The Weather in Our Neck of the Woods

Monday, September 29, 2008

Who we are...

For those of you are not familiar with Riverside in Panama, our calling and work, and for those who may have forgotten, we thought it might be a good idea to refresh and inform;

The Lord’s church in El Valle, Volcan, Chiriqui, Panama

Joy and I bought a house on the outskirts of el Valle, a barrio in Volcan, three years ago and started a house church last year. Joy is 18 years younger than me. I am 65 and retired. We have both been divorced. We have been faithful to each other for 25 years. We have been faithful to the Lord for 14 years; that is to say we are sinners justified by the grace of God. Joy went back to school at Harding to learn more about being a missionary. She is now working on her Master of Ministry degree. Joy has a true servant’s heart. I am happy to be her assistant.

In the church here we have a young 14 year old girl who, last year, was the first convert of the church. She has been disowned by most of her family for being “baptized into the church of Christ.” She can not eat or sleep in her grandparent’s house. Her grandparents live 5 houses away from us. She now lives with her mother, about 2 miles from the house, but she comes here almost daily. We are her best shot at family.

There is a woman and her three children who attend regularly. Her husband does not come. The two older children (teens) were baptized this past Spring. The mother was baptized as a youngster. The father also has another family with his wife’s sister. They also have three children. The faithful mother also brings her sister’s three children to worship, even though they are the illegitimate children of her husband.

There is a middle aged woman who was baptized last Spring also. She brings her ‘husband’ who is much younger and is seriously considering baptism. They are not married in any legal sense. She was married off by her father to a boy when she was very young. The marriage was never consummated. She does not know where he is, or even if he is alive now. She has grown children by another man. They would like to get married in the church, and we are studying and praying about how to achieve this.

There is an indigenous woman who attends regularly with 7 of her 10 children. Her young ‘husband’ comes sometimes. She was sold to her first husband, an older man, when she was a child. Three of her children are by her new ‘husband’. They are married in the eyes of their people, but there is no legal paper stating so. Her children at home range from 14 years to 6 months. We believe she is pregnant again.

We have a young man (12) who comes regularly, often with his mother and 16 year old sister. The father is at home but does not attend. A younger brother does not attend. The young man often leads prayers and songs, and is willing to work in whatever way he can with the church. He partakes of communion, but his mother does not.

There are two youngsters (7 & 9) who come alone. They live a bout 1 ½ miles from us. They sometimes ride their bikes, or they walk. The mom and dad do not attend but we have hopes for the future.

There is a young lady who comes fairly regularly with her grandmother or mother. She is a cousin to the two children who ride bikes to classes. There is no husband that we know of, to the mother. The grandmother has a husband, but he has a second family that lives about 45 minutes away.

There is a young mother who brings her two kiddos (6 & 3). The father does not come – he has been working weekends for some time, but we have high hopes that he will come when his schedule changes (next month).

We have a young lady (16) who brings her 1 year old little girl with her. She is not married. She lives with her mom and step-dad. They are close neighbors. She and her mother do not get along well. Her mother is very demanding and she is very…young. We are often counseling her.

These are the souls that gather here at Riverside in Panama. As you can see, we are all sinners, and have our individual struggles. There is much need for God’s discernment and guidance as we seek to guide and serve these loving and loved people.

Our attendance averages about 30. The contribution, without ours or the preachers, averages between $1 and $2 weekly. All of our members are very poor. None of them have cars. So far we have been able to share the Sunday meal with the church. This is something we believe to be very beneficial and Scriptural. Since some walk from very far, it is our best opportunity to fellowship, and get to know them and their needs. At present we meet on Sunday mornings for Bible class and a sermon and the Holy Supper. Then we have another Bible class on Friday nights.

We have four different men from the church at David who come up on Sundays to preach and teach. One of them has a car. The others depend on taxis and buses. We pay the preacher $20 to cover his transportation costs. They are wonderful men of God who truly want to serve. We are so appreciative of their help.

