The Weather in Our Neck of the Woods

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ezequỉas is here!

This is the correct spelling. He arrived yesterday morning. His room is the new one at the back with his private entrance and private bath. The English translation is Hezekiah. You may read about King Hezekiah in 2nd Kings 18-20. The Spanish translation for king is rey, so we have decided to call Ezequas ‘Rey’. We spent most of the day talking, that is, Joy and Ezequias talked, and I listened. He brought a couple of glowing letters of recommendation from his two previous churches. We will translate those and send them to the elders and any who would lie to read them. He has worked mainly as a youth minister, but is an excellent songleader, preacher and teacher. He is young but we intend that ‘the plan’ be predominantly his, after all he is Panamanian.

We went to David today to work on Sister Lydia’s house, but they were not ready to lay block because of some electrical conduit that needed to be set, so we went on a study. We visited with a friend of Brother Jamie’s. In the past he had been a coworker, but 3 years ago had a massive stroke, and has been housebound since leaving the hospital. He is in a

wheelchair, but can speak some, and certainly understands everything. He was there with his wife and the housekeeper.

We read some Scriptures, sang some songs, shared a few words of encouragement, prayed and went on our way. We did not spend the whole morning with the group because we had to visit our brother, the mechanic.

We had begun losing oil in a pretty big way (10 quarts in 2 weeks), and could not find out why, or where it was going. Javier found it quickly when the car was on the lift, sent us 4 blocks away to buy the part – a sensor I think- the slapped it in and charged us $2.00. We headed to McDonalds for lunch, then up the mountain where it was much cooler!

We finished off the day with a birthday for our neighbor Franciny (above) who turned two. She was absolutely adorable in her new dress. There were probably 50-75 people at the party. We were the only ones with white faces. Many there did not know us, so it was really a great opportunity to meet more of the neighbors and families. We had grilled beef strips and boiled yuka in onion and lemon sauce. It was …different, and very typical party food. It rained the entire time, but the horse stables helped relieve congestion problems on the front porch. We were happy that we had all the chairs that we bought for the team, as we offered them to help out, and they were a lifesaver. There was a huge piñata of… you would never have guessed… Barney. It stood 3 feet high and was loaded with goodies. An interesting difference in birthday parties here is that the birthday boy or girl does not open the gifts in front of everyone. They are accepted with thanks, but put away to be opened later in private. Neat idea I thought, for more than one reason!

We were really tired (after 4.5 hours) so left after singing Feliz Cumpliaños´ but before the cake was cut. We had not been home 15 minutes before the birthday girl’s mom was at the gate with cake and ice cream and gelatin for us – in the rain she had walked over to make sure we had the full party effect.

We began this letter right after the party, but now it is Sunday evening, and we had better send it off! Today was great. We worshipped in David. All the church was glad to see Ezequias. He led part of the song service, and we saw again just how blessed we are to have him working here with us.

Tomorrow is a busy day. The small team will be here in 5 days, Ez needs to get registered for classes, lessons to prepare, and his work begins.

For those who have requested it, here is our mailing address:

Lynn & Joy Nelson

Apartado 0424-00077,

Volcan, Chiriqui, Panamá.

Expect your mail to reach us 3-4 weeks after you send it. We hope.

The home phone here is 011-507-771-5903. Our cell is 011-507-6695-7812.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Some Days....

We continue to be amazed by God's goodness and mercy! I finally sought out a medical consultation. Honestly, I have been a little afraid to have local treatment for this kind of serious medical condition ( a kidney stone), but I could not continue in that fear, so yesterday took the plunge and went to a local physician.

Dr Vega works only a few days a week in a clinic here in Volcan. I chose him because I was told that he speaks some English. I went in on Wednesday afternoon to try to make an appointment. The receptionist said that they did not take appointments, but he would be in the office on Thursday at 3:00. She said I should come in then. So we came back at 2:45 on Thursday, signed in and sat and waited. There were 4 names ahead of mine on the list, and about 7 people in the waiting room. The room had plain painted walls, 2 couches and three chairs. There were 3 doors, other than the entrance. About 20 minutes after we arrived one of the doors opened and a child came out, walked to the receptionist, handed her a $10 bill and left. as he walked to the desk the receptionist pointed her finger at another child in the room and that child got up and walked through the door. Nothing was said. When the second child opened the door I could see 4 or 5 nurses in th room talking, nothing more. I assumed it was a dentist's office by the little I had seen, and hoped I was not waiting to have a tooth pulled. I only told her I wanted to see Dr. Vega. She did not ask why, and I did not know if there was a Dr. Vega dentist or not.

