The Weather in Our Neck of the Woods

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Today we had a new record attendance, 34. That’s 10 more than our old record of 24 last week. Fourteen of these were under 12 years. Bruce led the singing and prayers and Gilberto preached and taught the adult class. Anna and I taught the niños class. We fixed chili with rice. Most had never had chili. For desert Anna brought a big banana cake and Lynn had made about 90 corn flake marshmallow balls (And adaptation of rice krispy treats). He is fast becoming a sweet treat chef! Everyone is asking what he has made when they come. Every Friday he tries it out on the bible class, and it is never quite right, then it works beautifully on Sundays!

34 just about maxed out our room. We started thinking about more room, more bibles, more glasses, more spoons and more chairs. This is a wonderful problem. Of course we were already thinking about what to do for next Winter, and that we needed a building that was not also our home, but today it really hit home that we NEED to be building. God is providing the increase, and we need to follow His lead!

I asked Lynn today what he felt was the reason for our new arrivals today (there were two new families) and he said that he thought it was just because we have been friendly. I have to agree. Both families live beyond our house, further into the country. When they pass, we always greet them, and on occasion I have given one family a ride home in the rain (mom and two small children). Just showing Jesus’ love works wonders! And that is, for the most part, very easy! Look at what Riverside has done with the tornado victims – just showing Jesus has planted lots of seeds!

Speaking of seed planting. We took a trip out to Caña Blanca last Friday. We had heard that the school had reopened and wanted to see for ourselves. We knew that it would be a small school – it had been closed last year because of the 10 student rule. If there are less than 10 students the government would not provide a teacher. Apparently, this year – as it is an election year – they changed the rules and said if there were 3 students they would provide a teacher. So, indeed, they have reopened the school with 7 students. A few of these children were traveling in to El Valle last year, but could no longer afford the long trek, so were staying home. Now, as of last week, they are back in school.

We were thrilled to see that they could again attend classes, but then appalled to find they had no books, no pencils, no colors, no notebooks, no….nothing. The teacher explained that when the school closed the supervisor took all the materials and gave them to other schools, so nothing was left. So, they have had classes going on 2 weeks, with nothing but 2 pair of scissors and some old newspapers. I asked when she expected to get supplies, and she said that she had been told there was no money for more than her pay. She is a young teacher who lives in Puerto Armuelles, 4 hours away. She has been given a room in the house of a widow in the village that she uses through the week, then goes home to her family on the weekends – when she can find a ride.

So, we are trusting that God will provide the funds for us to help out this tiny school. We bought pencils, colors, paper, notebooks, glue, pencil sharpeners, markers, playdough etc.. that we will take out to them tomorrow morning. We also bought 4 math books for the first graders, and a writing book for the other grades. That is all we could find here. All the stores have put away their school books, so we will have to search to find more. The teacher, as in Gariche’ asked specifically for Bibles and Bible story activities. We will put together these for them as well. We remain convinced that God is using these acts of kindness to plant seeds that will bear fruit.

The church contribution today was $22.15. We held our first business meeting two weeks ago, and decided as a congregation to save our offering until a need arose. Since that time, I believe that they are all giving more. In the past they had no idea what happened to the offering, and thus, did not give at all much of the time. Now everyone puts in something. It may only be a dime, but remember the widow’s mite!

The whole church is studying and growing in Christ. It is such a blessing to watch.

Salinda’s husband has returned from his ‘vacation’. We are thrilled and relieved! He has been gone for two weeks, and left the family with no money or food. We have been providing for them since he left, but did not want to ‘enable’ them by continuing indefinitely. He was with them today, and the whole family seemed happier. He had gone to visit his sister in his home village – quite a ways from here.

Lynn just said that I needn’t write a book. I am taking that as a hint to quit for now. There are a couple of photos from the new little school in Caña Blanca. Aren’t they precious? What a blessing to help these little ones in the name of Jesus!

Richest blessings, dear ones!

Monday, May 19, 2008

While it seems that we will never 'catch up', the place is looking better all the time. We are staying very busy, and are thrilled to have Ben here helping us. In the midst of all the repairs we have also managed to take a group to David church every Wednesday night for dinner at McDonalds (always a favorite), a short class, and lots of singing. Our youth really enjoy the chance to visit with the youth at David.

