The Weather in Our Neck of the Woods

Monday, October 22, 2007

My Computer's name is 'Two Homes Now"

We are sitting in the airport waiting to return to Riverside and home. We have been asked many times,”Where is home now?”. The answer is that we have two homes and we love them both. I can not say that the little orange house in Volcan isn’t home. Truly, home is where your heart is, and our hearts are torn daily. There are so many that we love in Arkansas, and we miss them terribly when we are here in Panama, but it was surely difficult to leave home yesterday; saying goodbye for a long 6 months. I remember crying when we left Lynn’s mom 6 months ago, thinking I could not bear the time away from her so recently after losing her husband, James. Now, here we sit waiting for our flight to Houston, and I can not wait to see her again, but I wonder that I can bear being away from Kathy, Anna Valery, Yaritz, and Ezequias for even a month.

I realize the answer, of course, lies completely in God’s hands. He placed in our hearts a love for the people of Panama years ago, and long before that, love for our family in the States, both our blood family and our Riverside family. He has it all figured out. I will tell you that now, in this moment, but don’t think I haven’t fussed at Him about it. Why would He do this to me? Knowing how I love so completely, and lose my heart so fully, why would He purposely tear my heart in two? Truth be told, Lynn is just like me, he just puts on a braver, he-man face for the public. So, yes, we have wondered, but really we know. Jesus told us that he would require sacrifice, that we would suffer for his name. He didn’t lie. (Of course, He never lies)

I think sometimes that I paint too rosy of a picture for you. I want you to see the progress, and the good things that God is doing here. That is very important, but then I think you need to understand that it is not all wonderful, picture perfect. I am not talking about the worms in the water. That is an inconvenience. I wonder if you need to know that sometimes Lynn and I fight. That sometimes I do stupid stuff that causes significant problems. That at times, I unintentionally offend with my ignorance of culture. Beyond my mistakes, my sins, other things go wrong. We place faith in someone who turns out to be very untrustworthy. We are disappointed in Ez’s immaturity at times, stuff like that. Some things are more important than others, but all are problems, all opportunities for us to fail, in God’s eyes, and in yours. I really don’t want you thinking we are perfect. Those of you who know us well don’t have any doubts about that! (Please Ben and Josh, do not respond to this part of the blog!) We strive to paint a picture that shows you the successes of this work, and there are many. I just wonder if you can see the whole picture. God is definitely VERY GOOD! He is doing marvelous things in the hearts of these people, and in our hearts. We are very grateful for His love and guidance. We know that He has complete control, if we just stay out of His way!

Calling our flight, will write more later.

Batteries died, so now we are home, safe and sound.

When the team left last June, they left money with us and asked us to buy something special for Dany, who had taken care of the team all week. We bought her a pressure cooker, but had money left to spend. We could not come up with a good idea, so asked her daughter, Yesenia to try to think of something. Two weeks before we were scheduled to come home she finally did. She said her mom had wanted a floor for her house for over a year. The house has dirt floors, and mud is a big problem. So, we looked into prices of cement and sand, but realized we could not just surprise her with a new floor. She would need to get moved out while it was being laid, and so we invited her over and told her what we wanted to do. She was shocked, and then she cried. She said that would be wonderful. Yemi, the youngest had been having constant colds and she believed that the floor would help her with that a lot. Well, the floor went in the Sunday before we left. They had to stay off it until the day after we left, but were staying in a lean-to at the neighbors. Dany is thrilled. She is such a good woman. Thanks Riverside in Panama 07 team!!! Once again we get the hugs and thanks for your gifts!

Our first meeting without the David congregation went very well. We had 21 people present, a good lesson, a 30-minute class, just discussing one Bible passage, and we shared a meal together. We had no idea what to expect, but were very pleased with the turnout, and the participation. Ez did a great job of including everyone in the lesson and the class. We are really happy with his heart and attitude toward the church and Christ. He is a fine teacher, with a great love of the Lord. We are grateful that God sent him to Riverside.

2000 more things to share, but my emotions are tumultuous at best right now. I will close by asking God’s richest blessings on you, our dear friends.

All because of Jesus!


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Friendship Evangelism

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Lynn's Thoughts...