More folks came in- some signed in, some did not. There was a small boom box in the corner playing good Panamanian music. The receptionist was reading a magazine. No other workers seemed to be present. It was all kind of surreal. She had a cordless phone on the desk which rang occasionally, and a file cabinet with 3 x 5 index cards organized in it. We all waited. 'This is totally normal in the States', I said to myself.- the waiting. In fact, the biggest difference I had noticed thus far was that the walls were not ornately covered, with expensive plants all around and high dollar carpet. That and the use of index cards instead of file folders.

At 4:00 a man carrying a medical bag walked through the door and down a hall. The receptionist pointed immediately to a woman, who got up and went to the back. The waiting room had filled up by then, and Lynn had given his seat up to an elderly lady, so was outside. After 3 others had been 'pointed' to the back, she pointed at me, I got up and headed down the hallway, but quickly turned around and said "where?" She said "open door". I walked to the end of the hallway, and walked into the room where the man was now sitting. he looked up and said "Buenas Tardes" to which I replied in Spanish" Good afternoon, do you speak English?" He said yes, and I breathed a sigh of relief, and began discussing this darn stone, and what could be done.

I actually learned quite a bit about stones and the kidney. Much I wish I had known years ago. I have suffered from kidney stones for over 20 years. You would think one of the many doctors I have had would have shared some of this information! At any rate, he said it was important to see where the stone was, and what shape the kidney was in. This would require a trip to the hospital in David, and some X rays. He prescribed a medicine for muscle spasms and another for pain, then wrote up the order for the test he wanted done. He told me to expect the test to cost between $70 and $90, and I should return to him with the X rays and the radiologists report . I said ok, walked out to the receptionist, who asked if I had received an injection. I said no, and she told me the bill was $7.00. Lynn paid and we left.

That was yesterday. This morning we left the house at 7:00 headed for David. We were not certain where the hospital was located, but had a t least three different versions from friends and neighbors to choose from. We tried a mix of them, and ended up calling yet another friend who got us even more confused. We did find it, almost by accident, or divine providence, maybe. No-one had told us correctly. We have had this problem a lot with directions, we have decided that it is because most people don't drive, so don't pay much attention to directions.

At any rate we got there, found the Radiology department, and after the Radiologist read the orders, I was given the bill. That's a new twist, huh? It was for $80, and again, Lynn paid it. Then I was taken to the Emergency room within 2 minutes, and an IV was placed in my hand. Again, right away I was taken back out to the waiting room, and then to an X ray room. After the first X ray was taken, the Radiologist said that I should have had a laxative the night before, and an enema this morning. I told him that I had been told to take the enema last night, but no laxative was mentioned. He said that this could be remedied, for an additional $5. I was escorted back across the hall to Emergency and given an enema. The mother of all enemas I have ever 'seen'. I think it was 7 gallons, no, maybe it just felt that way, but none the less, it worked VERY well. the nurses were very proud! Then back across the hall for the X rays, the dye, and more X rays. When that was done they asked me to wait for 30 minutes more for the doctor to read and write a report on the lovely, clean pictures. We also paid the additional $5.

These folks did not speak English, although one thought that he did. When comparing to medical service in the States, Panama gets an A+ for time efficiency, isn't that amazing? This culture is not time-oriented at all, but because of their concern for the welfare of people, they hurry. Regarding cost, what can I say? The same test in the States last December cost $1200.00. The Radiologist's fee was part of that $80.00, too. Okay, the communication thing is a problem. One kind of sad, kind of funny thing; while we were waiting for the notes to be typed up a woman from the States came in and asked the receptionist of the E.R. if they did plastic surgery, (in English). The receptionist asked her to repeat, then called for the Radiologist - who thought he spoke English. He came over and she asked again, adding the word 'Laser' in for good measure. He said no, we do not do laser, but we do have plasticos here. I believe he was referring to plasti-casts, but he gave her the number to call for a cast, and she was happy. Ah well!

We got the X rays and report, and I was feeling pretty worn out and needing comfort food, so where could we go but to McDonald's?:) I had chicken nuggets while Lynn had a Big Mac. I was certainly empty enough to eat all the nuggets and fries on my plate! Feeling quite sated, and relieved to have this business done, we left and headed for home, without my purse; it stayed behind at McDonald's while we drove home, an hour away. As we entered Volcan, I realized what I had done.