Here are some of the projects of the congregation here:
Riverside in Panama oversees a work solely funded by the children of Riverside Stateside (in Gassville) – the El Valle lunch program. For $80-$90 per week over 250 students are fed each day. They were not being fed last year when we started this program. We found that they were walking several miles to get to school, and then to get home without nourishment. El Valle is an elementary school less than ½ mile from our house.
For the past 2 years we have been blessed by the on-site help of Riverside Stateside. Teams have come down to teach Bible lessons to the school in El Valle. The teams show God’s love in very evident ways to the entire community (our community) through the one-week program with the children which includes puppets, stories, crafts and food.
Joy teaches English classes to area children or adults who want to learn, free of charge. Tourism is a growing industry here, and the majority of tourists are English speaking, so those who can speak English have a great advantage when seeking work.
We began a new work in another local elementary school last June, with the help of the Oxford Mississippi church youth. We brought a great message of God’s strength to each classroom there, along with lunches for a week. The work there is really Oxford’s, we just facilitate and help coordinate. Since June we have taken the school sports equipment and some school supplies to help out. Oxford has a plan, if God allows, to return next year to work more with this very poor school district.
We also assist another school. It is tiny and out in the mountains about an hours drive. We take food in once a month – rice, beans, oil, salt, as well as bring school supplies to the 8 students as needed. Weekly we go in to cook a meal and Joy teaches English. The wear and tear on the vehicle is substantial, so we do not try to go more often. We have been in touch with, and taken supplies to two other very remote schools in our area.
We assist the church in Santa Marta; in the province of Cocle when we can. We brought the children their first ever Christmas gifts two years ago, and continue that tradition annually. Recently we took in a few hundred pounds of vegetables that were quite expensive there, but rather inexpensive for us here in Chiriqui. We also assist by helping fund building projects, a land purchase, and medical needs for members. Regarding Santa Marta, a note about the future; Riverside Stateside is preparing for a medical campaign for next summer, if God allows. The people are very poor, and have very little access to medical help. The congregation asked the group who visited them in 2006 to please try to bring a medical team to them, as the church would benefit much from this act of love to their community. Tim Martin, among others, is determined to see this happen, and we are excited about this great work in progress!

We coordinate a project to provide scholarships to children who would not otherwise be allowed to attend school. We have four grade school students, 2 Jr. High students and one high school/technical school student. We provide uniforms, books, and funds for breakfast. For the older student we also provide funds for room and board, as he lives too far from the school to commute.
We have also coordinated the funds for ladies to be able to go to the National Church of Christ Ladies’ Convention in Panama City for the past 3 years. We do the same for the youth who can’t afford to go to the Youth convention each February.

How cultural ethics fits into Christian ethics is very difficult to determine. We have prayer and the Holy Spirit to guide us. We believe we are called to teach and to love, and God will judge and be merciful with His grace.

There’s lots more I could tell you about the church here, but I hope this enough that you will feel a part of us. Please pray for your brothers and sisters here.

Joy’s notes:
I can’t hold a candle to Lynn’s servant heart. He is the true servant and I am blessed to have his example. I am just louder than him!
Also, we must mention that Riverside in Panama is not just the two of us. There are many without whom this work would not be. I know that I will fail to mention someone, but I must try to mention some – Roger and Rogena Smith, who take care of everything for us while we are here; Holly Smith, who spends a great deal of time with us, helping out every step of the way (both here and there); Lisa Hammett, who has come both years since we began, and who gives 110% to the work, even coordinating, though she hates it; LaJeana and Hannah Chapman, who also have spent part of two summers with us doing everything from cleaning commodes to coordinating teams; Tim & Kelly Martin, who keep us spiritually in tune and challenged, as well as dreaming big with us; Gwynna Walker, who brings her open heart and love to share every time she comes; Doyne & Margaret Byrd, who are always working behind the scenes to help us continue the work here; Our sons, Ben and Josh who have helped hands-on, doing the muscle work for Lynn, and supporting each of our decisions though it meant hardship for them. There are surely more of you who are irreplaceable for us – those who offer financial support, those who have come down and shared with the work first hand – and those who pray faithfully for this church, as well as others. Forgive me for not mentioning every name, but please know you are not forgotten. We know you are God’s blessing to us, and we love you all!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Horticulture Lesson

This is a flower known as the ‘Bird of Paradise’.

