30 March 2009

War Child

"My time at the front line taught me just one thign about war - the worst is when it is over. As the battle falls silent, only the screams of the injured can be heard, and when the guns stop firing, and the smell of smoke fades away, the stench of flesh and blood fills the air. Jenajesh were always the ones who screamed the most, and I heard them at night when I returned to Kurki 1 to try to rest. I never slept properly, keeping one eye open all night in case our enemy tried to attack and feeling the weight of my gun next to me. When the battle at the front line had been bad, I didn't want to eat meat for days as I remembered the smell. It reminded me of being a small boy and was so heavy I was sure it had sunk into my heart forever, just as it had on the day I walked Death Route with Mamma and Nyakouth. I felt torn inside, knowing I was safer at Kurki 1 but still dreaming of seeing a jallaba's face as I shot his heart." (Jal 144)

Emmanuel Jal became a child soldier while he was still shorter than his AK-47. Before that, he had seen his villagers sliced, shot, torn apart by bombs, RPG's, and grenades. He saw the women in his family raped and felt hunger for months.

His father abandoned him, and he was sent to train. The rage that filled him from the things he'd seen done to his people drove him. He thought God had abandoned him and forgot what love was.

But one aid worker, Emma McCune, saw something in him. Now he is an international rap star, rhyming about Jesus and peace and war and hope. His music refuses to stay in the background as I study.

I just finished his book, War Child, and bought his album by the same name. This man has much to teach us: he learned more before he was seven than I could ever hope to learn. Yet no one should have to learn like that.

If I could recommend one book, other than the Bible, it would be this one.

"Children should be going to school, not fighting in battles, because they will still lose their life even if they survive." (Jal 256)

29 March 2009

Share the well

Guatemalan 'soccer fields' are not very nice to soccer balls. Ours was mostly dirt, about fifty feet long, with a chain link fence on one side. It had barbed wire woven in about three feet off the ground and at the top. Those barbs popped a lot of balls, and so did the thorns over the fence. I'd pull out a thorn, hear the air hiss out, and put it back to plug the hole. We could play a little longer that way.

And we complain about a wet spot in the corner where the rain water doesn't drain. 

But it was a great trip: the last day of VBS/soccer camp, I used the wordless book to present the Gospel to the boys. One boy immediately got up and shared his bracelet - our "book" - with an old man standing on the other side of the fence. Although the boys and children usually grabbed for whatever we offered, they sat patiently and listened to the story. A seed was planted, with some soccer balls and colored beads. 

This man, a local Pastor, will use the bracelet to preach to his congregation soon. His excitement was tangible, his faith real. He told us Bibles last year's team had given him had converted some of his congregation, and those people were now praising God. At the end of the week, we gave him a food basket for his family and more Bibles for his congregation.

Here's a shot of me translating for Kelly, our team leader, as she talked to some of the mothers at VBS. They shared friendly laughs with Kelly over her gringa Spanish, so I hope I was able to help a bit.

21 March 2009


Sitting here in the USO at DFW, just got back from a trip toa mall in Dallas. What else to do with a nine hour layover?

Our taxi driver - I didn't even catch his name - was an Ethopian immigrant. Riding shotgun, I had told him we were headed to Guatemala for a mission trip, and he later asked if I'd ever thought about going to Africa for a trip. I said no, not really - I know Spanish and my heart is for Latin America. He told me of the problems of his country - problems which started thirty years ago with a communist takeover from the king. But when the king left, poverty and starvation came.

I mentioned Raz, a kid in my squad from Madagascar, and some of the differences he'd noticed between America and Africa. "Yes," our driver said, "America is a good country. But we still have work."

The problem, he said, is that we do not recognize God. He quoted Romans 3:23, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." The president, his king, the people - all are sinners, he said. We cannot change that. But if we recognize God, we can change the world.

This taxi driver is changing the world. Are you?

16 March 2009

Pure Joy

Recognition is over now, and this is starting to feel real. I no longer have to greet upperclassmen or run the strips. I wear my backpack and walk where I want. I have my civilian clothes and my iPod. I'm starting to feel like a cadet now.

But Recognition was one of the hardest things I've done. Pretty much three straight days of training, with at least 2,012 pushups and lots of other stuff, including a light POW scenario.

God's word kept me going - I can't count how many times I recited James 1:2-3, Psalm 27:1, and Psalm 18:29.

Talking about this with anyone who's not a cadet, I've realized they don't know how big this is. It's bigger than Acceptance Day. This is it, really, until Graduation.

Thank you to all who have been praying for me - your prayers have helped me through.

