The Weather in Our Neck of the Woods

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Life is just to good to forget how good it is!

Behind again – sorry!

The week has been very busy. A dear friend from Searcy, Arkansas, who now lives and works in Panama City as a Christian school teacher came to visit, along with her mother. Her mom was here visiting for two weeks, so we just had a few days together, but it was nice – they spoke English and everything! But now they are on their way home, so I am sitting to catch up on our happenings:

Yesterday Marleni had surgery in David. She had 2 fibrous tumors in her uterus that needed to come out. She is in a lot of pain, of course. They did this as an out-patient surgery, so she is home now. This was her first surgery ever, and her first time to have an IV so she was pretty nervous. She has had 3 children, but this was her first hospital visit – imagine! After speaking with her this morning, I now know that the surgery ws not successful. The tumors were too big and too numerous to remove the way that they had hoped. she will be scheduled for a full blown surgery as soon as she recovers from this small one. Please pray for her well-being. She is a wonderful, Spirit-filled part of our church.

I went to yet another doctor on Tuesday. This was a neurosurgeon. He agrees with everyone else, but actually told me that I probably will not get better without surgery. I am still waiting. He prescribed more anti-inflammatory drugs. He says that I can hold off on the surgery as long as I can stand it. I am waiting. Enough about that. God knows what I need when I need it, and he will make it clear what I need to do, and when. I am hourly reminded of Paul and his problem, and what the Lord told him – “My grace is sufficient for you”. Surely Paul was more worthy of healing that I. He didn’t just keep complaining about it, so neither will I. It hurts. It will get better or get worse. Regardless, God has work for me here, and I want to be about it.

That being said, yesterday the ladies who hope to go to the Convention were here all day preparing tamales to sell. Each one has contracted for at least 10 tamales @ $.60 each. Wow! What an experience! Everyone helped. We (ok, I just watched mostly) cooked dried corn – just like they feed the cattle – for about 6 hours, until it was really soft, then we ground it up into a mash, mixed all kinds of good veggies into it, mashing them as well, then kneeded the huge mass as we would do fresh bread dough. It was really pretty, and smelled wonderful! At the same time, others were cooking the chicken and pork to put inside. Again, with lots of spices and veggies. Again, smelled wonderful! Two of the ladies had collected tallo leaves for the inner wrap of the tamale, and we used guineo (banana) leaves from our trees for the outer wrap. When everything was ready, they began wrapping the tamales; first the banana leaf, then the tallo leaf followed by the ‘massa’ which is the corn mash mixture. With a spoon the center was hollowed a little, then a small piece of meat and a sauce made of the meat juice and other spices and veggies. By the way this sauce was actually blended in my blender until it looked like a shake. Then they took the leaves on both sides and wrapped it like a tortilla, folded down the ends, and tied it in place. From there it went into the boiling campfire water in a huge ‘paila’ (pan) where it cooked for about 20 minutes. Then the younger girls delivered them all over town.

The time of fellowship was wonderful. I have never felt so comfortable and such warmth as us all working together, laughing, crying (lots of onions) and chatting since we have been here. It was like… a Riverside thing! We ended up making 137 tamales and selling every one of them. It was kind of….Panamanian, I guess, but we first thought we had too little corn massa to make our order of 117 tamales, but thought we would wait to see how it went. When 100 were made the ladies realized that the massa was fine, but the meat would not hold out. We bought more chicken and veggies to cook with it, and sat and visited while it cooked. By the time it was done, the massa was a little dry so we added water to it and it swelled---a lot. So, when we were going again, one of the ladies said there were not enough of the tallo leaves. I said, but we had 119. She said yes, but now there is a lot more massa, so we need more leaves. Xavier went and found us 10 more leaves, as directed. About 30 minutes later (after they had been boiled to take the bacteria off of them) the other ‘head chef’ said we still needed more leaves – banana and tallo this time. I went to pull another leave from the tree and Xavier headed to find more tallo leaves. I learned a valuable lesson – you are not finished cooking tamales until the massa is all gone, regardless of what else you have prepared. The massa is the deciding factor. Now we all know!

