Sunday, October 2, 2011

Poverty = Bad / Education = Good!

We hate poverty. We especially hate poverty that is caused by a lack of educational opportunities - like the poverty that the people in El Yalu, Guatemala experience on a daily basis. Did you know that: 

- Only 42% of rural Guatemalans finish primary school, half the rate of urban children and 2nd lowest in the Latin America / Caribbean region 
- Guatemala is last in literacy rates in Latin America, and only 68% of rural indigenous young-women are literate

Ridiculous right!? These stats and more are the reason why Gregg and I are riding in the Ride for Refuge fundraiser NEXT WEEKEND to raise money for the educational scholarship program at Mano Con Mano. We in America have truly been blessed with decent, free public school through 12th grade. In Guatemala, public school is far from free for most families and is only offered until 6th grade. 6th GRADE! Think about how many opportunities you would have, and what your life would be like now if you had only gone to school through 6th grade. Scary right?

Currently our team is about 60% of the way to our goal of $3,000. This will provide scholarships for 3-6 kids (depending on what grade and program they are in). Thankfully we also have 5 teams in Canada riding and raising money and collectively we have currently raised $11,500 or 57% of our $20,000 goal. If you would like to help us provide an education and a future to 20+ kids from El Yalu that want to continue their education beyond 6th grade - please check out our Ride for Refuge page HERE. Any amount will help! We would also love your prayer support - for Gregg, I, and all the other riders next Sunday, October 8th, and for the kids in Yalu who are finishing up their school year and working to pass all their classes so they can be eligible for another scholarship next year. 

Besides the obvious benefits of the scholarship program, the education program at Mano Con Mano is focused on an even more important goal - to tangibly reflect Christ to this community. I'll end with a verse that I hope blesses you all.
2 Cor. 9:11-15
You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.  Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.  And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.  Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Update from Chicago

Can you believe we've been here over a month already?? Craziness! We are happy to report that we are settling in very well. I have been enjoying school a lot (except for Biostats of course - boo) and Gregg just got a JOB! Whoo hoo!! He starts at Boeing this Friday and although I am very sad to be losing my live-in shopper/cleaner/cooker, Gregg is pretty excited to be getting out of the house on a regular basis :)

One of the most essential parts of us feeling settled here was finding our awesome apartment. The area we live in has a great neighborhoody feel, is close to lots of restaurants and public transport, and has a ton of spanish speakers that we are hoping to meet very soon. Our actual apartment is very unique in that it has a lofty feel and NO doors! Well...except on the bathroom :) We really like the layout though and it already feels like home! The day we actually moved was literally the hottest we've had since we got here. Thankfully we have the most AMAZING friends - Tim and Ashley Van Oss - who are total rockstars and helped us move everything up three flights of stairs in just a few hours. Amazing!

Well, since I am a lowly student now I'd better get back to doing Biostats homework. But I will leave you with some pictures of our new life and new pad...

Tim got a little sweaty helping us move :)

We're hot...literally


Gregg looking hot in his new suit

Our office area

Opposite view of the office

View of the living room from the office

From the living room to the rest of the apt

My favorite spot! You can just see a beautiful catholic church
in the background

Thankfully the bathroom has a door

Our 'bedroom' - more like 'bednook' 

One of the biggest kitchens we saw while apt hunting!

So thats that...our new life! Come back soon for some pictures of the newest members of our little family!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Decisions" or "You asked for it"

Hi friends, surprise it's Gregg :)  i know i don't write on here that much (i'll share more about why in another post later), but today you may just get 2 whole posts out of me.  exciting :)  I plan to write a general update on the both of us a little later, but I wanted to share some personal thoughts here that I jotted down this morning.

now what i don't want to do is to pretend that my thoughts are so profound that you would want to read them, but i know that it's good for us to share what we're thinking, profound or shallow, because it brings us closer and maybe we can all learn & grow from it.

first, a little context, i received a job offer on friday and i have until tomorrow afternoon to accept it. since our return, our thoughts and prayers have been focused on how our lives will look after our experience in guatemala, where God taught us a ton and continues to challenge our worldviews.  so, with that backdrop, i wanted to share what i jotted down today.  It may read a little bit random, kelley can tell you that my mind jumps around a lot and it's not always easy to follow for someone outside my brain, but i hope it may strike a chord with maybe at least one of you :) oh and then there's an excerpt from C.S. Lewis that kinda goes along with it.  

