The Weather in Our Neck of the Woods

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Come See Us!

For those of you close enough to visit - we will be sharing a presentation of our 2008 work in Panama this coming Saturday, November 22 at the Riverside building. We will begin with the presentation at 5:00 pm followed by a traditional Panamanian fiesta meal. We would love to see you!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

From feeding to being fed...

Sorry we have not updated you sooner! We returned to Arkansas last Wednesday. It took a couple of days to get our internet and phone turned back on - not due to any fault of Yelcot Telephone Company!!!! They were awesome. Friday morning we called and asked if they could get us up and going as soon as possible. Two hours later we were ready to go! Thanks Christie and Yelcot!

We believe we have left the church in El Valle in the best of hands (God's) with the new Christians taking responsibility for regular activities and long time Christians from the church in David coming up regularly to help out and offer guidance. I prepared lessons for all the classes for 6 months before we left, and we provided all the supplies they will need for classes, both childrens' and adults'. One couple from the church in David is sacrificing greatly, and we are very indebted to them. Brother Gilberto Samaniego is coordination our speakers so that there will be someone there each Sunday to teach the adult class and preach. He and his family will be there twice monthly as well. His wife, Sister Ana is taking care of the finances of the work there. She will be responsible for all moneys sent to Panama, as well as organizing many activities for the women and children. She also teaches the children's class when she is there. Their daughter, Kathy and her boyfriend Bruce also attend when they can, and Bruce leads singing. Gilberto is also taking care of our truck while we are gone as well. He just started a new job that requires occasional use of a 4 wheel drive so God worked that out for us both!

We have a couple from the church staying in our house and taking care of it and the farm. They have a small house just up the road, which his mom and a friend are living in at this time so that they can live in and take care of ours. The friend is an unwed pregnant lady who was kicked out of her parents home for her indiscretion, so there is ministry within the ministry for them. Jose has plenty of experience on the farm, and I believe he loves animals as much as I do so I am confident that he will care for our cow, calf, chickens and dogs just fine. However, at this time he is still on crutches with a broken leg. he will be so for another month. His wife, Marleni, a woman very much in love with God and eagerly learning all she can, had a hysterectomy a few weeks ago, so she is recuperating as well. They have been without income for some time, relying on family and us for their food and medical needs. So, receiving the small amount we are able to pay them will actually offer them a regular farm wage. They are very humble, but don't interpret that they are 'takers'. We feel confident that the farm will be in top shape when we return, better than ever. He will work once his foot is ready, we know.

Dani, a dear sister and friend, will take care of the needs of the school for us. She will receive the donation from the Riverside Kingdom Kids each Sunday and purchase and deliver their food on Mondays. She will also serve as liaison for the Beka scholarship children, relaying their needs and in turn receiving the funds to purchase what they need. Yaritza, who was not able to return with us this year, will take care of the needs of Celinda's children - the Indian family that is part of the scholarship program. She is taking them breakfast foods each week. This is a great way for her to participate in the work, have some responsibility, and feel she is in touch with us as well. Yaritza is like one of our children to us. It is very hard for us to be so far apart. She is also a young lady in crisis with a mom who doesn't seem to see or care.

All of that to say - Wow! It is great to be here and see each of you who are so important to us, and to the work in Panama. The hugs and smiles did wonders for these hurting hearts. Worshiping with our first family was a true gift. I pray that we never take it for granted, but if you find yourself doing so, just go away for awhile! Not too long, mind you, but we are all truly blessed to be part of Riverside!We were doubly blessed that Randy Willingham was the speaker Sunday. Randy has been my mentor for many years now, and a faithful source for spiritual renewal for Lynn and I both. God knew just what we needed!

The only negative of our first Sunday was that Roger and Rogena were not there to greet us. Imagine the nerve of them to think that having their first grandson was more important than seeing us as soon as we returned! Ok, yes I have seen the pictures and he is absolutely adorable, so I will try to forgive ;)!

I will be posting photos very soon from our time in Santa Marta delivering the gifts you provided the church; Another amazing experience that I can only party share with words. The church there sends their greetings and love and thanks for all you do for them. They are very excited about the team coming in next June. There were tears when I told them that it looked like it would really happen. They have heard for years that one group or another would try to get in there with a medical team, but it has never happened. There is much sickness and need for medical attention.

We love you and thank you for your prayers and support. We are not sure how long we will stay in the States, as there are many concerns in the church, with families in crisis, or near crisis stage. You know that it is difficult to love so many folks of God, so far apart. We are listening to God, and trying to follow His lead. I still have not seen my own children here. Josh now lives in St Louis, and will be down for Thanksgiving, Lord willing. Ben is studying in England until mid December,so we will not see him until then. Please keep him in your prayers as he has been sick most of the semester with an undiagnosed problem.

We ask you to place the church at El Valle on your daily prayer list. As well, please keep Yaritza, and Kathy with her precious baby, Valery in your constant prayers. Both these precious souls are in an abusive situation at home, and seemingly stuck at this time there. Thank you in advance for that. We know that God can and does change lives.

Richest of God's blessings!
joy & Lynn

Monday, October 20, 2008

So some days are GREAT!

We are behind on blogging. Things are moving rapidly toward our return to the States, and we are hustling to get everything done that needs done.

We are fencing our entire property with chain-link in order to cut down on intruders in the night, both human and animal. Since we have the new calf, and chickens (WHO ARE LAYING EGGS!!!!) we have a greater need to keep stray dogs out of our pasture. Aside from that, the fence is high enough to also discourage people from passing over to ‘borrow’ tools and things. The work is in progress, and coming along nicely in spite of low pressure system storms and hurricanes in neighboring countries.
Lynn has planted many fruit trees so that we can begin to see growth toward our long term goals of being a working, community-helping farm. We have also built a small shop/ tool building out back that he is just beginning to organize and fill with tools from the laundry room. (Joy is SOOOOO happy!) There are also other fencing jobs within the outside fence that he is working on.

We are also in the process of preparing class material for the church – adults and children – to last for the next 6 months. First we had to decide as a church what we wanted to learn, then I had to find the material, and now I am in the copying stage. This is only for the adults. They let me decide what to teach the children’s class, and it is almost all done. I found a wonderful curriculum through Calvary Chapel Children’s Ministry. I have used it for the past 6 months with the Old Testament stories, and now we have begun with the New Testament. These are free to all on the net, and have been a great blessing to us. The adults have chosen to study 1 Corinthians when we finish up the study of James in which we are now deeply involved. I found a very good Spanish curriculum for this study at Mark Reeves has done some really great lessons for the Spanish community. We have used his studies before, and are pleased to do another. So with our classes growing, and our members maturing, the task to find good material, and make sure there are plenty of copies, is growing more difficult as well.
Then there is finding craft lessons for Kingdom Kids – sound familiar? When all is said and done for the children, I need to go over it all with the teachers who have always depended on me to prepare the lesson, and they just help me teach it. We are growing in so many ways!!!

We are also in the midst of purchasing Christmas gifts for the children of Santa Marta. Yesterday Yari and I headed to David to buy 57 pair of shoes! I found a terrific half-price shoe sale, and we were excited to check it out! Thank you so much, Riverside family for your generous donations toward this gift. There is an expression here that I have heard and love, and want to give to you: Dios les pagan! - God will repay you! You’re the best! We used right at $300 for the shoes, and will fill Ziplocs with candy and nuts to complete their gifts. We will also fix up bandanas full of candy and nuts for the adults and youth of the church. Prices have risen considerably here, and the church has grown so much that we cannot do for them what we have in the past. They will be ever so grateful for what we bring. Thank you again!

Today is Sunday. We began the day by preparing the house for the church to meet. We made hotdogs, baked beans (which are a big hit here), chips and Lynn made jello last night. We put the chairs in the big room, and took the tables out. We prepared the Santa Cena, straightened the house-side, showered and waited for the church to arrive. They were late. We are scheduled to begin at 9:30, and aside form our three little girls (Indians) who were over an hour early, today no-one was here until 9:50. We began with only 14 members at 10:00. No preacher. This is the second time that someone has said they would come to preach and then not shown up without a word. We are not upset by these situations anymore, because the church seems quite content to take care of itself in these situations. Today was not an exception. Although our numbers were down (18 before we ended), the young men stepped up and led singing, facilitated the class and served the Santa Cena (Holy Supper). We all walked up to Marlene’s house and sang a couple of her favorite songs (Thank you Lord and How Great Thou Art) then came back to the house. (We all cried while we sang. It meant a lot to Marlene, and so, to us.) We lunched together with second and third helpings then all piled into the truck and headed for the river.

