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 www.justchristians.org. 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.
Joy & Lynn