My first encounter with “Friendship Evangelism” was with Brother Bill Jordan at Riverside. Joy and I believed that this was the course we wanted to pursue in Panama.

I’m reading a book that Joy had purchased for one of her “Masters of Ministries” courses – “Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Places” by Eugene H. Peterson, a Presbyterian minister. The following are some quotes from Mr. Peterson’s book. I believe these principles are just as valid in Yellville, Mountain Home and Gassville as Volcan.

It is striking how much of Jesus’ life is told in settings defined by meals. Early on people noticed how frequently Jesus was seen at meals with people who were outsiders, men and women not considered acceptable in religious circles. Our term would probably be “the unsaved.” He got a reputation for eating and drinking outside conventional settings and for not being very particular with whom he ate: “Look a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Luke 7:34)

The frequency of hospitality references in the Epistles – Acts 4:32-35; Romans 16:23; Hebrews 13:1-3; 1 Peter 4:9; 1 John 3: 16-18; 3 John 5-8 –shows how thoroughly the meal became a focal practice in the early church for participating in Jesus’ work of salvation. The final citation 3 John 5-8, is particularly instructive as it contrasts two church leaders, Gaius and Diotrephes, on the grounds of their practice of hospitality. Gaius was a hospitable man, sacrificial and generous in his hospitality to strangers, welcoming those who showed up as “fellow workers in the truth” (RSV). Diotrephes, by contrast, was full of himself, arrogantly refusing hospitality.

The most frequent North American way of giving witness to the salvation that Christ accomplished on the cross (which is to say, evangelism) is verbal.

It is the devil’s own work to detach the language of salvation from the setting of salvation, to separate words from personal relationships, to make salvation a “cause” or a “project” that can be conducted as efficiently and impersonally as possible. But the gospel will not permit it. In the story of our salvation, we find the Architect of our salvation going about his salvation work in the thick textures of place and person, and to a surprising extent, in the settings of a meal.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

First Day

Sunday October 7, 2007

Lynn's thoughts...

When I write about the people and their ways, I’m not ‘making fun’ but merely to show you differences in culture, specifically Panama. I really admire some of the simplistic ways and count them as superior. For example, we were walking down the main drag this last week and spotted a water department maintenance crew. It consisted of two men on a motorcycle carrying a shovel and a 2 gallon bucket filled with multiple sizes of PVC pipe.

Joy failed to pay our water bill on time last month so we were assessed a late fee of 43 cents. The bill was still less than five dollars, but we do still have the grubworm problem.

Our neighbor on one side got a haircut Friday night. The barber was a young fellow on a bicycle carrying a small bag. He came to the neighbors’ house and did the job on the front porch. I didn’t know you could do it that way. I went to a shop downtown and paid $2.

Killed a snake this week in our front yard, about 20 feet from our front door. Sally, our Dalmatian dog, had it cornered in the flowerbed. Got several opinions from neighbors. All agreed that it was highly poisonous, one of the 10 poisonous kinds in Panama. This is the second one of these we have killed in the yard. The upside is that these little snakes are about 16-18 inches long with tiny mouths that make it difficult for them to bite.

Still no car. It’s been over 2 weeks now. Walking to town tends to make one thoughtfully consider one’s legitimate needs. Taxis are a way of life here since the vast majority of people do not own vehicles. We had to take a taxi to Concepcion, about 40 minutes away, last week to buy and haul a pressure tank and jet valve for our water system plus a baptistery for the church. The baptistery is a 500 liter plastic water tank that we set on top of the septic tank in the back yard and fill with a hose. Back to the taxi. That trip cost $22.50 and took over 2 hours. Friday we had another 2 hour taxi trip to haul 65 chairs, pick up veggies at the co-op and then go grocery shopping. That trip cost $17. Joy probably won’t tell you about the chairs, so I will. We had previously bought 40 chairs for the church, but since we expected over a hundred at our first service we started to try to find rental chairs. The only place here in Volcan that we found was a funeral home. We paid $19.70 to rent 65 fiberglass stackables. We have to take them back tomorrow. There’s another taxi trip. In case you wondered what kind of taxi hauled all this stuff, a lot are 4 door pickups. That’s what we use. We are on a first name basis with Javier now.

These are my thoughts for now, knowing Joy will tell you all about today.

Joy's thoughts...

