The Weather in Our Neck of the Woods

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Dry Season...

We have arrived home from a brief - very brief visit to our dearly loved family and friends in northern Arkansas. We arrived to the fourth day without rain here. We are now on the ninth day without rain, and the breeze has picked up. I only say breeze because that is what the locals call it, but it is more like a strong wind. It will stay with us day in and out for the next four months we are told. We can vouch that last year when we arrived in late January we had no rain and very strong winds through April. That is what we expect this year as well, though it started a little earlier than normal. It is actually a bit hot here, which is very rare.

So, Magdiel and Hermel took down the plastic covering the greenhouse today so that the wind would not tear it to shreds. We realize more every day how blessed we are to have these two men working with us. While Magdiel only has duties to the farm work, after his school work, Hermel is here soley t work with us for the cause of Christ. However they decided that God would be best served if Hermel helped Magdiel in the mornings with his work, and then both go out in the afternoons teaching and helping the church members and neighbors. Both have a heart devoted to God and his work, and are wonderful additions to our family. We are very grateful to God for His blessings!

The children begin vacation in just two weeks and you can feel it in the air! They are excited, and already forgetting their classroom duties! We are encouraging them to hang tough for just two more weeks, but it is tough, just like in the States! Soon we will begin to ask for support for scholarships for the coming year, which begin in March. Please be prayerfully considering helping with this worthy work to educate these beautiful children of God.

I am winding down on my classes at harding, with many difficulties and stresses, but God is good, and I,too look forward to vacation!!!

Rich blessings in this wonderful time of year - both here and there!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's COLD out there!

We arrived back in Arkansas last night to frigid weather - at least for us! But we are glad to be here, and looking forward to hugging and visiting with dear friends and family.

We had a wonderful 10 days with Heather Ruth, Lynn's daughter. We took her to see as much of our beautiful country as possible in such a short time, but we loved seeing it all through her eyes!

We visited our much loved family in Santa Marta just before flying back to the States, and they send love and blessings to the Riverside family. We will be trying to gather contributions for Christmas gifts for the children there while we are home. Their only income-maker - oranges- have produced very well throughout Panama, so the price has bottomed out. They are now making $1.25per hundred, as opposed to $2.50 last year. So, their situation is dire, once again. We hope to bring them in some fruit and clothing for the children on our return.

Great to be home! We hope we get to see you while we are in! See you at Riverside!!!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lessons Learned

Yesterday we took our weekly trip to Cana Blanca to teach a little English to the kids and mostly just let them know they are not forgotten way out there. Cana Blanca is about 10 kilometer from our house but it takes an hour to get there because the road is so bad. Only our faithful truck Fred could make the trip so often! ( More about Fred in a few)

So, we thought what a great treat it would be for Lynn to make Lisa's no-bake cookies and take them to the kids, right? We bought small cartons of milk, put them into the cooler and off we went. The road was especially bad because of the torrential rains, but we made it and the class was great. We had 7 students and they did quite well with their colors. The school itself has lost all but one student, but the local Catholic leader, Senora Elvia, had brought him in with her class of pre-schoolers who meet three days a week to prepare for school. She does this because the children need it, and does not receive a penny for her labor. God will reward, she and I are both sure!

At any rate, the classes go well, and we finish up with the celebratory cookies and milk. Fredi, the one true school student (7 years old) is the first to go up to get his milk and cookies. He looks the ziploc bag with two cookies over, turning the bag from one side to the other, takes the milk, and declines the cookies. The younger children, not near so picky, come and take both and go back to their seats. I have to tell you, Fredi has never refused any food we have offered. These children often do not have breakfast before walking miles to get to the school, and I know that his family is quite poor. I also knew he had been sick the week before, so attributed his reticence to that.

Well, Lynn is beside himself. He calls me over to watch Fredi just in time to see Fredi wrinkle his face and say "Ew! The milk is cold!" I smiled and said "yes, isn't it good?" He smiles, trying not to be rude, but it is obvious that he does not like the milk cold. It dawns on me that he probably has never had cold milk in his life. Of course it would not seem good to him. Lynn, still perplexed over the rejection of his cookies say that Fredi must try a bite at least. I took a bag and asked if he wanted it. he said, "No, thank you." I broke off a small piece and asked him to try it. He did, and as soon as it hit his mouth he began grinning from ear to ear. I asked if he liked it and he nodded his head vigorously. I gave him the rest of the bag and he devoured them. I heard him telling his brother that he thought it was a meat of some kind. Too funny!

We take for granted that everyone in the world values what we value, when in fact they may not even know that it exists!

Please say a prayer for these precious souls living out in a beautiful place ,but with no electricity, no local stores, and very little food. And pray that God will show us how to best help them.

Now, back to Fred(the truck) he is sporting a new look these days. I have been teaching Magdiel to drive, and he has done quite well the three or four times we have gone out together. Well,two weeks ago Wednesday it was raining cats and dogs after our singing, and I asked Magdiel if he would like to drive Iris, one of our members, home. She lives about a half a mile down our road, away from town and so we thought it would be fine.

Long story short, it wasn't. He did not make it out of the driveway without crashing into our gate. Both passenger side doors were crushed. We still haven't figured out how he managed it. At any rate, he went on, and 30 minutes later finally returned. He could not get the truck turned around at Iris' house, so ended up waiting until another vehicle came by and Iris asked the driver to turn the truck around. The other guy did, but not without smashing into a tree and doubling in the back bumper.

When Magdiel got out of the truck he was shaking and called me to the truck and said "I wrecked the car". I already knew because Lynn saw him here in the driveway, but I looked, cried inside, and just smiled and said "Maybe we need a few more lessons!" He hugged me and said he was terrified. I asked "of what" and he said "Of telling you that I wrecked it". Lynn, while not understanding all that was said, sensed Magdiel's concern and came up and smiled and said, "No problem!"

And it isn't a big problem, but when we found out that our neighbor does body work, and knew he was in need of money, we asked him to fix it for us. Now Fred has two doors missing for over a week. There is semi-clear plastic covering both doors and folks who don't even know us are shouting "Those gringos don't have any money!" as we drive by. Really! Ah well, it is too true! We might as well look like it! We may or may not get the doors back. Time will tell! We don't know this neighbor that well!

It is all good and all in God's hands!

Gratefully Serving in Panama!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On preaching...

It is widely stated that Saint Francis of Assisi wrote “Preach every day. Use words if you must.” I have said many times that I am not a preacher, but I was wrong. I preach every day. I just don’t use words.

But it’s not enough for the people here.

I am not brown. I don’t speak Spanish very well. I don’t have hundreds of years of Panamanian cultural experience to draw on. That’s why we have decided to hire a Panamanian to partner with us. Not to preach words but to be the example that we cannot, because of our background.

So remember, if you are a Christian, you are a disciple, and if you are a disciple, you are a preacher.

It seems it is easy for a preacher of words to become egotistical and self centered. A preacher by example can also become a “know it all” but it seems to be more difficult.

We recently made up a questionnaire for our adult class, and one of the nine questions was; “what is the difference between a Christian and a disciple?’ One of the twelve students answered with what I thought was the correct answer; “There is no difference.” But most of the people had the same idea as I believe do most North Americans – a disciple is a super Christian or one who devotes his life to Matthew 29:19.

We must be very careful that “I” doesn’t get in the Lord’s way. I may believe that I am God’s gift to humanity or the savior of the world, but it’s not true. It’s His vision, His ideas, and His ways that give life. He doesn’t need me. He can use me, but He doesn’t need me.

Love you.

Monday, September 21, 2009

More arrivals!

I forgot to mention it, but we have two new babies!!!! Both girls - I will get photos up soon. their names are Becky and Berty. both adorable, mom doing find as well. George has grown huge already!

(See, God is good!)

Sometimes a good thing can really...bite!

I have been certain throughout my Christian life that God always blesses me more than I can bless someone else, regardless of the situation, he always gives me more than I can give to others. I haven't changed my mind on that, but I do wonder at His sense of humor at times. Like now.

We have been helping our sister, friend and neighbor Dani work toward a better life for three years now. We have loaned her money for food. With the help of the 2007 team that came down, we replaced her dirt floor with a concrete one. We bought her a stove, gave her beds, gave her a washing machine, and the list goes on and on. Stay with me here, and you will see that I am not boasting, but headed toward a point.

Last Fall we loaned her the money to get electricity in her house. It fell short of what she needed becaus of some poor decisions regarding material costs, but she did get alot closer to getting lights in the house. Finally, this month we bought her the last thing she needed to have for the electricity to be installed - a 20 foot metal pole. We were so thrilled because now the kids could do their homework by something other than kerosene lantern.

