The Weather in Our Neck of the Woods

Monday, October 20, 2008

So some days are GREAT!

We are behind on blogging. Things are moving rapidly toward our return to the States, and we are hustling to get everything done that needs done.

We are fencing our entire property with chain-link in order to cut down on intruders in the night, both human and animal. Since we have the new calf, and chickens (WHO ARE LAYING EGGS!!!!) we have a greater need to keep stray dogs out of our pasture. Aside from that, the fence is high enough to also discourage people from passing over to ‘borrow’ tools and things. The work is in progress, and coming along nicely in spite of low pressure system storms and hurricanes in neighboring countries.
Lynn has planted many fruit trees so that we can begin to see growth toward our long term goals of being a working, community-helping farm. We have also built a small shop/ tool building out back that he is just beginning to organize and fill with tools from the laundry room. (Joy is SOOOOO happy!) There are also other fencing jobs within the outside fence that he is working on.

We are also in the process of preparing class material for the church – adults and children – to last for the next 6 months. First we had to decide as a church what we wanted to learn, then I had to find the material, and now I am in the copying stage. This is only for the adults. They let me decide what to teach the children’s class, and it is almost all done. I found a wonderful curriculum through Calvary Chapel Children’s Ministry. I have used it for the past 6 months with the Old Testament stories, and now we have begun with the New Testament. These are free to all on the net, and have been a great blessing to us. The adults have chosen to study 1 Corinthians when we finish up the study of James in which we are now deeply involved. I found a very good Spanish curriculum for this study at Mark Reeves has done some really great lessons for the Spanish community. We have used his studies before, and are pleased to do another. So with our classes growing, and our members maturing, the task to find good material, and make sure there are plenty of copies, is growing more difficult as well.
Then there is finding craft lessons for Kingdom Kids – sound familiar? When all is said and done for the children, I need to go over it all with the teachers who have always depended on me to prepare the lesson, and they just help me teach it. We are growing in so many ways!!!

We are also in the midst of purchasing Christmas gifts for the children of Santa Marta. Yesterday Yari and I headed to David to buy 57 pair of shoes! I found a terrific half-price shoe sale, and we were excited to check it out! Thank you so much, Riverside family for your generous donations toward this gift. There is an expression here that I have heard and love, and want to give to you: Dios les pagan! - God will repay you! You’re the best! We used right at $300 for the shoes, and will fill Ziplocs with candy and nuts to complete their gifts. We will also fix up bandanas full of candy and nuts for the adults and youth of the church. Prices have risen considerably here, and the church has grown so much that we cannot do for them what we have in the past. They will be ever so grateful for what we bring. Thank you again!

Today is Sunday. We began the day by preparing the house for the church to meet. We made hotdogs, baked beans (which are a big hit here), chips and Lynn made jello last night. We put the chairs in the big room, and took the tables out. We prepared the Santa Cena, straightened the house-side, showered and waited for the church to arrive. They were late. We are scheduled to begin at 9:30, and aside form our three little girls (Indians) who were over an hour early, today no-one was here until 9:50. We began with only 14 members at 10:00. No preacher. This is the second time that someone has said they would come to preach and then not shown up without a word. We are not upset by these situations anymore, because the church seems quite content to take care of itself in these situations. Today was not an exception. Although our numbers were down (18 before we ended), the young men stepped up and led singing, facilitated the class and served the Santa Cena (Holy Supper). We all walked up to Marlene’s house and sang a couple of her favorite songs (Thank you Lord and How Great Thou Art) then came back to the house. (We all cried while we sang. It meant a lot to Marlene, and so, to us.) We lunched together with second and third helpings then all piled into the truck and headed for the river.

