The Weather in Our Neck of the Woods

Monday, December 27, 2010

Farm & Garden Chores

We are slowly but surely fixing up the farm and garden. We knew that Dani would not have time with her other job to take care of the farm. That is why we had asked Magdiel’s parents to come live here while we were gone. But when Keyvin, their son, fell from a tree and broke his wrist, that plan fell through. They had planned to leave him with his grandparents, but they are older, and could not get him to the various appointments he was to have in the following months. So, Dani agreed to stay on, but as I said, she had a full time job, so had little time nor energy to work with the sheep or keep the garden.

So, as you can see from the pictures, the garden is coming along. David is working two days a week cleaning out the weeds and flowers, and Lynn and I have been working on the fences for the sheep. Yari just finished out her school year, so now she is helping out too.

The picture below is of the two of them planting sugar cane – a gift from our neighbor. We have wanted to start growing sugar cane since we got here, so are excited about finally getting some planted! It will also help take up some of the space that we had prepared for the community garden that fell through shortly after beginning. Less weeds to pull in the future!

I am dreading it, but we need to butcher our first sheep. It is long overdue. I much prefer taking them to the butcher, but alas, we are in Panama! The meat is wonderful, so we must adapt or do without. We really prefer to adapt in this case. George is the man (that is the name of the sheep set for slaughter). We have only done this once before with a goat, so are…skeptical of our butchering abilities. Truly, I think I can do all of it but the kill. So, one night not long ago, I asked Lynn, “what is the worst part ot you about butchering George?”. While he thought I prayed that he would say cleaning the hide, or trying to get the chops just right, or some such thing. His reply was. “I think I can handle it all except killing him”. Great! We are two weenies! We do not have a gun so we will slit his throat. Maybe we can get a neighbor to come do that part!!!!

The wind liked to have blown the house away last night. First night of true ‘summer breezes’ – wind bursts up to 80 mph, all the moss, branches and leaves from the trees fly every which a way – under the doorways, onto the roof with loud crashes, and into any crevice available, including eyes and nostrils. But it is sunny! 70 degrees! No rain! It is GREAT!

Trusting that you all had a wonderful Christmas, and that God will renew your strength and resolve for the coming year! We could all do well to resolve to know Him better, to serve Him more humbly, and to love Him more deeply!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Giving Season

We made the 7 hour trip to Santa Marta to deliver the two Dalmatian pups to Magdiel and Keyvin. Our trip was multi-purposed. We also brought in Christmas gifts for the children of the church, attended Keyvin’s graduation, visited with the church, and delivered the pups. I had made a makeshift cage for them in the back of the truck. They made it just fine. We did worry a bit that we might have trouble getting them through the agricultural checkpoint, but just smiled our way through, and had no trouble. The pups were nearly scared to death by all the kids when we got there. After delivering the ‘goodies’ from Santa, and a short visit we headed for Penonome. There we picked up some groceries, a box of apples, and a case of grapes to take in to Marta on Thursday. We spent the night in Hotel Guacamaya (or Guacamole as I generally call it). We were up at 5:30 to go back to Santa Marta.
The 9th grade graduation was one of the reasons we went to Santa Marta on that specific day. Keyvin, Magdiel’s younger brother was graduating. Joy is Keyvin’s godmother, which is something special at the graduation. She had to present a special gift to him. The graduation was very nice. We were told that Joy should be there by 8:00 am, and we were there. We were all but alone, though. Only the cooks arrived before us. When we arrived at Las Tibias, the turn off from the pavement, we found Magdiel and his dad, an uncle and one of the teachers from the school waiting. Magdiel and his dad were supposed to have picked up the cupcakes from a nearby town at 6 that morning. They had not been able to get a bus into town, so they were still waiting when we arrived at 7:15. We took them to town to pick up the cupcakes then took all 4 into Santa Marta to the school.
Graduation was supposed to start at 9:00 am, but alas at 9:00 even Keyvin was not there. In fact only about 3 students had arrived by that time. It was 10:45 when we actually began. Alicia later told us that this was ‘typical Panamanian time’ in a resignated kind of way, but she herself did not arrive until about 10:15. I had special seating next to Joy, I think mainly because they thought I needed help, which is true. Yari was with us, but she did not get a seat inside the room, as it was full of parents, graduates and the god-parents. A very good lunch was served after the ceremony. We left all the stuff for the children of the church, and for the Gonzales family, and harvested fruit from our fruit trees on our little half-acre of property before heading home. We only had two extra riders on the way out. Normally the back of the truck is full of folks needing a ride out to the highway.
It was a long, difficult, but beautiful drive, and we arrived safely home around 9:00pm Thursday night.
We did not get to see the children open the gifts this year. As has been our custom, we like to let the church give them out on Sundays as if they were from the church, and because of Keyvin’s graduation, we could not be there on a Sunday. Sorry, no pictures this year!
Christmas Eve was Yari’s birthday. We were still wrapping presents in the morning. In the afternoon we delivered presents to our church family and neighbors. In the evening we had a little party and birthday dinner for Yari. Later she went to her grandparents that live near us, to enjoy her other family. The tradition here is to stay up until midnight on Christmas Eve and then open gifts. Also the fireworks go off at midnight. The parrots, apparently scared by all the noise, started flying and talking. It wasn’t easy, but we waited up for Yari to come home.