9/20 - Decision
I have a decision to make today.  What a great thing it is to have an option, to have the freedom to make a decision.  Lord, I ask you to not only be so kind as to speak to me, to put your will on my heart, but also to help me listen and act.  In reality we have a choice everyday, you're constantly calling us, seeking us, running after us.  You love us, help us to love you; to not only say it, but do it because the world needs to see you and you've chosen us - the weak, broken, and humble - to show them.  I don't want to mess up, but even so, I know I will sometimes, and I am nevertheless comforted in knowing you are gracious and merciful.  I pray that I will identify with the ones the world is rejecting, the world's outcasts are the Kings and Queens of your Kingdom.

I used to always ask you Lord to completely captivate my heart, soul, mind, and body - that I would truly seek you with all my being.  I hear you calling me, probably clearer than I've ever heard you; I have more proof that only in you, in your perfect path that you've created for us, will we find our joy.  I ask you now to not let me step outside of it.  What a tragedy it would be to ask for it, to see it, and then turn away from it.  Let me not be a tragedy; I pray that I would cause you to rejoice, that my life would be pleasing to you.  You are continually pursuing us; thankfully, your leisurely, patient pace is is much faster than my fastest sprint; you have caught me.

There is beauty and liberation in choice; I think there's a different beauty and liberation in a lack of choice, an inescapable duty perhaps allows us to focus on the task at hand and not be distracted at "what could have been".  Regardless, now I am faced with a choice, help me to choose right.  end

C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair, chapter 2
"Are you not thirsty?" said the Lion.
"I'm dying of thirst," said Jill.
"Then drink," said the Lion.
"May I ----could I -----would you mind going away while I do?," said the Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl.  And as Jill gazed at its motionless build, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

"Will you promise not to----do anything to me, if I do come?," said Jill.
"I make no promise," said the Lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

"Do you eat girls?," she said.
"I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms," said the Lion.

It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry.  It just said it.

"I daren't come and drink," said Jill.
"Then you will die of thirst," said the Lion.
"Oh dear!," said Jill, coming another step nearer.  "I suppose I must go and look for another stream then."
"There is no other stream," said the Lion


Monday, August 29, 2011

So...what IS Public Health?

One week down...15 more to go! So far I am really enjoying being a student again and am REALLY excited for the things I'll be learning this semester. Hopefully if I'm not too busy reading the 8,000 articles I'm expected to read every week, I'll be able to post some of the more interesting things here for your viewing pleasure. As an intro however, I wanted to post this awesome video of a MPH graduate from Tufts. Since deciding to go back to school to get my Masters in Public Health I have gotten a lot of questions just like this graduate - So...what exactly IS Public Health? This video sums up the social justice role of public health perfectly and gets me super jazzed to be in this amazing field. If you have time check out the whole thing, it's good. If not, skip ahead to 3:50 for your daily dose of inspiration...

back to school...back to school...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chiblogo: the Chicago Chronicles

We made it! After an awesome month in Seattle we packed up all our junk and made our way across the heart of the US to our new home - Chicago! Unfortunately we were very lazy about picture taking while in Seattle but let me just tell you, we had fun.
Thankfully we did remember to take lots of pictures on our drive out to Chicago. Neither of us had been to that part of the country before and we really enjoyed seeing the Great Plains, although I'm still bitter I didn't see any buffalo or cowboys. Here are a few photos from our 8 states in 4 days extravaganza!

Of course with a name like the 'Great Plains' you know there were some incredibly boring parts to drive through. We overcame them in true Brown fashion...