We have also visited with the tiny school in Gariche, and been asked to help them provide Bibles for their students (all 8 of them). We said we would absolutely LOVE to do that, so have ordered some NVI version Bilengual Bibles to help the teacher share Bible stories with the youngsters. I have also copied out Bible lessons which we will take out this week.

We have also fed the students at El Valle well every week since we have been back. Our relationship with the school continues to be strong and beneficial, both to them and to the church. I was amazed that when we first went to Gariche the teacher knew just who we were, what we believed, and where we lived! Word travels fast here, and when you feed someone's children you become a friend fast.

The photos were taken this past Sunday during classes. We had 24 present, with 6 visitors. 4 of the visitors were indigens - G'Nobe Bugle Indians. We have long felt a need to focus on this downtrodden, very poor group of people, so we are thrilled to have more in attendance. Of course we realize that part of the reason they come is because we share a meal together, but Jesus fed people He taught, so we feel that is a good starting place!

On Saturday I got to babysit the beautiful Miss Anna Valery. I was quite appalled to find that she enjoyed Ben's company more than my own, but was also very glad that he was there to help! While she is beautiful, she is also very spoiled - she felt the need to be carried 100% of the time! We had fun!

English classes are going well. I have 10 students through out the week. With preparation time and class time I am keeping pretty busy. Our classes have become more aggressive this year. I am demanding that they talk alot more English, and I am speaking alot less Spanish. So far, so good!

We are eagerly preparing for the teams to come in June. Lots left to do, but God is in charge, and it will all be done according to His plan!

We love you all, and have a a bed ready whenever you are ready to visit!

May God bless you richly!

Monday, May 12, 2008

What a Day!

We ended last night with one of the youth saying that his mother did not think he was ready to be baptized. We were disappointed, but understood that this was a big move for the whole family. The decision to be baptized in to the church can very well ostracize the person from their entire extended family. It is a ‘no turning back’ decision, for more reasons that for most North Americans consider. Catholicism is the official religion, not that they practice it much, but if you are Panamanian, you are Catholic. If you are not Catholic, you are Pentecostal. If you are not Pentecostal you are a heathen. Not really, but almost. At any rate it is a decision that affects the whole family, and his mother felt he should talk with them more about it before he made the commitment. He is 12, and God willing, he will have time to consider and discuss this with his family. We went to bed excited about 3 baptisms for today.

At 7:00 this morning Yessi came over to tell us that her father had forbidden her baptism. He also said that he wanted to talk with her more about it later. We assumed that her brother had been given the same instructions, so thought we were down to one baptism. We understood that the angels would still have a great party for the one, so we would too! I told Yessi that we understood and that when her father was ok with her being baptized, day or night, we would be ready to take her to the river. She went to tell Marlene, the only one left to be baptized today, and we feared that there would be no baptisms, but Yessi returned and said that Marlene did not want to wait (Marlene is Yessi’s aunt) so we planned to head to the river right after services.

At 9:00 I walked to Dany’s house ( and Yessi and Olmedito’s house) to ask how to fry the vegetables for our lunch (Arroz con Pollo). She reminded me what to do, and as I walked away Yessi came running up and said, “Señora Joy! I talked with my father more and I convinced him that I should be baptized today!” She was radiant, and I could only smile as my eyes filled with tears at her fervent desire to obey God. So the tone for the day was set. It has been a joyful day since before classes started. My ‘Arroz con Pollo’ even turned out good!

Brother Norman Ponce, the son of our beloved Brother Ponce in David, came up to teach the class today. We had asked him to speak on baptism so that those in preparation for this afternoon could completely understand what they were about to do. He did a wonderful job. I swear it could have been Tim Martin, speaking with an immense love of God and of these beautiful souls. He explained, with Scripture, all the reasons for baptism, and what promises it held. Marlene and I were already crying in anticipation. I should tell you that Marlene is about 40 years old, and has been very sick for over a year. The very act of her walking to our house for church is often very painful, but she has been faithful to come.

Sister Anna taught the children’s class today for me so that I could hear what Norman was sharing. The children all knew their memory verse again. This is the third week in a row that they have aced it! I am very proud of them and their work!