Finally, after beginning at 8:30 am, the last tamales were cooking at 4:00 pm. We had to leave for the Wednesday meeting in David, so took our tamales, which we bought for Brother Ponce’s family in David, and left. Dani and the others stayed until about 4:30, then headed out to sell the product of their 2 days work. In total the supplies cost $46. If every person pays for their tamales, we should make about $40.00. Doesn’t sound like much? Maybe it isn’t going to get us very far, but the time together was priceless!

One other note, regarding the convention; We have had $170 donated toward these ladies being able to go. Thank you very much!!!!! We are still shy of our goal, but it is getting there! Thanks again to those of you who are helping. We will sell Lynn’s cookies next week, and there is talk of another tamale sale in two weeks. It is quite obvious that these folks don’t mind hard work, and are willing to do what ever they can to go. I have to admire that, and appreciate it. It just makes me want to help them more. Well, that and the fact that I love them all very much!

I actually stood at the stove and cooked a meal for Marleni today. This is a new custom here, for the church to help with the care of a sick one. They usually depend totally on their family. I am also doing laundry – okay, Ben is helping me – for Marleni and José this week. I am hoping that Dani or Carmen will volunteer a meal later. I just keep reminding them that we are just like their blood family, only it is Jesus’ blood that connects us.

Lynn and Ben are still getting the chiquero (chicken pen) built. It is going to look great soon! That is a good thing because the chicks are almost grown! Yaritza is taking a nap in the girls’ room, and I have 30 minutes before my next class – I think I will follow her lead!

Richest blessings!


Sunday, July 20, 2008

20 July 2008

¡Saludos! (Greetings) to the church in Gassville. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord, Jesus Christ(I have been comparing Paul’s letters to the different churches J) Today is Sunday, July 20th. Our meeting of believers was refreshing and rewarding. We were blessed with 32 folks today, with 13 children. The children are studying Joseph – today we discussed the dream of Pharaoh and Joseph’s brothers coming to Egypt for food. The kids just soak it all in, and remember better than I ever could. What a joy they are. I find extra pleasure in the children of Celinda. They are so eager to please, and to show that they remember the lessons from previous weeks. We are building a mural of Joseph’s life, from his birth to his father’s death. We are using everything from grass to make the sheaves that bowed to him in his dream to cotton balls to make the sheep fluffy. They are really enjoying it – me too! The youth are so interested in the project that they have set up a rotation to help with the class.

We went American today : we had hamburgers for lunch! They were a big hit! Lynn also made a new cookie recipe with corn flakes and syrup instead of Rice Crispies and marshmallows. The marshmallows here just will not melt. We are assuming now that it is the altitude, but don’t know for sure. We just know that we can not make regular Rice Crispy treats. We have tried several times now. No problem! These today were gobbled down with much appreciation!

Before I go much further, I need to apologize for any misunderstandings I might have created. In my last post I said that the second team that came was ‘goofy’. They were, but in the very best way possible. It was that very characteristic that loosened up the children in Las Perlas. The indigenous people here are very reserved, accustomed to whites and Panamanians alike avoiding them or putting them down, so they stay away, and try to become invisible. The team that was mostly from the church in Oxford, Mississippi had a tough job, and they, with their fun-loving attitudes, were a tremendous success. I have nothing but praise for their ‘goofiness’. It was what made the children smile, and talk, and laugh and play with us. That is why they listened, that is why they learned. So, if you were one who was offended by the use of the word ‘goofy’, please know that it was meant with much love and admiration. God was glorified because of what you did, and how you did it!

There is not much new on the Celinda family situation. I did feel the girls were paying specific attention when we discussed Joseph being sold into slavery. They did not ask questions, but listened carefully when the other children said it was wrong, and a bad thing to do. We are still awaiting God’s whispered answers for us in this situation. He is faithful, and will provide them, in his perfect time. Yamileth was not here today. She was sick – headache and stomach ache. This has been going around a lot lately.

