The Weather in Our Neck of the Woods

Sunday, August 24, 2008

If you need healing - ask for healing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy & Lynn

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Some days are stones....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy & Lynn

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Somedays are diamonds...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy & Lynn

Monday, August 4, 2008

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

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

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

Richest blessings,
joy & Lynn

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Life Stories from El Valle, Volcan, Panama-

A couple of prayer requests –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy & Lynn