The water was brisk, to put it lightly, and rapid. But Lynn held his ground and baptized our precious Kathy. It was a fantastic moment in so many ways. We have worked with, prayed with and prayed for Kathy for over a year. You may remember that she had a beautiful daughter a year ago in September, unwed and living with her mother. She has been through many struggles to get back to the point of accepting Christ as Lord. She has had to learn submission in a way that most will never understand with a very domineering, bi-polar mom. She has been offered opportunities to become a mistress by more than one man, and, though starving and apart from her baby, she held on, humbled herself and begged her mother to let her come home. God has claimed the victory in her young life, and we are all praising His power and majesty. On the way back from the river I asked how she felt. Soaking wet and shaking from cold, she looked me in the eye and said “clean”. The tears rolled down both her eyes and mine. I knew exactly what she meant. The road has been hard for this little one, and it will not be easy tomorrow, but now she has help from within and without. We, as a church, have been discussing how we ought to be a help to our brothers and sisters, both physically and spiritually. I am eager to see the church caring for this new fledgling.

Worth mentioning, Lynn really really hates cold water. He never swims. He won’t shower if we don’t have warm water. The river was like ice, and he never even noticed. They almost got drug downstream with the extreme current, and apart form the fear I saw in his eyes momentarily, he never mentioned a thing, but that it was a great thing. God can do that for us. Take away our fears, our discomforts, when we follow Him! Lynn stayed in his wet clothes for 2 hours afterward without a complaint.

The church sang songs all the way to the river, then all the way home. It was a ‘mountaintop experience’ for me. Of course, I rode home next to Kathy, with Anna Valery sleeping in my arms. What a blessing for me to know that both these precious souls, whom I love dearly, will have God in their lives in a powerful way.

The afternoon continued with the final business meeting before we head to the States. Each member was eager to take part in the responsibilities that will now rest with them. They have been in training for this, and they are ready. With God’s help, they will do great! It may seem a bit odd to some, but our business meetings consist of every believer above the age of 12. Today, because José is caring for Marlene, the men present were Lynn, Jairo (12) and Zavier (15). There was significant discussion about who would lead songs, prayers, and serve the Lord’s supper. There are times when there are not sufficient men here to take care of these duties. The women want to understand their role in these situations. This church is growing in spiritual maturity, and while it is such a blessing to see, it is also a great challenge to teach them as Jesus would.

As we talked we could see their eagerness to begin to be responsible servants. I almost wonder if we have been teaching too long, and letting go too slowly. I feel like a mother hen with her chicks! I am so excited for them, and worried too! And I thought it was bad when I sent Ben off to college! Those of you long-term folks at Riverside, remember how it was in the first year or so? How excited we were to claim responsibility, how proud we were of every good move? It feels like that here for me, and for them too, I know.

Later this afternoon Kathy came down to ask questions – serious questions for her. Is it true that I can never listen to music that is not from the church again? Can I never dance any kind of dances again? As I contemplated wringing her dear mother’s neck (the one who told her these things) I invited her to eat our customary lemon with salt – a favorite of ours (Kathy, Yari and I ). She said no, she was craving ‘sao’. I asked Lynn if he minded if we went to find some in town, and he said no, so I said “let’s go!’ Sao is a traditional carnival food. There is a man who sells out of his van in the evenings on mainstreet. We headed out in search – and found the guy in the park at a ‘futball’ game. Sao is a mixture of pig’s feet, cucumbers, onions, lemon, vinegar, salt and pepper. It is an acquired taste, and I have acquired it, but Lynn detests it. It was a perfect way to chat easily, without interruptions. We sat in the truck and watched the game as we talked about how a young lady shows Christ to the community and honors God with her actions and looks. It was good for Yari as well. We laughed and cried and talked seriously about modest dress and actions that do not invite male lust. Here’s where the rubber meeting the road! This is such a problem in Panama. Their whole world is sensual. It is taught and encouraged in tiny little girls to dance, walk and dress sensually. At the same time, we don’t want to teach culture change for the sake of our cultural norms. We want to teach the modesty that Paul speaks of in 1 Timothy, and the ways we can honor God with our body. Nothing more.

This is far too long – I get excited! Sorry! We love you and look forward to seeing you face to face soon.
Richest blessing!
Joy & Lynn

Monday, October 13, 2008

"A Good Day"

It’s 6:00 pm on Sunday night, October 12, 2008. Lynn just said, “It’s been a good day!”, and it has. It has been a while since we have felt that way. What a tough year it has been. It’s not that we had lost faith in God’s providence, but we have been oh so weary of waiting for it. It seems that we have been bombarded since the moment we arrived last Spring with one thing or another fighting against us and our work here. We have realized, at least most of the time, that Satan is surely not happy with this little corner of his world since God began working through Riverside here. Dear sisters and brothers in the States have reminded us of that, and we have certainly witnessed his wrath with just about every step we take.

The truth is we have struggled to remain true to the belief that God wanted us here doing what we are doing. Satan knows how to pull the right punches. He has hit us physically, but even more difficult for us, he has tried to cause trouble in the church; toying with our faith in each other. So, in one respect, I have to say thanks to Satan for teaching me a much needed lesson; No-one, either here or in Gassville is or will be perfect, or even good all the time. And even if the sins seem more terrible, they are still just sins, and God is quick to forgive. We should be too.

For most of my Christina life I have felt that we, as a church, are far too quick to not forgive some sins, but others we seem to accept more readily. Adultery is usually the biggy. He can walk past the poor widow needing food for her child and we will say nothing, but if he messes up and sleeps with a woman who is not his wife, he is bound for hell, and we don’t even need to talk with him again. Ok, maybe an exaggeration, but you know we do it. I used to say “shame on you guys for doing that!” Now, because the sins of others in the church have hurt me, have caused me to rethink my own Christian life, I was doing the same thing toward other sins. Their sins were worse because they were against the church, or another brother or sister. Phooey! That was my ignorance and God (yes, through Satan’s efforts) has taught me a most needed and valuable lesson. I am truly, deeply grateful.

Ok, back to this good day – this was our first anniversary as a church celebration. Two of the preachers who speak here most often came up and we invited all the families of our members to attend. We had a record attendance of 44. The bunk house was full up!! (Our meeting room doubles as a bunkroom when groups from the States come down) We had our first ‘cooperacion’ . That is, everyone who could, pitched in to help buy the food for lunch. It was my first attempt at it too, and Lynn and I still had to do the majority of the work preparing, but did not have to purchase everything. It went really well. We had pollo guisado (chicken with specially prepared sauces) Arroz con vegetales (rice and vegetables, kind of like stir fry, but not quite) ensalada de papas (potato salad) and Kathy made a dulce (cake, kind of). Iris, a wonderful new addition to the church, made a chichi de piña (pineapple juice drink) as well. It was all wonderful and everyone enjoyed our time of fellowship.

Okay, I have to tell you, one of the highlights of the day for me was when Maritza walked in the doors. Maritza is the mother of 3 of our regular children, and the sister of Dani, our dear friend and sister. Alvin and Yanitza have been begging their mom for months to come with them, as has Dani. You should have seen the smiles on those children’s faces as they walked in with her! Truly hearts in smiles stuff! We have been praying for this, for so many reasons, and today God had her heart ready, so she came. There is a little more to the Maritza story that some of you will remember. While she is Dani’s sister, she is also Dani’s husband’s mistress. She has been for over 15 years. All three of the beautiful children who Dani has brought to church faithfully for 6 months are her husband’s children as well as her niece and nephews. Can you see the heart of this woman? Can you see the difficulty Maritza had in walking through the door here? Is God not totally awesome? She and I chatted more before she left, and she assures me she will be back. I believe she will. She felt no condemnation from the church here. We know that God will allow her to feel condemnation with time, and we know He can and will change her life. I just can’t wait to see Him doing it! I must admit, too, I wish I could be a fly on the wall when Dani’s husband finds out that both of his women are following God! Will that not be too cool!

There were other important folks here today. Family members who we have been praying would attend did so for the first time. Jairo’s family was complete except his father. Even his younger brother, Alvin, who has not attended since before Ezequias left was here. He also said he would like to begin coming again. Two of the teenage girls taught the children’s class today, in preparation for taking over when we leave in just three short weeks.

The only thing that was not perfect was that my beautiful baby Anna Valery was sick all night and Kathy had to take her to the hospital this morning. There she was rehydrated, given medicines, and sent home. So that part ended well. The still sad part of that was that Kathy was to be baptized today, but could not be. We spoke tonight and she says she does not want to wait until next Sunday, so we will go to the river tomorrow afternoon, Lord willing. She has struggled with this decision for some time and is ready. She asked me to speak with her mom, which I did Saturday. When I asked her what she thought about Kathy being baptized she just shrugged and said “that’s fine, but it won’t change anything. She has got to change herself”. Please keep Kathy, Anna Valery and Carmen, Kathy’s mom in your prayers. While Kathy is being baptized into the greatest family possible, she is still living in the worst of family situations.