Brother Gilberto taught the sermon. I wish I could tell you what it was about. I am sure it was good, but I couldn’t help sitting there smiling across the room at Yessi, Olmedito and Marlene, and thinking about the change they were about to make. The new life they were about to enjoy. The help from within they were about to experience. The Holy Spirit coming to dwell in them personally. My what great things are ahead for them! I had asked Gilberto to keep it short because here in this area, we need to beat the rain or the water will be really muddy, and more dangerous if it is raining. He was brief and to the point. We shared the Holy Supper and headed to the river. We loaded our truck with 12 people and Gilberto’s car with 6 and off we went. No rain, thank you Lord! At the river we sang songs and prayed. Norman took the confession of each of the three, and baptized them, Marlene first, then Yessi, then Olmedito. This served as more than 3 new babes being born into Christ, which is plenty of reason to celebrate. It also served as a renewal for the church – a reminder of what the church is supposed to be – and a refocus on being salt and light, and moving forward, in faith. God is so good!

Once everyone was good and wet we got back in the cars and went back to the house for lunch (where we ate the Arroz con Pollo). Lynn had made two batches of Lisa Hammett’s no-bake cookies last night and they were a huge hit! We enjoyed great fellowship then had our first church business meeting.

This is a new thing here, both for the church at David, and especially for this new church who are just beginning their own traditions of the church of Christ. This is both very exciting, and very humbling. We so want to avoid some of the problems that have arisen for the church in the States from not discerning the difference between tradition and biblical mandate. Every step we make is a brand new step, fresh and pure, if it is done with much prayer and diligence seeking God’s desire. We are so blessed that our brothers from David are supportive of our work, and not insistent that we follow the traditions of even their congregation. As of today, we have our first male baptized member (other than Lynn) so there are many traditions that simply cannot be followed in what we gringos would call the ‘normal’ way. As I said, this is both exciting and loaded with huge responsibility.

So, for this first business meeting, we needed to begin by getting the church to accept responsibility for decision making. This is a very new concept in general here. First, there is the mentality that all Gringos (North Americans) are the boss of whatever they are involved in. Then we have to overcome the idea that they have no choice in their circumstances. This is a typical mentality in Latin America – that what happens happens and we can neither change nor control any of it. This tends to be a two edged sword for the church; Because of this belief, the people are far more likely to depend on God, and give Him total power, and consequently, total honor and gratitude. It also causes them to remain reactive and not proactive. They are hesitant to go out and try any new thing because, it will happen if it should, and won’t if it shouldn’t. Therefore, there is no need for much decision making, as God will do what he will do, and all will be fine in the end. We also face the obstacle of the female mentality – that the men will make all the decisions regardless of what the women feel is best. To get these women to accept the challenge of both the decision-making and the responsibility for those decisions will be an on-going task.

Okay, I am through talking missiology, sorry about the lecture! We introduced the idea, in deference to the men from David who were with us, that normally in the churches of Christ the men facilitated the meetings, but because Lynn’s Spanish is not quite ready, I would be speaking on his behalf. If there were any ruffled feathers to sooth, this calmed them before we began. We proceeded to tell them what we, as a church should be discussing and deciding. The group consisted of about 10 members of this congregation and 5 from David. It took awhile for the Riverside folks to warm up, but they were actively participating before we were through, and any decisions were made. Brother Gilberto helped explain several times when he had something to offer to help the new church members understand what was being discussed. My Spanish is still rudimentary, but after the third time he re-explained what I said, one of the ladies said,” We are very accustomed to the way Joy talks, and understand her very well.” It tickled me to no end, and Gilberto was satisfied, so he only offered his own thoughts after that. Norman sat quietly, saying nothing unless asked directly. He was being respectful of our need to be united as a congregation, I believe, and I appreciated that.

After about an hour, the David gang headed back to the heat below, and the rest of the church sat and visited, and came to some decisions that frankly, surprised me. As a whole they decided that they would like to save the entire offering each week until a need arose. It was suggested that the ladies might want to attend the Convention in Panama City in August, and that part might be used for this, and part for the Youth convention next February. Most importantly, they felt that it should be saved for a time when someone might have a need- a sick child, for example. It was decided that should that type need arise, each family should be consulted as to how to help. It would not be the decision or responsibility of any individual, but of the church as a whole. We are thrilled with this first step. It takes us (Lynn and I) a little further out of the leadership role, which we believe is a necessary step for the church to grow and flourish. It simply cannot remain our responsibility forever. We believe we see this example in the Apostle Paul. He taught and raised leaders in the church, then moved on. While we intend to remain as a part of this church, we do not intend be any more significant than the other members of the church.