The ladies here are preparing to sell tamales to make some money for us to go to the Ladies Convention in Panama City at the end of next month. We have tallied the costs, and for 9 of us to go it will cost just over $600 – about $70 for each woman. This is the only time that the sisters of the church nation-wide ever get together – and it happens only once a year. Members of Riverside in Gassville have been donating the funds for the church in Santa Marta to go for the past 2 years because it is such a Spirit-filled time for all who participate, and a wonderful opportunity to fellowship with other Christian ladies. Now, we would like to ask you to help with Riverside in El Valle as well. There is no way these ladies can come up with $70 each. There are some who will be lucky to come up with $10. I have encouraged the fund-raising activities because I believe it best for them to have something of themselves invested. They are all eager to be a part of it. I have spoken with Sister Alicia in Santa Marta, and she is the only one who will be able to attend this year, for various reasons. So that means we need to find funds for 10 ladies to go this year. Before you panic and say it is too much, Riverside in El Valle held a business meeting today, and voted to donate $300 to help the ladies go, so along with our tamale sales, and Lynn is baking cookies for us to sell as well, We are probably only deficit $300. Please remember that these are all new Christians, and what an opportunity for growth it will be. Okay, I am finished begging. If you feel led to help with this work, you can use a Riverside in Panama envelope, mark it for Ladies convention, and get it either in the collection plate at Riverside, or to Rogena Smith at Twin Lakes Community Bank. If you would like further information, write to me here, or talk to Holly Smith. She knows the ladies who want to go.

The puppies are all growing and every one of them has a home when they are old enough. We are going to get X-rays on my back this Friday, Maybe then I will get some relief. Thank you for your prayers!

Dallas, thanks for writing! We think of you two often, and wonder how you are. Dusty and Ashley, we haven't heard from you lately, but we love you!

We love you all,

Joy and Lynn

Thursday, July 17, 2008

One very important thing...

Oops! I forgot something very important! Sally went from this:

To this - 11 puppies later! :

Catching Up

The house seems very empty now. On Monday Ben went with Holly to Panama City to get her to her flight back to Arkansas. We heard from Holly yesterday, and she is safe and sound back in Gassville. Ben is back, and recovered from the lack of sleep (he came straight back here right after putting Holly in a taxi for her hotel). We are now searching for ‘normal’ here, but with little success as of yet. I miss Holly. My leg is still bad. Our schedule is still hit and miss, but all this will change with a little more time – except for me missing Holly. That will just have to wait until November!

I would like to do a little recap of the past month. Lisa, Gywnna, Holly, April, Monte, Penny, Taz, Darby, and Preston got to Panama on June 7 and then took the midnight express to David, where we met them, and guided them up the mountain to Volcan. For our work in El Valle school we were joined by Kirvyn and Marta, two local students who happen to attend Harding University as Walton Scholars. They were fanstastic translators and the very best of people in general. The week went by in a flash, with lots of laughter, hugs and …dancing. I will not elaborate too much on the dancing, but will say that Monte knows how to charm the girls, and move those hips!!!!! Now, almost a month later, the children are still yelling greetings and waving each time we go by the school. The children learned about David, Daniel, Esther and Paul in very interactive ways, and learned that white folks from Arkansas can love them just like God does. The theme of the week was ‘Be Strong and Courageous’ because God is always with us, helping us, and thus we are never alone. The children are all still singing the song! One teacher stopped me in the store to ask me to sing it again for her because she was unsure of the tune in one part. She said they sing it daily in her classroom. It was a great week.

