The Weather in Our Neck of the Woods

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Day in the Life

I was thinking that maybe I could paint a picture for you of a somewhat normal day here for us. So that you might have some idea of this life. Maybe it is just like yours. Maybe parts are different. At any rate, here goes a day in the life of normal people in the church in El Valle, Volcan, Chiriqui, Panama;

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Normally Lynn wakes up at 6:00 and I sleep until 6:30 every morning. That has become our tradition. Lynn has alone time for reading his Bible, and his first cup of coffee, and I sprawl out across the bed for 30 minutes more sleep. Today was an exception. We got in late from the Bible study in David, so Lynn was still snoring at 6:24 when we heard a soft, sweet “ Señora Joy!” at the front door. It was Yessenia, and it was also the third time she had called out. I went to the door in my pajamas and opened it to Olmedito and Yessi in their school uniforms. Normally they leave for classes at 6:15, but I was too asleep to notice they were late. It was raining for the third straight day. The road out front was about 10 inches under water. Yessi asked if they could borrow an umbrella. I said of course and gave them two. She said only one because Olmedito was going to take her on his bicycle. Otherwise their feet and shoes would be soaked before they left our yard. So, off they went; teenage sister and brother, on one bicycle with one umbrella. I came in and fixed the coffee.

About an hour and a half later, after a breakfast of fresh pineapple and papaya, cheese and toast, Dani arrived to work for the day. Dani is helping with the housecleaning, preparing for the team to come, and she also cooks lunch for us most days. She can do amazing things with whatever she finds in the frig. She is already soaked to the bone. She brought her youngest girl, Yeimi with her because she cannot go to school in the rain. Yeimi goes to El Valle, which is much closer than The High School, but the water is past Yeimi’s knees on the road, so she gets a day off from school. Yeimi went right to her coloring book that we always have ready for her whenever she visits. She went to the table in the classroom, got the crayons and sat to color. She stayed there, quietly for an hour or so before roaming the house singing, humming or generally making noise. This too has become a tradition. Lynn and are learning to appreciate the constant chatter, but is taking some time and work!

Another hour passes and I heard another call at the door. It was Yamileth and Jesus, two of Salinda’s children. They are soaked to the bone, and Jesus, who is 3 years old had snot running down his face like a river. They have come with a note from their mother. They had no umbrella. Jesus is wearing rubber boots on the wrong feet, a torn shirt three sizes too big, and a huge smile. I am in love with this young man! Yamileth has on flip flops, torn shorts and a stained t-shirt. She has the most beautiful, open smile everytime she sees me. She gave me a big hug and ask how I was - remember this picture – I am dry, well fed, in clean, undamaged clothes, in my nice warm house. She is dripping wet from head to toe, has had nothing to eat since yesterday, in very few clothes, and she greets me with a huge smile and asks how I am! Something ironic in that - Am I sacrificing?

Lynn got a blanket, towels and breakfast for the kids while I read the note. She wrote that the baby was sick and needed medicine. She had already walked to town to the Health Center but they were closed, so she returned home, again, with she and the baby soaked from the rain, with no medicine (If she goes to the Health Center, the medicine for the baby is free).

I told the kids to wait while I dressed and then the four of us went to their house. I took Dani with me to help get the right medicine. We spoke with Salinda, and she mentioned a specific type of medicine, but when we went to the pharmacy to get it, it was for older children. I got it for Jesus. We also got two different medicines for the baby. He is only 4 months old, and is sick a lot. I mentioned this to Dani and she said that this was the way of the Indians here. The women continued having children, because quite often the babies died young. If they take them out in the pouring rain, or send them out in the pouring rain regularly, it is no wonder! As I think this, and write this, I am also aware that they often have little choice. There is no refrigeration, so they must go out for food daily. There is no money for cars or taxis, so they must go afoot. What else can they do? Salinda has no phone. She cannot call me to help her. She must send one of the children. If her husband does not go to work he will lose his job. He can not stay home to help, or go get the food. There is much to be said for pre-planning, but that is not a concept understood, or utilized by many folks here. And when we think about teaching this idea, and look to the Bible for examples, we find verses like Matthew 6, reminding us not to worry about the future, or James 4:13-16, admonishing us to not plan or boast of the future, but acknowledge that God has complete control of our future. So, the first question becomes, are we right? Sure seems like the practical thing to do - to plan ahead, to have extra food set aside for the day when someone is sick and cannot go out. It is what the typical North American would do. The second is, until we are sure it is correct to change this attitude (because their attitude is the same as Jesus’ in this – God will provide), can we afford to tell them differently. We have not been able to answer either to our satisfaction.

Back to our day; After delivering the medicines, along with the directions from the pharmacist, we returned to the house where I began again to prepare the Bible lesson for Friday night. Lynn and Ben were working on the back porch – painting. I prepared the lesson on ‘Amabilidad’, that is to say, kindness. This is a continuation of our study on the fruit of the Spirit. I searched the Scriptures in English for references to kindness, and consider parables and examples of kindness, type it all out in English for myself, and for Ben and Lynn. Then I begin to re-search the Scriptures to see how it is worded in the New International Version in Spanish, and in the Reina Valera, because the church uses both versions to study. Sometimes the wording is such that it completely changes the meaning that I am trying to put across. I will be glad when my Spanish improves greatly and/or God provides another teacher for the class! I am learning more by teaching, so will not complain. Bless their hearts, the class does not complain either! They are very patient with me.