The Fire department came out and inspected the work, and approved. The electric company came out and installed the electric line to the house. We were all so thrilled! Only to be dismayed a few hours later when the music started. Loud music- booming music that could be felt throughout our bones. Xavier, the dear teenage wonder, had built himself some monster boom box-speakers to go with his car stereo he had converted to DC current. Bless his little heart!(I heard once that if you finish the comment with "bless his little heart" it was ok to say something bad about someone)

So, again, bless his little heart, he had his music cranked to full volume for a full week before we politely complained. Our street was so peaceful. You could hear the horses coming from way around the bend. I loved to listen for one of the neighbors to come by on his way home because he always whistles, and it is a joyful, relaxing sound. Gone. We used to hear the cattle and horses chatting, the birds chirping, the frogs singing. Gone. All because we wanted to help our dear neighbors have a better life. The music is blaring again tonight. While it goes down for a day or so, they always seem to forget that we are forced to hear whatever they are listening to wiht the volume at max. I am listening to Reggae/ Rap music that, incidentally, I generally detest, over my feeble attempt to dub over wiht David Phelps. Not a good mix.

I know that God will bless our every offering when given in His name, but I am wondering if maybe He is explaining that technological advances are not always 'better'. This one sure isn't for us. We will wait for...peace (and quiet)

God is always good.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sowing and reaping...

Thought some of you might like an update of the farm projects;
We purchased 3 ewes and a ram 8 weeks ago. Two of the ewes were bred, one was not. the first baby was due on September 5, and just like turning on a switch - out popped George! He is a male, and appears to be in fine shape. His photo should be to the right. Blondie, the other bred ewe is due on the 20th. We will see if she knows what she is supposed to do! She appears ready in every way!

The garden project was a failure in the sense that the 'co-operative' part fell through. Everyone wanted to be a part of it until it came to commiting time or energy. The last family to go spent probably 10 hours in total on planting and weeding. We, however have remained committed to producing the good organic foods, so, with lots of help from Magdiel, we are beginning to harvest. See photos to the right! the first shot is just of today's harvest. We have had all the cabbage we could eat for over a month now. good thing we love cabbage! it was planted for the entire group - 200 plants! The second photo is of the field corn with red beans behind them, and then new potato plants emerging wiht marigolds behind them. Lynn generally takes care of the otoi & banana patch that is beside the house(next photo). We have harvested bananas twice this year, and the bag you see in the upper left corner is the next batch, which should be ready in a few more days. We harvested one more head, but the tree was actually in our neighbors yard, although the fruit was on our side of the fence. He was quite surprised when we cut the ripe fruit and took them to him.
The following photo is of one of Lynn's new pet projects - hummingbirds! They are everywhere these days (since he found a feeder for them) We also have a pair of parakeets that have decided to stay close to us. Beautiful blues, but I have not managed to get a photo yet.

Praying that all of you are growing in Christ daily,

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Joy volunteers again...

Last Thursday Alvin, the man in charge of OM(operation mobilization) here in Volcan called Joy to translate for a group Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

She was planning to go to the ladies convention in Panama City Saturday. We decided she could do more good translating. Joy has translated once before for OM. OM if we haven’t explained before is a worldwide nondenominational missionary organization. You can go on line to learn more about them. They have an office here in Volcan.

This group consisted of about 8 Europeans who had been in Panama several weeks already but had lost their translator to appendicitis. The four days was in a small church and school near Concepción which is about 45 minutes away. It is a very small Four Square denominational congregation. I went with her two days so she would not have to drive home alone late at night (after 10pm). Joy has done an excellent job. She is really good. She will probably have more to share with you later.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


There is no standard list of spiritual disciplines.

Richard J. Foster divides them into inward disciplines- meditation, prayer, fasting, and study, outward disciplines- simplicity, solitude, submission, and service, and corporate disciplines- confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.

Dallas Willard divides them into two classes: disciplines of abstinence- solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, and sacrifice, and disciplines of engagement- study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, and submission.

Some writers add other activities as disciplines, such as journaling, dialogue, witness, stewardship, listening, and memorization.

Kenneth Boa writes in Conformed to His Image, Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation;
"It would be a mistake to claim that every follower of Christ should practice all of these disciplines in a consistent or rigorous way. Some will be more essential for you at one time, and some will serve you better at other times. You will find that some of the disciplines are nonnegotiable while others can be pursued intermittently. Depending on your temperament and circumstances, you will be drawn to some and indifferent to others. Still, it is wise to engage occasionally in the ones you would normally dismiss, so that you can experience their unique benefits."

I’m just up to page 96 of Boa’s 500+ page book so there will probably be more to come. If you can’t read the whole book, try to get your hands on chapter 7.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Have we bought the illusion that we can be like Christ without imitating his spirituality? For many the word discipline reeks with negative connotations. Maybe we should, as Lynn Anderson writes, smell a little more like sheep.

Jesus engaged in all the classic disciplines, such as solitude, silence, simplicity, study, prayer, sacrificial service, and fasting. I don’t know, but it looks like disciple and discipline may come from the same root or origin. Maybe I should be more engaged with discipline if I truly desire to be a disciple.

From Conformed to His Image by Kenneth Boa – “Our ambition must be different from that of others; instead of pursuing position, power, prestige, or wealth, we should seek the approval of our God (2 Corinthians 5:9) is about God and not about us; all things have been created by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16), and we exist to serve God and not to persuade God to serve us. In essence, the Lords repeated message to us in Scripture is I AM GOD, AND YOU ARE NOT.”

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On being needed...

This was written last Tuesday, but the computer died, so it is just now getting posted!

Yesterday was my first day of classes. Thank the good Lord that one of the professors is having trouble getting everything set in the new 'moodle' program! I about cried when I saw the requirements for each class! It isn't just what they require (I knew it would be a substantial amount of work, because they are Masters level courses), it 's our life here as well. Yesterday, beginning at 6:45 we had visitors - "can you charge my phone for me?" - "Can I just hang out a while since I am early for school?" - "Senora Joy, I need some paints for school today, can you get me some?" - The most frightening was when Carlos and Didania, Indian children who live out about two miles from here, were standing looking in my front door as I cam out of my bedroom, only partially clothed. That was the 6:45AM visit. Three children came by after school for a snack and to ask for more school supplies, then Yamileth, Emelia and Maria came by to tell us how their day went. I counted 14 interruptions in the few hours I set aside for studying.

To top it off, Lynn is under the weather, and was in bed all day. And if you know how men are when they feel a little bad... :) Dani was not working, or she could have run some interference for me. Magdiel was out back working. I finally turned off the phone, closed and locked the gate out front, and hid out.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Latest Addition

Payasa Pete is our new granddaughter. Isn't she pretty? Other than a few potty training issues she is precious!

The Great Omission

You know that Joy is taking three courses this semester for her Master of Ministry Degree. She may have also told you that we purchased over 35 books for the courses. I generally try to read all the material for her studies. I am on book number six now – THE GREAT OMISSION, RECLAIMING JESUS’S ESSENTIAL TEACHINGS ON DISCIPLESHIP by Dallas Willard. This is a good one. I recommend it. You may remember last year we were concerned about loaning things out and never getting them back. We even made a list with who borrowed what and when, and if they didn’t return the item we would not loan anything else. The culture is “if I borrow from you I will keep it till you come after it.” Well I’m just through the first four chapters of Willard’s book but on page 25 he writes “when you lend a dress, a stereo, a car, or some tools or books, are you able to release them with no hope of seeing them again, as Luke 6:35 suggests we should?” I had to read Luke 6:35. I believe that’s what it says. What a ministry. How small I feel for having a list.

Another thing that hit us hard was just on the next page. James 1:2-3 talks about welcoming as friends trials and temptations that intrude on our lives. We thought about the shopping problems we told you about earlier this week.

Discipleship is not only for super Christians. The word “Disciple” occurs 269 times in the New Testament while “Christian” is found only three times. We sometimes feel discipleship is optional, but it is not. That’s what we are supposed to do – make disciples.

We pray that you, like us, will strive to be happy in all our circumstances, and truly work to become disciples of Christ.

Look what God sent us!!!!!

"When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your life, my brothers, don't resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance"

Chapter 1, verses 2 & 3

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Part two

Continuing with my sad story – we left the bank and headed to the Ferreteria (hardware/farm store). There I asked, among other things, for string for the weed eater. Now, this store has several employees who speak perfectly good Spanish, but the owner and his wife also work there, and they speak Chinese and Spanish – sort of. That is because they are from China (: )). Of course, for this day (now yesterday) the one who was available to serve me was Miki, the boss. I needed .065 string, and asked for it. He said no, .085. I said, “No, I need .065 for this weed eater”. He repeated, “No, .085”. WE did this 3 or 4 times, when I finally thought I understood that he did not have any .065. This was after I wrote it down, and he scratched out what I wrote and wrote .085 twice. I was thinking we had a communication problem, but finally I asked, “You only have .085? he said, “No, I have every size string there is, and there is no .065.” He was laughing at me being so silly. I had bought this string before and was pretty sure it was the right number, so I said, Ökay, I will bring you some when I find it to show you what to buy for the future”. He laughed and said that I would not because it did not exist. I only smiled and said that I needed some other things.