Wow! What a day! What a weekend! We want to tell you all about it, but first we want to express our sincere love and condolences to Sister Kim and all the family of Rick Bell. He was a good man while on this earth, and we are certain he is at peace, pain free, and totally content at the feet of our Savior now. Praise God! The tough part now begins for Kim. We are praying daily, several times a day for you, Sister. Hang tough, and cry when you need to. Remember that your Riverside family is just a phone call away. That isn’t just an empty, feel-good thing with us at Riverside. It is a reality. Use us!

I woke up praying for our first meeting day, and was worrying (yes, I know that is not a good thing) about all the little things that needed to be done when I read the news from Kim. Reality check! Let’s put things in perspective here. It really did not matter if the tang had enough water added, or whether we had to borrow pailas from the neighbors to cook the meal, what matters most is the people who get to understand God just a little better before their opportunity passes. So, even in death, Rick impacted my thinking, and thus my attitude with the precious folks who came to worship God today. Thanks Rick!

Our day actually began yesterday at about 9 AM. That is when 4 sisters from the David congregation and 1 brother arrived to begin preparing for the noon meal for today. The ladies, along with Yaritza and me peeled, sliced and cooked 50 pounds of potatoes, 15 pounds of carrots, 22 onions (Yaritza and I counted and cried over every stinking one!), 8 heads of celery, 12 heads of cabbage, and several other veggies, but I think you get the picture. We had all the prep work done at 10 pm last night. Lynn constructed a 50 x 26’ lean-to on the side of the house to protect from rain or sun. After he finished that little job (in the rain) he deboned 35 pounds of chicken breasts before collapsing into his bed at 10:30. (That’s my man!) Okay, so all but two of these helpers spent the night in bunks. The younger ones stayed up till who knows how late watching a movie on the computer. At 10:45 I was snoring I am sure.

Today began at 6 am. Coffee and crema and we were on our way again. Cooking began at 7 when 2 carloads of ladies from David showed up to prepare the meal. Everything is kind of a blur between then and when the bus arrived. We had sufficient food for 125 people and sufficient pans to cook for about 50. It was interesting, but because of the note from Kim, it was all just little stuff to take care of and forget. I did.

The bus – a school bus that one of our dear brothers, Javier, drives through David picking up any who need a ride to church on Sundays. It is a 66 passenger that came up the mountain this morning with more than full capacity. The entirety of our sister congregation was here to offer support and congratulations for our first day. It was a sight to behold as they piled out of the bus! Just after they arrived our first visitors arrived. I should say that we had several from Volcan already here. About 7 youth have helped all week door knocking and whatever needed done. They are not considered visitors, but the first regulars for our little church.

When the singing first began I was a little disappointed, I must admit. There were a few, maybe 10 or so from the community. I had expected, hoped for more. But it was as if the singing was the first bell, and before the lesson began in earnest there were over 40 of our Volcan neighbors here. If many more would have come we would not have had food for them all.

We sang and sang. I bet there were more than 15 songs. Is that ok? I mean, are we good with breaking the 2 songs/ prayer/ 1 song/ Lord’s Supper/ Sermon… thing? Must be - I learned that at Riverside!!! It was great! I will be the first to tell you that most of our youth can not hold a tune in a HUGE bucket! But they do sing with gusto! And they certainly make a joyful noise. (I have had reason to stop and ponder that verse – must it be joyful to others who hear it as well?) Just kidding! They sound like angels to me!

Brother Ponce, who has been here every day this past week evangelizing and inviting folks to come today, spoke first about the first church, the purpose of the church, and whose church it was. He was not exactly brief : ) but we did not expect him to be. After that we sang a bit more, then Ez got up to preach/ teach. That was my cue to leave with all the kiddos.

Ez mentioned to me a few days ago that he thought the children needed to have a class of some kind because they would get tired of sitting for the lesson. I told him to make the lesson brief. He just laughed, so I got together an introduction to Jesus to go along with why we had a church here. I had over 40 kids in the class. We colored and discussed some of the amazing things that Jesus did. I was amazed at how little they knew of his life, so was even more excited to share. I spoke in Spanish for a good part of the time, and used Urian to translate the rest. I enjoyed it immensely and was glad that Ez insisted on it. The kids from Volcan each left a picture here for me to bring home next week to the kids who have been paying for their lunches.