10 March 2009


... well, the front leading rest anyway.

Another training session today: running, situps, pushups, squats, lunges, flutter kicks, low crawling. We went to two other squads, round-robin style, then came back to our own. This weekend will be full of training, but we get our 'freedom' on Sunday. Then this places gets really good.
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08 March 2009

Man on the corner

Walking to lunch this Saturday in Denver, I saw a homeless man sitting on the corner. My heart went out to him, but I didn't act on it. On the way back, I told myself.

I almost walked past on the way back... but I remembered my earlier promise and walked over, pulling out some singles. My teammates waited up the street, but I'd forgotten them for the moment.

The man's name was Daniel, and he had one of the strongest handshakes I've felt in a while. His eyes showed his gratitude, reminding me of Jesús' smile down in México. He was an Airborne Ranger, now a certified aircraft mechanic. But he can't get a job because he doesn't have a house. 

As I walked away thinking about this, wishing I had done and could do more, I listened to my teammates talking about the race: what they did wrong, venting about other riders, wishing they had done better. But for me, it all seemed so trivial. There was a man there without a home, and we were discussing racing our $1,000 bicycles. 

I scribbled a note as I sat down by a tree, back at the race: We are blind to what we do not wish to see.

Roundabouts Galore

More races this weekend: a crit on Saturday, individual and team time trials on Sunday. I didn't get lapped in the crit, and I kinda liked the TT. It's my kinda race: all you gotta do is ride fast, and try not to lose time in the corners. So, skidding my rear tire wasn't good, but I kept the rubber side down, as they say.

Beatiful weather in Denver: sunny and mild. Saturday was a little chilly, but not as bad as last weekend.

I now understand what Jamie Smith was talking about in his book Roadie. He mentioned life on the road as a cyclist... dirt cheap hotels; four men to a one-man room; a shower that's either unbearably hot or freezing cold; no time, energy, money, or facilities to wash gear for the next day's race.

So this is bike racing. I like it.

04 March 2009

Academy Tour

A coupla shots from our "Academy Tour" this afternoon... answer a knowledge question about a place on "the hill," go to that place, do 36 push-ups, sit-ups, 10-count body builders, or whatever, then go to the next station. Get the question wrong and do 36 more. Good times.
The F-4D Phantom in the background of this one has six MiG kills.
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02 March 2009


I managed to get a few drops of liquid out of my frozen water bottle as I warmed up on the trainer. Someone pinned on my number as I spun there, nervous about my first race and hoping I wouldn't freeze.

I came pretty close. It wasn't unitl five laps to go that I could feel the fingers on my left hand. Most of the race, I couldn't tell if I was shifting up or down: my fingers were too numb to feel the levers. I got dropped by the field, and rode most of the race alone, behind the pack. They lapped me on their last lap.

It's been a while since I've been in this kind of spot. I could hang with the fast guys in high school swimming last year and the year before. It's been a while since I've been lapped. But of course, I haven't been training as much as I was for swimming. With intramurals and training sessions here, it's hard to find the time - and the energy - for a ride.

We raced two crits this weekend: distinctly American bike races with a lot of turns and a lot of action. While French fans are willing to watch the start of an 80-mile race, drive to the midpoint, watch the pack fly by, and then watch the finish, Americans would prefer to stay in one spot and watch the race go around. Thus, the crit: a short, 1-3 mile course with a lot of turns and a lot of laps. Men's C riders race for thirty minutes. When the judges determine there are five laps to go, riders stop worrying about how much time is left and start thinking about how many laps are left.

I learned quite a bit this weekend: go hard at the front and stay there. Don't get stuck in the back of the pack - it gets too strung out in the corners and you waist too much energy trying to catch back up. Go like mad, and hang in there.

Sunday's crit went better, but I wound up in the wrong gear on the hill and couldn't keep up - dropped again. I tried working with a Colorado College guy, but I dropped him and couldn't wait. The picture above is from Sunday, with somebody sucking my wheel, using my draft. Of course, I would have done the same thing.

But, as one of our A riders said - in fact, the one in the picture below - we spend forty minutes racing and four hours chillin' with the team. I talked to Major a lot in the van headed up to Ft. Collins. He's done a couple mission trips, in and out of the Air Force, giving essential vitamins to malnourished kids in Honduras and other places. I asked him what kind of opportunities the AF has for humanitarian work - he said the most opportunites come to doctors, especially in pediatrics. So I could go to med school after graduation and become a doctor... I could even study Mechanical Engineering as an undergrad here. Hopefully I'll have time to train and race Men's A my senior year.