Actually I needed two orders of things. One that I would take with to our house and another for Yeya, a widow in our congregation whose house is in sad disrepair. He asked what else I needed. I told him 3 inch concrete nails, and he got them. Then I said I needed 3 bags of concrete and his shoulders dropped. He said”, “Okay, but what other small stuff?” I looked over the list and said the rest was big stuff, planks of wood, etc.. He then directed me to the check out counter saying something about the cashier could help me with the big stuff. I said okay, thanks and went to the counter. I told her that Miki had sent me to her to order concrete and other outside stuff. She looked at me like I was crazy. I said, “I know, you don’t do that, but he said to come to you.” She asked him something in Spanish too fast for me to understand then rolled her eyes and asked what I needed. I began reading my list and she wrote down what I needed. One of the things was 4 fajillas 1 x 4 x 12”. After she wrote it down, she could not find the price, so asked Miki how much they cost each. He said $3.00. She wrote $3 on the ticket, finished the other things on the ticket, told me the total cost, and I paid for the first order. I told her I had a second ordered to be delivered, so she gave the order to Miki, who took it to an employee to load into our truck.

She and I settle in to fill the second, larger order which includes 4 more fajillas the same size. This is the wood they use to frame up the concrete for floors. Then Miki comes in yelling at the cashier that she should have charged $3.50 for the fajillas (first order) because they need to be cut. He explained this several times before marching back out to watch the order put into the truck. She only smiled and told me that she would need to charge me $3.50 for the second order of fajillas. I told her that was fine. That is when things got a little crazy. She said “Oh! I need to get them to cut the four others while the saw is going!” She ran toward the door as Miki came back in and she said that we needed 4 more boards. He starts raising his voice asking why she did not tell him earlier, she explains it is a different order. He goes to tell the guy cutting and loading the wood. That guy has a problem understanding Miki, so goes to Lynn to explain. H e asks Lynn for the receipt, but Lynn does not understand the Spanish. So comes back to me to tell me that the guy outside wants something but he does not know what. I cannot leave to help him before we finish the order. In the meantime, several men have come to the counter with purchases, and she always rings them up, takes their money, and sacks their things then returns to my order. So before Lynn can walk back out the door the guy comes in and asks the cashier why he is cutting 8 instead of 4 boards. She explains that there are two orders, he says, “So what do I do with the second set of 4 boards?” She says they are to be delivered, and he walks out. Just as we begin again to complete the ordering process the delivery driver comes in and asks if she has any orders, to which she rplies that I am just ordering a delivery. He says to me, “Well, where do you live?”, then “Öh! I remember, across from the Horse ranch named Pomes, right? I said, “Yes, but this is not for my house”. Before I could say more Miki comes in and asks why aren’t they putting the second set of boards in the truck, and why is my order taking so long.

Lynn is back inside, laughing now at the circus act. I am still smoldering over the encounter with the banker, and another man comes up with his arms full of items to buy. The cashier stops talking to Miki and rings up, takes the money, and bags the purchases. Miki is looking to me for answers. I say that I have an order that we are finishing up, and that the last 4 boards are being delivered to another house. The driver pipes in “So it is not to your house?” No, it is to a neighbor’s house who lives near us. When you go to Elsas turn left then take the first right…” The cashier asks me to complete the order so Miki will be happy. The driver says “So when did you move? I thought your house was really nice…” Lynn goes back outside still laughing. The wood cutter comes in asking for the ticket because someone else is saying that all 8 pieces need to go into our truck, but he thinks we did not pay for 8 pieces. It is just too sad to not to laugh. The driver is called away to make another delivery, but the cashier call him back because I was there first. Miki says my order is taking too long, and he needs a copy of the receipt for the delivery (which is not completed because of all the distractions).

I just stand there as two more customers come up, the cashier rings them up, takes their money and bags their goods. Mind you, the bank experience was only an hour ago at this point. I am asking God what I have done wrong. I am sure the girls are waiting at the house (remember the division lesson) so, the driver leaves toward the back of the store, I could not make out what he was saying. I spit out the last two things on my list and plop down my debit card. Miki is standing waiting and grabs the receipt as soon as it is finished. It has not been rung up, but the girl’s calls to see the receipt go unnoticed or unheard. Miki goes to the copy machine, puts the receipt in the top and walks away. The girl does not know how much to charge my card, so we wait, again. The cutter brings the 4 boards inside and asks where the cashier wants them. She said outside, by the saw until the driver is ready to deliver them. More customers come and go. Lynn is in and out. I think he can not stand to miss the circus, but then can’t stand the tension, so leaves again. I begin to silently pray that I don’t explode all over some ( a few) undeserving people, thus setting a poor example of Christ.

After 10 minutes Miki comes and asks why I am still there – he asks the cashier, not me, thankfully. She says she needs the receipt to ring up the transaction and charge my card. He says that if I am using a card she has to charge a 2% fee on the purchase of cement. She looks at me, and I say “fine”. Then Miki walks a way toward the back of the store.

I, at my wits end, call out, “Senor, donde esta la factura? Necesitamos para terminar el ordenar.” (Sir, where is the receipt? We need it to complete the order,) he turns and speaks some rapid Chinese then goes to the copy machine and begins cursing because the paper is not copied. He opens the machine (the one he never pushed the button on to copy) and begins looking for a paper jam. He spends two minutes on this then calls his wife to fix the machine. He says there is a jam and he can not find it. She begins breaking down the machine to find the paper jam. I walk over and tell her that she just needs to push the button as her husband did not. She says no, you can’t push the button when there is a jam. I walk away. Lynn comes and goes. The cashier goes over and asks to borrow the receipt for a minute to ring up the order. The cutter comes in again asking for the receipt for order 2 because he does not think we paid for the second 4 pieces of wood. Miki’s wife lets the cashier have the receipt but the woodcutter takes it from her hands and finds the second order of wood, then asks her where she wants it. She tells him again that they should be set by the saw for the delivery guy.

Right then the deliver guy walks up with a pad of paper asking for directions to my new house. I explain it is not my house, it is a neighbor’s house. I draw a map and explain exactly where her house is, and that there are trees across the road so he cannot go all the way to the house. He says he understands now, and goes to load the ripio (sand / rock mix). The cashier, now with the receipt in hand, rings up the order. I pay (for the privilege of the experience, I think) and with the original receipt head out the door. I realize that the driver does not know what else to put on the truck, so, against my better judgment, return inside while the first set of 4 boards is being loaded in the truck – still don’t know why they waited until I came out to load it.

I asked Miki’s wife to make a copy of the receipt. She said ok, but it would cost me 25 cents. I explain that the copy is for the delivery guy. She says he already has one. I knew he didn’t. I turned to the cashier and asked her if the deliver guy had a receipt. She thought a moment and said “No, we did not get a copy before”. Miki’s wife said, “Then how did he know what to load up?” I said that he looked at it for a moment and saw that he needed 6 meters of ripio so went to load that first. She said he should not have done that without the receipt. I just smiled and handed her the receipt. She took it, put it in the copier, and low and behold! She pushed the button and out came a copy!!!!! She tried to hand me the copy but I asked for the original, so she pulled the original out and gave it to me.

I walked out the door sure that my blood pressure was over the roof. Lynn was finishing tying on the boards, and we headed down the road to buy the string at a different ferretería. As we pulled in the big truck from Miki’s pulled in behind us. The driver got out and said that it would require two loads to get all the materials to Yeya’s house, so he needed $2 more for the second trip. I gave him the $2 , said thank you very much, and walked into the other ferretería. They did not have the string either, so we will have to go to David to find it. Lynn rechecked to be sure, and .065 is what the machine needs.

So we head to the house. When we arrive Yamileth and Emelia are on the front porch waiting. On the back porch two teenagers who used to worship with us are waiting to visit. By now it is 4:45. So I started the class with the girls, and gave them a worksheet, then went to visit with Jairo and Tatiana. Finally at 5:30 I had to tell them that the girls were waiting for a scheduled class, and they said ok, and went out back to visit with Lynn.

The girls and I practiced our times tables for 45 minutes then I sent them on their way before it got dark. They will come back today at 1:00 (  who knows what time it will be, but I will be glad to see them and work with them more.) When they were saying goodbye, I realized that Jairo and Tatiana were still here. I needed to get supper started, but the custom here is if you start on the meal while you have guests, you also feed the guests, and by this time I was totally exhausted and could not imagine entertaining more guests through supper. So I waited. They stayed another 30 minutes, then left in a hurry as the rain started a gain.