It is called that because it looks like a bird, and it lives and flourishes in paradise (Panama)

With me!

That is the horticulture lesson for today.

May God bless you richly!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Free Day!

Today Lynn and I took a drive out past Caña Blanca to a new place (for us) called Cerro Paja. Or Straw Hill. There, among jungle and farmland, we found another small school where 29 children attend classes. We had heard of the school, and the old man who taught there, so wanted to see for ourselves.

We arrived at the one-room school house as the children were changing classes – the young ones were going home and the older children were just beginning class. The teacher was a very old indigenous man. He was somewhat taken aback by two gringos coming to his door with gifts, but was polite and courteous. We had prepared a box of school supplies, including a jump-rope and a soccer ball and pump, some coloring pages and colors, pens and pencils. We really did not know what we would find, so just got together general things they might need. He did not look in the box while we were there, but said thank you and we turned to leave. When we reached the gate we realized that we had not introduced ourselves, just said hello and offered the box of goodies. So, we asked a young boy outside the classroom to take one of our cards back inside and say if he needed anything to let us know. It is probably best that we did not catch them at recess, or stay longer. My heart goes out to these children, and Lynn had already made it clear we could not begin helping another school, especially when it was over 2 hours from our house, and so hard on the truck.

We had moseyed into the area, and planned to mosey out, but as we were turning around in front of the building there were 5 adorable small children sitting on a rock watching us. Lynn stopped and gave them all cookies, and then one of the girls asked if we could give them a ride home. We clarified which direction was home and then said of course, as it was on our way back out. We enjoyed their company on the way out; it must have been 20 minutes driving to get the last to her house. As we were coming down one hill a group of men with baskets on their backs was walking up. Two of the children said” there is my dad!” and so we stopped and spoke with the group for a minute. They were quite friendly, and did not give a second thought to their children being in our car. Lynn commented that we could easily have kidnapped those children had we wanted to. It was kind of scary. No-one there knew us, but they were completely trusting. As we dropped the last child at her house I shared more of the conversation with Lynn. Sometimes I am so busy trying to understand and communicate that I forget to translate for him, but fortunately he is getting a lot better at understanding, so he gets a lot of it.

When we were turning around at the school I asked if I could take a picture of the group, and they said yes. After I had taken it I showed them the digital image. They loved it. As we were driving them to their homes one of the girls asked if she could have the picture. I told her that I could not take it out of the camera, but that I would try to get her a copy. She thought a moment or two and then said “Well, can you just give me the camera then?” I told her no, I was sorry but I needed the camera. She was pretty dumfounded for a few minutes then her buddy (about the same age of 6 or 7) said “You just need to be patient, she will bring us back a copy when she can”. I almost laughed aloud at the contrite, correcting manner the little girl used. But that satisfied the first one, at least for awhile. When there was just the one little girl left she asked if she could have another package of cookies. I said no, that we only had one package for each child, so she pointed at my open bag of pretzels and said “what about those, can I have them?” Mind you, she was not hungry. All of these children looked well fed, and were well dressed and clean. There was corn and rice and all kinds of things growing on each side of the road. I told her she would not like them, that they tasted ugly (an expression here) and so she finally stopped asking for more things.