It is now Saturday, Christmas morning. We, like North Americans, have waited to open our gifts and presents. Yari was not too thrilled about this Gringo tradition, but managed to wait patiently. Pictured is Yari in her new 'Santa' clothes and hat with Santa himself!
We wish you all a joyous Christmas season.
Because of Him,
Lynn & joy

A final note about Keyvin; he will be staying in a dorm room next year so that he can attend high school in the nearest big town. Thanks to your generous support, he will be able to continue his education.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's almost Christmas!

Whew! I almost got hot today! I think it may have hit 82 in the sunshine! But it wasn’t too bad since we had a little breeze while we worked. Oh, wait, I forgot for a moment that it is only going to get to 40 in Gassville this week. Hmmm. Do I feel bad for flaunting it? Nah! You guys get to see each other and laugh and sing Christmas carols and drink hot cocoa, and…. We just got good weather. I don’t feel too bad!
Actually we have a lot more than good weather to be thankful for. God is so good to us. We are healthy, enjoying Yari’s company full time now, and it is a blast to watch her excitement over Christmas. We ask her to make our ‘Nacimiento’ (nativity scene) – our first ever. It is a tradition here to create the manger scene, with all the animals, the shepherd, Mary, Joseph, and the wise men. Using moss from the trees to make the ground, the manger and animals are placed first, then each day someone or something new is added, or moved closer until the 24th when Jesus is placed in his crib. Then throughout the next week the wise men make their way to the baby until finally arriving on January 6th (King’s Day here in Panama). On that day all Christmas trees are set out in the ditches and burned. Not sure of the significance of the tree burning part. Then everything is put away until next year. I love that everyone is focused on the story of Jesus’ birth for at least this few weeks. The family always moves the characters together so that everyone is involved. We three sit each night to enjoy the scene after Joseph and Mary move a little closer to the stable for a few minutes before going to bed. Good time together.

Yari has gotten to go shopping for gifts, plan what we will do on Christmas, and of course put up lights. Last night while watching the lights on the Nacimiento, she asked Lynn just like she was a seven year old, “Can’t we put up a few lights along the roof of the house out front?” He had already told me no emphatically, but when she asked, he thought a moment and said, “I guess we could if you want”. A very sweet, neat moment for this old girl, I’ll tell you!
Not sure why but I am missing my mom a lot right now. It has been 16 years since she left this world for a better one. You would think I would be accustomed to losing her by now, but alas, here I am, crying yet again because I cannot share little things with her, or see her smile. I expect there are many like me out there, missing someone special. I pray that God will give us both comfort, and a satisfaction in knowing that they have completed this journey, with nothing but blue skies (and golden streets) ahead!

This photo is of most of the gifts we have bought for the children of Santa Marta. We will be going in to see them tomorrow. We want to say a special thank you to DeDe Stephens for making the beautiful stockings. All the kids here have raved about them, and as you can see, they are absolutely wonderful! Thanks to all of you for giving to make Christmas a brighter occasion for the children in this remote community!
Have a blessed Christmas!

There's Monte, then there's monte

As Joy told you last time, we are still cleaning up. In the garden we have lots of weeds, one of which is Ageratum. I was reminded of my younger days working my way through four years of high school in Rogers at Larry Eoff’s flower shop. In the spring we sold bedding plants among which was Ageratum, a cute little blue border flower that grew 6 to 12 inches tall. Here Ageratum is a weed (monte), growing up to 5 feet tall. A quick side-note – when I think of weeds I get to think of Monte Manchester. Unlike ageratum which is a weed and never cultivated here, Impatiens which also abound wild here, especially along shady roadways, are cultivated by most everyone. We have some in our flower beds. Side-note to the previous side-note – if you look up monte in a Spanish dictionary, it will define monte as woodland, forest, or wild country, but here in Chiriqui the common meaning is weed or not a good plant. Any of these might be applicable to Monte. By the way I highly recommend your reading of Monte’s book.

Friday, December 17, 2010

To the work!

‘Summer’, or the dry season is trying hard to begin, but like everywhere else, the weather is a bit off this year. Is it just me or does that seem to be happening more and more, so that we really aren’t sure what should be normal anymore?
Today I am reminded of Jesus explaining that only the owner of the sheep takes really good care of them. Okay, this is a stretch, but all of our animals, our garden, and our property just aren’t cared for the same when we are not here. But it did make me think of those verses in John.
We are busy cleaning and repairing, feeding and caring for the animals, searching out the garden amongst the fast-growing weeds, and also enjoying the beauty of this place God has gifted us with. In truth, even the work we are (re)doing is a gift. Lynn loves to stay busy, and it is good for us both.