It was also agreed that we would meet every second Sunday afternoon after lunch. We ended with a prayer led by Lynn in English and translated by me. This was also a first for us, and as long a he keeps it simple, it will not be the last!

Earlier in the week we visited with Salinda, our dear sister with 9 children (now). She missed last Sunday and we were afraid that the baby was ill, but she had gone to Tole to see her mother who was sick, and her children were/are all healthy for the moment. Remember that 5 of her children are in the Riverside Beka program, so we provide uniforms and materials for school to them. We found that her children were lacking in many areas.

A need that she specifically mentioned was that they rarely had breakfast in the house, which means they rarely have breakfast at all. The school provides them a cup of ‘crema’ at 10:00 in the morning, and the children from Riverside in Gassville provide them lunch at 11:30, but Salinda’s children are getting nothing to sustain them before this. With the money provided by individuals to sponsor these Beka children, we will begin to provide breakfast foods for the family. The uniforms and other things that they need will be provided as well, but this weekly gift of breakfast will help all the children in the house, as well as Salinda. The extra cost will be about $5 each week. This is a way that we can help her, without feeling that we are enabling her. It is part of the Beka package that we offer her children.

This afternoon we took the children new uniforms – skirts, shirts, socks, shoes (both black uniform shoes and tennis shoes). We will also purchase some notebooks and pencils this week. They were thrilled, to put it lightly! When we got to the house Emelia ran to greet us. She is the middle daughter at 8 years old. She begged our forgiveness that she was not at church this morning and explained that her only pair of shoes had lost its sole and she could not walk the mile to our house without shoes. Certainly God knew that she had an immediate need, and sent us to take care of it! The girls jumped up and down like our kids would if they had been given a new car for Christmas. They were thrilled with the shoes – we had chosen the favorite colors for each, the skirts were “just perfect” they said, and even the socks were “the prettiest they had seen, so clean and white.” Salinda was equally thrilled with the oats and milk.

So, had it not been a perfectly wonderful day already, it certainly was after that visit. Shortly after we arrived home Jairo came for a visit and brought his sister, Tatiana with him. We were so pleased. Tatiana had not come to see us since we asked Ez to leave. Her whole family had heard from Ez that we had said he could no longer visit with or speak to their family, and they were hurt and angry, understandably. We had explained earlier today to their mother that this was not true, that we only asked that, if he were to remain working with us, he should not spend time alone with Jairo. So, this afternoon Tatiana came to visit, and we had a great visit. She had been one of my favorite English students last year, and I love her dearly. We feel that we are truly beginning to rise above the harm that Ez caused us, as a church and as individuals. We realize that it is not over, that more things will probably come to light, but we can see True Light at the end of the dark tunnel. If this family can begin to heal, then the church can heal as well. We are very grateful to God for His mercy and peace.

We were blessed by another visit later today. Marlene and her husband, Jose came to see and share photos of the baptisms. Jose does not attend church with us, and has not seriously considered it before, but God is at work! He is becoming more comfortable with us, and we enjoyed a great visit. We feel that soon he will try out the church here on a Sunday, and we are excited about that! He is a good man, a good husband and provider for his family, he just lacks God’s guidance. No, he just needs to acknowledge God’s guidance, and accept His lordship.

The day would have been perfect had not the internet and phone gone out. I really wanted to talk to my young son, and to share all this with you, my dear sisters and brothers, right away. God is always having to remind me to WAIT on His timing! Patience is not my greatest quality! Ah well! We have been able to share in this manner, and will post as soon as we have internet again. We love you all. Please keep praying because God is moving mountains here because of our prayers together!

Richest of Blessings!

Joy & Lynn

Friday, May 9, 2008

You think God is sitting by doing nothing???