Okay, other news before I close. Marlene came home from the hospital today. Her surgery was successful, and she is thrilled to be home. She said she just wanted to get home in time to eat some of the good food, so we took her a plate.

Of great import – One of our hens just laid the first egg on the farm!!!!! It was beautiful, right up to the time when Lynn accidentally cracked it. We were told that the chickens would begin laying when their tail feathers turned black – and, at least in this case, it was true.

Blaze, the calf is doing well, growing and playing.

Our final farm projects for the year are wrapping up. We put in sidewalks to get to each pen. Lynn was walking in knee deep mud to move the cow daily, and feed her. Our friend Ňungo is putting the final touches on Lynn’s new bodega (shop, or doghouse, according to how he behaves). It will be quite secure and I can get the tools out from under my bed! It is actually quite pretty! We will paint it (and put Lynn’s bed out there) when we return! The last project is to build a good, dog-tight fence around the entire place. We have had barbed wire fencing, and it keeps the cows in, but the dogs come in and eat all the chicken food. Also, I hope to bring our big dog down from Yellville in the Spring to take care of the sheep (we will buy in the Spring). I want him staying with the sheep and not out chasing the pretty girl dogs!

We have the orchard planted with lemon, orange, avocado, pear, chirimoilla, and guava trees. We have two fig trees to get planted tomorrow. We already have bananas, coffee, otoi and frambuesa (kind of like a raspberry) growing and producing.

We hear that Ben has been sick much of his time in England, so we ask that you say a prayer for him as well. It is tough on this ole mom to be so far from my boys when they are sick!

We are eager to praise God with our family in Gassville. We fly back on the 5th of November, and Lord willing will sing praises and worship with you on the 9th!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Day in the Life - part 14?

Today we took Jose back to the hospital in David so that the doctors could take X-rays of his foot, and determine what the next step would be. He was told to be at the hospital before 7:00 am. We arrived at 6:45. Marlene and Dani came with us. Dani wanted to look for a new pair of sandals for Yesi if we had time. On the way down Marlene asked if Dani could stay with Jose while she went to the nearby Women’s hospital to verify her admission next week for a hysterectomy. (She has been suffering for over 6 months with large, watermelon size tumors/cysts, and finally the doctors have found time and space for he to have them removed.) We got them all situated at the hospital, then went off to run errands. Jose had to hang around until 11:00 for his appointment with his doctor after the X-rays had been taken and read.

We ran a few errands then settled at McDonalds to waste some time. At 11:00 I called Dani’s cell phone to find out that the doctor had not yet arrived, but they had taken the X-rays and Marlene had walked to the hospital ( next door) only to be asked to come back after 11:00 am. The hospital where Jose stayed, and where he was being treated is a mad house! There are thousands of people running around, back to back, in lines, waiting on this or that. It really is crazy and disorganized to the North American eye. I told her I would call back in 30 minutes and we headed to the Mall, a U.S. knock-off that is little used, but close to the hospital. We window-shopped and moseyed until 11:40 when I called again. They were still waiting on the doctor. We ordered a pizza and sat at an outside table talking and eating. While we were waiting for the pizza a 50-60 year old man came up to me – me the very white gringa – and asked me for directions to the placed to get his drivers license renewed. Too funny! There were all kinds of Panamanians around, but he picked me! I did happen to know because I had been there recently to pay LYNN’S SPEEDING TICKET! So I directed him to the right place, he said thanks and went on his way. Lynn was behind me just laughing.

We returned to the hospital at 1:00 just in time to see them headed to the second floor. The doctor wanted to remove one of the screws from Jose’s leg. It would involve a small surgery, but would not take long. Visiting hours are from 1:00 to 2:00 daily. There were literally thousands of people in and out during the hour. We sat in the lobby people-watching. This is a favorite past time of Lynn’s, and I love to watch him watch! The people here are all very poor. This is the public hospital. If they have any money they go to one of the private hospitals who charge quite a bit more, but who treat you 100 times faster. Some little girls were playing near us. Lynn started flirting with them a little and they began to get roudy. One of the moms fussed at the little girl and she was sad for a bit. It was all Lynn’s fault – well, partly anyway, so I fussed at him.

As we were waiting we heard a child scream, and then again, and then several screams. We jumped up to see what was going on (it was very near us). A man was lying in the floor. He was using a walker and had fallen. I remember the other two times we have brought Jose down for exams or to get his cast put on, we could not find a wheelchair anywhere so he was forced to walk, though he was unstable, and weak. This guy was evidently weak as well. But this guy had huge metal pins running the length of his right leg. There were pins running through the entirety of his thigh and his calf. As he lay on the floor in agony I could see that the pins had all twisted in the fall. The leg was broken again in at least two places with twist breaks. The screams were a few little girls passing by who saw his face and heard his groans. It took several minutes for anyone besides the security guard to come and help him. When they did get him on a gurney they headed up in the elevator. He was crying by then. He, evidently has just gotten out of the hospital a few days before, and was now returning with new fractures.

About 30 minutes after Jose and gang had gone up, Marlene came back down. She said the doctor had gone off to find a screwdriver. Not joking. He couldn’t find a screwdriver to take the screw out of Jose’s leg. He said it would take a while to find one so she was returning to the other hospital. 20 minutes later she returned with the news that she was all set. She would be first on the docket next Thursday, and she has to be at the hospital by 7:00 Wednesday morning. She is nervous, but glad to be finally seeing the hope of relief from her pain.

An hour later the threesome comes back down to the lobby, where I actually had fallen asleep. It is very hot in David! Jose was in a lot of pain. He had a script for medicine, so we headed for the Mall again and the pharmacy for his pain meds. Before we left the hospital he told me that the doctor had given me instructions to take out his stitches in 10 days. It struck me as odd, but I had been changing his bandages and fussing at him to keep the leg elevated and such since he broke the leg, so he just told the doctor I could do it, and the doctor said “great!, have her take them out in 10 days.” So, I will. We picked up the medicines and stopped in Bugaba for Dani to find some sandals quickly then headed back up to the cool. It was 4:00 when we left the heat of below for the coolness of home.

Another note on Jose and Marlene – she has been in poor health since last November when the pressure of the cysts/tumors caused infection and partial kidney failure. When we returned in April she was just getting out of the house again. Jose had been working as a farm hand, but shortly after we arrived he developed a fungus in his left foot and toe. After a couple of weeks without going to the doctor he showed me the foot and we headed to the local clinic. It was very ugly. I went to his house every day to clean and medicate it for three weeks, and it began to heal, but slowly. It took over two months for him to be able to put a shoe on and another month to be able to work. As he was about recovered he came down with a bad virus that laid him up an additional 2 weeks. He had just healed from that and begun to work again when he broke his leg in two places, requiring a week in the hospital and surgery with plates and pins. They have really been put through the ringer! They have told us repeatedly that they don’t know how they could have survived had we not been here to help them out. We have been paying their medical bills and providing food, as he has not been able to work, for most of the 5 months we have been here. She is a new Christian, and we have talked a lot about Satan’s desire to pull them away from God. They have only become stronger in their faith. Jose wants to be baptized as soon as his foot can get wet. We are hoping the healing will allow him to be baptized before we have to head back to the States. Now they are faced with Marlene’s surgery next week, and 6 weeks of recovery. Please pray that all will go well, and that they both will heal rapidly. The financial support we have given them has rarely been asked for. These are not leaches looking for an easy buck. They are good, humble, gracious folks in a bad situation.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Who we are...

For those of you are not familiar with Riverside in Panama, our calling and work, and for those who may have forgotten, we thought it might be a good idea to refresh and inform;

The Lord’s church in El Valle, Volcan, Chiriqui, Panama

Joy and I bought a house on the outskirts of el Valle, a barrio in Volcan, three years ago and started a house church last year. Joy is 18 years younger than me. I am 65 and retired. We have both been divorced. We have been faithful to each other for 25 years. We have been faithful to the Lord for 14 years; that is to say we are sinners justified by the grace of God. Joy went back to school at Harding to learn more about being a missionary. She is now working on her Master of Ministry degree. Joy has a true servant’s heart. I am happy to be her assistant.

In the church here we have a young 14 year old girl who, last year, was the first convert of the church. She has been disowned by most of her family for being “baptized into the church of Christ.” She can not eat or sleep in her grandparent’s house. Her grandparents live 5 houses away from us. She now lives with her mother, about 2 miles from the house, but she comes here almost daily. We are her best shot at family.