We have hired on David, a young man from the church who is on summer break from classes, to help with the outside work. He will work 2 days a week, and is doing a great job so far. This is day 2.
As we renew old ties, and catch up on all the happenings, we find ourselves renewed in our hearts toward the folks and see even more surely how much our own stresses and need for renewal with each other influenced our relationship with our family here before we left last August. We still have the same frustrations when a mom is still not providing the care for her children, but we FEEL the love for her in deciding how we can help. I think we had almost lost that to some extent. It is so difficult to see day in and day out someone making the same choices that cause pain to others, and yet feel a need to ‘fix’ it somehow for the sake of the others. As I reflect on the past year, I am not sure which came first the chicken or the egg, but I struggled to see through Jesus’ eyes when Lynn and I were at odds with each other. I think the ministry stresses impacted our relationship, and our relationship impacted the ministry. But God is so good and merciful, and we are both renewed in spirit and love. Praise God!
We are not blind or stupid – we know how hard it is to do this work full time. We feel we are better prepared, and know more surely from Whom our strength comes. Before we had gotten so caught up in the work that there was only a pittance of time to study to know and understand God better. I think we have our priorities straight now, but we also know to be on our guard!
We have written and talked of Yari on and off since our arrival here five years ago. She stole our hearts way back then, and broke them a time or two since then – many bad choices, no good examples of love and commitment – well, she is now back living with us. We are both excited and apprehensive. We ask for your prayers toward this ministry. She so much needs the stability and unconditional love that we can offer through Christ. Again, we are not going into this without a great amount of prayer and consideration, and neither is she. None the less she is still immature and has habits established since her very youngest years that must be overcome.
This is longer than I intended (you are surprised, right?). Blessings to all. We love you!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Caña Blanca Trip

We went to Caña Blanca this morning. For you that don’t remember, Caña Blanca is a small community with no electricity, a one- room school, and a Catholic Church. The school and church are where Joy teaches English one day a week. Caña Blanca is about 10 km. from our house on a very rough road that takes nearly an hour to travel. Today the road was the worst I have ever seen it, but the views are still great. We delivered chicken feed, coffee, sugar, and rice to José and Marlenis who are living close to Caña Blanca on a farm. Our primary purpose was to take Christmas presents to the kids at school and the kindergarten kids at the Catholic Church. The school kids were there for their last day but the teacher was not. There were about 14 school kids some of which we had not seen before. The nine kindergarten kids were having their graduation. We also had presents for Senora Élvia, some of the mothers and a few of the younger sisters and brothers. We loaded 3 of the school kids into the back of the truck to take them about 2 miles closer to their home. We stopped at the top of the hill to pick up José’s mom who had become sick. Instead of one there were nine members of the family plus bedding and sacks waiting for a ride to Volcan. Fred (our truck) was full, but we made it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Shopping day at Frontera (the frontier)

Tuesday the 7th

Still no internet. I’m sitting in the City Mall in Paso Canoas on the Costa Rican border. The seating is provided for us of the male persuasion and is right next to McDonalds in the store. I had a cup of coffee at McDonalds and was reading “Decision Making and the Word of God” while Joy, Yari, Ingrid, and Giselle shopped for the Santa Marta Christmas. I quickly finished my café con leche (coffee with milk) and reading and went to my favorite past time of people watching. City Mall is a new store much like a Walmart Supercenter. From here I can see a cross-section of Panama and Costa Rica. Of course babies are still the best. The store is huge, two floors that I can see from here. The escalators are really busy. There are probably more than twice as many people here as you would normally see at Walmart, but it is the Christmas season here just as in the U.S.
I have not seen anyone I know except the manager at McDonalds. He used to be at the one at David. I’m going to quit writing for a while. I’m missing watching a lot of people.
I’m back. I must tell you that most stores here in Frontera (Paso Canoas) straddle the border, that is, one side opens to Panama and the other side opens to Costa Rica. When I took bags out to the truck, a boy wanted me to move so they could unload a truck into McDonalds. So I did. Unknowingly I drove into Costa Rica and could not find an easy way to get back to Panama. After several minutes of driving in Costa Rica (illegally, don’t ya know), I found a place to turn around and get back. Finally found a place to park. Parking space is at a premium all over Panama. Now I’m back to watching and writing.
A very nice gentleman came up and asked me a question. He had no English and my Spanish wasn’t good enough to understand, so we exchanged big smiles.
Most Panamanian kids are spoiled rotten, by my U.S. standards. Of course, come to think of it so are U.S. kids.
I’m sitting near the sundries and notions section watching the sales clerk. Her job, apparently, is to dust the items on the shelves and move them forward as soon as a customer removes one. The shelves are immaculate.
This store is different from most here in Panama in that most put a clerk on you when you enter. They follow you till you check out. As I see it this serves two purposes: one is to prevent shoplifting and two is to help you find things.
Another innovation of this store is their little baskets on wheels similar to pulling a small suitcase. It is the third choice; the other two being the conventional hand basket and the regular shopping cart.
I just saw a young woman breast feeding her baby while walking through the store. This is a lovely sight to me, which I have probably mentioned before. It is not as common as it once was.
I am amazed at how busy this store is. Things are flying off the shelves. Boys are continually bringing in boxes to restock. People here are usually paid on the 1st and 15th of the month and this is Tuesday the 7th, but it is the season. Where do they get the money?
We are home safely, Gracias a Dios. Still no internet. Transcribing this anyway. Joy is walking down our road visiting. Till next time.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Coming Home

