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Christmas is....

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In Panama, Christmas is....

The coming of summer - time to go to the beach!

The end of the school year and time for summer vacation.  Also graduations.

Time to paint your house.

Crazy traffic.  And even more craziness in the toy stores.

Staying up till midnight to greet Christmas, then celebrating with a midnight Christmas dinner.

For us foreigners who foolishly go to bed early on Christmas evening, it means waking up at midnight to the fireworks also set off to greet the coming of Christmas.

Lots of festive trees brought down from Canada and sold on every corner.

Crime levels peak: got to get those Christmas gifts under the tree somehow.

Christ freely celebrated in every public place and venue.  No need to wish "Happy Holidays".

Nativity scenes left with an empty manger until the 25th, when Christ arrives.

Special Christmas treats: apples, grapes, nuts, tamales, and breaded nut bread (rosca).

For us, a mixture of Panamanian and American traditions.

It's more blessed to give...

Saturday afternoon found us right on time for a rainy season down pour. We were at the shores of the Chagres River, right where it opens into the Canal.The opposite side of the river was shrouded by a blanket of white.The roar of the rain wiped out all other noises.


Thankfully, this downpour also found us under a roof.We were waiting for a boat to cross over to the community of San Antonio.We waited, wondering how anyone would venture out into the rain.Slowly, a canoe came around the bend of the wide river, revealing two men on their feet, rowing towards us.Alex's Dad had come to get us.He and the other oarsman were soaking wet.


"Now that's love." commented Alex, as the canoe touched land.After scooping out a good amount of water, we carefully embarked.I couldn't help but noticing the large hole in the front of the canoe. I have traveled in the same canoe many times, but I don't remember the hole in the front looking that big.


"It's safe Alex, righ…

A visit to San Antonio

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This past Wednesday Abigail, Carolyn and I were visiting San Antonio. Our friends Chris and Vanessa Collins had a visiting group who wanted to learn more about how YWAM is reaching out to indigenous groups in Panama. Abigail was motivated by the fact that we would get to see "Abuela" and "Tatooi" (grandma and grandpa). Carolyn just wants to make sure she is going wherever we are going. It was a sunny day as we crossed the Chagres River where it opens in the Panama Canal. Our driver, Alex's cousin, manuvered through the water plants, and brought us up to the slightly sinking dock. Abigail and Carolyn ran up the give Abuela hugs, since she was waiting at the dock for us. The Collin's visiting group enjoyed the visit, and a taste of Indigenous culture. I tried to sum up in 20 minutes or so the work we have been doing with the indigenous and also what our vision is for the futre. This was much easier since Alex and I have been working or family mi…

Remember the orphans....

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I thought I would take a moment to highlight one of our fellow staff. Mireya is from Honduras. She was a student in our January DTS and is currently serving on staff. Two days a week she visits a girl's home. I thought I would share part of her newsletter and some photos taken there last week when Mireya, Alex and other staff visited the Home to help with maintainence work.

Here is an excerpt from her latest newsletter:

I arrived at this orphanage with the desire to be a blessing to whomever I met there, be it the staff of the teens who lived there. My main idea was to begin a ministry with the teens in the orphanage, “Hogar Mi Milagro” (Home: My Miracle). There live 21 children and teens from the ages of 9 to 17, all facing difficulties and problems in their home lives. Their home is now this orphanage, which gives them a roof over their heads, and food, but it’s not a place where their voices are heard.
Listen to them was exactly what I wanted to do, each Tuesday and Thursda…

A conversation

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Sometimes a simple conversation can spark ideas. Alex had just such a conversation last weekend when he was hanging out with Wounaan friends and family, supporting a church youth group (I wrote a little about this in the last post).

He was at a home, sitting around and talking with family and friends. The hostess' oldest son, Irving, was doing poorly in school, and in their usual frank manner, the family was discussing the situation. He had failed several classes his last report card.

His mother was threatening to take him out of school and send him to the country to live with his grandfather, helping him on the farm. If it sounds pretty drastic to you, please realize that most of the parents of Wounaan kids in school now never finished their own schooling, and THEIR parents didn't go to school at all. So schooling is not a historical value, and is seen today as a means to an end: getting a better job. Most parents from indigenous communities make huge sacrifices to see the…

a weekend in Chepo

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I had a few moments to contemplate last night as we were in Chepo. It was almost midnight and I was looking for a shower. When I asked our hostest where I could shower she pointed me to the house next door. They had an unfinished shower out behind the house with a lovely view of the stars. I was amused to find that the shower curtain was made from an old political banner: amazing how many uses people find for those after the elections are done.

We were in Chepo working with a small church, specifically with the youth group. Their youth pastor, Fransisco, has been great to work with and is full of vision and wanting to impact his community and beyond. He's the sort of person that it's a joy to work with. I was asked to prepare a teaching for the youth group on dating. Interesting, since the church is Wounaan and the Wounaan don't traditionally date as part of their culture.

However, we talked a little bit about that and I found a Bible story I thought was relevant both to …

Iron sharpens iron

Last week our base had the opportunity to host a great team from Vancouver, BC. They came in with lots of energy and passion and definately made an impact. The last evening they were here, we shared a wonderful time of worship and lots of thank-yous were said. The organizer of the group said some very encouraging word and mentioned the passage in the Bible where is says that iron sharpens iron. It's so true. Having groups like them visit is an encouragement to us. They were so excited to be here serving Jesus, it reminds us why we are here.

Please check out this inspiring video of their time here. Thanks!


http://vimeo.com/28290926

Simple power

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The row of small faces watched Linda intently, the dark brown eyes only leaving her to catch the translation of her story. Behind them, several adults with babies listened as well. I tried to take them all in as I translated, letting them know the story was for them as well.

At the end of the row sat Abigail and Carolyn, also intent on the story of a man who disobeyed God and got eaten by a large fish. Pretty impacting.

When Linda got out the paper and showed them how to make a simple origami whale, the children eagerly took the sheets of light blue paper. Soon the mothers with babies came forward, apparently wanting to make one for their child. Amusingly, the men were not far behind, wanting to make one themselves. A gruff 60-year-old had to come closer to see how the folds were to be made.

The dirt floor became a seat and the wooden bench a table. Markers came out, and the whales were decorated with scary large teeth (by the men) and flowers (by the little girls).

As we mounted th…

A New Home

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Alex's parents teared up as they we dedicated their newly built home this past week. We hosted a wonderful team from Homes of Hope (a YWAM ministry) who built a new house to replace their old home which is on it's last legs.

The village of San Antonio was overrun with teenagers eager to lend a hand as they put up the structure of the house and built a playground for the community. The village children were eager to try their new playground, giving it a test run even before it was completed. Abigail and Carolyn were not to be left behind and gave it their mark of approval.

Several YWAM staff, including Alex, put in long hours of work for this project to come together. Thanks to all involved!

Looking Back...

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To me one of the great irony's of mission work, is that when you have lots to write home about, you lack the time. So has been the last 6 months. We started training our staff team to lead the DTS on January 2nd, and it feels like we have been on a 100 mile and hour ride that we just managed to get off of.

This last Sunday we had the change to share at Gamboa Union Church about our outreach. It was a good opportunity for me to reflect back a little on all that was accomplished.

As we heard the many testimonies of the students; what they learned, how they saw God work, new insights, amazing experiences, one in particular really stuck out to me.

Yariani is 18 years old, just finished her highschool (she went through our program for indigenous youth). She and Alex are cousins on both sides (they share both mother's and father's last names). She can at times be moody, hard to get along with, and doesn't mind letting you know her mind. No cultural sensitivity here. But I h…