There is a woman and her three children who attend regularly. Her husband does not come. The two older children (teens) were baptized this past Spring. The mother was baptized as a youngster. The father also has another family with his wife’s sister. They also have three children. The faithful mother also brings her sister’s three children to worship, even though they are the illegitimate children of her husband.

There is a middle aged woman who was baptized last Spring also. She brings her ‘husband’ who is much younger and is seriously considering baptism. They are not married in any legal sense. She was married off by her father to a boy when she was very young. The marriage was never consummated. She does not know where he is, or even if he is alive now. She has grown children by another man. They would like to get married in the church, and we are studying and praying about how to achieve this.

There is an indigenous woman who attends regularly with 7 of her 10 children. Her young ‘husband’ comes sometimes. She was sold to her first husband, an older man, when she was a child. Three of her children are by her new ‘husband’. They are married in the eyes of their people, but there is no legal paper stating so. Her children at home range from 14 years to 6 months. We believe she is pregnant again.

We have a young man (12) who comes regularly, often with his mother and 16 year old sister. The father is at home but does not attend. A younger brother does not attend. The young man often leads prayers and songs, and is willing to work in whatever way he can with the church. He partakes of communion, but his mother does not.

There are two youngsters (7 & 9) who come alone. They live a bout 1 ½ miles from us. They sometimes ride their bikes, or they walk. The mom and dad do not attend but we have hopes for the future.

There is a young lady who comes fairly regularly with her grandmother or mother. She is a cousin to the two children who ride bikes to classes. There is no husband that we know of, to the mother. The grandmother has a husband, but he has a second family that lives about 45 minutes away.

There is a young mother who brings her two kiddos (6 & 3). The father does not come – he has been working weekends for some time, but we have high hopes that he will come when his schedule changes (next month).

We have a young lady (16) who brings her 1 year old little girl with her. She is not married. She lives with her mom and step-dad. They are close neighbors. She and her mother do not get along well. Her mother is very demanding and she is very…young. We are often counseling her.

These are the souls that gather here at Riverside in Panama. As you can see, we are all sinners, and have our individual struggles. There is much need for God’s discernment and guidance as we seek to guide and serve these loving and loved people.

Our attendance averages about 30. The contribution, without ours or the preachers, averages between $1 and $2 weekly. All of our members are very poor. None of them have cars. So far we have been able to share the Sunday meal with the church. This is something we believe to be very beneficial and Scriptural. Since some walk from very far, it is our best opportunity to fellowship, and get to know them and their needs. At present we meet on Sunday mornings for Bible class and a sermon and the Holy Supper. Then we have another Bible class on Friday nights.

We have four different men from the church at David who come up on Sundays to preach and teach. One of them has a car. The others depend on taxis and buses. We pay the preacher $20 to cover his transportation costs. They are wonderful men of God who truly want to serve. We are so appreciative of their help.

Here are some of the projects of the congregation here:
Riverside in Panama oversees a work solely funded by the children of Riverside Stateside (in Gassville) – the El Valle lunch program. For $80-$90 per week over 250 students are fed each day. They were not being fed last year when we started this program. We found that they were walking several miles to get to school, and then to get home without nourishment. El Valle is an elementary school less than ½ mile from our house.
For the past 2 years we have been blessed by the on-site help of Riverside Stateside. Teams have come down to teach Bible lessons to the school in El Valle. The teams show God’s love in very evident ways to the entire community (our community) through the one-week program with the children which includes puppets, stories, crafts and food.
Joy teaches English classes to area children or adults who want to learn, free of charge. Tourism is a growing industry here, and the majority of tourists are English speaking, so those who can speak English have a great advantage when seeking work.
We began a new work in another local elementary school last June, with the help of the Oxford Mississippi church youth. We brought a great message of God’s strength to each classroom there, along with lunches for a week. The work there is really Oxford’s, we just facilitate and help coordinate. Since June we have taken the school sports equipment and some school supplies to help out. Oxford has a plan, if God allows, to return next year to work more with this very poor school district.
We also assist another school. It is tiny and out in the mountains about an hours drive. We take food in once a month – rice, beans, oil, salt, as well as bring school supplies to the 8 students as needed. Weekly we go in to cook a meal and Joy teaches English. The wear and tear on the vehicle is substantial, so we do not try to go more often. We have been in touch with, and taken supplies to two other very remote schools in our area.
We assist the church in Santa Marta; in the province of Cocle when we can. We brought the children their first ever Christmas gifts two years ago, and continue that tradition annually. Recently we took in a few hundred pounds of vegetables that were quite expensive there, but rather inexpensive for us here in Chiriqui. We also assist by helping fund building projects, a land purchase, and medical needs for members. Regarding Santa Marta, a note about the future; Riverside Stateside is preparing for a medical campaign for next summer, if God allows. The people are very poor, and have very little access to medical help. The congregation asked the group who visited them in 2006 to please try to bring a medical team to them, as the church would benefit much from this act of love to their community. Tim Martin, among others, is determined to see this happen, and we are excited about this great work in progress!

We coordinate a project to provide scholarships to children who would not otherwise be allowed to attend school. We have four grade school students, 2 Jr. High students and one high school/technical school student. We provide uniforms, books, and funds for breakfast. For the older student we also provide funds for room and board, as he lives too far from the school to commute.
We have also coordinated the funds for ladies to be able to go to the National Church of Christ Ladies’ Convention in Panama City for the past 3 years. We do the same for the youth who can’t afford to go to the Youth convention each February.

How cultural ethics fits into Christian ethics is very difficult to determine. We have prayer and the Holy Spirit to guide us. We believe we are called to teach and to love, and God will judge and be merciful with His grace.

There’s lots more I could tell you about the church here, but I hope this enough that you will feel a part of us. Please pray for your brothers and sisters here.

Joy’s notes:
I can’t hold a candle to Lynn’s servant heart. He is the true servant and I am blessed to have his example. I am just louder than him!
Also, we must mention that Riverside in Panama is not just the two of us. There are many without whom this work would not be. I know that I will fail to mention someone, but I must try to mention some – Roger and Rogena Smith, who take care of everything for us while we are here; Holly Smith, who spends a great deal of time with us, helping out every step of the way (both here and there); Lisa Hammett, who has come both years since we began, and who gives 110% to the work, even coordinating, though she hates it; LaJeana and Hannah Chapman, who also have spent part of two summers with us doing everything from cleaning commodes to coordinating teams; Tim & Kelly Martin, who keep us spiritually in tune and challenged, as well as dreaming big with us; Gwynna Walker, who brings her open heart and love to share every time she comes; Doyne & Margaret Byrd, who are always working behind the scenes to help us continue the work here; Our sons, Ben and Josh who have helped hands-on, doing the muscle work for Lynn, and supporting each of our decisions though it meant hardship for them. There are surely more of you who are irreplaceable for us – those who offer financial support, those who have come down and shared with the work first hand – and those who pray faithfully for this church, as well as others. Forgive me for not mentioning every name, but please know you are not forgotten. We know you are God’s blessing to us, and we love you all!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Horticulture Lesson

This is a flower known as the ‘Bird of Paradise’.

It is called that because it looks like a bird, and it lives and flourishes in paradise (Panama)

With me!

That is the horticulture lesson for today.

May God bless you richly!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Free Day!

Today Lynn and I took a drive out past Caña Blanca to a new place (for us) called Cerro Paja. Or Straw Hill. There, among jungle and farmland, we found another small school where 29 children attend classes. We had heard of the school, and the old man who taught there, so wanted to see for ourselves.

We arrived at the one-room school house as the children were changing classes – the young ones were going home and the older children were just beginning class. The teacher was a very old indigenous man. He was somewhat taken aback by two gringos coming to his door with gifts, but was polite and courteous. We had prepared a box of school supplies, including a jump-rope and a soccer ball and pump, some coloring pages and colors, pens and pencils. We really did not know what we would find, so just got together general things they might need. He did not look in the box while we were there, but said thank you and we turned to leave. When we reached the gate we realized that we had not introduced ourselves, just said hello and offered the box of goodies. So, we asked a young boy outside the classroom to take one of our cards back inside and say if he needed anything to let us know. It is probably best that we did not catch them at recess, or stay longer. My heart goes out to these children, and Lynn had already made it clear we could not begin helping another school, especially when it was over 2 hours from our house, and so hard on the truck.