Thanks to God we are home in Volcan again. Our trip back went really well until we tried to leave Panama City. Because we were traveling with Tas, our poodle, we could not take the bus back to Volcan, which is our normal means of travel. Instead we chose to fly with Aeroperlas, a Central American company that flies to several locations here in Panama.
A week before we left Arkansas we received an email from them to say that our 10 am flight on November 30th had been cancelled. They booked us on the afternoon flight, leaving at 4 pm instead. We took that in stride, and changed our lodging accommodations so that we could stay later in the day. We went to the airport at 3:00 for the flight and sat until 5:30 when we were told that this flight too had been cancelled because of heavy rains in David. We hurriedly called the hotel back, as there are only a couple that will allow pets, and asked if they had a room for that night. Fortunately they did, and our tickets were changed to 10 am the next day.
We were given a choice of 6:30 am or 10, and I (poor choice) took the latter. When we arrived back at the airport minus about $120, we were told that the flight had been cancelled again. No explanation, no weather in David, just cancelled. The other airline in the airport was not only open, but had a flight leaving at 10 for David. I rushed to see if we could get tickets, and found that we could but needed to hurry. I explained that Aeroperlas still had all of our bags. They said they could wait a few minutes so I hurried to recover the bags, the money for the tickets, Lynn and Tas for the flight. Aeroperlas was offering to take us on the 4 pm flight again, but Tas would have to stay in the tiny crate all day, and who knew if it would really happen on the fourth try!
So, you know what happened next – they refused to refund our money. They said they were not responsible for the weather so did not need to return the money. I tried to argue, but had no time if we were to catch the other flight. We bought new tickets. The flight was delayed about an hour because the mechanic needed to go out and bang on something under the hood – seriously! After that they refueled and we were allowed to board. Tas had to ride as cargo, but she made the trip fine. Finally at about 3:30 pm on December 1rst we arrived at the house.
The moral of this woeful tale – and yes there is a moral for all you travelers who might come to see us – do not use Aeroperlas!!!! Bad! Bad! Bad! Air Panama was wonderful – even served us a soda and crackers on the flight!
It is good to be home. Of course, no-one takes care of your place like you do, so we have tons of work to get things back in order. We do not yet have internet in the house, but hope to see a technician here tomorrow (Tuesday). Our dalmatians, Saly and Patch, had babies while we were gone. There are two left, one for us and one for Magdiel. They are adorable, but also very messy! Nothing is sacred to them, but all is fair game for chewing, ripping, tearing, and eating. ALL. It has been awhile since we had pups around. I think Lynn is thinking that was a good thing!
We are well. Busy, but well, and appreciate so much all of our family back home (the other home) for your prayers and support of our work here.
Last I heard there were still 5 children needing sponsors for the upcoming school year. Please search your heart to see if you can help out just one child so that they can attend school this year. Talk to Rogena or Holly to get set up with a great opportunity to help one of God’s less fortunate!
We love you all!
Richest blessings, Joy

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Doors Opening Wider

Yesterday Lynn, Jana and I went to the border to shop for uniforms for several children in the school in Caña Blanca. They have just begun attending this year, and do not have the finances to buy all that they need. We used funds offered by Riverside Ladies’ class, and other funds left by First Day to buy 14 shirts, 8 pair of pants, 8 skirts, and socks (3 pair of socks per child) for all 8 children. It was Jana’s first time in Costa Rica, so it was exciting, but also tiring. It is just too hot down there!
Today, after feeding the animals and ourselves, we began the day by going to the tienda (tiny store) for snacks to take to the children after English class (in Caña Blanca). The trip out was uneventful, but upon arriving, we are always thrilled to spend time with the little ones. Carla, one of the smallest in the class (3 years old) could teach the class on colors! She shouted out each color correctly without a bit of help! During the class time two parents came to speak with me. They have begun a Parent Association and want to include our input in their meetings. We are honored and excited that the school is moving forward after several years of neglect and decay (both physical and academic). We will meet next week with the Territory political leaders and ask for funding for solar power so that the children might have lights to read by. They have other plans as well, and will meet regularly to discuss and work toward improving the school.
Okay, beyond that meeting, which left me giddy with the possibilities of help for these needy children, we found that there were 4 new children in the school. Ranging from 4 to 12, none had ever been in school before yesterday. None can read or write, or color inside the lines, or any other thing we take for granted for our children.
So, there are now 14 children in the school! Last year the school was closed completely at the end of the year, and now the children are pouring in. Our interest (with GREAT help from First Day) has caused others to take interest, and the teacher, who rarely came to classes last year has been told that she will not miss class one more time without prior consent, or she will be replaced!!!! This is tremendous news for all who love those children! So, now that the teacher will be present, the parents are sending their youngsters for an education. It is wonderful to see!
During the class we were asked if we could go pick up a woman who was having a baby and take her into Volcán when we left. So, we carried 9 children (some with new uniforms and shoes)-and one family's dog - about 1½ miles down the road on our way to pick up the lady – who turned out to have a newborn less than 2 days old – and absolutely precious – in her arms. Jana and I shared carrying the baby all the way into town. We dropped off the 9 children and traded for mother and child then went back to the school and picked up 5 more kiddos to carry closer to their home, which was toward Volcán. All five of these were part of the group for which we had bought uniforms. They walk over 2 miles one way to attend classes, and until this week, were doing it barefooted with whatever clothing they could find. Now all five will be dressed like normal school children for the first time in their lives.
I have to tell you about Adelaida. She is 12 years old and had never worn shoes before the tennis shoes First Day brought her last week. She was wearing them today. I asked how they felt. She said “very well”. I asked if she was comfortable she said,”yes, they feel good.” I said, “I am glad. I was afraid they would be too tight”. She said,”Yes, they are tight.” I asked, “Very tight?” She said yes. I said,”Like, so tight you have blisters?” She nodded, smiling brightly. I asked again,” Do you have blisters?” She nodded and said “Yes, I have blisters” but she was beaming. I thought surely she did not understand the question, but she pulled off one shoe and showed me at least 2 huge blisters. I asked of the hurt and she said, “No, not too much because my brother gave me some socks!” She said “The shoes are really pretty, aren’t they?” What could I say? They were absolutely beautiful beneath that wonderful smiling face! Thanks again, Kelly, First Day, and Riverside Ladies’ Class! I know you will be blessed!
An eventful day in the ministry here.
We feel more and more that God is opening doors to share His love in better ways. Last week a man came by the house and asked if we could possibly find a ride for his family to church on Sundays. Come to find out he is the father of two of the children that we bought clothing for this week. It would mean leaving here at 7:00 am to get them to church on time, as they live about 1 ½ - 2 hours from here, and the church is on the other side of us. And we will have to put a rack and seats in the back of the truck, as nothing but a 4 wheel drive can go to their house, but, God always provides a way to do His will, so I know that He will figure it all out and bless it to His glory!
Just thought we would share what is going on in our neck of the woods!!
We love you all!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Blessing upon Blessing!

