were here.” “I’m told we built this one, and that one, too.” Indeed, our church’s mission had accomplished much in eight previous missions.

I was feeling pretty smug.

It didn’t take long. Soon the neighborhood sprang to life. While I was admiring buildings, people poured out of their homes to greet us. Most remembered me. I am the Pastore. I was soon making introductions every 3 steps.

Introductions, hugs, and smiles are the polite, expected thing to do. But soon we were drawn into friends homes, presented new babies, shown how much junior had grown in the past two years, and had flower gardens proudly displayed. We were led through a maze of paths and hidden back fence passage ways from one family to another.

One husband and wife pulled out a machete and quickly brought down a branch of plantains, hacking away perilously close to low hanging wires. As we left, we were presented with 5 bags of their wonderful tropical fruit. No expectations that they’d be paid. It was a generous gift between friends.


Poverty is about what you don’t have. Yet, wealth isn’t about what you possess. Five bags of plantains are a symbol to me that wealth is about what you give away; your time, your money, your heart, God’s love.

Yes, we are here to accomplish a goal packed agenda. But more importantly, we’re here to give it all away, make and keep friends, all for the glory of God.