We had moseyed into the area, and planned to mosey out, but as we were turning around in front of the building there were 5 adorable small children sitting on a rock watching us. Lynn stopped and gave them all cookies, and then one of the girls asked if we could give them a ride home. We clarified which direction was home and then said of course, as it was on our way back out. We enjoyed their company on the way out; it must have been 20 minutes driving to get the last to her house. As we were coming down one hill a group of men with baskets on their backs was walking up. Two of the children said” there is my dad!” and so we stopped and spoke with the group for a minute. They were quite friendly, and did not give a second thought to their children being in our car. Lynn commented that we could easily have kidnapped those children had we wanted to. It was kind of scary. No-one there knew us, but they were completely trusting. As we dropped the last child at her house I shared more of the conversation with Lynn. Sometimes I am so busy trying to understand and communicate that I forget to translate for him, but fortunately he is getting a lot better at understanding, so he gets a lot of it.

When we were turning around at the school I asked if I could take a picture of the group, and they said yes. After I had taken it I showed them the digital image. They loved it. As we were driving them to their homes one of the girls asked if she could have the picture. I told her that I could not take it out of the camera, but that I would try to get her a copy. She thought a moment or two and then said “Well, can you just give me the camera then?” I told her no, I was sorry but I needed the camera. She was pretty dumfounded for a few minutes then her buddy (about the same age of 6 or 7) said “You just need to be patient, she will bring us back a copy when she can”. I almost laughed aloud at the contrite, correcting manner the little girl used. But that satisfied the first one, at least for awhile. When there was just the one little girl left she asked if she could have another package of cookies. I said no, that we only had one package for each child, so she pointed at my open bag of pretzels and said “what about those, can I have them?” Mind you, she was not hungry. All of these children looked well fed, and were well dressed and clean. There was corn and rice and all kinds of things growing on each side of the road. I told her she would not like them, that they tasted ugly (an expression here) and so she finally stopped asking for more things.

We dropped her at her house and continued in our hunt for the elusive ‘calabasa tree’. I must digress for a moment – When we were in Santa Marta, Sister Anita had serving bowls, colander, and other bowls made of what appeared to be wood, but more like gourds. They were beautiful and I asked her about them. They grow on the calabasa tree. She explained to me how to cut, cook and clean them so that they can dry to be used, and I was hooked and on a mission to find them. We had seen one tree in Bugaba, but no others, and that one is right down town, in someone’s yard, so we didn’t think we could just go get it. We felt sure we could find some in the vast open spaces around Caña Blanca. We have tried to designate one day a week to get away from the house and relax, and today was that day, so we were out Calabasa hunting!

We stopped by a creek for a picnic lunch. I was headed down to the creek itself when I asked Lynn to join me, but when I turned to see him he was doing a jig like I had never seen him do in all our 25 years! He danced and danced, and then he started stripping. Right there in the middle of the road. He was doing a strip tease dance, but was having trouble with his shoes being tied, or something, so I headed back up to the truck to see what was going on. He had gotten in an ant herd of some kind – we never really saw it, but he got bitten several dozen times. His legs were covered in whelps, with a few on his hands as well. We ate fast and went on our way. Sorry! I was too worried to get pictures of the dance!

We had been out for over 5 hours without seeing a single tree (as if we knew what the tree looked like). I finally asked one old man in the road who shook his finger at me (the universal sign for their ain’t any) then as we were pulling away he yelled and we stopped. He actually could not speak, but he motioned that there were some further up in the direction we were going. I yelled back a ‘muchas gracias!” to which he smiled a big toothless grin and waved. When we saw another group of Indians working beside the road we asked again. They pointed us down a yet unexplored road. We had been told that Olmedo, our neighbor’s dad lived down that road, but had not idea where. We carefully picked our way down the road (okay, Lynn was doing the driving, but I was giving him advice the whole time) then finally stopped again to ask a young man if he knew where we could find the tree. He said "no, but ask the next house down." We did and they pointed us on forward, further down the road.

We ended up at the end of the road, at a lovely farm place where a man was cutting his grass with his machete. I told him what we were searching for and he stopped his work to show us his two trees. He said one was not the right kind and the other had no fruit, but he showed us all the same. He was quite nice and friendly, and suggested a place back up the road toward Caña Blanca. As we were walking back toward the truck I told him where we lived and he said, “Oh, my son lives near you” his name is Olmedo” I then introduced myself and Lynn and told him that Dani worked with us and his grandchildren were in our house all the time. We chatted a bit more, and then headed back to find the blue house that had the tree with fruit. Just a short ways from his house we found a grove of the trees right on the road. We had gone right past them earlier. Lynn climbed trees and fences with his machete and we harvested 6 of the kind that are not exactly round –they are called the ‘long ones’, and 1 round one. I was tickled!

In the process, I must tell you that Lynn climbed over one fence and was trying to reach one of the fruit with the machete. He finally cut the stem, but when trying to catch the fruit to avoid scarring, he grabbed the barb- wire fence instead and cut his finger. As he yelped and jumped back from the fence he fell backwards and landed flat on his back with his feet flailing in the air. I did not laugh until he said he was ok, but my! What a sight! I climbed up to help with the others.

A bit later we found the blue house and ask the lady if she had any calabasa. She was reluctant to talk to us at first, but when her daughter came out she took us to her tree where we found only 1 calabasa ready. She gladly gave it to us, and when I asked if we could pay for it she said of course not. We thanked her and headed for home. We had really enjoyed the day, but Lynn was a little stressed from the difficult driving, the ants, and the fall. We were dirty, and itchy, so we were glad to get back to the house and a shower! Okay, well Lynn got his shower. Then the electricity went off for an hour or so, so I got my shower a few hours late, but it was good!

Sorry this is so long – just wanted to share a fun day in the life!

We pray that God will bless you with peace today!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Amazing News!

The police called us last Tuesday to say that they had a camera they thought was ours, and could we come identify it? We went straight up and in fact, saw our camera! They had gotten it from the house of a minor, so they could not tell us his name at the time. We had to go to Bugaba and make a declaration that the camera was in fact ours. We did, twice. The first time they could not take our statement because we did not have the camera with us. The police had kept it, and failed to get it to Bugaba. We returned last Friday, gave our statement that the camera had the same serial number, and then they gave us the camera and told us the name of the boy. He was one of the two that all the neighbors had implicated. He told them that he bought the camera at the border, and they are checking his story. They know he did not buy the camera, but because he is a minor they tread very carefully. We told the police again that we are most concerned with how they got in the house, and they have promised to keep us informed.

The camera works just fine, but the memory chip was not with it when it was found. So, we lost a lot of pictures, but the chip can be replaced, and we are grateful. Ironically, we had just bought a new camera the day before the police called us. It is a far less expensive camera, but a decent one, so we now have two! We will keep them in different places, Just in case!

Just wanted to share the good news! I am not sure when we will be able to post this as our internet has been out for a few days, but wanted this to be ready when we could!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Borrowed from Max Lucado, Worthy of repeating and remembering

“I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink.”

Matthew 25:35 (NCV)

What is the sign of the saved? Their scholarship? Their willingness to go to foreign lands? Their ability to amass an audience and preach? Their skillful pens and hope-filled volumes? Their great miracles? No.

The sign of the saved is their love for the least.

Those put on the right hand of God will be those who gave food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, warmth to the lonely, clothing to the naked, comfort to the sick, and friendship to the imprisoned.

Did you note how simple the works are? Jesus doesn't say, "I was sick and you healed me....I was in prison and you liberated me....I was lonely and you built a retirement home for me...." He doesn't say, "I was thirsty and you gave me spiritual counsel."

No fanfare. No hoopla. No media coverage. Just good people doing good things.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Going Home to Santa Marta

Well, I have to start by saying AMEN to what Brother Tim wrote in his blog today. If we will just trust God to get it done, we will be really well off. We can’t just sit and wait and do nothing, but prepare and plan for God to provide the answers, and He surely will do it!

We have just returned from our first trip to Santa Marta this year. It was fantastic as usual. No, maybe it was better than that. We actually got there with enough time to visit and share with the family there. WE had worried on the way in at how well I would be able to walk in to Brother Luciano’s house – it is about 1 ½ miles of hiking straight up and then straight down, several times. We weren’t sure how my back would react. We should have known that God would work it all out. They had been told that my back had been bad for awhile, so arranged for us to stay in sister Anita’s house, right on the road and just up the hill from the church building. I am not going to lie and say I had no back trouble, but it would have been so much worse. Most of the problems stemmed from the customary beds there. They are wooden. The box springs is a plank of wood, and the mattress is too, but with a 1-2 inch covering of very old foam. Our particular bed is normally slept in by Noel, who is 12 years old and much skinnier than the two of us. So was the mattress, but it was all good.