Wow! What a blessed couple of weeks! On June 5th dear family from Riverside came to work with the El Valle Elementary School. We had a few extra folks from the church here who helped out, along with Marta and Kirvyn our dear friends and translators. Everything went great!
~We discovered hidden talents in Ana, from the church in David – she was an awesome puppet! Ana Samaniego is Katy’s mom, and a dear friend and sister as well.
~I knew Erica Dexter/Peck was great with kids, and she proved to be a really good translator as well. Erica is a long-time friend from Harding days, a neighbor, and part of the church here in Volcan.
~Jana, our long-time friend from Yellville added (and still is adding) a spirit of joy and sweetness that are her special gifts. She will be staying with us through the last team’s work which begins July 5th.
~ Meredith was an added blessing! Meredith Woodell came from Searcy to help out, and she did that very well! She just graduated from high school, with 4 years of Spanish under her belt. She and Yari became great friends, as the each practiced their new language skills, music, swimming, and free time together. A great breath of youthful energy was just what this gang needed to be complete!
~Extra special for me was to have Holly, Lisa, Harry, Roger, Gwynna & Curtis from ‘Riverside Stateside’ here with us for the week, sharing, laughing (snoring) and encouraging. We have been renewed by their spirit and love through Christ. Thanks so much for coming down! If there is one thing I have learned, it is how much we need the encouragement of those of you who love and support us. Without you, the work becomes so difficult at times, and I thank God daily for His use of you all to give us courage and strength.
Along with our personal blessings, the children of El Valle were shown what God’s love looks like in person. They learned more about His desires for each of us, and were entertained, hugged, and played with throughout the week. Curtis was amazing – though he never got the hang of the pong type game the boys tried so hard to teach him. He still got out there every day trying! The kids loved it! Even though I think he cost them all quite a few of their playing discs! We look forward to next year when Kathy, Curtis’ wife can join us, and we continue to pray for her and loss of her mother.

So, two days after they left, we had the house prepared for my favorite singing group in the world to stay two nights with us!!! First Day arrived Sunday, June 13th in time to grab a bite and perform a free concert at our local Lion’s Club. They did an awesome job, complete with translated words projected onto the wall so that all could understand the message they came to share. They even sang one song in Spanish – and the whole crowd was super appreciative. Me too! I listen regularly to their CDs, and am blessed and encouraged by them, but seeing their faces while they sing, and being face to face was very moving for me, and very much appreciated! You guys are the best!
On Monday the whole gang – Tim, Matt (and his fantastic wife Carolyn), Bruce, Gary, Kyle, Jeff, along with our ever-faithful translator, Kirvyn, Larry Brady, Medic Baudilio & wife, Erica, plus our entire household, headed out to Caña Blanca Arriba for a day of medical assistance. This was financed almost entirely by donations given to First Day toward that purpose. The dear folks of this small village were offered check-ups, medicines (including the much needed parasite medicine), reading glasses, vitamins, and bags of food staples like rice, beans, salt, sugar and oil. We saw between 80 and 100 people with a huge majority being children.
Along with this effort, Kelly Martin sent new shoes for each school child after hearing that many were coming to school without any footwear. Now every student has a sharp looking pare of tennis shoes! Thanks Kelly!
First Day’s tour of Panama is being assisted by Larry Brady of Panama Missions. While we have known of, and met Larry before, this was our first opportunity to work with him and his organization, and we look forward to doing that more often! You can check out their work at This group generally works in the Darien Province, but Larry is travelling with First Day throughout this week of concerts and other projects.
First Day rolled out of here early Tuesday morning. They were a hoot the whole brief visit. They were also a huge blessing to our household, and our community. Thanks guys!!!
Okay, there is so much more I could tell you, but this is already long, and yes, I am happily exhausted. My back is nudging me toward my zero gravity chair, and so I will close by saying “Thank You, Lord! We are truly blessed!”
May God grant each of you His Peace and

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Serving the Children...