Tonight we had our first midweek class without Ezequias. I was the facilitator, Lynn, the coffee and cookie maker, and God, the giver of inspiration and the lesson. We were discussing the third fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5; Peace. There were 8 present, 9 counting Yeimi, who is only 7 years old. I was worried about my feeble Spanish abilities, but should not have been. God had it all worked out and the class was great. Everyone took part in the discussion, read aloud, and seemed to enjoy the lesson. During the discussion of Isaiah 48:22, Psalms 85:8 and Romans 2:9-10, Marlene brought up a question that really moved the conversation. She said that she had been studying about Baptism and did not understand how she could have been baptized correctly when she was only a baby. Marlene began attending classes here last December, so we had not known her well before our return. I pointed out Scriptures that show examples of baptism, including that of Christ, and said that I knew of no babies being baptized for the remission of sins. She agreed, and then said, “So I want to be baptized.” Before I could say “Hallelujah!” Zavier said, “me too!”, then Yessenia said, “me too!”, and Jairo piped in, “me too!” I sat back and said…absolutely nothing for a minute, and then said, “Well, Why not?” We discussed the whys, whens and hows, and all four continued to say they were ready to be baptized, and for the right reasons. All four were christened in the Catholic Church as infants. They seemed to have a concern for being baptized in the tank out back, which no longer holds water anyway, but their reasoning has given me pause for consideration. They want to be baptized like Jesus was – in a river where the water flows, and can carry their sins away from them. Even Yaritza, who was baptized last year here in the tank out back, said she felt as if she only gave her sins to Dania, who was baptized just after her. So, we are planning a multiple baptism – possibly for Sunday. I do want to wait for Gilberto to come and speak to them in perfect Spanish, and be sure they are ready to make this very serious commitment. I believe that they are all ready. I believe that their lives will change forever in just a day or two, and I am very excited for them all. Can you imagine? In the midst of the conflict this little church has been going through, God is at work convicting hearts of His desire for their lives! Ain’t He awesome!!!! He can use just anybody He wants to bring glory to His name! What an awesome God! I just can not wait till Sunday! We will have to rent a van to get everyone to the river (or possibly the sea), and will be thrilled to do so!!!

Okay, so I am flying right now, I know. Other than this news, the house is coming along. We continue to find more ways that Ezequias harmed the church, and become more certain every day that God had his hand in our decision to let him go. The community and church are responding to our return, and his leaving in a very favorable way. God continues to have great plans for this church, and these people. Just see how He is working!!

I went to Las Perlas School today to confirm our team coming in June to teach Bible classes for 4 days. The school has 150 students, and only 4 small classrooms. The Director is very happy that we are coming, and everything is looking good for us to get to tell all the children about Jesus and His love for them.

I also visited with the teachers at El Valle today. The food is stretching throughout the week now. We have added $10 weekly to the budget to accommodate the extra 30 children. Mothers and teacher alike all stop me to say thank you, so I pass that on to the children at Riverside in Gassville – Thank you!!!

The children at El Valle are also excited for the team to come back there. They are always asking me when we will be back in the school teaching them. I tell them to be patient until June. They just smile and say ok.

One 8 year old boy who attends services here faithfully stopped me as I was leaving the school today. He said he knew his memory verse for Sunday school. I asked him to tell me. He did, word for word, then I asked where it was in the Bible, and he told me. I clapped and said “Very good!!!” At the same time I heard a roar from the office just behind him – the director’s office- and the Director came out clapping and praising young Juan Carlos’s recitation. It was a great witness to both the director, and the others who were nearby. I had not realized that anyone else was listening, but God was using this small boy to plant seeds! How marvelous!

We have discovered another very small school about an hour past our house on out in no-man’s land. The name of the school and community is ‘Gariche’. The school has 1 teacher and 10 children, ranging from Kindergarten to 6th grade. We traveled out to see the school earlier this week, but found that the teacher was already gone, and classes dismissed for the day. The teacher rides out to the school house in the back of a milk truck every morning, and hitches a ride back with another truck. We are eager to meet with her and see what we can do to help this tiny school group. We are told that the school will be closed if the attendance goes below 10. Another school out past our house was closed last year when only 7 students registered for classes. When the school closes, 90% of the children are finished with their education. Very few will be able to get to El Valle for classes. It is simply too far, and too expensive for these very poor families. Furthermore, the schools who have the fewest children also receive the smallest amount of government help. At El Valle, there are not enough students to warrant feeding them lunch – only 250. Can you imagine what Gariche must be without? So, as I said, we want to see what we can do to help. We plan to get together some school supplies and take them out next week if possible, just as a way of introducing ourselves, and assessing their needs. We will let you know how that goes.