We dropped her at her house and continued in our hunt for the elusive ‘calabasa tree’. I must digress for a moment – When we were in Santa Marta, Sister Anita had serving bowls, colander, and other bowls made of what appeared to be wood, but more like gourds. They were beautiful and I asked her about them. They grow on the calabasa tree. She explained to me how to cut, cook and clean them so that they can dry to be used, and I was hooked and on a mission to find them. We had seen one tree in Bugaba, but no others, and that one is right down town, in someone’s yard, so we didn’t think we could just go get it. We felt sure we could find some in the vast open spaces around Caña Blanca. We have tried to designate one day a week to get away from the house and relax, and today was that day, so we were out Calabasa hunting!

We stopped by a creek for a picnic lunch. I was headed down to the creek itself when I asked Lynn to join me, but when I turned to see him he was doing a jig like I had never seen him do in all our 25 years! He danced and danced, and then he started stripping. Right there in the middle of the road. He was doing a strip tease dance, but was having trouble with his shoes being tied, or something, so I headed back up to the truck to see what was going on. He had gotten in an ant herd of some kind – we never really saw it, but he got bitten several dozen times. His legs were covered in whelps, with a few on his hands as well. We ate fast and went on our way. Sorry! I was too worried to get pictures of the dance!

We had been out for over 5 hours without seeing a single tree (as if we knew what the tree looked like). I finally asked one old man in the road who shook his finger at me (the universal sign for their ain’t any) then as we were pulling away he yelled and we stopped. He actually could not speak, but he motioned that there were some further up in the direction we were going. I yelled back a ‘muchas gracias!” to which he smiled a big toothless grin and waved. When we saw another group of Indians working beside the road we asked again. They pointed us down a yet unexplored road. We had been told that Olmedo, our neighbor’s dad lived down that road, but had not idea where. We carefully picked our way down the road (okay, Lynn was doing the driving, but I was giving him advice the whole time) then finally stopped again to ask a young man if he knew where we could find the tree. He said "no, but ask the next house down." We did and they pointed us on forward, further down the road.

We ended up at the end of the road, at a lovely farm place where a man was cutting his grass with his machete. I told him what we were searching for and he stopped his work to show us his two trees. He said one was not the right kind and the other had no fruit, but he showed us all the same. He was quite nice and friendly, and suggested a place back up the road toward Caña Blanca. As we were walking back toward the truck I told him where we lived and he said, “Oh, my son lives near you” his name is Olmedo” I then introduced myself and Lynn and told him that Dani worked with us and his grandchildren were in our house all the time. We chatted a bit more, and then headed back to find the blue house that had the tree with fruit. Just a short ways from his house we found a grove of the trees right on the road. We had gone right past them earlier. Lynn climbed trees and fences with his machete and we harvested 6 of the kind that are not exactly round –they are called the ‘long ones’, and 1 round one. I was tickled!

In the process, I must tell you that Lynn climbed over one fence and was trying to reach one of the fruit with the machete. He finally cut the stem, but when trying to catch the fruit to avoid scarring, he grabbed the barb- wire fence instead and cut his finger. As he yelped and jumped back from the fence he fell backwards and landed flat on his back with his feet flailing in the air. I did not laugh until he said he was ok, but my! What a sight! I climbed up to help with the others.

A bit later we found the blue house and ask the lady if she had any calabasa. She was reluctant to talk to us at first, but when her daughter came out she took us to her tree where we found only 1 calabasa ready. She gladly gave it to us, and when I asked if we could pay for it she said of course not. We thanked her and headed for home. We had really enjoyed the day, but Lynn was a little stressed from the difficult driving, the ants, and the fall. We were dirty, and itchy, so we were glad to get back to the house and a shower! Okay, well Lynn got his shower. Then the electricity went off for an hour or so, so I got my shower a few hours late, but it was good!

Sorry this is so long – just wanted to share a fun day in the life!

We pray that God will bless you with peace today!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Amazing News!