The fellowship far outweighed the discomforts of the night. Lynn just reminded me that we were entertained throughout the night by one or more mice running and falling in to bags and boxes in the room. We don’t know how many – we don’t want to know! We were also lullibied by the frogs and birds and other wonderful sounds of nature.

We met two new families in the church – each with 5 children. They have had several baptisms in the past couple of months, and the church is growing like crazy, praise God! We saw over 70 people at Sunday morning worship, and almost that many came Saturday night to a devotional in honor of our visit. Both were wonderful and refreshed out spirits greatly.

The building has been painted and remodeled since our last visit. A group from Harding came in last Spring break and did a lot of work. It looks really good. The church also used the funds we had left before to build a kitchen area in the newly acquired property beside the building. The kitchen has a thatch roof and is held in place by posts. They have been using the facility for confraternities (like dinner on the grounds). They do not have a stove or other things yet, but will with time, if God permits. They just build a campfire to do the cooking. We brought in songbooks, Bibles and a load of vegetables from home. They do not have much success in growing root- type veggies, so we brought in 100# of potatoes, 100# carrots and 50# of onions for the church to distribute. Prices of food have gone up all over Panama, and these dear folks are suffering for it.

At any rate, we could bring in a truck-full a week and still not come close to giving them what they give us. We are so blessed by our time with God’s people there. They seem to have every important thing figured out. I know that is not completely true, but so much closer to it than us. Their focus is on serving and adoring God. There is nothing more important than that, and the spend time and energy doing it. They now meet 4 times in the week; Sundays all together at the building, Tuesdays in the home of a brother on one side of the river, Wednesdays all together at the building again, and Fridays at the home of Brother Lucian on the other side of the river. Since he had his stroke he cannot make the walk often, but he was there on horseback Sunday morning carrying a huge sack of oranges for us. In case I haven’t mentioned it, the orange juice there is to die for!!!! Delicious!

The congregation is learning harmony. It is awesome! Saturday night we sang and sang with about 5 young ladies singing an alto-ish harmony and 1 or 2 men singing the tenor. It was beautiful!

So many wonderful, spirit-freshening things happened, I cannot tell them all. I have already written more than most want to read at one sitting. Sorry!

We bought a new camera yesterday. One we can more easily afford to lose. One trip to Santa Marta was enough for us to know we had to have a camera before we go back. The children are growing so fast it is hard to keep up. We will be going back in late October. Bringing Christmas gifts for the children, and if God provides, for some of the adults as well. The parents are sacrificing all they can for the children, and so are without proper clothing themselves. Our dear brother Jose, who has 10 children at home, has had to move away from his family to find work and provide for them. It is a hard and new thing here, and they all are suffering for it. We will be asking for support for this project in the coming month. I am hoping that Holly and Tim can encourage you all to help with this act of pure love. Truly, you have rarely, if ever, seen this kind of need.

We will close for now. I have class with Yaritza in just a few minutes. We are still working on getting her visa so she can return with us, but no one is offering much hope. It is very difficult now to get a visa into to U.S. We are praying daily and ask you to do so as well.

May God fill your week with the richest of blessings!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ladies’ Convention 2008

While there were some last minute problems with the location, the results were great! Four days before the convention the folks at the location (that had been rented last Febrary for this purpose) called and cancelled us out. Some political group had offered more money so they ousted us. The ladies on the committee ran their heads off and found another location – smaller, and on the other side of town from where we were scheduled. Not a problem for most, but we had reserved rooms on the first side, so had to taxi across town (1 hour) to get to the meetings. Cost an additional $60, but we got there!

Riverside was represented by 5 ladies. We were among 16 congregations participating, and came further than any of them. Chriqui, on the other hand (Our province) had a whopping 22 ladies there. That is an impressive number when you consider the distance and cost to get there! The room was packed with over 200 women, and I can not describe to you the beautiful singing!!! Wow! What a blessing! No, there wasn’t any harmony, just 200 voices raised as one in praise and adoration. I know that God was swaying with the music, tapping his foot at times, and, with his eyes closed, softly smiling. I was too! The acoustics were just perfect, and the Spirit-filled voices raised in genuine praise were so moving.

We had two speakers. One was a friend from Corundu church in Panama City. Lisa is originally from the States, and now is working for the church here with her husband David. It was pretty cool to me to get to hear it in English and then Spanish. It was also a great lesson on remembering our purpose – adoration and glorification of God. The second speaker was Aminta, from the church at David. She is a dear sister, and studies and shares the Bible quite a bit. She discussed what our praise should look like, and why God wanted us to glorify His name to others. Both were very good lessons to learn, or to be reminded of. We all had lunch together, then sang for another hour or so, then had activities into the afternoon to reinforce the lessons. It was all very beneficial to me, and I believe to others as well.

We caught a bus for David at 7:00 pm that night, and returned to our homes here in Volcan at 3:00 Sunday morning. Yes, my children’s class at 9:30 was a little rough on me, but all the others were here too, so we yawned together, smiling. Thank the good Lord that Norman has a short sermon!

All to say thank you to those of you who sent money to help us go. We received just the amount of money we needed for the 5 of us to go. There were 4 others who had planned to come along, but because of bad health and a Saturday class, they were unable to this time. Next year we will try again to get the whole gang there!

Lynn and I are very grateful for your help with this work. I had the treat of seeing 4 women ride an escalator for the first time. I needed the laugh, and it was a hardy one. We then rode it 7 or 8 more time just for the fun of it! (Don’t you remember that yourself? I do!) That was, by far, not the highlight of the trip, but it was a great moment!

I pray that you are blessed beyond measure, and that you know it! I also ask you to remember your purpose on this earth – to glorify God, to bring Him praise and adoration, AND to rejoice in Him. He calls us to be happy and content in His love, encompassed by His power, secure for ….ever! Wow! How can we not be happy? How can we not praise His name? He is Good!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What a great day to serve the Lord!

Today felt more like a normal day for us. Thank you Lord for your grace, mercy and the peace you offer us freely.

We began by picking up our brother and neighbor, Jose and his wife Marleni. He broke his leg last week, spent Monday – Saturday in the hospital in conditions we will try to describe at a later date, and Lynn brought him home Saturday after surgery on Friday. At any rate he had to return for the cast today, so we took him down to the hospital early this morning. While he was being attended to, we ran some errands in David. At 12:15 he called and said that they could not put on the cast because he was too swollen. (Of course he was swollen, he had been sitting in a hot waiting room with his leg unelevated for 4 hours!) At any rate, we picked him up and then looked for a wheelchair to rent because he was told he needed two more weeks with only the gauze wrapping his broken leg. We played ‘catch that chicken’ for two hours – going first to one place and them saying, “no, you need to go there”, and then the second sending us to yet a third and so on. Nine places in all, all in David with an average temp of 96. We never found a wheelchair but have some more leads.

We returned to Volcan, paid the phone bill, and checked our mailbox – which was empty, again! I am taking an online course in Harding’s Master of Ministry program that requires a book that has been due here for almost a month, but hasn’t made it yet. Then we got Jose back to the house. It was after 3:00. We came home, rested a bit, then I went to see if Kathy was ready to move her stuff. She had asked me if I could help her move home (Hallelujah and Praise God for answering prayers!) She has actually been staying with her mom for a few days, but needed to get her stuff from the room she had rented. She needed to wait until later tonight, so we left at 6:30 and got her room all cleaned out. She is really happy to be moving home, and her mom is thrilled as well. I know that my Anna Valery will be better off for it. She was singing all day today! Please continue to pray for this family as God works in their lives. The mom, Carmen has asked if she can attend church this Sunday. We said of course, and are excited about the prospects for them.

Lynn might tell you the best part of today was that I finally found a way to make him ‘beans and cornbread’. We had a good ole’ Arkansas supper! Really, I believe he and I would agree that the day was pretty perfect all the way around. We were out helping people we love without reservations. We were serving fallen folks who need more Jesus and less condemnation. Jose told us on the way home that he wanted to be baptized as soon as he could. He sees how God works and wants to follow Him in all of his life. Carmen wants to come visit the church where she is seeing God at work. Can’t beat that with a big stick!

One other happening today; the local police actually came to visit us for the first time since the robbery. They offered little hope of recovering anything, or even charging anyone with the crime. I told them that we were okay with that. We really only wished we knew who had helped them enter the house, and did not need concrete proof or any confessions. It would just be good to know who betrayed our trust before we trust that person again. It won’t change anything. We are resigned to that. We have forgiven whoever it was. We will not retaliate or condemn them. It is over. We are moving on! God is moving on, so we had better try and keep up!!!!

We are blessed in so many ways. One way that is very important to us and vital to our work here is by your encouragement and support. Thank you so much! We daily thank God for you, and ask his richest blessings in your lives.

