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!