At 6:20 I declared that I would not be cooking and we all went to a local restaurant that has the very best grilled chicken and fries. Just as we head to the car the skies open to a downpour. I got soaked getting to the truck. I am worrying about Yeya’s cement, if it is dry. Not paying attention, I step in a hole that causes the water to come pouring into my shoe. I just jumped into the car without a word. We get to the restaurant and the wind is blowing and I am soaked. I gave our only two umbrellas to our guests, so they aren’t too wet. I sit freezing, consoled by the thought of the great grilled chicken dinner I will have. The owner comes to take our order. We all order the same thing, and she goes off to cook. You know what happened next, right? She comes back to our table, Ï am sorry but we are out of grilled chicken, can I get you some fried chicken?” In case you are wondering, no, this is nowhere near the same thing. I order a pork chop and diet coke. Everyone else has the fried chicken. The meal was fine. I froze throughout but the food was good. I nixed the idea of a movie and said I had to go to bed early. I was exhausted and brain-weary. On the way home I tell Lynn I am going to bed by 8. He says, “You can not go to bed without blogging about today. It was just too good to pass up! ”. So I stayed up until 10:00 telling this story, that most of you will not appreciate at all, but I have done it for prosperity’s sake.

I must say, though it may not sound like I know it, I am so blessed to be here, having these problems – these nuisances in a beautiful land with a beautiful people. I know it, God reminds me daily. Just thought you would like to have a chance to relate, and remember that we are all in this boat together.

God is so good to us!
May he bless each of you richly!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Some days are diamonds….

today might not have been one of those!

Let me share a bit from my day;
I woke up late – it was 6:38, and I could not get out of bed. My back was in rebellion from the standing, bending and twisting I did yesterday sorting bible class material for the church in Coclecito. I stayed in bed for an additional 10 minutes doing stretches to warm the muscles. Then I got up slowly and started breakfast. Eggs & pancakes. We have visitors here for the week – Magdiel’s folks, and the men had a project planned for 8:00 so I hurried to get that done.

Determined to take it easy on my back today, I sat to begin reading, but was quickly drawn away to translate, or to make a decision, or to see a part of the project. Before I knew it I was walking up the road with Lynn to cut bamboo for various projects, then carrying them back to the house. We went straight from that to garden work. Lynn planted potatoes, and then prepared a bed for cilantro, and then we planted that. Next we moved the strawberry patch to more fertile, and protected ground. After that I came in & changed clothes to help Dany with lunch. I made bread that went along with rice, salchichas (sausages), salad and pineapple.

After lunch I prepared lessons for Yamileth and Emelia in division. Both are having trouble with it, so I made up some worksheets and flashcards so that when they came at 1:00 I would be ready. We had set 1:00 today to begin. Remember that we are in Panama. The clock works differently here. I was preparing for the 1:00 class at 12:45, with the expectation that they would arrive at 2:00. They didn’t. So, at 3:00 Lynn and I headed into town to purchase things that the guys needed to finish the loafing shed project.
Sidebar –
Magdiel’s family could not afford to come and visit him without our help, so we decided it was time to turn the loafing shed into a sheep barn, feed room, and a poop room (animal excrement room for fertilization purposes.) Thus we had a job that Ariel, Mag’s dad could do to make the money for the visit. Hopefully I can share more about this in the future, but that is what the guys (Magdiel, Ariel, and Kevin, the younger brother) are working on this week.

Okay, so off to town we go, with list in hand. Ariel’s list of what he needs for tomorrow’s work, Lynn’s list of the things he needs to complete various small projects, and a grocery list. First stop – the bank to get cash.

Our working accounts for both the farm and the ministry are held at Twin Lakes Community in Flippin, Arkansas. To access that money we use debit cards. Has not been a problem since we moved here until the last month. Two things occurred simultaneously: the ATM machines here began charging a $3 transfer fee, and the machines began showing a message that says “Your bank cannot be reached at this time and you have exceeded your daily withdrawal limit”. Well, first, Lynn is pretty tight, and doesn’t want to pay the $3, and second, we know we haven’t used the card, so cannot have exceeded our daily withdrawal limit. So, as a result I have to go into the bank each time I want to withdraw cash. We have an account here that we use to pay our electric bill, and other in-country things, with HSBC, so that is where we go to do our banking business. The only problem is there is guy who works there who is always rude, snobby, and unhelpful at every opportunity. I try to avoid his window if possible, but today, of course, I could not. I explained that I needed to withdraw cash from two debit cards, and told him how much from each. He looked over the cards for several seconds, then asked if I had my passport with me. I said that I had my carnet (my permanent resident visa)but not my passport, and he said that he needed to see my passport. I asked why, since I had an account there, he saw me every week, and my passport number was on the carnet. He looked around to see who might have heard me (I was not speaking softly) and decided that the carnet was ok.

I gave it to him, then he went to work on getting the paperwork done. Computers are everywhere, but the banks here still insist on a mountain of paper trails. I personally think it is just to keep people employed , at very low pay. At any rate he finally finishes and asks me to sign the two different credit card slips. I sign the first, then don’t remember how to sign on the Riverside account, so ask to see my card. He asks why, and I try to explain that I need to see how to sign so it will be the same as the card. He says in a very condescending voice (with face to match) “that is not important, everyone knows that you need to sign the same as your passport”. I said, “No, not for my bank, it needs to be signed just as I signed when I created the account.”. He laughed and said that I was wrong, that I must sign as my passport is signed, and that is why I must have my passport with me to withdraw money. He is feeling quite pleased with himself at this point, and I am growing more impatient. I tried to explain that if I did not sign the same as on my account that my bank would not honor the request. He said again, more loudly “that is not important, all banks require that you sign the same as your passport.”

I said, “Could I please have my card back?” He said when the transaction was complete he would return both of my cards. He then said “I understand that most people are not aware of the requirements of banks, and how things work in banks, but you must follow our rules if you want to get your money.” I am bordering on furious, so scribble something on both slips and state calmly that I hope that my bank rejects them both and he is left to pay his bank what mine did not honor. I hand him the slips and wait. His attitude changes a little – a little less self assured, but he continues with the transaction. When he finally gives me the money, and then returns my cards he asks, “Is the signature the same?”and I can see he is a little bit concerned, now, so I look at the cards and say “NO”, and turn and walk away.

Don’t think that all banks or people are like that. Normally they are very helpful, and even if they do things differently, they are still quite nice and happy to explain why. He is just a bit power-hungry, I think.

That is just the beginning of what has become a monstrous day of small things that begs the question,”WHY?” I will share more tomorrow. For now I am going to bed!!!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Just a note...

Today is Sunday, and the church just scattered after a great time of worship, fellowship and food. We had 41 in attendance today. Norman, from David came up to offer words of encouragement about Jesus' promise to come back for us one day, and his statement that we should have faith in him just as we do in God. Good words to hear for weary sojourners! Remember the goal ahead! God is faithful to do as he has promised through His Son! Lucha!!!(one of my favorite Spanish words, it translates keep fighting in the NVI) Sometimes it is easier than others - like today when I was surrounded by fellow strugglers, fellow seekers, friends and brothers. Sometimes it isn't so easy - like when a loved one is very ill, or the road seems scattered with one disappointment after another. Even then it is easier when we remember what Jesus promised in John 14: He is coming back for us, to take us to a place where there is plenty of room for every one of us to be with him.

I really appreciate those of you - Tim M.and Kim J. to mention a couple, who make the time to regularly post to your blogs. Personally they lift me up, and as a fellow blogger they encourage me to be more faithful about jotting a note or two. I want to be more like you guys! Heather does not send an email without reminding me that I should blog (Thanks to you too, Heather. My goal is to get something out once a week. Let's see how I do!

We have beloved guests in the house this week - again! New ones - Magdiel's family is here visiting for the week, as his brother is on mid-year vacation from school. This dear family lives in Santa Marta, where the medical mission team went last June. they have never been to our Province, so we will do a little sight-seeing, and Ariel will also do some remodeling of our loafing shed for the sheep, who will begin to have babies next month. He works with concrete so has offered his services to get the house fixed up for the new arrivals. We are looking forward to a fun week.

Some say I have gone completely crazy, but I am taking three Master of Ministry classes this semester plus 2 practicum classes (to practice what I am learning). I am trying to get a headstart by reading some of the textbooks ahead of time. For the three classes we purchased 35 books, so I have a ways to go! Classes start in 8 days, and I am excited about what I will learn. I should say what we will learn because Lynn and I both read all the material and discuss the classes so that we both gain the knowledge and insight of the great professors at Harding. I am learning from two new (to me) teachers this semester - Dan Stockstill and Dr. Crenshaw. I also have my favorite, and most challenging friend, Randy for a Leadership class. I am looking forward to them all!