When that was ready, so was lunch. We ate rice and beans and bistec picado. It was delicious. The rain continued throughout the afternoon. Lynn kept busy with inside projects, Ben retired to his room to talk with Andrea, I expect, and read, and I changed gears and prepared for my English classes. Yaritza arrived at 1:10. Her class was scheduled for 1:00 but with the rain she was late, and wet. We studied the use of ‘to, at, in, and on’. She is a sharp student. She catches on quickly, and her class is moving forward rapidly. Yaritza was the first to be baptized here. She is 14 and is not enrolled in school because the year before her mom caught her skipping and refused to pay for more schooling. Education is a great sacrifice for parents here. We would have offered her a scholarship, but when we insisted that she make at least C’s in the classes she said she did not want to go until next year, when she can attend a different school with older students. The simple truth is she is lazy and does not want to do the work. She always does her work for me, as it is a requirement, and she would never intentionally let me down. She says I am her best friend in the world. She is a troubled teen, in a house where her mom is never available, and her dad is non-existent. Her mom is a good person, but works 14 hours a day to provide for her and her sisters and brothers. Yaritza is also a good person, and is trying to change many things to be more Christ-like, so the more time she spends here, the better. We have class twice a week in English and twice a week with the Bible. She lives a couple of miles away so she is dedicated to being here. She comes, rain or shine, for classes.

Yaritza left at about 3:30 when my next class arrived. She usually stays to visit and watch me work, or she helps if she can. Today I was pretty busy, so she just hung out a while then headed home when there was a short break in the rain. It did not last long. This class has only two students; Gissell and Abdiel. These two have been student here for 2 years. They are both in grade school, and neighbors. They managed to come when the rain was lighter, and with rubber boots and umbrellas, they kept relatively dry. The class lasted 45 minutes. We studied days, months and numbers. They also had a quiz over colors and vocabulary words. I have not found a curriculum that I like for any of the classes, so they are each individualized for the students in that class. I spend a lot of time putting together the lessons.

Shortly before 5:00 Lynn called my attention to an elderly lady who was walking in the 8” deep water toward her house, 3 miles further down our road. Her grand daughter, Isenith, who is 5 years old, was at her side. Lynn said, “Why don’t you go give them a ride home?” So I went. I had to put the car into 4 wheel drive to get to their house, but it only took 10 minutes of my time, and was a nice break from the studying. That lady was at church today (Sunday) with her grand-daughter. She said that she enjoyed the class, as did Isenith. Isenith already has her verse memorized for next week!

Back to Thursday. I worked on getting the lessons ready for classes on Saturday. That is my busiest day – I have 7-10 students in 3 different classes. I was preparing a test for the biggest class – all in Junior High. These guys are bright and eager to learn! They keep me on my toes! I quit at 6:00 pm to fix supper. We ate in relative quiet, and watched MacGyver. Yes, okay, this has become our vice. I bought Season 3 of MacGyver before we left the States, and every once in awhile we watch an episode. When it got dark, as is our custom, we shut our curtains and our door. It has become our signal that we are retiring for the night. Sometimes it even works. Not so on Thursday. Marlene came down to tell us about her doctor’s visit on Wednesday. We were happy to visit with her. She is a dear sister, and we are just getting to know her, so always look forward to visiting with her. She is anticipating a surgery soon, and we pray often together for good results to the tests she is undergoing in preparation. She is an eager student of the Bible, and we talk a lot about the upcoming or past lessons, or a Scripture she has recently read.

She stayed for about 30 minutes and walked home. She lives about three houses away from us.

At 8:00 we settled in to read and relax. That lasted about 20 minutes before Lynn and I were both ready for bed. We always end the night with a chapter from the James Herriot series ‘All Creatures Great and Small’. We take turns reading a chapter every night. Thursday was Lynn’s turn (always my favorite!) The story was light, and reminded us of what good folks there are in the world. We prayed and fell fast asleep.

This is a pretty typical day here in paradise. God keeps us busy, and yet, there is so much more to be done! We are grateful that God can and does use us to serve others. We believe that every person we serve is drawn closer to Christ by our actions. We may never see the fruit of our kindness, but someday, somehow, God will use it to His glory. We know that we make mistakes everyday. We miss opportunities to help our neighbors. We overlook a need, or just don’t think about helping when we should. As we become more a part of this culture, we see with better eyes. As we pray for guidance and opportunity, we understand better the needs of the community, and of this tiny church. We also understand that we don’t understand everything we need to about this culture. We need to study more. We need to pray more. We need to do more. The sermon today was all about people seeing Christ in us through our actions – through our giving spirit – through our helping others. It was good for us and good for Riverside (El Valle branch). God knows just what we need! Always has, always does, always will! Praise His Holy Name!

I pray that you will see Christ more clearly today. I pray that you will see the opportunities that He places in your path, and follow His urging to help someone tomorrow. I pray this because I know that if and when you do, you will be blessed beyond measure. He always gives better than He gets! Every time you bless someone else, God blesses you, and that is my deepest desire for you – that you are blessed richly!


1 comment:

Marla said...

Joy and Lyn,
I just spent five minutes telling you what great work you are doing in Panama only to lose it all because my email service was not working. That sure stinks because I wrote you a book! Anyway, what I want you to know is that I really enjoyed your "A Day in the Life" entry because I've wondered many times what a day looks like for you. It is obvious you are many things to your neighbors there (transportation, Bible and English teacher, etc.). I admire the way you've encouraged them to come to you which gives you opportunities to be Christ-like. We have to act in a way that encourages those who need us to come to us for help. I know I have been guilty of doing the opposite. I have been guilty of acting in ways to discourage needy neighbors to come to me. I pray that I will continue to work to improve that attitude. Thank you for being Riverside USA's arms and legs in Panama. You are obviously a much needed support there. We love you and miss you. Have fun with the Riversidians coming your way this next week.