The Weather in Our Neck of the Woods

Thursday, July 17, 2008

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,


Tim said...

thanks for the recap.... we were going through lynn and joy withdrawal... you saved us! we pray daily that God heal your leg and back, and I know He will. with regard to the 'giving away' of a child... wow! so foreign to us, so.... terrible to imagine! I encourage us all - as we pray and study and consider this - to not confuse culture with Godliness. (I know you are living in it, and are much more comfortable with the concept than we are...) I am not equating 'beating a drum in worship' with 'giving away a child', you understand... I'm just saying... before any of us try to 'correct' this situation, we want to be really careful that our disdain for this custom isn't JUST because it is culturally unacceptable to us... what is a Biblical standard in this case? that will be an interesting and very revealing study, and I know God will guide you in this effort to understand and help. we think of you daily!

God Bless!

DAD said...

hey this is Joe Berry, pastor of Holly Springs Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ar. I am Janie's Pastor. She wanted me to tell you that I let her come over and read your blog, and to tell you that she love you and she is praying for you. God Bless You and all the work you are doing.
Joe Berry.

Joy / Lynn said...

thanks, Tim, for clarifying - while our minds are screaming out that this is so wrong, our hearts, knowing and loving Celinda and her children, are asking God what is right in His eyes. We know that we don't know, and that is why we are asking for prayers. thanks too for the prayers! We love you!

On a further note, these same children have been asking us to be their parents for...more than a year. We did not ever take them seriously before. Now the oldest and the 6 year old are here regularly asking the same question. And we understand that it is an earnest request. We have dear friends, and others in the States who I know would love to adopt these beauties, but is that what is best, if it were possible? We are waiting, certain that God will make it clear, with time.

Joy / Lynn said...

Brother Joe, thanks for writing on Janie's behalf. Thank you for all you do for her and Robert. Lynn and I so appreciate you and all you mean to them. I would love to know how Robert is doing since the surgery, if you could email me at
Please tell Janie that I love her more!

Dallas said...

Whats going on guys besides all this great work. Ashamed to say I haven't really read this blog on Panama work yet. Now I have. this is seriously unbelievable. It is amazing all the stories that you and the team have wrote on this site for all to read. I hope that you are feeling better. James 5:14, Matthew 7:7-8-,maybe these verses can help you.

I know you hear it all the time, but what you are doing is seriously changing people's lives! God is working so much through you....maybe someday my wife and I can come down and bug you! :) I will pray tonight that God will heal your back/leg.