The water was brisk, to put it lightly, and rapid. But Lynn held his ground and baptized our precious Kathy. It was a fantastic moment in so many ways. We have worked with, prayed with and prayed for Kathy for over a year. You may remember that she had a beautiful daughter a year ago in September, unwed and living with her mother. She has been through many struggles to get back to the point of accepting Christ as Lord. She has had to learn submission in a way that most will never understand with a very domineering, bi-polar mom. She has been offered opportunities to become a mistress by more than one man, and, though starving and apart from her baby, she held on, humbled herself and begged her mother to let her come home. God has claimed the victory in her young life, and we are all praising His power and majesty. On the way back from the river I asked how she felt. Soaking wet and shaking from cold, she looked me in the eye and said “clean”. The tears rolled down both her eyes and mine. I knew exactly what she meant. The road has been hard for this little one, and it will not be easy tomorrow, but now she has help from within and without. We, as a church, have been discussing how we ought to be a help to our brothers and sisters, both physically and spiritually. I am eager to see the church caring for this new fledgling.

Worth mentioning, Lynn really really hates cold water. He never swims. He won’t shower if we don’t have warm water. The river was like ice, and he never even noticed. They almost got drug downstream with the extreme current, and apart form the fear I saw in his eyes momentarily, he never mentioned a thing, but that it was a great thing. God can do that for us. Take away our fears, our discomforts, when we follow Him! Lynn stayed in his wet clothes for 2 hours afterward without a complaint.

The church sang songs all the way to the river, then all the way home. It was a ‘mountaintop experience’ for me. Of course, I rode home next to Kathy, with Anna Valery sleeping in my arms. What a blessing for me to know that both these precious souls, whom I love dearly, will have God in their lives in a powerful way.

The afternoon continued with the final business meeting before we head to the States. Each member was eager to take part in the responsibilities that will now rest with them. They have been in training for this, and they are ready. With God’s help, they will do great! It may seem a bit odd to some, but our business meetings consist of every believer above the age of 12. Today, because José is caring for Marlene, the men present were Lynn, Jairo (12) and Zavier (15). There was significant discussion about who would lead songs, prayers, and serve the Lord’s supper. There are times when there are not sufficient men here to take care of these duties. The women want to understand their role in these situations. This church is growing in spiritual maturity, and while it is such a blessing to see, it is also a great challenge to teach them as Jesus would.

As we talked we could see their eagerness to begin to be responsible servants. I almost wonder if we have been teaching too long, and letting go too slowly. I feel like a mother hen with her chicks! I am so excited for them, and worried too! And I thought it was bad when I sent Ben off to college! Those of you long-term folks at Riverside, remember how it was in the first year or so? How excited we were to claim responsibility, how proud we were of every good move? It feels like that here for me, and for them too, I know.

Later this afternoon Kathy came down to ask questions – serious questions for her. Is it true that I can never listen to music that is not from the church again? Can I never dance any kind of dances again? As I contemplated wringing her dear mother’s neck (the one who told her these things) I invited her to eat our customary lemon with salt – a favorite of ours (Kathy, Yari and I ). She said no, she was craving ‘sao’. I asked Lynn if he minded if we went to find some in town, and he said no, so I said “let’s go!’ Sao is a traditional carnival food. There is a man who sells out of his van in the evenings on mainstreet. We headed out in search – and found the guy in the park at a ‘futball’ game. Sao is a mixture of pig’s feet, cucumbers, onions, lemon, vinegar, salt and pepper. It is an acquired taste, and I have acquired it, but Lynn detests it. It was a perfect way to chat easily, without interruptions. We sat in the truck and watched the game as we talked about how a young lady shows Christ to the community and honors God with her actions and looks. It was good for Yari as well. We laughed and cried and talked seriously about modest dress and actions that do not invite male lust. Here’s where the rubber meeting the road! This is such a problem in Panama. Their whole world is sensual. It is taught and encouraged in tiny little girls to dance, walk and dress sensually. At the same time, we don’t want to teach culture change for the sake of our cultural norms. We want to teach the modesty that Paul speaks of in 1 Timothy, and the ways we can honor God with our body. Nothing more.