Afterward Ez introduced Lynn and I before we broke for lunch. Lynn talked up a blue streak and I just smiled and said welcome. If you believe that, you really don’t know us very well! Actually I just said that we were grateful to God for the opportunity to serve them, and that we appreciated the David folks coming up. Lynn just smiled. Ez told them that he would ask Lynn to speak but Lynn did not like to speak – in Spanish or English. Those who knew Lynn all laughed. He just smiled bigger.

The lunch went well. We had great food, and plenty of it. I really would like to incorporate a meal every Sunday here. It is quite normal here to share a meal at noontime, so it will not be a big hurtle. The thing I did not get across today was that everyone should bring something. Pot luck is different here. At David everyone brings the same thing ( Arroz con Pollo for example) So, we will work on that! At any rate the food was delicious, and most folks came back for seconds and thirds.

The really big news of the day is that we had 2 baptisms. I mentioned earlier that Yaritza wanted to be baptized, and she was. I am eager to help her begin this new stage in her life. Can you remember how awesome it was when you first began to walk with God? She is ready! The other was Dania, a 14 year old from David. She went with us to the waterfall before, and has been attending in David for some time. Her mother and aunts were on hand for the big day, and both were submersed and brought up into a new life, new creatures in Christ!

Salinda and most of her family came. It was the first time I had met her husband. He seems like an ok guy. The oldest daughter with the baby did not come. It was rainy and neither needed to be out in the weather. The daughter is very weak. WE believe she is quite undernourished, and are looking at ways to help with that on a more long term basis. Today when plates of food were passed out Salinda took one plate for herself and one for her husband. She felt her family was too large to each get a plate, so they were sharing. When Ez realized this he sent her in to get a plate for each child. Everyone else had already had seconds and sometimes thirds. I filled their plates extra high, and gave her two extra plates for her and her husband. I feel so strongly that I want to just take them in and give them all that we have, but I know that is not best for them, for us, or for others. Please pray for us that we do the right thing with this humble family. Ez took the beds over to her house yesterday, and then later returned again with sheets and blankets. She cried when she saw the beds. Ez said she made him cry too. We mustn’t forget how fortunate we are; how much we have, and how little others have.

Back to today – neighbors stayed to help us clean up. Dani was here for over an hour. Ok, a little tangent again; we are putting a concrete floor in her house tomorrow. The money many of you left for a gift for her is being used, ultimately, to get her feet off the dirt floor! This was Yessenia’s idea. I had asked her for some time what her mom might like as a gift. WE gave her a pressure cooker, and have been taking veggies every week, but wanted to do something bigger. Now we are doing it. She is elated! She was just here again to confirm that the workers would start in the morning if there is not rain. You should see her face! She is like a child with a favorite toy. You guys did good!

Well, the house finally emptied around 4:30 totally. Ez went to bed for awhile, Lynn dozed in his chair, and I began writing to you! Now it is after 7 and I am ready for my bed! Other neighbors have come and gone – you remember the neighbor who took us to get pineapples a few months ago? He came by with a fresh batch, apologizing because he missed church. He had to work on his farm down below. He said he will be here next week, Lord willing!

Can you hear it? My bed is calling out to me! Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for this work in progress. We believe that God has big plans for this church, but we constantly need His guidance to get it done!

More news later, and see you all soon!

All because of Jesus!

Lynn y Joy

Friday, October 5, 2007

Meet Salinda and Family

We would like to introduce you to Salinda. She lives with her 8 children, about a mile from us in a small room that she rents for $35.00 per month. I haven’t been there, but Ez has several times. Let me share a little of her story, at least a little of it that I know.

We met Salinda about 2 months ago after Ez had gone to her house to offer her a Bible study. She agreed, and they began to study twice a week together. She came visiting one day after several invitations from Ez. She had several of her children with her. We sat on the porch and visited for an hour or so. Because her dialect is different that most of the Panamanians that I have talked with here, we had a tough time communicating. Lynn, of course, just smiled and winked at the kids, offering them cookies, which made him an instant hit. Before they left I discovered that there were several older children at the house, three of which attend El Valle School. There is a 14 year old boy, Roberto, who is in 4th grade and a 12 year old who is also in 4th grade. Then there is a 9 year old girl in 2nd grade. I asked the Director about them later, and found that they are often sick, and miss a lot of school.