The guys from Harding Center for Advanced Ministry Training just left. What a great group of young (and some older) men! They spent the past week constructing a basketball court for the small school in Las Perlas. The Oxford Church of Christ youth group donated the funding last winter, and the Harding guys came down and did the manual labor.

There are 147 children in Las Perlas elementary school; mostly indigenous, all needy in so many ways, and all very grateful for our attention and love.
It was a difficult task, as the school is located in a field of lava rocks, and they only had a week to complete the project, but thanks to God for holding off the rains, and for youthful muscles and stamina, those children are now playing on a concrete floor with a real goal, rim and net!

The Harding gang was our first group of the ‘summer’. Now we are busy preparing for group 2 – Our ever-faithful family from Riverside. They will arrive this coming Sunday morning around 6 am, and we are super excited to see them all!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New Life!

Yamileth has been patiently waiting for her 12th birthday. Not in the way most children do; there were no presents or cake and ice cream. No parties or new clothes, but there was one great gift she received. She was baptized into Christ. Talk about a new wardrobe! She has asked to be baptized for over a year now, but her parents said she must be 12 years old before they would allow it. She turned 12 on Monday and asked us to take her to the river on Tuesday. We were happy to oblige!
Lynn was the baptizer and I was the translator as we helped this young, dear friend offer God her life in obedience to His command. What pure joy!
The life of this young lady is difficult – 9 sisters and brothers, a father who often drinks away his meager paycheck before the family is fed, an Indian in a place where Indians are seen as lower class, and unworthy of even a greeting. The road is and will be difficult for her, and now, praise God! She has a helper with her in every moment! Please say a prayer when you think of it for Yamileth, our sister in Christ.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Saying goodbye...again

I hate goodbyes. I hate not saying goodbye. I know that I will see Lynne again one day, with no pain or worries. I know that she is happy and whole. I know it all, but I can not stand the thought that I can't see her here again, in this world. What a joyful person - through everything. What a loving spirit, even in her pain. What an encourager, laugher, joker, prankster,and most importantly,dear friend. I miss you terribly, Lynne. We both do.

I know you wish you could tell us all about your journey now, and I want to hear it all in your words, dear sister. You taught me much. Thank you! See you in a little while!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Census 2010

I was in the U.S. when three weeks prior to census day,the first letters arrived telling us to prepare for the 2010 Census. Then, two weeks in advance they again mailed out millions of notices to millions of mailboxes to let us know that the Census was coming. I thought it a bit redundant, but not unlike other government procedures. I was still there when the actual census (es) arrived at my dad’s house. Dad, wanting to follow the letter of the law, was confused about what to do with the second census envelope. He read through all of the literature to see what he should do about it. He has an RV park, with several year-round tenants, but as he only received one extra envelop he was in a quandary. Finally after reading through the whole thing, and then asking me to do the same, he called the information number. You have to know my dad to appreciate this, but the call was answered by a machine which offered him 20 options to continue, none of which addressed his question. Yes, there are still miracles – he did not hang up!!!! He hung in there for another three rounds of options which never concluded with a real person, or the answer to his question. This took about three hours of his afternoon, then he quit for the day. Three days later he finally had spoken with a real live person, and they told him to throw the second envelope away. He did. He filled out one and put it into the mailbox.
Such was the process for the 2010 Census in the United States of America; Land of high technology and efficiency, though we don’t always use it wisely.
Sunday, May 16 2010 was Census day here in Panamá. I could not help but notice a few differences. Preparation began with radio ads three weeks ago. No letters, just a simple ad that said every human being in the country must remain in their home until after a census worker comes and fill out the information sheets with them. They are under penalty of fine if they are not available for the 30 minute interview. Not sure if that is just a lame threat, or if they would really do it, but it doesn’t matter because everyone stayed home to meet the census worker. At least everyone around here. So, remember back to your days of Bible study – remember when Joseph and Mary had to return to Bethlehem for the census? It is still alive and well in Panamá!
So, back to preparation; One week before the big day all those who will work the census meet for training. They have seminar classes for three days, for which they are paid $5 daily and are provided lunch. That concludes the preparation for the Census day. There is approximately one worker for every ten houses here in Volcán, and I assume it is the same all over Panama. I do not have the mind, or the energy to figure out a cost comparison per capita, but I think it is probably less costly here than in the States.
So, on Sunday morning Lynn and I are sitting on the porch awaiting our turn. At 10:30 am a very nice young lady comes to our gate and asks permission to enter. We sit and she asks questions for about 20 minutes. She fills out the form, and thanks us for our time. In conversation she shares that we are her last house of the day. Her work is done. When she leaves our house she will go to the house serving as headquarters for Volcán and receive her $40. She is content.
As luck would have it our friend, Mari, who is working the census as well, is given only one house to visit. The house is empty, and has been for several months. She went through the training, woke up Sunday morning and walked to one house to put a sticker on the door that said that the house was vacant, then went to receive her $40. So, it isn’t perfect here either. Furthermore there have been complaints that some houses were not visited.
The worker who visited us placed a hot pink sticker on the door post that said we had been counted. She told us to leave the sticker there for at least one week as supervisors would be coming around to check them. We have had fun checking out everyone’s doorposts around town!
All in all, the day was very quiet. No trucks running out to the farms, no families passing to go to town. It was quite unique. Imagine a day when everyone in the U.S. was forced to stay home with their families, just for a day – how cool would that be?
Such was Census Day 2010 in Panamá, Central America. Land of family-oriented lives , where relationship and face – to – face contact still have value. Before some of you say that I am dissing my home country, I am not. I love the beliefs on which our country was founded. But we could still learn a little from our southern neighbors, ya know?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Caña Blanca Classes