Thunderstorm here now, so I will close for the moment. Our prayer is that you, our dear brothers and sisters are Richly Blessed by our Amazing Father!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Good friends, good company!

Saturday, 8th August, 2009

We just finished having our fourth mission team here, if you count the Santa Marta Medical Campaign. Harry and Lisa Hammett were here for a week. Lisa has been here about 3 times before, but it was Harry’s first trip. We didn’t know Harry very well but had time to understand and appreciate his servant heart. Of course we have known about Lisa’s good heart for some time. We met them at the Tocúmen Airport last Saturday night. Their plane was late and their luggage didn’t arrive. After many calls and delays, we were able to drive to David Wednesday night and pick up the luggage at the airport. After meeting them Saturday night we went to a modest hotel in Panama City for the night. The next morning we left the hotel at 6am, took a shuttle to the bus station, and caught a bus to Penonome, where we had left our truck. We drove to Santa Marta, snacking on the way, arriving just in time for church with the brothers and sisters there. It was a great experience for all of us. We left soon after church, stopped in Aguadulce for lunch, and arrived home at about 8pm. Monday we spent most of the day preparing the VBS agenda and resting. Tuesday we repaired a window for one of our elderly widows. She lives in a small wooden house with a dirt floor. Later the church plans to purchase the materials for her brother to put down a concrete floor. Later Tuesday we bought the supplies, paint, brushes, rollers, etc. to paint school rooms. We started on the fourth grade room at El Valle and quit about 6pm. Wednesday we headed for the little Caña Blanca school . We did our VBS in the morning for the eight kids, fixed sandwiches for lunch, then painted and weed-eated in the afternoon. We will go back next week to finish the painting. Thursday morning we took a little touristy trip through Cerro Punta and the Barú National Park. Thursday afternoon we finished painting the fourth grade room and started on the kindergarten room, didn’t finish, will go back next week. Friday we headed for a beach, about 2-1/2 hours away, called Las Lajas. We spent the afternoon and night at the Las Lajas Beach Resort. It was very nice and had a special off-season rate. This morning we put Harry and Lisa on the 8am bus to Panama City from San Felix. They had about a 5 hour trip to Panama City with a reservation at an upscale hotel before their flight out tomorrow morning. They should have had time for a visit to the canal. We headed home but, of course, stopped at McDonalds in David for breakfast.
The week went well. Some might argue that it was not evangelical enough, but there were a lot of children and adults that saw people who at great expense and some sacrifice were trying to show Jesus. We believe God smiled on our efforts this week, and that Harry and Lisa will be better disciples for the experience.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


June 6th started really back in June of 2007 when Brother Tim vowed to the folks of Santa Marta that he would return with a medical team for the area. The work in earnest started in November of 08 to make that happen. And happen it did! Not exactly how we all thought it would, but it happened just as God had in mind, and His plan is always best (we should know that by now, right?) The preparations for a medical campaign are enormous and quite critical to its success. Co-ordination on many fronts is a must, and Tim did a great job of getting us all on task. With God as the boss, and Doyne as right-hand man, how could he not?

For our part, we were responsible for translators, purchasing team foods, and benevolent foods, as well as transportation and accommodations. These preparations, combined with preparing for the first team, the third team, and taking care of the church here made me a little stressed at times. Because of that, and a few other minor problems, I have not written in some time. I apologize.

Now, as for the work in Santa Marta, we left here on Saturday morning @6:00 with Team 1, dropped them at the bus station in David, along with part of team 2 that was from here (Yari, Eric, Rachel, Kirvyn, Marta), then headed to Cocle Province. It is a 6 hour drive from our house. So we said goodbye to one group and hello to the next just 24 hours later. Bittersweet.
Along with those mentioned above, there were 6 others who came from our province – Gilberto, who preached, Ana, who taught the children’s class, Kathy, their daughter, Brux, who led singing, Ponce, who also preached and evangelized, and Urian, who translated.
From the States came Doyne, his lovely (and smart) wife, Margaret, one of the hardest workers I know, LaJeana, with her most beautiful daughter, inside and out, Hannah, and son, Perry. Matt stepped out and made his first mission trip as our only pharmacist, and was, absolutely perfect for this type of work. Dr. Bill Coutts from Lakeview, and Stephony Robinson from Tennessee completed the team. I have to tell you, only God could have brought this group together. There were so many ways we could have not meshed - we were all overworked, tired, hot, stinky, and I know personally that most of us have the potential to be…cranky, but God put things together just right, and we worked well together all week, without incident, other than much shared love and respect for each other. It was truly an amazing team and I would love the opportunity to work with any of them again.
We saw 729 patients according to my records, but Doyne was doctoring at the gate some (when we could not see another patient for the day), and there were house-calls, so that my count could be as much as 30 or so off. Each of those patients was able to see a doctor, be checked for reading glasses, and given a pair if needed, received medications as needed, as well as vitamins and parasite medicine, then sent to the church building for a bag of foods that would feed them for about a week, and invited to evening meetings. This was the first time that our beloved community of Santa Marta had ever had a medical clinic, and this one in the name of our Lord and Savior! What an evangelism tool!
While every member of the team was perfectly fit for the job, I have to say how impressed I was with Perry Chapman’s heart and attitude. He never quit smiling – even while he cleaned the ‘outhouse-type’ toilets. He spoke little Spanish but needed little as his smile spoke volumes about his faith. He was quite an inspiration to me, and to many others. I will pat my self on the back at least to say I chose (or rather God chose) perfect translators for this difficult trip. They were super! The week was tough, but wonderful. I am certain that God was glorified by the way in which we worked, and no-one should ask for more than that!

Thank you to all who sacrificed and helped to make this trip happen. There are too many to mention, but you know who you are.
I will be moving on to our trip to Arkansas, and the third group when I return…
Love you all!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Summer 09 Blessings

What a time of missions and fellowship! We have been quite busy preparing, then enjoying several mission trips this summer. Let me take a few minutes to share some of the highlights:

On June 1rst we welcomed a group of dearly loved brothers from Riverside in Gassville. Holly, Dane, Pam, Clay, Caleb, Brittany, Dirk, April and Abby Grace came and spent a week working with the children from our local school, El Valle. They brought great stories of the miracles God has done, along with crafts, laughs and lots of love. We watched Dane (who thinks he is still a kid) jump roping until he could barely walk, and Clay and Caleb rapping and beat boxing to an enthralled group of kids daily. We saw Pam at her best (whenever she is teaching) and Holly in her comfort zone (she really should be living here) We got to watch Abby Grace’s eyes widen with the newness of this culture, and then, just fit right in, playing with the kids. Dirk was the man with the camera – and he took some most excellent photos. April enjoyed the kiddos and spent time loving on them all. It was an absolutely amazing week! I think the best part for me personally was seeing Lynn and Dane just sitting and enjoying each others company. When I think of the shortcomings of our life here, the opportunity for fellowship with (English speaking) believers is near the top of the list. (Some of you thought I would say Diet Dr Pepper – ha! Fooled you!) Seriously, this is especially true for Lynn, who is still struggling with the language. And to make it perfect, for it to be someone like Dane, whom we have known and loved for years was the best blessing. Thanks Dane! Thank you all for coming and sharing your love with these precious children, and their teachers. We will probably never fully know the impact your sacrifice has made. And a special thanks to Holly, our ever-faithful friend, who does all the hard work to make it happen!

I could write loads more about this week, but would never get on to the second team – and I wouldn’t want you to miss hearing about that!!!!

More tomorrow….

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Blessings and Opportunities in El Valle!

I know, I know, but it is difficult to find time.

Today we spent the morning painting at the school. We were just to paint the blue part today - the lower part on every school building in Panama is the same color. the paint can even declares the color to be "school blue"! We were part of about 30 folks who came to help get the school looking better. Every parent received a note saying that they must help with this activity, but fully 90% chose not to follow orders. Such is the way, here. Those of us who came had fun. Riverside brought 5 people - none of which were parents of students; The Nelsons, including Yari, and the Hilkers, the interns who arrived this week. the work was not done at noon, so we will have another work day in the near future. It was a good experience for us all, and a great opportunity to get to know more of the local families.

Eric and Rachel are off to a good start, with several clients already. They will be reading the Bible with folks who want to practice their English. the program they are using is called 'Lets Start Talking' and we are excited about how this will, not only teach about Jesus, but also familiarize people with the church. The sessions are held here at the church house. They last an hour, and the clients can have classes several times a week if they choose.