Going to bed now, praising the Almighty for His abundant love, His unfailing faithfulness, and His peace that He gives that passes all understanding.

May God bless you Richly!

Joy & Lynn

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Lord’s Day

Let me very clear – God is faithful. I am not always. I doubt at times, I worry. I feel sorry for myself and bury myself in my pain and sorrow. God just keeps on blessing. God keeps on forgiving. God keep on…keeping on. Praise His Holy Name! God is ever faithful.

This week God sent angels in the form of phone calls from our brothers and sisters in the U.S. to comfort and encourage us when we were in despair. This week God provided significant words through Max Lucado’s Daily Devotion. This week God kept us very busy with cleaning, repairing and planning. This week God gave us peace in our hearts, when we could accept it. God even saw fit to let me see my Dad this week through the internet! Is He awesome or what? Lots of things continue to go wrong in many areas (the water heater blew up on Wednesday) but God remains steadfast. When we pray, he gives peace and discernment. He has not answered all the questions we have had, but he has showed us how to wait, just putting one foot in front of the other until His will comes to fruition.

Today God brought six dear brothers and sisters from David to our little church here in El Valle. Brother Gilberto taught the adult/youth class while Sister Anna and I taught the children about Jonah. She brought the lesson to life like I never could in Spanish. It was wonderful. Then Brother Bruce led beautiful songs and Gilberto taught a wonderful lesson on how we show the light that is Christ in our lives – through our love of others, both friends and enemies. It was a perfectly timed lesson for us all. We finished the meeting with hotdogs, chips, cookies and pineapple juice. The kids really loved the hotdogs and chips – quite a treat for them. We cannot afford to do that often, but it made for a perfect ending today.

Attendance was down a little. Salinda and her family were not here. Jairo and his family were not here. We will be certain to visit with both this week to insure that they know that we missed them, and that they are always welcome. I suspect that Salinda had a sick child, so will try to go soon to check on her. It may be that we have lost Jairo and his family, but we will continue to make them welcome. God has all these things, and these people, under control. He loves each one, and will care for us all. We will wait on Him.

For now, God has blessed us with faithful members, and family in David who are willing to help us as long as necessary. I will endeavor to do the midweek class. I must study more Spanish to do this. Please pray that I will be able to convey God’s glory, and His love to these very earnest students of the Bible. We realize that this is not the best situation for them, but it is the best we can do right now.

We continue to learn more about Ezequias’s behavior while we were gone, and continue to be saddened and shocked, but God has shown us that we must take it in, give it to Him, and put it away. We believe that Ez is leaving town today. We are praying that he will find a way to renew his relationship with God, and change his ways. We grow more certain every day that the decision we made was the best for the church. God has given us peace in this, and we are grateful.

The work continues, paso a paso (step by step). Our neighbor, whom we do not know well, came yesterday to ask if he could make a ‘trato’ with us. I had to ask what is a trato, and he told me, so I will tell you; It is a bargain. Isn’t that cool? Ah well, at any rate, he needed to borrow our weedeater to cut his grass, and said if he could use it he would also cut our yard for us. This has been a topic of concern for us for a couple of reasons. One, we have no time to get it cut, and two, it really hurts Lynn’s shoulder to use the weedeater. So, our lawn now is beautiful, as is his, and we are both quite happy, and plan to continue this arrangement. It also gave us a chance to talk with him and his wife at length, so we have closer friends now. God continues to amaze this slow-learning believer. He is so good to me and I am so undeserving. May I never cease to praise Him and serve Him!

Thanks for your prayers and love. We love you all dearly!

Joy & Lynn

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Panama City and back in Record time!

We spoke with a new lawyer last week. Have you heard the story of the old lawyer? Well, he was a very nice, English speaking friend of the church in David. We were thrilled last year to find him, and he set out to help us get our ‘Pensionada Visa’. This will enable us to stay in the country indefinitely, as well as afford us discounts for our utility bills. Our main purpose is to be able to stay in the country without having to spend 3 days every month is Costa Rica, which we have had to do in the past. Well, Carlos, our very nice, and good-looking lawyer, told us what all we needed to do, what papers we had to have, etc. We called Heather, Lynn’s daughter, and she ran her tail off to get everything authenticated and sent down to us last September. It was all done but our health exam, which Carlos was setting up for us, He called to say there might be a problem because we were leaving the country so soon, but he had a friend in the government, and would let us know as soon as he talked with the friend. Then Carlos dropped out of sight. I mean, we could not find him anywhere. He did not answer his phone, he was not in his house (which served as his office as well), we spent the last two weeks of our time here unable to reach him, so left without the Visas, or our papers, or anything.