First class of the year in Caña Blanca this year, 13 students, 3 parents and 2 teachers, plus Lynn and I. You can see by the photos that most of the students were G’nobe Buglé Indian. Of the 13 students, 9 are new this year, and 8 of those are Indian. A blessing, to be sure, and a challenge as well. We have prayed that we could impact this group of Panamanians since before we came here in 2006. They are socially and economically at the bottom of the ladder here in Chiriquí, and all over Panamá. The huge challenge – they are also the hardest to reach, very timid, humble, and resigned to being lower class citizens. Added to that, they often are not accustomed to Spanish when young, as they speak their own dialect in their homes.
The class went slower than I was prepared for because of this, and because these children had certainly not been taught any English before today. But we are okay with that. Caña Blanca is the one place we feel we can completely go with the flow, and if we learn a lot, great, if we learn only one thing, equally great! It is all good in Caña Blanca for us. The people are friendly, humble, generous and kind. We feel very accepted here, and are able to be a part of their culture when we go for classes. We rarely leave Caña Blanca empty handed – today Señora Elvia gave us a bag full of bananas- green ones to fry, ripe ones to eat and ripe chinos to fry as well. A chino is a type of banana that is short and fat and very sweet – delicious!!!
We began today with colors. For the 4 students from last year, it was a review and time to shine in the classroom. For the others it was a challenge, but one they seem eager to take. The Indian girls all whisper their responses, while last year’s students shout out the answers for all to hear. We ended the class with snacks and fortified juice for all.

The new teacher – at least for the next month is a young man (about 24) who is doing his practice teaching. He actually cooks a small meal for the children daily. The funding for this comes from his small paycheck, but he knows that many of the children will not be fed until late in the evenings, if at all, so makes the sacrifice and provides all a healthy meal. We have made arrangements to begin helping him purchase the foodstuffs weekly.
The ‘main’ teacher is on maternity leave. She is the same teacher who rarely, if ever showed up last year to teach, but received pay for the whole year. I am grateful that, at least for this period of time, the children are being taught by someone who cares, and wants them to learn. I am contemplating how we can bring the problems with the main teacher to the eyes of the Ministry of Education Supervisor here in Chiriquí without causing too much of a stir. Please pray for our wisdom in this.
Also, as we have seen in years past, several of the children do not have appropriate, if any shoes. Adelaida, the oldest of the girls, has no shoes at all, and walks a great distance for classes. We will be trying to take care of those needs as we can find funds and get sizes. Several of the boys are wearing rubber boots several sizes too big, and others are wearing flip-flops. None of them walks less than a half-mile to get to classes daily. All walk home in the rain in the afternoons.
Overall it was a great day, for which we are grateful. While we appreciate every moment of our time with these beautiful children, it also tears at our hearts to see their suffering.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Blessings and Lessons

Rain, Rain and more Rain! Well, we wondered when the rainy season would get here, and we are wondering no more. The road is a river again!
We made the trek to Caña Blanca this morning. It was wonderful to see the children, and the friends we have made over the past few years. Thanks to ‘First Day’ we are arranging for a 1 day medical clinic for this very poor, very far from medical help, community. First Day will be here in June to bring music, food and medicines to the families who choose, or are bound to live in this off the beaten path paradise. It takes us an hour to get there over very rough roads, but the people and the peace we find there are worth the trip.
These people have been forgotten by the world in so many ways, but we had some good news today! The school has been reopened and has 7 students as of today. There are a few more who will transfer back at the semester break (they are walking all the way to El Valle every day right now – imagine that walk in this rain!) They cannot move until they receive their grades for this semester. Actually it is a quarter, not a semester. At any rate, the school has children laughing and learning, and that is a very good thing for the entire community.
We have been bringing in English lessons for the past two years to the children, first at the school, then at the Catholic church where a wonderful Christian lady teaches kindergarten and pre-kinder to all comers. We are excited to begin again next week with 10 students (hers and the school children).
We also took fertilizer out to some friends who have moved to the neighborhood – talk about living in the quiet of nature! They are miles from anything, with no electricity, no cars, nothing to intrude on God’s natural beauty. A simple life, but a hard one. I envy them, and worry about them.
On the way back we learned a very valuable lesson. I have been doing so well with my diabetes that I left the house without any type of sugar. I am not sure what I did to expend the carbs I ate this morning, but I did – expend them – almost every one of them. I became quite lethargic, could not think, could not sit up, and was very afraid that I would go into a coma before we could reach home. We only passed one house once I got bad, and no-one was home. Fortunately Lynn was very resourceful – he first stopped at a lemon tree, climbed up and pulled, then peeled one for me. We were both in doubt as to the sugar content, so a little further along he found a guava tree and stopped again and fed me part of a fruit. It was infested with worms, but we tried to remove them as we could, and I only ate a part of it, but it was enough to get me home. Once home I downed some sugar, and promptly slept. Within a couple of hours I was exhausted, but back to normal, sugar-wise. (I am never quite normal, as most of you know) It was quite a scare for both of us, and a lesson well-learned. I am confident we will not be away from the house without some kind of sugar available again.
Just another day in the life…thought we would share.
God is good, so good!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Goodbye Dear Neighbor & Friend