On June 15 the second team, consisting of LaJeana, Hannah, Chad and the guys from Oxford Mississippi flew in to Costa Rica, spent the night then bussed into David the next day. The bus trip was long and hard, but they were troopers. We had never tried coming through San Jose (Costa Rica), but because of airfare prices, LaJeana thought it would be worth a shot. Now we know, it’s not. The bus ride is quite difficult, and you need to go to their office to confirm your return trip. Unfortunately the office is never open in David, so we drove the 1 hour drive twice only to find there was nothing to be done. LaJeana stressed a little, but we got it taken care of, though it was a little more costly. This group, plus Holly, Ben, Lynn, Kirvyn, Marta and myself, went to Las Perlas school. We did the exact same work as we had done in El Valle, with much the same results. This was the first time this school had ever had this type of hands-on work. The first day was pretty much touch and go. The kids rarely smiled or spoke at first, but by the end of the day, they accepted us at face value, and then the fun began. This school is primarily indigenous children, who are generally more reserved to begin with, then add in that we are all white faced and, well, let’s face it, this team had some funky characters. The young folks in our group are just plain goofy, and the kids were not sure what to do about us, other than laugh and join in the goofiness! Chad – Omar was hanging like a monkey from the swing set and Chad Allen was dancing a Jamaican dance with the little ones. Lynn and Holly were the only straight guys in the group. Okay, maybe Marta was pretty straight. Again, the children were blessed with the understanding that God, and these crazy Gringos, all love them very much. The name of Christ was lifted high, and made a little more accessible because of this great group.

There is a song in Spanish that we sing every week here that says ‘The Spirit of God is here and moving in this place. He is here to counsel; He is here to give freedom. He is here to guide’. It was quite evident that He was here during these two weeks. There is no doubt that he remains here with us now.

The following week, we took advantage of Holly’s, LaJeana’s and Hannah’s presence to go out to the tiny school at Caña Blanca and do three of the four lessons, crafts and all, with the children there. Kirvyn and Marta also came with us, to make a perfect group of 8. We had a blast! The children warmed to us quickly, and the teacher was very grateful that we would come all the way out there and spend time with these almost forgotten children. Because of the distance, and the number of students (8) we did all the classes in one day. We used some of the children for the dramas, and brought sandwiches, chips and boxed juices, in a cooler (no electricity there). We also took out some beans and rice and oil and crackers so that they could have lunches before heading home in the future. There is a lady who said she would cook for them if she had something to cook. Some of the children walk 2 hours to get to this school, so go a long time between meals. In return for our time and energy, the children did a small drama of their own for us. It was a dramatization of the book, ‘The Fancy Little Rat’, and it was wonderful. The teacher and another woman had also made little baskets of foam with homemade candy inside for each of us. We had hoped to do the same with the school in Gariche, but the teacher had a meeting in Volcan, and, as is the custom here, if the teacher does not come to class, there is no class. So we drove out there just in case we could, left a few toothbrushes and toothpaste, then moseyed back, eating a picnic lunch on the way.

While we were in Caña Blanca, we noticed that the children had torn, dilapidated shoes, each one of them. Well, that is not entirely true – two boys had rubber boots that were in fine condition, but about 5 sizes too big for them. We improvised and made a game of checking their shoe sizes – comparing their feet to our Goliath’s (Kirvyn) feet. The following week Holly and Ben went shopping with money the first team had left over, and bought every child a new pair of school shoes. Some of the children’s shoes were flip flops. One girl’s toes curled around the end of her shoes a good 2 inches. We tried to take those situations into account when sizing them.

One last thing about this school and I will move on. I asked the teacher if these kids were learning English as well, and she said no, that her English was not good, so she did very little with English. Those of you who know me, know what happened next – yes, I volunteered to go out once a week and teach English to these little angels. I know gas is expensive, and the wear and tear on the truck is substantial, and I have too many irons in the fire as it is, but if you could just see these precious smiling faces, well you would not be able to say no either. So, Lord willing, tomorrow I go for our first class! We planned to start two weeks ago, but I was bed-bound, so tomorrow it is! Please pray for this open door to remain open and God to be glorified through this work. I have not dealt with beginners from the very beginning before, and am excited and nervous at the same time.