Now we are in Chicago and we are really enjoying everything so far! Praise the Lord He provided us with awesome friends to stay with while we apartment hunted. Tim and Ashley Van Oss are seriously the most welcoming people in the whole world. You guys are the BEST!

Besides having tons of fun with the Van Osses we have also been crazy apartment searching. Again, thank you God, we found a great place in a very fun part of the city. We are really excited to move in on Sept 1st and use all our stuff again! I also started school this week and so far so good. I am taking 5 classes though which is apparently a lot in Grad school so we'll see how much of a social life I have in the coming months. HOWEVER do not let that stop you from visiting! Seriously people...come visit us! This city is amazing and there are at least 8 million fun things to do every single day. Seriously.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Love Note

Joy, discouragement, love, hate, fear, confidence...  Life is a tornado of emotions, all of which I think I've felt over the last week or so of saying goodbye to a group of friends and a country we came to call home over the last 10 months, and in the middle of which I sit here, back home in familiar settings writing this note to you Kelley.  It's been a while since I've written you a love letter  which is a shame because through all the emotions I feel sitting here, one thing I know for certain is that I've never loved you more.  But what better setting could I create than the one I have now - moving from uncertainty to uncertainty but always being certain that we have a God that loves us and knows his perfect plan for us, and knowing that we have each other as we experience this world together.  In this setting I am writing this morning to try to express but just a hint of how much I love you and how greatly for you I'm thankful, because, without you, I don't know where I'd be, but I know it wouldn't be a place worth comparing to where I am now.

I am so thankful for the last 10 months we've spent in Guatemala, and through my admittedly tearful goodbyes to the relationships we made during this time it hit me that without the push from you I wouldn't have had the chance to experience the incredible things God had to show us in Guatemala.  Without your influence, I would not understand how to go beyond merely calling on God, but how to answer His call on our lives - up to this point, I've done well to think about and even express what I need from God, but not too good at responding when He calls me to act and enter into something different and bigger than what I've come to know as "life".  You see, I'm good at thinking, reasoning, acting logically and staying within the boundaries that are "acceptable" as an educated young American business-man; but you've helped me understand there's a time to think and reason things out, and a time to act and live things out. With this trip, I've took needed step from having a faith well thought out, to a faith well lived out.  And as we prepare for the next phase in our life, another strange city, away from our familiar circles of friends and family, I'm so thankful that God has shown us that our friends are truly everywhere and that I will have you, my wife and my best friend, by my side through it all.

I love you wife :-)

Monday, July 11, 2011

You say Adios...

Today was our last day in the village, and boy was it sad. But amid the sadness there was also a lot of joy and Gregg and I are feeling so so loved. The local teachers that tutor our 1-6th grade students had a party for us, the junior high students performed a dance, all the workers went around and said amazing words of encouragement, we were prayed for, and we were given some beautiful gifts of remembrance. 
Since deciding to serve in Yalu, our goal has been to be a blessing in whatever way we could and although we were blessed far more by those we worked with in the village, it was very encouraging to hear that we were also a blessing to them. One of our worker's husbands told me, "God once told me that I would be able to see His work and sense His presence in the people that He brings into my life. Well I saw God's work and sensed Him in you and Gregg." Amen! 
Since today was so special to us, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...
Gregg and his boys

Being prayed for by our amazing tutors and 

Playing a crazy game of putting jello in the others
person's mouth

Amazing cake decorated by Barb and an awesome
book of letters, drawings, and other memories

Gregg dancing with our tutor group

Doctor Efrain saying a few words of thanks

Gregg and I trying to thank everyone through our tears

the amazing Chiquito family

Awesome teachers

We will miss everyone so much!
The phrase of the day was - 'No es adios, sino hasta luego' = 'It is not goodbye but see you later' and that could not be more true for Gregg and I. We have Guatemala deep in our hearts now and there is no way we will be able to stay away for too long. And so, in the words of Doctor Efrain, God bless and hasta la vista baby!