One of the very first adults to welcome us to Volcan died today. He was the very best of neighbors, gentle, hardworking, generous and always looking to help out in any way possible. In his early seventies, I have never known anyone close to his age that worked like he did. He has land rented all over Chiriquí that he plants and maintains with yuca, corn, beans, pineapple, and every other type of edible vegetation. He rides the bus to and from daily caring for each parcel. Or rather he did. Today, on his way to a 5 acre plot of beans, as he sat on the bus resting before he arrived, he suffered a sudden, fatal heart attack. He went home. I know of no better man to be entering the Kingdom than him, and no better way for him to take his journey than in route to yet another day of hard work. He will be sorely missed here, but I am shouting hallelujah for him.

In our first year here Don Antonio came and invited us to go with him to his 10 acre plot of pineapple down the mountain in the bottom land. We learned so much about the land, the culture, the people, and what true kindness looked like. We stopped at, at least 6 houses to visit, each one giving us avocados, bananas, papaya, and other fruits, though clearly none of these families had much of their own. Each family greeted Don Antonio as if he were their grandfather or brother, though none were kin to him by blood. In turn they greeted us, as his friend, in the same way. It was obvious that he was generous and kind with all he met. Certainly he always was with us.
That trip signaled the beginning of many others, every one of which we thoroughly enjoyed and were blessed by; always meeting new friends, and learning more about what a good Panamanian looks like. We have treasured our time with Don Antonio, and will deeply miss his visits and friendship.
Please pray for his family, especially his youngest son, Carlos, who has worshipped with us for the past two years, and was baptized just a short year ago. He is 18, and was very close to his father. Don Antonio has 7 children, I believe, but only Carlos left in the house.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

and still more changes...

Well, as times change here, and we try to meet the changes and challenges of ministry here in Volcan, we find ourselves saying goodbye to a great worker for the Lord.
Hermel signed on with us last Fall for a 6 month stint, and that stint has come to an end. The small congregation here will now be meeting weekly with Volcan church of Christ, a couple of miles from our home, and Hermel’s services as preacher and teacher will no longer be needed. Furthermore he has another small congregation waiting for his help.
He has been good for the church, uniting us, feeding the flock spiritually, and being a wonderful brother to me, as well as the whole membership. He has also been a steady companion of Magdiel’s, mentoring and teaching him in everyday circumstances. He will be missed.
The new congregation is much closer to the home of his aging parents, as he will be working with his brother (by blood) to grow a young congregation in the town of Rio Grande in Cocle. Please join us in prayers for his health, his strength, and God’s blessings on his work as he seeks to follow His will.
Queremos mucho Hermano!
We love you, Brother!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Life changes

Summer is coming to an end here; the children are again passing on their way to classes and we occasionally have a tiny bit of rain. change is in the air. It is not unlike when I was a child and returned to school in September with high expectations and a slight change in the climate that dictated a change of clothing style, but here, it is new uniforms and pencils and paper. And they are excited to see their friends again, and begin a new chapter of life. Their eyes shine, if not their old dusty shoes from last year. It is a time of renewal and I long to join them with their high expectations. Ah to be young!

Life is changing for our ministry as well. Lynn is now living with his mother in Yellville, and I am here carrying on our work, for the time being. The church is in the process of moving to join another church here in Volcan, and will no longer meet in our home. We have found that we are not equipped to serve as pastors of this beautiful, but very immature congregation of believers. The other missionary, Frank,and his wife, are thrilled to take us under their wings, and I am very grateful.

We will continue to help the local elementary school by providing lunches to each student daily, thanks to the generosity of the children of Riverside church in Gassville. They provide the funds and I just buy the food, and reap the smiles and thanks of the children, the teachers, and the parents. It is a wonderful work that I am proud to be a part of.
We also continue to assist children who cannot afford to go to school by purchasing uniforms and school supplies through out the year. In some more severe cases we also provide breakfasts for the children, dental work, eye glasses and try to meet other needs as they arise. This work is sponsored by individuals who choose to sponsor these children. If you would like to help with this work, please contact Holly Smith at Riverside church of Christ. Sorry for the shameless plug, but we have fallen short of our goal to serve 10 children this year.

I will also be offering English tutoring, and we continue to provide assistance to those in need when asked. So, the work is not over, it is moving toward using our talents in the wisest ways possible. God is still at work within His people! I continue to be grateful to be in His service.

The church in Santa Marta sends greetings to all, as does this little group of believers here in Volcan.

God's richest blessings!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Summertime in Panama!

We are sitting in our living room listening to shouts of encouragement, laughter and much hoopla from across the street this afternoon. The church, along with many neighbors, are playing baseball, thanks to Doyne, and the others who donated gloves and bats to us two years ago. We have used, reused, re-strung,and used some more every glove that was sent. This is summer here, and the youth are out there every afternoon playing and spending time together with the great influence of Hermel (our new partner in the work) and Magdiel. It is great to see and hear. We just want to say thank you. For the gloves and bats, for the prayers, for the financial support, and for all that you do for us so far from you.

We miss you and love you all.

L & j