This is far too long – I get excited! Sorry! We love you and look forward to seeing you face to face soon.
Richest blessing!
Joy & Lynn

Monday, October 13, 2008

"A Good Day"

It’s 6:00 pm on Sunday night, October 12, 2008. Lynn just said, “It’s been a good day!”, and it has. It has been a while since we have felt that way. What a tough year it has been. It’s not that we had lost faith in God’s providence, but we have been oh so weary of waiting for it. It seems that we have been bombarded since the moment we arrived last Spring with one thing or another fighting against us and our work here. We have realized, at least most of the time, that Satan is surely not happy with this little corner of his world since God began working through Riverside here. Dear sisters and brothers in the States have reminded us of that, and we have certainly witnessed his wrath with just about every step we take.

The truth is we have struggled to remain true to the belief that God wanted us here doing what we are doing. Satan knows how to pull the right punches. He has hit us physically, but even more difficult for us, he has tried to cause trouble in the church; toying with our faith in each other. So, in one respect, I have to say thanks to Satan for teaching me a much needed lesson; No-one, either here or in Gassville is or will be perfect, or even good all the time. And even if the sins seem more terrible, they are still just sins, and God is quick to forgive. We should be too.

For most of my Christina life I have felt that we, as a church, are far too quick to not forgive some sins, but others we seem to accept more readily. Adultery is usually the biggy. He can walk past the poor widow needing food for her child and we will say nothing, but if he messes up and sleeps with a woman who is not his wife, he is bound for hell, and we don’t even need to talk with him again. Ok, maybe an exaggeration, but you know we do it. I used to say “shame on you guys for doing that!” Now, because the sins of others in the church have hurt me, have caused me to rethink my own Christian life, I was doing the same thing toward other sins. Their sins were worse because they were against the church, or another brother or sister. Phooey! That was my ignorance and God (yes, through Satan’s efforts) has taught me a most needed and valuable lesson. I am truly, deeply grateful.

Ok, back to this good day – this was our first anniversary as a church celebration. Two of the preachers who speak here most often came up and we invited all the families of our members to attend. We had a record attendance of 44. The bunk house was full up!! (Our meeting room doubles as a bunkroom when groups from the States come down) We had our first ‘cooperacion’ . That is, everyone who could, pitched in to help buy the food for lunch. It was my first attempt at it too, and Lynn and I still had to do the majority of the work preparing, but did not have to purchase everything. It went really well. We had pollo guisado (chicken with specially prepared sauces) Arroz con vegetales (rice and vegetables, kind of like stir fry, but not quite) ensalada de papas (potato salad) and Kathy made a dulce (cake, kind of). Iris, a wonderful new addition to the church, made a chichi de piña (pineapple juice drink) as well. It was all wonderful and everyone enjoyed our time of fellowship.

Okay, I have to tell you, one of the highlights of the day for me was when Maritza walked in the doors. Maritza is the mother of 3 of our regular children, and the sister of Dani, our dear friend and sister. Alvin and Yanitza have been begging their mom for months to come with them, as has Dani. You should have seen the smiles on those children’s faces as they walked in with her! Truly hearts in smiles stuff! We have been praying for this, for so many reasons, and today God had her heart ready, so she came. There is a little more to the Maritza story that some of you will remember. While she is Dani’s sister, she is also Dani’s husband’s mistress. She has been for over 15 years. All three of the beautiful children who Dani has brought to church faithfully for 6 months are her husband’s children as well as her niece and nephews. Can you see the heart of this woman? Can you see the difficulty Maritza had in walking through the door here? Is God not totally awesome? She and I chatted more before she left, and she assures me she will be back. I believe she will. She felt no condemnation from the church here. We know that God will allow her to feel condemnation with time, and we know He can and will change her life. I just can’t wait to see Him doing it! I must admit, too, I wish I could be a fly on the wall when Dani’s husband finds out that both of his women are following God! Will that not be too cool!

There were other important folks here today. Family members who we have been praying would attend did so for the first time. Jairo’s family was complete except his father. Even his younger brother, Alvin, who has not attended since before Ezequias left was here. He also said he would like to begin coming again. Two of the teenage girls taught the children’s class today, in preparation for taking over when we leave in just three short weeks.