We stopped at Belgica's house to get her to call for us, but she was not home. We went to Maria's house, another neighbor, and asked her to help. We searched the phone book, but McDonald's was not listed. She called the stores around McDonald's and asked if they knew the number, but they did not. We finally headed home to call Brother Ponce, who lives in David, but could not because his number was stored in my cell phone which was... you guessed it, in my purse. I should also mention that my bank debit cards, over a hundred in cash, my driver's license, social security card, medicines, and everything of value I own, minus my passport, was in the purse. I only had the passport because I had needed it earlier, so Lynn was carrying it for me. I looked in our phone book, which was a little newer than Maria's, and low and behold the number for McDonald's was there! I called, and with very stilted Spanish, was able to find out that they had found my purse, and were holding it for me. Lynn headed right back down to get it while I prepared for my afternoon classes. There were already children at the house waiting.

Well, now it is almost 10:00 pm. I am....exhausted. Lynn is here with me safe and sound, my purse is here as well, with not one thing missing, the classes all went well. One student brought us a tamale for supper while another brought us 'bollos', a type of corn dish, so I did not have to cook. I believe that the X rays show that indeed I have passed the stone, but will find out for sure on Monday. I know it does not hurt like it has been. I am about to go to bed in my beautiful orange house in paradise, and am feeling like I am the most blessed human being on the face of the planet. God is so good! And so in control of everything. Why do I so often forget? I don't know, but I praise Him now for being so powerful, and claim Him as my King forever!

I pray you feel His power, and claim Him as yours as well! Then you will be blessed RICHLY!

For the purpose of clarity about the above posting by Joy- I had the hard job - drove 2 trips to David and sat in an emergency Room waiting area for two hours. Joy just had to lie on a table and drink sweet strawberry milk stuff through an IV. While in the waiting room I was reminded of all the times when I worked with Kindness, Inc. that I spent in doctor's waiting room and watched the elderly. Most of the people I drove for, were not only financially stressed, but extremely lonely. I had suggested to the Elders this work as an exceptional evangelistic tool, but felt little encouragement. It would take a lot of effort and time to organize such a program, but that's what it is all about; helping those in need, or as Tim has said,"loving them like Jesus would".

About the Christian Clinic - I thought Tim's email about Riverside heading the diabetic meals program was a great idea. I pray you will too. I used to do volunteer janitorial work for the Christian Clinic, and frankly was embarrassed that Riverside was not more actively involved. Didn't mean to get so serious but since Joy has been sick, it's all the housework getting me down. ;)

God is good!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Another Lynn

We just returned from Golfito, Costa Rica. We left yesterday at about 10:00 A.M. - walked about a mile to the main highway and caught a bus to Concepcion - caught another bus to Frontera, which is the Panama/Costa Rica border. Praise here for Joy; If it were not for her adequate knowledge of Spanish, bus travel, border crossings, etc. would be difficult if not impossible.

This was the first time we had been to the border crossing on the Pan-American highway. You may recall our frightening experiences with the crossing at Rio Sereno two years ago. We mistakingly thought the crossing here on the big highway would be different. Truthfully it was better, but still did not meet our expectations. It was totally un-organized, and anyone could easily just walk through un-documented. After we exited the bus we had to ask where to go next. We were pointed to a tall building about a block away and then saw the cars and big rigs lines up. We chose to get in a line to the "Salida" window. While standing there a man came up and asked for our passports. He put a little stamp on each and said "dos dolares". After getting to the window and having our passports checked and stamped we proceeded to the other end of the building. Not seeing anything that said Costa Rica, we asked, and were pointed to another building about 3 blocks away. When there we could not see much but finally saw a "Entrada" sign and stood in that line.

After having our passports checked and stamped, we had to ask where to catch the bus to go to Golfito. We were pointed to a spot but after waiting for about 30 minutes we walked back toward Panama, in what appeared to be 'no-mans land', to look for a bus station. We found a sign at the curb and a bus with a sign in the front reading "Golfito". We boarded, asking and being assured of the destination. The whole border crossing thing had taken nearly 2 hours. Except for not having "Colones", the currency of Costa Rica, the trip was uneventful. We were able to pay the bus fare with our U.S. dollars, and even exchanged a $5.00 bill for 2500 colones, not having any idea if that was close to the correct exchange rate. The whole trip, 3 buses, cost $4.50 a piece.