Before the first group came, I had begun to have some discomfort in my left hip and leg. It steadily got worse as the days passed. By the time LaJeana and Hannah were leaving, I was in constant pain, and ready for help. Since then, I have been to 3 medical doctors and one homeopathic doctor looking for relief. Each time I have been told that it is my sciatic nerve and a pulled hamstring. While this has been constant, the treatments have not. The first said stay in bed for 48 hours, and gave me 3 different meds. The second said stay in be for at least a week, and gave me yet again 3 different meds. The pain has grown more unmanageable with each treatment. The third massaged and then popped my lower back in the most excruciating way I have ever experienced, then told me to walk through the pain, telling myself it was nothing. She actually made me walk in the exam room until I could do it without limping. I cried most of the way home. I was a little better the next day, so decided that I would return, though it was very painful. In the meantime, Marta’s mother suggested that I should check my triglyceride and uric acid levels. I did and they were both high. So I went to yet another doctor, and he is the first to ask for an X-ray. I have wanted one from the start. While the electrifying nerve pain has subsided some, the muscles cramping and the super sensitivity of the whole leg still bothers me. So, we made an appointment for the X-ray – June 25th was the soonest they could do it. I could go to another hospital, but the doctor prefers this radiologist. So, I have decided to wait. This doctor also changed my meds, and told me to rest the leg as much as possible. He did give me something to relax the muscles that knock me out. I am trying to decrease the dose so that I can function. This is a result of that decrease, so sorry if I ramble. I know that God will work this all out for the good. I am, for the most part, patiently waiting. Lynn and Ben are probably tired of waiting on me, though!

Finally I want to share with you a concern that has developed here, and ask you to pray that God will grant us understanding, and wisdom to handle this in His way and not ours. Our dear sister Celinda came to worship three Sundays ago without Yamileth, her oldest daughter at home. I asked about her and she said she was gone. I asked what she meant by ‘gone’ and she said that she had given her to a lady in Bugaba. The lady was alone and needed help and company in the house, so she gave her Yamileth. My shock and pain must have shown because the following Thursday Yamileth came to visit and said her mom had changed her mind and given Emilia away instead, to a different lady. Emilia is 9, Yamileth is 10. This lady lives close to their house here in Volcan. Celinda came to visit on the following Saturday and said that she had decided she needed Yamileth to help her take care of the new baby, so told the woman in Bugaba that she could not keep her. She had already given Emilia to the neighbor, so Emilia could not help with the baby anymore.

I talked with Dani about this, to try to understand. She said this was normal for the indigenous people. They often had more children than they could feed, so they would give them away as they got old enough to be helpful. I am searching for books that can help me understand the mentality of this and other behaviors I have witnessed in the Indians. There culture is unique and survives within this other foreign culture known as Panamanian. We are trying to understand both. My gut reaction is to grab those precious children and take them home with me, but I know that they cannot go to the States with us, so what would happen come November? This is the same family that we have provided food and clothing for the past 3 months. These children are part of our Beka scholarship program, so we also provide their school needs. They visit with us during the week and worship with us every Sunday. We are very concerned for their future, but do not know how to proceed in their best interest, or if we should do anything differently. Yamileth and Emilia are the oldest girls in the house, with 3 younger siblings and one older brother. The others have gone to live with relatives who are just as poor or worse. Please pray for this family, and for us to handle them with love and patience.

We pray God’s richest blessings on you all,

Sunday, July 6, 2008

days of haze

Just a brief note to say we are alive and kicking. Lots to share from the past few weeks, but at the moment I am a little ….incapacitated. I have been ordered to bed for 8 days now, with sciatica and a pulled hamstring. Tomorrow is supposed to be by release date, but it isn’t looking too promising. Thank the Lord that Holly is still around to help out. She is being kept very busy!!!!!

FYI, I went to the Emergency room is Hospital Chiriqui, had an injection, picked up meds, including 4 more injections, and paid a whopping $26 total. That includes the attending physician, the ER room, the meds, the consult, everything. Unfortunately, these two specific injuries do not heal fast. I have heard anywhere from 2 months to a year is needed for full recovery. I am just praying for some pain relief at this point.

By the way, the injections I bought to take home have all been administered by my dear husband, who has some experience worming cattle and goats :). So far, so good. I think he has more pain from the injections than I do. He is a trooper!

Will write more as soon as possible. But it is tough to write from a lying position, and sitting hurts too!

It’s all good!