The only thing that was not perfect was that my beautiful baby Anna Valery was sick all night and Kathy had to take her to the hospital this morning. There she was rehydrated, given medicines, and sent home. So that part ended well. The still sad part of that was that Kathy was to be baptized today, but could not be. We spoke tonight and she says she does not want to wait until next Sunday, so we will go to the river tomorrow afternoon, Lord willing. She has struggled with this decision for some time and is ready. She asked me to speak with her mom, which I did Saturday. When I asked her what she thought about Kathy being baptized she just shrugged and said “that’s fine, but it won’t change anything. She has got to change herself”. Please keep Kathy, Anna Valery and Carmen, Kathy’s mom in your prayers. While Kathy is being baptized into the greatest family possible, she is still living in the worst of family situations.

Okay, other news before I close. Marlene came home from the hospital today. Her surgery was successful, and she is thrilled to be home. She said she just wanted to get home in time to eat some of the good food, so we took her a plate.

Of great import – One of our hens just laid the first egg on the farm!!!!! It was beautiful, right up to the time when Lynn accidentally cracked it. We were told that the chickens would begin laying when their tail feathers turned black – and, at least in this case, it was true.

Blaze, the calf is doing well, growing and playing.

Our final farm projects for the year are wrapping up. We put in sidewalks to get to each pen. Lynn was walking in knee deep mud to move the cow daily, and feed her. Our friend Ňungo is putting the final touches on Lynn’s new bodega (shop, or doghouse, according to how he behaves). It will be quite secure and I can get the tools out from under my bed! It is actually quite pretty! We will paint it (and put Lynn’s bed out there) when we return! The last project is to build a good, dog-tight fence around the entire place. We have had barbed wire fencing, and it keeps the cows in, but the dogs come in and eat all the chicken food. Also, I hope to bring our big dog down from Yellville in the Spring to take care of the sheep (we will buy in the Spring). I want him staying with the sheep and not out chasing the pretty girl dogs!

We have the orchard planted with lemon, orange, avocado, pear, chirimoilla, and guava trees. We have two fig trees to get planted tomorrow. We already have bananas, coffee, otoi and frambuesa (kind of like a raspberry) growing and producing.

We hear that Ben has been sick much of his time in England, so we ask that you say a prayer for him as well. It is tough on this ole mom to be so far from my boys when they are sick!

We are eager to praise God with our family in Gassville. We fly back on the 5th of November, and Lord willing will sing praises and worship with you on the 9th!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Day in the Life - part 14?

Today we took Jose back to the hospital in David so that the doctors could take X-rays of his foot, and determine what the next step would be. He was told to be at the hospital before 7:00 am. We arrived at 6:45. Marlene and Dani came with us. Dani wanted to look for a new pair of sandals for Yesi if we had time. On the way down Marlene asked if Dani could stay with Jose while she went to the nearby Women’s hospital to verify her admission next week for a hysterectomy. (She has been suffering for over 6 months with large, watermelon size tumors/cysts, and finally the doctors have found time and space for he to have them removed.) We got them all situated at the hospital, then went off to run errands. Jose had to hang around until 11:00 for his appointment with his doctor after the X-rays had been taken and read.

We ran a few errands then settled at McDonalds to waste some time. At 11:00 I called Dani’s cell phone to find out that the doctor had not yet arrived, but they had taken the X-rays and Marlene had walked to the hospital ( next door) only to be asked to come back after 11:00 am. The hospital where Jose stayed, and where he was being treated is a mad house! There are thousands of people running around, back to back, in lines, waiting on this or that. It really is crazy and disorganized to the North American eye. I told her I would call back in 30 minutes and we headed to the Mall, a U.S. knock-off that is little used, but close to the hospital. We window-shopped and moseyed until 11:40 when I called again. They were still waiting on the doctor. We ordered a pizza and sat at an outside table talking and eating. While we were waiting for the pizza a 50-60 year old man came up to me – me the very white gringa – and asked me for directions to the placed to get his drivers license renewed. Too funny! There were all kinds of Panamanians around, but he picked me! I did happen to know because I had been there recently to pay LYNN’S SPEEDING TICKET! So I directed him to the right place, he said thanks and went on his way. Lynn was behind me just laughing.