Joy had picked Golfita off a map, not knowing anything about it. When the driver's helper asked where we wanted off in Golfita, we didn't have a clue. Town didn't look like much. It was a fishing town on the Pacific with a main street paralleling the good looking harbor. We deboarded somewhere about the middle of the business district and proceeded to walk and gawk looking for a hotel or cabina. After about a mile Joy went into a little dress shop and inquired about hotels. At about the same time we saw a sign for a motel one more mile down the road, so we continued the walk and gawk. There was a long pier with a large tanker and a large sailing ship docked, as well as other small boats in the cove. We stopped along the way to see crabs scurrying in and out of their holes. They were brilliantly colored, red and yellow, and fast! There were also huge lizards with fins running down their back and tail. They could be so absolutely still that if you didn't see them move before they saw you, you would never know they were there.

We stopped at a little outdoor cafe connected to a large hospital and shared a hamburger. As we walked on there was evidence that this had been, years ago, a large military base. If anyone has some history on Golfito, Costa Rico, please share!

We came upon a large duty-free mall just before we found the hotel. The next morning we checked it out. The motel we found was very nice; a fishing resort and casino. This morning we had breakfast at a little sidewalk cafe, walked through the mall, then walked back toward town to find a bus stop. the border crossing back was a little easier but had an additional stop to buy Panama tourist cards ($5.00 each).

The reason for this trip was to renew our tourist visa. We, after 90 days, had to leave the country overnight. When we came back into Panama there was a bulletin posted at the border changing that requirement to 30 days. We had been putting off trying to get a 'Pensionado' visa, that would be more permanent, but we will have to find out about this new law, and get it in gear.

When we returned to downtown Volcan we splurged and took a taxi home ($1.25). Mainly because Joy was having some kidney pain. She has been tolerating a stone for over a week now. We have tried several home remedies, both U.S. and Panamanian, but no success yet. She is supposed to see the local doctor tomorrow to prepare for a referral to the hospital at David, if and when the stone blocks her urinary tract. Stay tuned.

Sorry I have been so lax in writing. Busy times. I had an interesting story about our taxi rides in Panama City last week, but maybe later. We had one driver that "crossed himself" three times on the way from the bus terminal to the hotel, but later...

If you are not reading Tim's blog, you are missing a real blessing.

God is good!

Isn't this what it's all about? joy

We have been honored to be part of a work the David church began a few weeks ago, and thought I would share a little of this real- love experience. We continue to be blessed, and taught by the good folks in the church there.

When we arrived back in town after being away for a couple of weeks, we noted in the announcements that the 'work for the sister had gone well.' After dismissing we ask to what work they were referring. Turns out that one of the newer members of the church, one I had worked and studied with last Fall, had come on some pretty hard times. Her name is Lydia, she lives in a tiny house (2 rooms) with her elderly mom and two daughters.

When I first met Lydia, she was very interested in a relationship with Christ, but worked every Sunday, and could not attend services, so felt this disqualified her from any opportunity to become a Christ-follower. I assured her that was not the case, and began studying with her on Saturdays. He mother had recently had eye surgery, and was legally blind. Lydia worked 2 jobs, one with a bakery very early every single morning, and the other cleaning a house, with Tuesday afternoons and Saturday mornings off. Her daughters are 16 and 13, and growing daily, with need of clothing and school supplies and uniforms. She is stretched to the max, financially.

She had been told she must make the sacrifice of quitting her job, being unable to feed her family, and attend Sunday services if she wanted to be a Christian. After suggesting arrangements for her to have a home Bible study weekly, with daily Bible readings, and then studying just what the Bible has to say about qualifications to enter the kingdom, she chose Christ as her Lord, and followed His command to be baptized, joining a wonderful body of believers who support her throughout the week, not just on Sundays!

Two months ago she was able to convince her boss to change her Saturday mornings off to Sunday mornings. She has less time to care for her family physically, but she is faithfully at the Sunday morning gathering of the saints! And she is thrilled and growing stronger spiritually with every passing day.

However, another problem popped up 4 weeks ago. We had heavy rain for about 2 straight weeks, and her house, on a creek bank, flooded. I mentioned that the house was small, it also had dirt floors and some sheet metal walls. The rains washed the dirt away, and pushed off some of the sheet metal. What floor remained was deep mud.

The church began by tearing down one of the rooms, and pouring a cement floor in the other. Since then, using only members of the church, we have put a cement floor down in the entire house, including the little porch area, and are slowly building block walls around the house. Outside she has a thatch-covered kitchen (about 6 foot square) where they use wood to cook, and an outhouse with a piece of PVC sticking up for a shower. She asked for nothing from the church, other than prayers for her mom, who was ill and could not leave the house, or the standing water in it. The church, when visiting, as is there custom, saw her situation and stepped in to help.