There is much to tell you about my trip to the Ladies’ Convention. What a refreshing uplifting trip! Next time I will get that in!

We love you all!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

If you need healing - ask for healing!

Do you ever feel so down that you don’t want to ask God for healing or peace? I mean, I deserve this righteous indignation, right? I am suffering and I want every one to know! So, no, I don’t guess it is a conscious thing. I don’t actually consider asking for peace and decide not to because I want to suffer more. I just get so wrapped up in my pity party that I ask for other things. For example I have prayed for wisdom to discover who has wronged me, and how to live with this disappointment and pain, but I didn’t ask for peace in my soul. I just expected that to come with finding those responsible for causing my pain. That is until, once again, our dear brother Tim Martin wrote a blog just for us - when do you really show them Christ? Click on the title words if you would like to read the whole thing. But the jest of it reminds us that now, in the middle of bad times and pain is when our best opportunity to show Christ arises. That was our first clue that we were failing miserably at the moment. Max Lucado said something along the same lines in one of his devotionals this week. Then Holly emailed us with encouraging words, and then on Friday, as the message was digging in deeper, and convicting us both a dear sister from David reminded us of Jesus’ precious forgiveness given freely, and that we must do the same. That was really at the crux of the matter. We needed to just put it aside and forgive, regardless of who was responsible. We needed to pray for peace for the church and stop the accusations before the church was torn apart. Our petty pain is far from being as important as these people seeing and feeling Christ in us. So, I have spent the past few days praying for peace, and beginning to just behave as if I have forgiven all. Now, amazingly, I have that peace, as does Lynn. We told the church Friday night that we did not want to hear another word about the robbery. If there was something they needed to say, or confess, they should talk to God and the police. We loved every one of them and wanted to hear nothing more.

We have withstood many nay-sayers for years criticizing benevolent work for one reason or another. In the past few weeks we almost became them. Last Sunday as Lynn sat staring out the window, quite depressed, I reminded him that not one of those he was watching with such a frown were responsible for the robbery. He was watching my children’s class as they were soaking up God’s love. It was just a comment from me, certainly placed there by God’s infinite wisdom and power. It impacted Lynn powerfully, and we are healing almost as one. God is truly amazing in his works. We are reminded that this work is not ours, nor was the money ours. It is God’s. It has always been his, and will survive and grow as He sees fit.

Amazing we had donations come in last week out of the blue that will cover the ladies going to the Convention next weekend. Please pray that these women will be touched and drawn closer to God as a result.

On another note, we begin a Harding class on ‘Ethics in Ministry’ this week. It is an on-line course being taught by Brother Phil Thompson. I say ‘we’ because we will do all the reading and work together, so that we both learn the material, but only I will be getting credit for the class. This will place me at the half-way point in attaining my Masters degree. I am not at all sure that I will complete the degree program, but I continue to feel the need for more knowledge and understanding of how to best minister to others. The classes offered by Harding are top-rate with the best of professors, but the price of the classes has become quite excessive. With a minister’s discount we are still paying over $1000 for a 3 hour course. At this point, the class has got to be really good for us to sacrifice the money for it! That is 2/3 of our monthly income!

The last of the puppies went to their new home today. We met Ingrid and her husband in David with their two pups. They drove over from Chitre, about 4 hours away. We had a KFC lunch together before they headed toward the hot, flat country and we headed back to cool mountain air.

We were also blessed with two extras from David today. Brother Norman Ponce and his sister Urian came and helped with the song leading and meeting. Norman preached and Inocensio (also from David) taught the class. It was a real treat for us – We love Inocensio, but he can’t sing worth a flip. Norman has a wonderful voice, and is a great speaker as well. Urian is a good friend, who just happens to speak fluent English, so that was especially nice for us. We took them back to David for lunch as well, and had a good visit.

We had 30 in attendance today. Things are smoothing out. It was good to hear the voices lifted in praise, and to join in. I guess my thought for today is not ‘be careful what you pray for’ but ‘remember to pray for God’s will and not you own!’ he is so much smarter than we are!

Tim, Holly, thanks. We love you and need your support always. You are both great blessings to us. To all of you whom we love dearly – we really do love you! We love to hear from you when you have time. Hannah – remember, boys are BAD!!!! I know I taught you that! Keep you heart on God, and your hands playing ball!!!!! Love you lots!

Richest blessing from the forgiven, the healing, and the blessed!

Joy & Lynn

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Some days are stones....

We have news, but have not been ready to share. Partly because we don’t know much yet, and partly because we don’t know how to handle it yet.

We got Ben off for the States on Thursday morning. We went by bus with him into Panama City on Wednesday, stayed the night in a hotel close to the airport, then went with him to the airport on Thursday morning. From there we were headed toward home when we got a call from Dani; The house/ church had been robbed. She was really upset, so I did not understand much of what she said, but this much we now know – someone used a key (Dani’s key went missing this week she said.) to our house to come in and take the entire treasury of the church ($474), which was hidden away in a drawer, the money the ladies had raised to go to the convention selling tamales ($76), all the cash and change we had in and on our dresser (probably no more than $25) and the new camera we bought in June($425). They did not touch either computer, or anything else in the house. They did leave behind footprints of muddy tennis shoes that showed that they went directly to our bedroom and to the dresser where the money and camera were. They did not search other rooms, or even other parts of our room. My laptop was right next to the tamale money, but they did not bother it.

When we got home Dani’s husband came and shared that Xavier (his son and a 15 year old member of the church here) received a call that morning threatening his life if the thieves were found out. They told him who they were, and told him to keep them advised of anything that was found about who was responsible.

Another neighbor said that Xavier had admitted that he let them in the house to his father and uncle. If that is the case then the whole family has been and is continuing to lie to us. Much of the story that Olmedo (Dani’s husband) told does not make sense to us, but we really want to believe that Xavier is innocent in all of this.

We went to file a report yesterday (Friday). We did not offer any suspects to the police, just the fact that they used a key, and did not break in, and that they knew exactly where to find the money. One unit of the police came out when Dani initially saw that the money was stolen, but said they would not be the investigating team. They looked around and told her to tell us to go to Concepción to file the complaint. Now the people in Concepción say that the first group will investigate, but could not until they had the official complaint.

We know that money is not important in the grander scheme of things, and it can be replaced. What is really hurting is not knowing whom to trust, and feeling that we have been betrayed by someone who knows us well. Saly, the dog, was apparently familiar and comfortable with whoever robbed us. Ah, well. Now you know what we know. We are sad and disappointed. The church here was giving $300 to the ladies to attend the convention. That along with the tamale money they stole really makes it difficult to take anyone to the convention. It is really a lot bigger, to me, than that. We are both really depressed and hurt. We eagerly wait for God’s hand of peace and understanding. We will move on – we will have our regular meeting tomorrow, but it will be so different. At least I feel like it cannot be the same. I know that God will heal this as well, with time.

We will keep you informed. Please say a prayer for the church here –for healing and understanding.

Joy & Lynn

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Somedays are diamonds...

Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear Josh!!!!!! happy birthday to you!30 years old, but you're still my baby!!!!

Well, our attendance was down a little today. There are a couple of bugs going around, and many in our number were down with it, including Lynn and Ben. Lynn is in the recovery mode now, so was able to help with the preparations and meeting. Ben was in bed for his second day. In David the bug is more of a sinus and lung problem, while here it is definitely a stomach issue.

Unfortunately for our David family, three of the men who usually come to preach for us were without voice today, so we, for the first time since our return, did not have a preacher. Sounds more like Riverside all the time, huh? When the 24 who attended today heard that there would not be a guest preacher, they actually said “Great! We can do this!” So everyone pitched in. Yaritza taught the children’s class and I administered an exam on the book of Acts to the adult and youth class. They have just concluded a 13 week study on the book, and did quite well on the exam. It just happened that today was the day for the children to recite their monthly memory verses. That was our Bible reading for the day. They did wonderful. I was concerned for one little girl, Ashley, who is 6 years old. She has been out of town for two weeks (mid-year vacation time here) and so did not know two of the four verses. She jumped up when I called her name, came to the front and recited 6 memory verses; 2 from this month and 4 from last month. She still knew them all! That set the pace for the others, and two older students actually remembered 7 of the past 8 weekly memory verses. We were all impressed. After this, Xavier and Jairo served the Lord ’s Supper, several led songs, including Alvin, who is 5 years old, and Lynn who is really old, but he actually led the song in Spanish! The verses and singing lasted a full hour, so that was our meeting for today. We had hotdogs, baked beans and coleslaw for lunch, along with Lynn’s ( really Lisa Hammett’s) no-bake cookies for dessert.