The next time she visited she brought a purse she was trying to sell. The older boys were in need of notebooks for school so she was selling the purse to buy notebooks. The purse was handmade; G’nobe Bugle tribe artwork. I had school supplies here so offered them to her as a gift. We had notebooks, pencils, pens, colors and a few other things, thanks to Riverside (in Arkansas). She was hesitant to take the gifts at first, but when I explained that it was just for such purposes that you had sent the supplies, she smiled and gratefully took them. We also gave the younger children coloring books and crayons. Before she left she gave me the purse. It is hanging on the wall in the living room as I write this.

The next week Ez mentioned that one of the boys was sent home from school because of his shoes. Uniforms must be worn by all students. I went to the school the next day and asked one of the teachers what happened when a child did not have their uniform. She said that the Director would try to find them what they needed, but if he could not they would be allowed a ‘few weeks’ to purchase what they needed. As I asked more questions, I found that the children had been making fun of Roberto for his torn up shoes. He was not sent home for being out of uniform, but because he was upset and did not want to be embarrassed more, so the Director sent him home for the day.

We bought 2 pairs of shoes the next weekend. Both boys were wearing shoes without soles. Now they have sturdy new shoes.

Salinda visited for the third time this past Tuesday. She was not smiling as brightly as in times past. She almost immediately told me that her oldest daughter went to David last Saturday because she was in labor, ready to have a baby. She had not heard from her since and was very concerned. Her daughter is 16, lives with her, along with her boyfriend, who works, but drinks heavily so has no money. She did not have the money to go to David to check on her, and the boyfriend had not been around in days. She feared that her daughter did not have the fare to ride the bus home with the new baby. Our car is still dead, so I could not drive her down, but we offered her money for fare to David and back for herself and enough to get her daughter back as well. She was very grateful, and offered to repay us when she returned. We knew she did not have the money for that, but asked her to make some purses for us instead. She was happy with the idea.

Ex went for his study on Wednesday with her and found out that in fact her daughter did not have fare to get home, and the doctor said she was too weak to be released, knowing she could not go home, so she stayed in the hospital until Salinda went down on Tuesday night. Now both mom and baby are in the apartment with Salinda and her 7 other kids.

Salinda shared with me her story on her second visit. She was ‘sold’ to a much older man when she was 12 years old. This man fathered her first 6 children. Actually she had 8 with him but 2 died in childhood. After his death 4 years ago she moved into town and began to support her family alone. She is 100% Indian, uneducated, and speaks a slightly different Spanish than non-indian Panamanians. ( This is typical because they have their own language and Spanish is a second language for them) For all these reasons, and more she has had difficulty finding permanent work. She did find a new man. She married a 26 year old man last year. He works full time at a local bakery for $6 / day. That does keep some food in the house, and pays the rent, but not much more.

Ez returned to share the news of the daughter’s return, and also voiced his concern for the baby’s welfare. The entire family sleeps on mattresses on the floor, including the new mom and baby. The room is about 20 x 12 with an attached bathroom. It has lights but nothing more. They have no beds, but do have a dining table and some old chairs. Salinda is grateful for what she has and says she looked for something more but could not find anything they could afford. As I hold my tiny Anna Valery, I cannot imagine that new baby sleeping on the cold floor, with all the crawly things we have here. It breaks my heart.

Tomorrow Ez will be taking two of our bunkbeds to Salinda. We are not sure how she will react to this. It isn’t that she is very proud. She is way past that, I think. She does not want to impose on us or anyone else. She is of a different culture, and so we walk carefully. We do not want to offend her. We will ask her to make more purses as well. Of course we will pay her for the purses, but she will give us a really good deal on them, so she can feel she is doing her part. This lady is why we are here, right? I mean, isn’t this what Jesus was all about? Helping each other out? While we are saddened by her conditions, we are thrilled that we can help her. It’s a cup of water in Jesus’ name, and we get to offer it to her.

Again, thanks to you all, we get the perks of your gifts to others. You give; we get the thanks, and the face to face contact. So we offer our thanks to you all. Feel free to come down and get the face to face yourself whenever you like!

All because of Jesus! Lynn & joy