The police called us last Tuesday to say that they had a camera they thought was ours, and could we come identify it? We went straight up and in fact, saw our camera! They had gotten it from the house of a minor, so they could not tell us his name at the time. We had to go to Bugaba and make a declaration that the camera was in fact ours. We did, twice. The first time they could not take our statement because we did not have the camera with us. The police had kept it, and failed to get it to Bugaba. We returned last Friday, gave our statement that the camera had the same serial number, and then they gave us the camera and told us the name of the boy. He was one of the two that all the neighbors had implicated. He told them that he bought the camera at the border, and they are checking his story. They know he did not buy the camera, but because he is a minor they tread very carefully. We told the police again that we are most concerned with how they got in the house, and they have promised to keep us informed.

The camera works just fine, but the memory chip was not with it when it was found. So, we lost a lot of pictures, but the chip can be replaced, and we are grateful. Ironically, we had just bought a new camera the day before the police called us. It is a far less expensive camera, but a decent one, so we now have two! We will keep them in different places, Just in case!

Just wanted to share the good news! I am not sure when we will be able to post this as our internet has been out for a few days, but wanted this to be ready when we could!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Borrowed from Max Lucado, Worthy of repeating and remembering

“I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink.”

Matthew 25:35 (NCV)

What is the sign of the saved? Their scholarship? Their willingness to go to foreign lands? Their ability to amass an audience and preach? Their skillful pens and hope-filled volumes? Their great miracles? No.

The sign of the saved is their love for the least.

Those put on the right hand of God will be those who gave food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, warmth to the lonely, clothing to the naked, comfort to the sick, and friendship to the imprisoned.

Did you note how simple the works are? Jesus doesn't say, "I was sick and you healed me....I was in prison and you liberated me....I was lonely and you built a retirement home for me...." He doesn't say, "I was thirsty and you gave me spiritual counsel."

No fanfare. No hoopla. No media coverage. Just good people doing good things.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Going Home to Santa Marta

Well, I have to start by saying AMEN to what Brother Tim wrote in his blog today. If we will just trust God to get it done, we will be really well off. We can’t just sit and wait and do nothing, but prepare and plan for God to provide the answers, and He surely will do it!

We have just returned from our first trip to Santa Marta this year. It was fantastic as usual. No, maybe it was better than that. We actually got there with enough time to visit and share with the family there. WE had worried on the way in at how well I would be able to walk in to Brother Luciano’s house – it is about 1 ½ miles of hiking straight up and then straight down, several times. We weren’t sure how my back would react. We should have known that God would work it all out. They had been told that my back had been bad for awhile, so arranged for us to stay in sister Anita’s house, right on the road and just up the hill from the church building. I am not going to lie and say I had no back trouble, but it would have been so much worse. Most of the problems stemmed from the customary beds there. They are wooden. The box springs is a plank of wood, and the mattress is too, but with a 1-2 inch covering of very old foam. Our particular bed is normally slept in by Noel, who is 12 years old and much skinnier than the two of us. So was the mattress, but it was all good.

The fellowship far outweighed the discomforts of the night. Lynn just reminded me that we were entertained throughout the night by one or more mice running and falling in to bags and boxes in the room. We don’t know how many – we don’t want to know! We were also lullibied by the frogs and birds and other wonderful sounds of nature.

We met two new families in the church – each with 5 children. They have had several baptisms in the past couple of months, and the church is growing like crazy, praise God! We saw over 70 people at Sunday morning worship, and almost that many came Saturday night to a devotional in honor of our visit. Both were wonderful and refreshed out spirits greatly.

The building has been painted and remodeled since our last visit. A group from Harding came in last Spring break and did a lot of work. It looks really good. The church also used the funds we had left before to build a kitchen area in the newly acquired property beside the building. The kitchen has a thatch roof and is held in place by posts. They have been using the facility for confraternities (like dinner on the grounds). They do not have a stove or other things yet, but will with time, if God permits. They just build a campfire to do the cooking. We brought in songbooks, Bibles and a load of vegetables from home. They do not have much success in growing root- type veggies, so we brought in 100# of potatoes, 100# carrots and 50# of onions for the church to distribute. Prices of food have gone up all over Panama, and these dear folks are suffering for it.