We returned, went to his house and he explained that we could not use an ‘Apostille’ document in Panama. Well, we knew several people who did use them just fine. He said that he talked with the woman who took the applications and she said it could not be done by Apostille. No excuses as to why he had not called, or where he had been, or why he did not answer our calls. Lynn stood tall (well as tall as he can at 5’6”) and fired that lawyer. He got our ‘power of attorney’ back, and all of our papers, but none of our money. Carlos later spoke to a friend in the church and asked him to tell us that he found out he was wrong about the Apostille, and would do the rest of our work for free if we would let him. Tempting, but we went to a new lawyer.

Okay, so the new lawyer actually knew what an Apostille was, and said he could help us. Several of the documents that we had we did not need (sorry, Heather!) One was not done correctly and needed to be redone. But all in all we were in pretty good shape except one thing. My passport will expire in December of this year. (on another note, that means that I have been coming to Latin America for ten years now!) The lawyer, who graduated with a doctorate from Tulane University, said that should the process be delayed for any reason, and my passport expire before the Visa is granted, we would have to start all over. So….we had to go to Panama City!

We left last Monday night on the last bus to David, then on the midnight bus to Panama. We arrived at 6:30 am, had to find a place that could take ‘carnet photos’ (for the passport). We got them and headed to the Embassy across town. Got through all the security, took a number, and waited for our turn. After some time we were called up and found that the photos were the wrong size. Well, let me tell you, if you think I looked bad before I spent the night on a bus, I looked a lot worse when we got the first photos taken. The second time around I did not even care. There was a tent – yes, a tent – set up outside the Embassy gates for all the stupid people who did not have the right size photos. God is always taking care of this fool, I know! Okay, so we get my picture taken again. We have now spent $8 on ugly pictures of me. We went back in, paid our $75, and completed the application process. We walked out, hailed a cab, went directly back to the bus terminal, bought tickets and got on a bus to come home. We arrived back in David at 5:30 and were here at the house by 8:00, totally exhausted, but feeling like we had accomplished something.

We have a choice of how to receive the passport – we can return to Panama City in two weeks, or we can take my current passport to DHL in David, ask them to get it to the Embassy, where they will mark it invalid and send it with my new one back in just a few days. Remember this is Panama, and the last time I ordered anything through DHL it was supposed to take 6 days and ended up taking 17. Needless to say, I am not terribly confident in DHL here. The trip cost about $85, and the DHL service will probably be close to the same, so the decision is really whether to avoid the discomfort of another trip or give up having a passport in a foreign country for several days to a very unreliable transport company. We are still deliberating. The Embassy will call when the passport with the ugly photo is ready. We will decide then.

On a more serious note, the situation with Ezequias continued to deteriorate until we asked him to leave. He has done some significant harm to the church here, and we are not sure the total extent yet. We were far too trusting, and are paying a great price for it now. One of the areas in which he was irresponsible was with the funds you sent for the children here. We beg the forgiveness of those of you who trusted us to be responsible stewards. The children at the school have faithfully been fed, but those who received assistance from many of you for school uniforms and materials have not received all you gave. Lynn and I will take care of that difference, we promise you. We are ashamed that we did not provide better safeguards to ensure the use of the funds, and promise to do all in our power to make sure it does not happen again.

We ask you to pray for Ezequias. While he had done grievous harm, he has many qualities that could at some point serve God well. We do love him dearly and pray that God will forgive him, and change his heart. At this point he says that he will never again work with the church. He does not see his errors, and blames both us and the church in general for his loss of a job.

While things will continue to be difficult here for some time, we are confident that God will continue His work here, and that this church will be stronger because of these trials. The church at David has offered to send us a preacher on Sundays, and we will try our best to have midweek classes on our own. We are still assessing what is still lacking for the Beka students, but will address those needs as they arise.

This is life in Panama. We remain grateful that God placed in our hearts a desire to work here, with these people, and God willing, we will continue to claim the name of Christ to all who will listen.

All because of Jesus!

Joy & Lynn