We returned to the hospital at 1:00 just in time to see them headed to the second floor. The doctor wanted to remove one of the screws from Jose’s leg. It would involve a small surgery, but would not take long. Visiting hours are from 1:00 to 2:00 daily. There were literally thousands of people in and out during the hour. We sat in the lobby people-watching. This is a favorite past time of Lynn’s, and I love to watch him watch! The people here are all very poor. This is the public hospital. If they have any money they go to one of the private hospitals who charge quite a bit more, but who treat you 100 times faster. Some little girls were playing near us. Lynn started flirting with them a little and they began to get roudy. One of the moms fussed at the little girl and she was sad for a bit. It was all Lynn’s fault – well, partly anyway, so I fussed at him.

As we were waiting we heard a child scream, and then again, and then several screams. We jumped up to see what was going on (it was very near us). A man was lying in the floor. He was using a walker and had fallen. I remember the other two times we have brought Jose down for exams or to get his cast put on, we could not find a wheelchair anywhere so he was forced to walk, though he was unstable, and weak. This guy was evidently weak as well. But this guy had huge metal pins running the length of his right leg. There were pins running through the entirety of his thigh and his calf. As he lay on the floor in agony I could see that the pins had all twisted in the fall. The leg was broken again in at least two places with twist breaks. The screams were a few little girls passing by who saw his face and heard his groans. It took several minutes for anyone besides the security guard to come and help him. When they did get him on a gurney they headed up in the elevator. He was crying by then. He, evidently has just gotten out of the hospital a few days before, and was now returning with new fractures.

About 30 minutes after Jose and gang had gone up, Marlene came back down. She said the doctor had gone off to find a screwdriver. Not joking. He couldn’t find a screwdriver to take the screw out of Jose’s leg. He said it would take a while to find one so she was returning to the other hospital. 20 minutes later she returned with the news that she was all set. She would be first on the docket next Thursday, and she has to be at the hospital by 7:00 Wednesday morning. She is nervous, but glad to be finally seeing the hope of relief from her pain.

An hour later the threesome comes back down to the lobby, where I actually had fallen asleep. It is very hot in David! Jose was in a lot of pain. He had a script for medicine, so we headed for the Mall again and the pharmacy for his pain meds. Before we left the hospital he told me that the doctor had given me instructions to take out his stitches in 10 days. It struck me as odd, but I had been changing his bandages and fussing at him to keep the leg elevated and such since he broke the leg, so he just told the doctor I could do it, and the doctor said “great!, have her take them out in 10 days.” So, I will. We picked up the medicines and stopped in Bugaba for Dani to find some sandals quickly then headed back up to the cool. It was 4:00 when we left the heat of below for the coolness of home.

Another note on Jose and Marlene – she has been in poor health since last November when the pressure of the cysts/tumors caused infection and partial kidney failure. When we returned in April she was just getting out of the house again. Jose had been working as a farm hand, but shortly after we arrived he developed a fungus in his left foot and toe. After a couple of weeks without going to the doctor he showed me the foot and we headed to the local clinic. It was very ugly. I went to his house every day to clean and medicate it for three weeks, and it began to heal, but slowly. It took over two months for him to be able to put a shoe on and another month to be able to work. As he was about recovered he came down with a bad virus that laid him up an additional 2 weeks. He had just healed from that and begun to work again when he broke his leg in two places, requiring a week in the hospital and surgery with plates and pins. They have really been put through the ringer! They have told us repeatedly that they don’t know how they could have survived had we not been here to help them out. We have been paying their medical bills and providing food, as he has not been able to work, for most of the 5 months we have been here. She is a new Christian, and we have talked a lot about Satan’s desire to pull them away from God. They have only become stronger in their faith. Jose wants to be baptized as soon as his foot can get wet. We are hoping the healing will allow him to be baptized before we have to head back to the States. Now they are faced with Marlene’s surgery next week, and 6 weeks of recovery. Please pray that all will go well, and that they both will heal rapidly. The financial support we have given them has rarely been asked for. These are not leaches looking for an easy buck. They are good, humble, gracious folks in a bad situation.