At any rate, we could bring in a truck-full a week and still not come close to giving them what they give us. We are so blessed by our time with God’s people there. They seem to have every important thing figured out. I know that is not completely true, but so much closer to it than us. Their focus is on serving and adoring God. There is nothing more important than that, and the spend time and energy doing it. They now meet 4 times in the week; Sundays all together at the building, Tuesdays in the home of a brother on one side of the river, Wednesdays all together at the building again, and Fridays at the home of Brother Lucian on the other side of the river. Since he had his stroke he cannot make the walk often, but he was there on horseback Sunday morning carrying a huge sack of oranges for us. In case I haven’t mentioned it, the orange juice there is to die for!!!! Delicious!

The congregation is learning harmony. It is awesome! Saturday night we sang and sang with about 5 young ladies singing an alto-ish harmony and 1 or 2 men singing the tenor. It was beautiful!

So many wonderful, spirit-freshening things happened, I cannot tell them all. I have already written more than most want to read at one sitting. Sorry!

We bought a new camera yesterday. One we can more easily afford to lose. One trip to Santa Marta was enough for us to know we had to have a camera before we go back. The children are growing so fast it is hard to keep up. We will be going back in late October. Bringing Christmas gifts for the children, and if God provides, for some of the adults as well. The parents are sacrificing all they can for the children, and so are without proper clothing themselves. Our dear brother Jose, who has 10 children at home, has had to move away from his family to find work and provide for them. It is a hard and new thing here, and they all are suffering for it. We will be asking for support for this project in the coming month. I am hoping that Holly and Tim can encourage you all to help with this act of pure love. Truly, you have rarely, if ever, seen this kind of need.

We will close for now. I have class with Yaritza in just a few minutes. We are still working on getting her visa so she can return with us, but no one is offering much hope. It is very difficult now to get a visa into to U.S. We are praying daily and ask you to do so as well.

May God fill your week with the richest of blessings!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ladies’ Convention 2008

While there were some last minute problems with the location, the results were great! Four days before the convention the folks at the location (that had been rented last Febrary for this purpose) called and cancelled us out. Some political group had offered more money so they ousted us. The ladies on the committee ran their heads off and found another location – smaller, and on the other side of town from where we were scheduled. Not a problem for most, but we had reserved rooms on the first side, so had to taxi across town (1 hour) to get to the meetings. Cost an additional $60, but we got there!

Riverside was represented by 5 ladies. We were among 16 congregations participating, and came further than any of them. Chriqui, on the other hand (Our province) had a whopping 22 ladies there. That is an impressive number when you consider the distance and cost to get there! The room was packed with over 200 women, and I can not describe to you the beautiful singing!!! Wow! What a blessing! No, there wasn’t any harmony, just 200 voices raised as one in praise and adoration. I know that God was swaying with the music, tapping his foot at times, and, with his eyes closed, softly smiling. I was too! The acoustics were just perfect, and the Spirit-filled voices raised in genuine praise were so moving.

We had two speakers. One was a friend from Corundu church in Panama City. Lisa is originally from the States, and now is working for the church here with her husband David. It was pretty cool to me to get to hear it in English and then Spanish. It was also a great lesson on remembering our purpose – adoration and glorification of God. The second speaker was Aminta, from the church at David. She is a dear sister, and studies and shares the Bible quite a bit. She discussed what our praise should look like, and why God wanted us to glorify His name to others. Both were very good lessons to learn, or to be reminded of. We all had lunch together, then sang for another hour or so, then had activities into the afternoon to reinforce the lessons. It was all very beneficial to me, and I believe to others as well.

We caught a bus for David at 7:00 pm that night, and returned to our homes here in Volcan at 3:00 Sunday morning. Yes, my children’s class at 9:30 was a little rough on me, but all the others were here too, so we yawned together, smiling. Thank the good Lord that Norman has a short sermon!