Although the crowd was small, it was really good for us to do things all on our own for this first time. Everyone just pitched in – it really was like a Riverside thing from way back when , remember?

When the house was clean and in order again, Yaritza went to her (Holly’s) room and took a nap. She too is sick, but was here through out helping and cleaning. Lynn and I just sat and rested a bit, then when Yari woke up we took a drive to try to deliver a puppy to a G’nobe Bugle boy who lives out past our place a ways. We weren’t sure exactly where we were going but thought we would give it a shot, and get out of the house for a bit. In route we picked up an elderly fellow who was blind in one eye. He was going further than us, but we told him we could give him a ride part of the way. He was happy. He sat in the back of the truck with his bags. It was a bit comical to watch in the mirror as he tried to keep his dozen eggs from breaking as we traversed the very rugged road. You must understand that egg cartons are not too common here. Normally the eggs are carried as this man did – in a small clear plastic bag. He held them out in front of him like it was a snake about to bite. Just a little further down the road we came upon another guy walking the same direction. He was younger, with really baggy britches (a comment on the style not the size) and lots of metal hanging from his backpack and neck. My first thought was that he was a hoodlum (Panamanian version), but when we offered him a ride he smiled gratefully, hopped in back, and began conversing with the old man quite amiably. We past where we thought we should stop to find the boy’s house so the old man would not have to walk quite so far, then passed, you guessed it, another guy walking with his backpack and baggy britches. As we stopped we did not even finish the invitation before he was jumping in the back where all three were chatting and enjoying the ride. We finally made it to the crossroads where they would part ways, and so we turned around and headed back.

When we reached the path to what we thought was the boy’s house, we stopped to see if we could see the house. We did – and it was a long ways down that mountain to the tiny house below. Lynn felt sure that we should not try to walk down the muddy steep path, but, if you know me, you know I just had to try. Young strong Yari was, of course, up for the challenge and headed out. We got about half-way down the mountain when Carlos, the boy, spotted us and knew who we were. He sprang like a gazelle up the path to meet us, and when he saw the puppy in my arms his smile, I swear went further around than just his ears. That beautiful smile made it worth the trip if nothing else had. Even Lynn agreed. We went on to the house and met his dad and little sister. I wanted to be sure that his Dad was okay with the puppy, and he was.

It took a little longer to go back up the hill than it did to come down, but we all made it. We thought that surely all our effort deserved a treat so we went in to town for an ice cream cone (prices are up – we had to pay 30 cents a piece for them!) Then we came back to sit on the porch and watch the sun set. Yari went off with a friend for more excitement. A few neighbors came by and visited a bit, and our Sunday is just about over. God is definitely good!

This week brings new challenges. We will speak with an attorney about getting Yari’s visa. We will go to Panama City to see Ben off for his semester in London. We will deliver the last two puppies to Chorrera Province to Ingrid, one of our dear friends and first translators here in Panama. Then we will begin to try to get by without all of Ben’s wonderful help here. He has been invaluable. He can do anything he wants here. He just seems to absorb the language, and everyone here loves him. He also has worked with Lynn outside a lot, getting done all kinds of work on the farm. More than all that, I will miss him. It has been a great summer with him here. Goodbyes seem to come to often for us, and I am not too good at them.

Enough mush. I trust that God (with help from Andrea) will take care of Ben until I can see him again.

We pray that you have a blessed week, and trust that you know what to do to encourage God’s blessings – show someone His love!

Joy & Lynn

Monday, August 4, 2008

Just thought I would update you on the weather here. It was a cool 60 degrees when I woke up this morning, but it really warmed about 75 in the afternoon. Now, it is evening and we are back down around 65. It is really tough on us to get by with this heat wave - we may even have to leave the windows open all night! I hear it is kinda hot in Arkansas too.

We are doing well. Lynn and Ben have almost finished the chicken pen and house. The puppies are growing like crazy. My leg/back is improving, and I actually ate fried chicken for supper!!! Our sweet little neighbor, Yeimi had to go to the doctor today. She was diagnosed with parasites (worms) and given medicine to take for a month. She was also told that she could have no sweets for a month. Here in Volcan, if a family has a penny, their child has candy in their mouth all the time, so this will be interesting! For our part, we will make sure she has fruit when she visits us.

If you get a chance check out There are some pretty insightful thoughts there free for the reading!

Richest blessings,
joy & Lynn

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Life Stories from El Valle, Volcan, Panama-

A couple of prayer requests –

Kathy, the 16 year old mother of the beautiful baby, Valery at the side, is really hurting. She was asked to leave her home a few months ago. She did, with the baby. She went to her father’s house, where she stayed for 2 weeks before he took a riding crop to her, and she again was asked to leave. She is 16. She acts like most 16 year olds – she is a bit selfish, lazy and rebelling against her mother. Shortly after her stay with her father she went back to her mother’s house, and was told the baby could stay, but she could not. She left the baby because she had no money for food , diapers, or even a roof over her head. She has been homeless since that time. She had a job, but talked bad a bout her boss to someone, so lost the job. She had a room for a few weeks, but when she lost the job, she lost the room. She had quit coming to church, and even quit coming to visit for awhile. When she first left her mother’s house I talked with her mom and she explained that Kathy did not want to do her share of the housework, and when her mom yelled at her, she yelled back. She asked me not to take her in because she wanted her to learn responsibility and respect. I will not go into how much of that she had been taught during the past 16 years, but it certainly is not a problem that just popped up. I honored her wishes.

At any rate, Friday she came to bible class, and told me she was leaving for Panama City on Saturday to try to find a job. She did not want to leave Valery, but felt she had no choice – there were no jobs available here. I told her she should talk with her mom, apologize, and learn to follow the rules of the house. She said she did not think her mom would listen. She did go to talk to her, but nothing changed. Her mom said “Fine, go!” Later that night someone came to Kathy and said her mother had told family members that as soon as Kathy left her mother was going to try to get legal custody of the baby. So, Kathy did not go. She came to church today. I know that she is pretty messed up, but I also know that she wants to be a good mom, she just isn’t ready for the responsibility.

All my heart wants to reach out and take them both in. However I know that is not necessarily what is best for either of them. She is talking to me more and more, confiding in me, and listening to me. I am asking that you pray for her to 1) find a decent job, 2) begin to mature into the person she must be to care for a child, and 3) that God would give me the right words and actions to show His love and care, as well as His expectation that we be good stewards of all He gives us. I do not find her totally to blame. Her life has never been what we would call good. But I also know she must begin now to change the direction for her sake, and for Valery’s.

Another young lady very close to my heart is Yari. She has been bounced from place to place for several years. When she was less than a year her mom gave her to her grandmother. She stayed there until she was 12, when her mom was angry with her grandmother, so took her away. The grandmother is very devout in her religion. They are somewhat Pentecostal in that they only wear skirts or dresses, and do not cut their hair. Yari, at 12, was happy to be out of this strict church environment, and loved wearing jeans for the first time. We met her a few months before her mom took her to another part of Volcan to live. She was one of my first English students. At any rate, we have stayed close. She was the first person to be baptized in our congregation. She spends a great deal of time here.

Last year, just before the end of the school year she was caught skipping school. Her mom made her quit school as a result. She is not, nor has she been, a problem kid. She is now 14 1/2 years old. The situation in her house continues to deteriorate. Her brother, who is still in school,(ironically) has been in trouble with the law, stealing and fighting. She lives with her mom, her brother, an unwed and pregnant aunt, and her younger two siblings in a small apartment. When her aunt moved in Yari was moved to the couch in the living room. Her mom entertains men until late at night. I do not mean that she is inappropriate with them in the house, only that Yari’s bed is unavailable until past midnight most nights, and she has no place that is her own space. A few months ago she told me that she would like to live with her grandparents again, but that she was told she must renounce her baptism, and be re-baptized into their church before she can even spend a night in her grandmother’s house. She is unwilling to do that.

So Lynn and I have been praying and considering asking if Yari could come back to the States with us. We decided it would be best for her, so today I talked with her mom. She said that if we could swing the expenses, she would let her go because it would be an opportunity that she could never give her. So, we will begin seeing how legally possible it is in this short time that remains for us here this year. We really believe that Yari is on the edge of deciding which direction she will go. She really wants to do right, to follow Christ, but when she gets lifted up here, and fortified by God’s love and power, then returns to her messed up family at night, it is very hard. Please pray for her strength, and that if God wills, she can come home with us for the 6 months. Please pray, also that her mother’s heart will soften and she will see the desperate need that Yari has to be loved unconditionally and completely.

Well, this is what is on my heart tonight. I pray that God will bless you richly with peace, and unconditional and complete love. He offers both in abundance!

Joy & Lynn