We are building an additional room onto the house where the porch has been in the past. When we asked if she would like that to be done she just stood amazed and smiled. As we have worked on the house her mother checks on our progress, smiles and says thank you often. There have been as many as 7 working at one time, and sometimes as few as 3. One day there was even one of the brethren who had been sick all night who came to try to help, but was given money for food and sent home instead.

The work is a good time for fellowship as well as work. Lynn, with his 'eye for a perfect line' has been quite a hit, though he speaks very little Spanish. The men love him and ask his opinion on everything. They call him 'the Architect" though he always says "no, I am an Agrimensor" ( One of the first words he learned when we moved here - surveyor). Because of the extreme heat, we take breaks often, ans share a word or a joke with one another. Relationships are being built, we are all being encouraged by one another. Faith is strengthened. God is glorified. Practice for the kingdom!

The work continues every Saturday, and because of work schedule conflicts, some times during the week as well. It is, in it´s purist form, a work of love. It speaks to the world around us more clearly than words ever could. Jesus is the reason. Because he loved us, because he showed us how to love, we can show that love to each other. Is there more important work? Haven´t seen it or heard of it. Is it difficult to fit into our busy schedules? Absolutely. Have I ever felt so blessed? No way! Am I doing anything really awesome or great? Nope. Just following the example of the King!
Sister Lydia needed a hand - God provided His, through His people. I sure am glad that I am one of them!

I pray you will find a way to be blessed this week!

Monday, July 9, 2007

El Valle Elementary School Lunch Program

We dropped off the food for the school today, and Rosy, the teacher who speaks very good English, said to tell all hello, and how much they appreciated the meals. She said it made a difference in the kid's attention span, and their behavior in general.

At present we are providing weekly about 200 pounds of vegetables, 25 pounds of rice, 15 pounds of beans, and salt and oil as they need it. The mothers all greet me with smiles, both at the school, and on the road. I know that they appreciate the gift immensely. I get hugs from the children each time I see them. Sorry you aren't able to receive them yourselves, but happy to be the one they see!

If anyone else wants to help with this project, you can just mail your check to Riverside Church of Christ, 190 Whitaker Lane, Gassville, Arkansas 72635. Not meant as a plug, just if you feel the Spirit's urging! Mark it Riverside In Panama - school.

The young lady in the picture is in kindergarden, and happens to be our neighbor. He name is Yemi. She lives in a house with no electricity, but she may be one of the fortunate who actually get breakfast most days.

May god bless you all richly!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Melancholy moments

We have enjoyed the company of our youngest for the past 5 weeks, but have reached the time when we must say goodbye for a few months. Funny, it doesn't seem like that long, but right now, to me, it seems an eternity. Perhaps it has something to do with him just turning 18 a few days ago, and that he is my baby, and that his big brother is going with him. Whatever the cause I am feeling pretty far from home right now.
There are so many things to be done, I know I will not be bored, so I am trying to focus on that. There is a team, albeit a small team, coming down at the end of July, so we will see some dearly loved folks. Then our dear daughter ( in spirit) Melissa will marry her beau on August 11th in Panama City. On the 18th I will speak before the National Church of Christ Ladies Convention, also in Panama City. Right after that there is a big campaign in Chiman, Darien that we hope to be a part of. Our chicken house is not done, nor have we bought any sheep yet. The English lessons have increased in number of students, and classes (23 and 4 respectively). We are taking food to the school on a weekly basis, and it is time for us to leave the country for a day or two.

The latter is because of the Visa regulations here. Every 90 days we must leave the country for at least one night before returning. This 'tourist visa' has been a big topic of conversation among the Ex-pats here, as the laws are about to be changed to only 1 month with alot of paperwork to obtain an extension. For this reason we need to hurry to get our Retirement Visa, which allows permanent residency.

So, maybe God is going to keep us too busy to miss the boys for awhile. But I would ask for prayers for the whole family; for safe travels, and steady hearts.

We know that we are missing much excitement at our home congregation, and pray that you are all well, and fed. Congratulations to Roscoe and Jenny!!!! May God bless you and your family as you seek Him in your life together.

We have open beds for any who wish to visit - you are always welcome.

God continues to teach and test us as we work in this beautiful land of beautiful people. We continue to learn, and overcome, thanks be to our ever faithful God!

I was blessed today by reading the following, maybe you need to hear it too:
...and be content with what you have because God has said
"Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
So we say with confidence,
"The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
Hebrews 13:5-6
No matter how tough it seems, no matter how bleak, remember our strength comes from Him, who is all-powerful. Our hope lies in Him, who conquered death. Our joy, yes even our joy, is found in Him, who loves us more than anyone.
Sleep on that!!!!!

May God bless you RICHLY!