All to say thank you to those of you who sent money to help us go. We received just the amount of money we needed for the 5 of us to go. There were 4 others who had planned to come along, but because of bad health and a Saturday class, they were unable to this time. Next year we will try again to get the whole gang there!

Lynn and I are very grateful for your help with this work. I had the treat of seeing 4 women ride an escalator for the first time. I needed the laugh, and it was a hardy one. We then rode it 7 or 8 more time just for the fun of it! (Don’t you remember that yourself? I do!) That was, by far, not the highlight of the trip, but it was a great moment!

I pray that you are blessed beyond measure, and that you know it! I also ask you to remember your purpose on this earth – to glorify God, to bring Him praise and adoration, AND to rejoice in Him. He calls us to be happy and content in His love, encompassed by His power, secure for ….ever! Wow! How can we not be happy? How can we not praise His name? He is Good!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What a great day to serve the Lord!

Today felt more like a normal day for us. Thank you Lord for your grace, mercy and the peace you offer us freely.

We began by picking up our brother and neighbor, Jose and his wife Marleni. He broke his leg last week, spent Monday – Saturday in the hospital in conditions we will try to describe at a later date, and Lynn brought him home Saturday after surgery on Friday. At any rate he had to return for the cast today, so we took him down to the hospital early this morning. While he was being attended to, we ran some errands in David. At 12:15 he called and said that they could not put on the cast because he was too swollen. (Of course he was swollen, he had been sitting in a hot waiting room with his leg unelevated for 4 hours!) At any rate, we picked him up and then looked for a wheelchair to rent because he was told he needed two more weeks with only the gauze wrapping his broken leg. We played ‘catch that chicken’ for two hours – going first to one place and them saying, “no, you need to go there”, and then the second sending us to yet a third and so on. Nine places in all, all in David with an average temp of 96. We never found a wheelchair but have some more leads.

We returned to Volcan, paid the phone bill, and checked our mailbox – which was empty, again! I am taking an online course in Harding’s Master of Ministry program that requires a book that has been due here for almost a month, but hasn’t made it yet. Then we got Jose back to the house. It was after 3:00. We came home, rested a bit, then I went to see if Kathy was ready to move her stuff. She had asked me if I could help her move home (Hallelujah and Praise God for answering prayers!) She has actually been staying with her mom for a few days, but needed to get her stuff from the room she had rented. She needed to wait until later tonight, so we left at 6:30 and got her room all cleaned out. She is really happy to be moving home, and her mom is thrilled as well. I know that my Anna Valery will be better off for it. She was singing all day today! Please continue to pray for this family as God works in their lives. The mom, Carmen has asked if she can attend church this Sunday. We said of course, and are excited about the prospects for them.

Lynn might tell you the best part of today was that I finally found a way to make him ‘beans and cornbread’. We had a good ole’ Arkansas supper! Really, I believe he and I would agree that the day was pretty perfect all the way around. We were out helping people we love without reservations. We were serving fallen folks who need more Jesus and less condemnation. Jose told us on the way home that he wanted to be baptized as soon as he could. He sees how God works and wants to follow Him in all of his life. Carmen wants to come visit the church where she is seeing God at work. Can’t beat that with a big stick!

One other happening today; the local police actually came to visit us for the first time since the robbery. They offered little hope of recovering anything, or even charging anyone with the crime. I told them that we were okay with that. We really only wished we knew who had helped them enter the house, and did not need concrete proof or any confessions. It would just be good to know who betrayed our trust before we trust that person again. It won’t change anything. We are resigned to that. We have forgiven whoever it was. We will not retaliate or condemn them. It is over. We are moving on! God is moving on, so we had better try and keep up!!!!

We are blessed in so many ways. One way that is very important to us and vital to our work here is by your encouragement and support. Thank you so much! We daily thank God for you, and ask his richest blessings in your lives.

There is much to tell you about my trip to the Ladies’ Convention. What a refreshing uplifting trip! Next time I will get that in!

We love you all!