We are busily preparing for the upcoming mission trips here in Volcan, and the Medical mission trip to Santa Marta coming in June. this is what the schedule looks like at present: Riverside (Gassville) will come and bring bible classes to the children in the El Valle school the first week in June. they leave on Saturday for Panama City on Saturday as the Riverside Medical team arrives. Both teams will stay in Riande Hotel that night (June 6), then the medical team heads to Santa Marta for the week. That team leaves on June 14th. We rest for a few days, then head to the U.S. ourselves for Lynn's mom's birthday. We will return on the 4th of July, with the youth group from Oxford, Mississippi for a week working with the children in Las Perlas school (also here in Volcan). That group will leave on July 12th and we will have a couple of weeks to rest and prepare for Riverside Team 3, who will arrive August 1 to work in a few of the smaller, outlying schools for a week. We are really excited about how busy the next few months will be! Lots to prepare for, and lots to look forward to!

We are awaiting the winter rains, that are actually a little behind schedule - not that i am complaining! The days are beautiful - temperature hovering around 75-80, a slight breeze, sunny and....perfect. Lynn is busy working on the farm, preparing the ground for our community garden to be planted when the rains begin. A man is coing next week to build the 'vivero', which is a greenhouse, sort of. This will keep the rain from beating all the dirt away from the roots of the plants. When Magdiel was here, we got all the fences prepared for the sheep, but Lynn says I must sell the cow before the sheep arrive. I am thinking of giving it away just so I can get the sheep on the property! We have new baby chicks - some from the incubator, and a few that we bought. They are growing and very entertaining to watch. We have beans, cilantro, otoi, bananas, cantaloupe, and a few strawberries growing now. This is, comparatively speaking, the end of summer here. It is very dry, many places have no grass for their cattle. We are in good shape because only one the one cow summered on our pasture. She has grown while others have suffered.

Yesterday we went on one of our, now traditional, trips with our neighbor, Don Antonio. We harvested Yuca, and, of course, visited with friends and family on the way. Eric came with us, and was a huge help with the 100+ pound bags of yuca! We found huge calabasas, but they were way up in the treetops, so Eric climbed up to get them for me! We were given mangoes, cashew fruit, calabasas, and yuca by a variety of folks. We never cease to be amazed by the generosity of the country folks! We were also invited to go fishing on the ocean, and will try to do that next week. I am excited about this, not because I like to fish, but we are told we can harvest sea salt at the same location. never done that, but am looking forward to trying!

We are still looking for a place to rent for the church to meet. Our house is too small now, and we feel the church will not gain maturity as long as we are providing the building, cleaning the building, preparing for the meetings, etc. Neither Lynn nor I are the type to leave something undone, so when someone has the responsibility to, for example, set up the classroom, and they do not show up to do it, we feel obligated to get it done. Realizing that if it were left undone, the lesson might be better learned, we try, but usually fail miserably at it (and then I often harbor bad feelings about it). So... we still have not found a building that meets our needs. We thought we had found something for sale that would have been perfect, but alas, the price was too high. Please pray for this, as with the rains, we will be hard-pressed to have the children's classes outside, as we do now.

Life is hard, but life is good! We appreciate your prayers and support as we seek to be Christ's hands, with Christ's heart to the people of El Valle, Volcan, Chiriqui, Panama.

Richest blessings!
The Nelsons

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Breaking of Bread

The joys of this work are innumerable – the thrill of seeing someone understand that God truly does love them regardless of their past deeds, the delight of watching a child’s eyes as they receive a new pair of shoes or their first Christmas toy, the joyful tears of watching a new brother or sister come up out of the waters of baptism fresh and whole. The list goes on and on, and we feel very blessed to be part of God’s plan here. However, we are also very aware of the huge responsibilities that come with these joys. Each day brings a new question that we are striving to answer with biblical truth, and not with human traditions. We also feel charged with the responsibility to not teach them these truths, but guide them to their own understanding of them. That has proved to be an immense task.

We have spent the past 6 weeks studying the ‘Santa Cena’- the Holy Supper. We have read from Exodus through the New Testament as a church, and individually in our homes, and ask the following questions.
1. What is the origin of the Lord’s Supper?
2. Why did Jesus partake of it?
3. Why did he change it, and how?
4. Who should partake of this sacred practice?
5. Is it a mandate or an example for us?
6. When should we do it?
o What day?
o What time in the gathering?
7. How should we do it?
o What do we use? Why?
o What is involved logistically?
o Individually how do we prepare and partake, spiritually and emotionally?
8. What does it mean for us today?
9. Individually, what is our intention in partaking?

We want to share what this little tradition-ignorant church decided, based on their understanding of Scriptures, but want to first challenge you all to read and pray and answer these questions for yourself. No-one can live by the beliefs of another. You must understand why you do what you do for it to be of any spiritual value to your life. The answers Riverside in El Valle came up with may very well not be yours, and that is ok. We will not judge your understanding, and pray you will not judge ours.

The Lord’s Supper actually began in the time of Moses as the Passover meal. God commanded the Israelites of Egypt to kill an unblemished goat or sheep, pass the blood over the doorposts of their houses, roast the animal and eat it in one night, along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. This was how God would know which houses to pass over as he killed the first-born of each household, God’s final attempt to compel Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. Read in Exodus 11 and 12 for the whole story. It is an amazing account of God’s power and patience! God then commanded that the Israelites to remember this miraculous occasion every 14th day of the first month (Jewish calendar). That is why Jesus, centuries later, took part in the Passover. He was Jewish and it was a commandment to do so.
We are not Jewish and so are not commanded to partake in the Passover annually.

Just before his crucifixion Jesus asked his disciples to prepare a place to commemorate the Passover ( Mark 14:12) and then they gathered to observe this mandated celebration at the appropriate time. However, there were some differences. The gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus took the bread, gave thanks for it, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take it; it is My body”. Later he gave thanks for the cup of ‘fruit of the vine’, and passed it to them saying it was the blood of His covenant, poured out for all. In Corinthians 11:25 the writer tells us it is a new covenant. In the same verse we also read that Jesus said that the disciples should do this (eat the bread and drink the fruit of the vine) in remembrance of Him.
We believe that Jesus brought a new covenant with his blood that opened an avenue to God that never existed before his death. We believe that the new covenant covered our sins and purified us in the eyes of God, who is holy and perfect, and cannot abide with sin in his presence. With the new covenant, Jesus became the perfect lamb of sacrifice for us, eternally. This change liberated us from the laws of Moses, and placed us under the law of Love established by Jesus. This is what Jesus commanded us to remember as we ate and drank in fellowship with believers.

In Corinthians we also find a warning: Paul tells us that, should we eat and drink without recognizing the body of the Lord, we eat and drink judgment on ourselves (11:29). This led to much discussion concerning which body, the physical or the spiritual body of Christ. Again in Corinthians (12:27) we are told that the believers are the body of Christ, and we have already discussed the physical body sacrificed for all.
It is the understanding and agreement of the church that Paul was referring to both the physical and the spiritual body. Therefore we should direct our hearts toward the suffering and sacrifice given for our salvation, as well as recognize, or discern the body of believers, which is the church.

Jesus told his disciples that they should ‘do this’ in remembrance of him (Luke 22:19). In 1 Corinthians Paul writes “and so, my brothers…” (11:33).
These two examples, as well as others, lead us to believe that all disciples of Christ ought to participate in this holy meal, commemorating Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul implies that the members of the body of Christ are baptized into that body.
While we believe collectively that all baptized disciples should join in the Lord’s supper, we also believe that this rite is a very personal one, and we are not willing to be, nor should we be, judges as to whether a non-baptized believer should partake, or whether one baptism is more ‘sufficient’ than another. We leave this decision completely in the hands and heart of each individual.

Jesus did not mandate a specific day or time, in fact, he says,”whenever you drink it” (1 Corinthians 11:25). However we have an example from the first church in Acts 20:7 where the writer tells us that they met on the first day of each week “to break bread”.

While we find no commandment to participate in this sacred observance, we, as a church choose to follow the example of the bible, not only in breaking bread and sharing the cup, but in doing it on the first day of each week. We choose to do this because the first church chose to do so, and because we recognize the need to remember Christ’s body sacrificed, and living in this body of believers. We will not hold this standard up to others as if it were a commandment, but choose to follow for our own personal relationships with God.

We also choose to gather in the morning on the first day, as it is a convenient time, and we find no direct command regarding the time. Also, when we choose, we can partake of this during our shared noon meal.

The accounts of the original Passover speak of using lamb or goat meat, unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The account does not prohibit other foods or drinks, nor include them. However, in the account recorded in the gospels in which Jesus participated, only the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine are mentioned. Again, added foods are not prohibited, simply not mentioned.
The writer of Mark did specifically mention that “while they were eating…” (14:22ff), implying that it was more than simply bread and fruit of the vine. Also, Paul wrote in Corinthians that the meal should not be eating to fill the belly, but to remember the body of Christ (11:17-29)

As a church we concluded that, in all likelihood there was meat and bitter herbs on the table at Jesus’ Passover feast. However, Jesus only chose to use the bread and the cup as the symbols of his body, so no other foods are necessary. They are also not forbidden. In an effort not to be tempted into the mistakes of the Corinthian church, we have chosen to share only the bread and fruit of the vine.
The bread will be unleavened, and can consist of crackers with or without salt, as we find not mention of salt as part of the bread in either Exodus or the gospels accounts. Acknowledging 1 Corinthians 10:15-17, we believe that Paul’s reference to the ‘one loaf’ probably refers to their being only one loaf that was shared among the believers. Further, that his use of this symbol is significant for the analogy referring to the church. However, we believe that the use of one loaf was not a command, but an example, and one that we believe to be inconsequential regarding our spiritual observance.
The fruit of the vine can be from grapes, maracuya, or any other vine fruit. Because of convenience, normally we will use grape juice. We acknowledge that Jesus probably drank wine because it was most readily available in that place and time, but it was not mandated. Regarding the use of one cup or many, the examples of the Scripture are unclear. We believe that Jesus held one cup, and blessed one cup, however in Luke (22:17) Jesus told them to “divide it among them”, which could imply that the each poured some into their own cups. Again, we believe it not to be of consequence concerning our spiritual rite, so will drink from individual cups, as is our custom outside the Lord’s supper.

1 Corinthians 11:27-29 implies that we ought to examine our hearts, and empty ourselves of all malice, asking forgiveness when necessary, before participating in the Lord’s supper. Later in verses 33 and following Paul reminds us that we should be concerned about the rest of the body, and considering them as we prepare to break bread.

We believe that we should take some moments to prepare ourselves to break bread with our brothers and sisters, seeking God’s purification of our hearts, then forgiveness for any malice we hold toward others in Christ’s body. Then, with pure hearts, participate in remembering Christ’s sacrifice, and his living body, which is the church. It is a solemn occasion, and a very personal one.

We are thrilled and in awe at the choices the individuals made, and the decisions that were made as a group. It has been a major struggle to get them to claim their faith, and not just take what we believe as their own faith. This is a major step for the church. For almost two years we have studies and discussed various topics with them leaving with a paper telling them what we believe. When I would ask for some individual opinion or belief, they would always look back on their notes, or simply not answer until our answer was provided. Our approach to this study of the Lord’s supper has been intense, and very demanding of their time. All contributed to finding the scriptures, but once a list of all pertinent passages was gathered, each person was given the responsibility to read and pray. We gathered weekly to discuss what they had read, and for the first several weeks it was quite unproductive. You must understand, these people have centuries of learned resignation as their model. They have been told what was white and what was black for so long they just repeat what they are told. What an amazing feat of God that they have broken that chain, and are thinking for themselves!

You may wonder why I am so certain that they have made these decisions without simply following our input. I might not have been sure except, I do not personally believe exactly the same as the church! There are one or two areas that I feel differently, but they are areas of preference, and example rather than command, so I am content to live with their decisions. Yes, they are aware that I disagree, and they feel strongly that, unless there is a direct commandment, the majority should rule in these situations.

This is breakthrough church stuff! They actually own their faith regarding the Lord’s Supper! Praise God! He can get his message across despite of us fallible humans!

Now just keep us in our prayers as we move on to speaking in tongues, being ‘slain in the Spirit, and women’s role in the church! God definitely must be in charge of these classes!

Riches blessings!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Our Wonderful Mail System!

We went to the International Fair in David today. It was much like the Arkansas State Fair. There were many more things for sale, and there were only cows and horses in the livestock barns. We took Yari, Magdiel and Sister Ana with her daughter, Kathy. It was okay I guess. First time I have ever been to an International Fair. Glad I went.

Yesterday we had tried to mail a letter but our post office was closed. Today the office was open but we could not mail the letter because they did not have any stamps. The reason they did not have any stamps was because they were robbed yesterday morning early. We have to go to David to receive a package anyway, so we will mail the letter there.


We learned today that the reason we have to go to David to receive packages instead of them coming here to Volcan is because our post office has been robbed so many times they will not send them up the hill anymore. Before going to the Fair we went to the post office in David to pick up a package. It had been there for a few days, so we had to pay a rental fee of 85 cents. This is the process: The post office receives the package, then when they get around to it, they send a note to our post office box in Volcan that there is a package. This takes anywhere from 5 days to 5 weeks. Once we are aware of the package we can go pick it up. To do this, you first need to ask which window has the package. They look at the note then send you to the right window. At the right window they confirm that they have the package, and how long they have had it. Then they stamp your paper and send you to a different window. At this (the third) window they will tell you how much money you owe them for the package, and you will pay them that amount. Later I will explain what happened if you do not agree to pay the amount. After paying you are sent back to window #2 (but really #4) where the package is then brought out of the back and you are required to open the package in front of two witnesses. When they are satisfied that the package is safe, and indeed yours, you can leave. Interesting, and very….frustrating!

Okay, so last June I ordered some text books from Amazon. I paid $45.00 to get them shipped International Express (10 days), so I would be sure to have them read for my class that started in August. The books did not arrive throughout the month of July, so on August 4 I re-ordered, and paid $72 to get them here in a week. They were shipped through DHL, and arrived in 21 days. I was thrilled! Only a little over a week late for the class! Still with me? I have my second order of books, and am in the middle of the class in mid-September when the note arrives in our post office box - you have a package in David, please come pick it up. So, we wait until we need to go to David again, and go by the post office. I go to window #1 and she directs me to the correct window #2. There they check the paperwork and tell me that the package has been there for over a month and I need to pay rent of $18 to pick it up. I explain that I just got the notice, and they say that the records indicate it was sent to me over a month ago, so I must pay the rent. I asked what the package is, feeling certain it is the long-lost books (that I no longer need). She says the information is confidential and when I pay the fee I will know. I said, “but what if I don’t want the package?” She just stared at me, then turned and asked the man behind her, “what if she does not want the package she says?” they both look at me like I am crazy then say together, “why don’t you want the package?” I said I do not know what the package is, or who it is from, and you want me to pay $18 to see it – I do not want to pay $18 for a package when I do not know what it is.” Well this went on for a bout 20 minutes, with my temper rising, and nothing changing, so I said “okay, thank you” and walked away. They stopped me at the door and asked what they were supposed to do with the package. I said, “Well, you know what it is, right? So you can figure out what to do with it!” and left. Okay that showed my poorer side, but, the story gets better!

When we went to pick up the package today – it was from a friend in the States to a mutual friend here, and I get to the last window. The lady taps a box that has my name on it. She says “This has been here since last September”. I act innocent and say “Really?” She just shakes her head and asked me to open it. I did. It was, of course the text books ordered twice last summer. The class is over (I passed) and we have no use for the textbooks, but she just handed them over commenting on how bad some of her co-workers were about taking care of business. She did not dun me for the $18, or even a penny. That was it! Now we will try to figure out how we can get the books back to Amazon, who sent the second books without charging for the lost books.

There is always a new adventure here!

Keep us in your prayers!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Time with Celinda's girls

Yesterday we took Celinda’s girls who are school age shopping for uniforms, shoes, and backpacks for school. It was such fun! Their eyes were like saucers as we looked at the new clothing, and they actually chose what shoes they wanted. They ran from place to place, and gave a million hugs in between. The hugs and kisses we want to share with Doyne, Margaret, Phillip, Nancy and Holly. Thank you so much for allowing us to be your liaisons with these gifts! We took them to McDonalds for lunch. Okay, for those of you who are rolling your eyes, saying Yuck! McDonalds. Just look at the picture of these girls on their first-ever trip to McDonalds! When I asked if they would like to go there, six eyes became wide as plates, they looked at each other as if we had just given them millions of dollars. It was priceless! When we had finished shopping, and were on our way to eat, Emelia said,” Miss Joy, what does it mean to say “Happy meal”?” I said, “It is a little box that has a hamburger and French fries and comes with a soda and a toy”. She sucked in her breath and all three girls screamed in delight. Then Marie, the baby of the group said, “Can I ask for a happy meal?” I said, “Of course, if that is what you want.” Emelia was not satisfied, she said,”But can I ask, myself, for my very own Happy Meal?” I wasn’t sure exactly what she meant, but said ”You can ask for your own lunch.” She insisted “my own happy meal?” I replied again, “Yes, if that is what you want”. They laughed and giggled all the way to the restaurant. Once we were inside and they saw the play land, they forgot all about food! We were all tired and thirsty, but they only had eyes for the playground equipment! I told them they could play as soon as they ordered, so they each walked up to the counter, and in their very shy, timid voices, ordered their own happy meals, then stood amazed as the young man delivered their food and toy. They ate and drank quickly, then went back to play. It was such fun to watch!

After lunch (and a half hour to play) we took the girls to have their eyes checked. The optometrist was very good with each of the girls, but Yamileth’s eyes caused his ever- present smile to fail. I could see right away that something was bad, but we thought before going that she needed glasses. Even she had said she could not see well. We just did not realize how bad it was. Apparently, she has a severe astigmatism in her right eye – worse than 3.5. It has been so for such a long period of time that her brain has decided not to use that eye at all. She cannot see anything but light and dark in that eye. The left eye is pretty good, though, so we will get glasses to make the good eye better, and put a partial correction in the bad eye, though the doctor says it will do nothing. She says that Yamileth is too old for the problem to be corrected, but it could have been corrected nicely if she had been brought in at an earlier age. So sad. I am seeking advice from the States before we give up hope. Yamileth, of course, just took it all in stride, and moved right into playing with her toy from McDonalds.

We got back to Volcan after 6 PM, tired but happy with most of the days activities. The children have already been by today to say hello and eat a bite with us. We have learned to always have something on hand for them when they stop by. It may very well be all they eat today. During the school year they will be provided a good breakfast and lunch daily- the breakfast courtesy of their sponsors and Heather, and their lunches are provided by the children of Riverside in Gassville. Thanks to you all for what you do for these precious children of God!

Well, I have skipped some things that you would enjoy knowing about, but will try to keep you better abreast of our happenings!
(This is the last of three posts today, so look down to get the first two)
We love you all and miss you !
Joy & Lynn

Going home to Santa Marta

We spent last weekend in Santa Marta, visiting, encouraging, and being blessed by the wonderful church family there. This time we brought Yaritza for her first visit, and their first chance to meet our almost-daughter. We also brought them loads of questions about the upcoming medical campaign coming to them in June. This will be a joint work of Riverside in Gassville, Riverside in Panama, and Santa Marta, with additional help by other congregations as well. They are very excited about this great opportunity to help the community in Jesus’ name, and to share the gospel with them as well. It is so difficult to get out (to bigger towns) for medical care, even if they had the money to go.

We invited one of the scholarship recipients, and a dear friend, Magdiel to come and work for us for the month before school starts. There is little work there, and the pay is, at best, $3 day. So he is here, helping Lynn out with the farm preparations for our sheep to arrive. We have finally found some of the kind we want (hair) and that are adjusted to this climate, so we will bring them home as soon as our fences are ready. Magdiel is a great young man. He is 18, and just graduated from 9th grade. He says he wants to be a doctor! Until we began providing help, he could not afford to go our of Santa Marta for classes above 6th grade. Thanks to Brody and Sarah, he has gone for the past two years and completed three years in that time!
Magdiel is a solid member of the church, and a leader at Santa Marta, and so is a wonderful addition to our little congregation as well!

From Storms to Storms...

It has been far too long since we blogged. WE hit the ground running, then lost water and electricity for two weeks, and then, well no excuses, we have just been busy or tired all the time. I will try to hit the highlights of the past month and a half, then try to be more faithful in keeping up!

Remember when we left Arkansas, we were in the midst of a terrible ice storm. the trees were all broken off, no electricity, roads were ice-covered? Well, three days after we got back to Volcan, the storms came here. We promised the folks here that we did not bring them, but not sure they believed us! A three day wind storm hit wiht winds above 100 km per hour day and night. The loss of electricity and water provided several opportunities for ministry;
Lynn had his eye on one of the neighbor’s trees that we actually watched fall, tearing down all the electric lines from our place on down the road. It actually broke a pole three houses from us. It also feel across the road, blocking it entirely. That provided an opportunity for Lynn to work with the other neighbors clearing the tree. Since Lynn doesn’t say much other than hello to the neighbors, they know little about him, or who he is. He worked as hard s any and harder than most getting the tree cut up and out of the road. We don’t have a chainsaw, so he was going after it with his machete. I don’t think he could have done anything better to ‘prove’ his worth in the eyes of the men, than swing that machete. It is the tool of every man here, and Lynn, with years of experience surveying and cutting line, knew just how to make that machete cut! It was a most enjoyable experience for me to watch the men commenting among themselves at how adept he was with it. They had all seen him working on the yard and farm, so knew he was not a lazy man, but he was doing things many of them could not do with a machete. Several of them came and shook his hand before they left. Okay, I was a little proud!
When the tree blew over, it pulled up the main water line for every house from ours on out several miles. That was next on the list. Lynn worked on this problem with the neighbors who owned the tree for several hours. The accepted rule is if it is in front of your house, you are responsible for fixing whatever problems there are. So, this was not our problem, but Lynn has made a habit of helping anytime there is a water problem. This time, because it was our next-door neighbors, we had many hours to visit and chat. I had to go to the store, so brought back sodas for all, which was quite a treat for them. When the job was done, I invited the family to church, explaining that we had children’s class as well. They knew, of course, and had never come before, but on Friday, her three boys came to class, and haven’t missed since. Still haven’t seen the parents, but Grandpa has come once. Progress, little by little. Thank you Lord!!!
The winds are amazingly strong here. The locals say this is the hardest ‘summer’ in years. I bet there are over ten thousand trees down throughout Volcan. They are still falling, but not as much as before. It is bad enough throughout Panama that they have postponed opening day for classes by 1 month. There are still down trees on our little school here in El Valle.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Home, for sure!

We are here, in our little orange house again, and getting settled. Our return was not nearly as traumatic as last year’s. (Thank you Lord!) There is still a lot to do, and we are plugging away.

The church has had some grumbling reminiscent of the Corinthian church while we have been away. Lots of rumors and talking behind backs. This is normal for rural Panama, but we thought we had made them understand that it is not normal for God’s people, those who are bound by the blood of Christ. This lesson continues to be needed. While we are a bit disappointed, we do see some progress. There are one or two who understand it, but they have chosen to remain silent to avoid conflict in our absence. We begin to work on this now, again!

We left our Yellville home in the midst of the most terrible Ice storm devastation that we have ever witnessed. It made it doubly hard to leave Lynn’s mom, but we knew we had to. Both she and my dad were without power or phone. He still is, 8 days later. They are both fine, but quite inconvenienced. Here we often are without poser. We just don’t open the frig, and other than that, maybe go to bed early. I might even get a meal out, if I am lucky. Not a big deal, but when it is 15 degrees and it is for days on end, that gets a little rough, as many of you are finding out! We are praying for you all.

We have started repainting, but haven’t unpacked everything yet. We still have way too much ‘stuff’! We plan to go to Cerro Punto tomorrow to see what kind of damage the floods left behind, and how we can help. Panama Missions has collected blankets and supplies to distribute there later this month, and we will be helping with that work.

We will also begin buying uniforms next week for the children who are receiving help to go to school this year. That is always a fun thing, and I am looking forward to it!


Words from Lynn:

We left at 6 am this morning for David to get, we thought, our permanent visas. First we took the truck to Gilberto to use for the day. He took us to immigration where we met Ricardo, our attorney. There we had our picture taken for our carnet (i.d. card). We didn’t get the carnet because our pictures need to be sent back to Panama City and signed. Ricardo said the cards / visas should be back to immigration within 3 months. That is when our tourist visas expire (again). We did stay overnight in Panama City when we flew in last Thursday. We went to the immigration office there, paid our $200 and $50 to Ricardo’s brother, Cesar, who is also a lawyer. That was supposed to be all that was needed, but they changed the law from one day to the next, and we needed to wait to take the pictures. Everyone says it is a done deal, we have the resolution, but we still don’t have the visa in our hands. Imagine that! Again we are told one thing and then another happens. It’s all good!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Goodbye again....

Our time here in Arkansas comes to an end in just two short weeks. It has been a short trip this time, and our last for some time. God has opened the doors and shown us the direction we should go, and we are following His lead. We are making the permanent move to our Volcan home on January 29, 2009.

While it is difficult to say good-byes here to our dear family, we are needed in Volcan. The church is not yet strong enough to stand without guidance, and Satan is ever-watchful for ways to slip in and destroy what God is building.
That said, we are selling or giving away all that we have here, and leaning heavily on God's hand and protection. We aren't worried. He has always known what He had in mind for us, and He has never failed us yet. We will be better than fine.

Lots of stuff for sale at an indoor sale benefiting the work in Panama this coming Saturday from 8:00 to 5:00 at the Riverside building in Gassville. Come see us!

Please keep us in your prayers, and the dear little church we are a part of. WE will keep you posted on all the great things God is doing there!

Richest Blessings!