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A meeting with the youth

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As I wrote earlier, Alex has been investing a lot of time in the youth group at the local Wounaan church, helping them get together, get organized, and start reaching out to others.

One of the big obstacles in their minds is the lack of funds.  Every time anyone starts talking about doing an activity our outreach, the first big objection that comes up is that there isn't any money.  Most of the kids are students, and some of them are working to pay for their own schooling; their parents are at home in the village, and unable to contribute much.  For them, just having bus money for the week is a big deal.  One young lady missed school for a week because her shoes had broken and she couldn't buy another pair.  At another house we visited, the young man who was home was having a cup of coffee and crackers for supper, while the girls had bought one hot dog to share for supper.

So the thought of having them money to do an outreach, visit another village, or plan an activity seems o…

Back from the Darien...

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How has your December been so far? Ours has been full of trips, giant spiders and heavy rains.

December 1st found Alex out in the Darien province visiting Embera communities with friends Tulio Rosales and Andrew Burnett. Tulio, a fellow YWAMer, has a heart to reach out to needy Embera communities in remote areas. On this trip they were getting to know the communities up river from Sambu and sharing the Jesus Film which has recently been translated in the Embera language. Alex returned tired but with a renewed vision for reaching Indigenous people. It seems that everywhere we look we see the need for the word of God to be taught, and lived out for children, young people and families to grow and prosper.

Here in Chepo the girls and I held down the fort while Alex was gone (that's where the giant spiders and heavy rains came in) I have been perfecting my skills at killing such spiders, but I really wish they would stay away from the house for awhile. I have also spent the time visiting…

Teaching in Chiriqui

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Ten days after returning from the US, Alex and I (and the girls, of course) headed out to the province of Chiriqui, a short 9 hour bus ride from Chepo.... :-)

We were there to teach in YWAM Chiriqui's Indigenous DTS.  With a wonderful group of students from all over Panama, it made for a challenging and rewarding week. It was exciting to know that after finishing the DTS, each of the students (most were couples with children) will be returning to their communities, and seeking to make a change there.

Alex and I shared the teaching week, trying to keep it interesting with lots of story telling and some games that got them thinking and working as a team.  Our subject was leadership, and I learned a lot from their comments and thoughts as we told together the story of the disciples arguing over who was the greatest, and of Jesus washing the disciples feet. The beautiful thing about stories is that you can know a story by heart, and yet learn something new every time you tell it.  I…

Returning and readjusting

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After being amazingly blessed by our friends and family in Oregon, it was time to return home to Panama.

The prep began last week as we packed the suit cases on by one, carefully weighing each on, deciding what to bring and what to leave.  Fifty pounds doesn't seem like much when you are traveling with the whole family. 

There is never time enough to do all you want to do before saying good bye again, never time enough to spend with family, to say all that you want to say. So at some point you have to accept that time is limited and we can only do what we can do.

The night before leaving we stayed up late fighting with our suitcases and the scale, making sure that none of our bags would go over. The morning we left I enjoyed one last hot shower, one last meal at my parent's house, one last conversation.

Everything tightly packed into my parent's car, we headed out for the airport.  Traveling on Halloween, the girls got given candy everywhere we went.  Our funny flight sch…

Thoughts on a crisp fall day

I sit today in surroundings far different from “home”.Outside I can hear the sound of my dad cutting firewood with the chainsaw.It’s a crisp fall afternoon in Oregon, a great day for picking wild black berries, a day for my daughters to play with cousins, and have some apple cider and sweet corn.
Our minds stray often to our little house in Panama, our Wounaan neighbors, and our hopes for the months ahead.It’s also been a great time to reflect back on the months since moving to Chepo and the time we have shared with the Wounaan there.
One of my favorite things has been getting to share in the lives of the families there. As I have shared with the women who make up the congregation, gotten to know the children, as Alex has shared with the men and seen up close the challenges facingthe young people, our vision has grown greatly for what God wants to do among the Wounaan.
I love to come to church a Sunday morning and find all the children dressed for church and sitting in a circle, waiting …

Thoughts on coming home

In less than two weeks we will be on an airplane, traveling to the US for the first time in two years.  Going home.  Even though I have been in Panama for almost 14 years now, and my parents have sold the house I grew up in, Oregon is still home.  The smell of the pine trees, the fresh breeze, the blue skies, even the rain, it all says home.

Yet, as many missionaries and other world travelers have found out, coming home is not always what it's cracked up to be.  The first time can often be the hardest.  A young missionary has just finished their first months or years on the "mission feild" and is ready to return for some needed rest. They dream of the foods they want to eat, the stores they will visit, long for hot showers and convesation with family.

Yet when they arrive home everything seems overwelming.  Their own home seems so much nicer than they remember.  The plenty of food that they dreamed of just the week before suddenly seems like too much, as they vividly rem…

History in Platanares

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I sat on the wooden bench, my two year old on my lap.  The rough cement church was packed full, every seat taken, and many standing.  The heat was heavy on us, but the biting flies had mercifully gone elsewhere.

What I was watching was filling my eyes with tears, which I fought back. Three young men stood at the front of the church.  Our friend Einer, a fellow missionary, was calling all the parents to come up, embrace their young adult children, and speak words of affirmation to them.  That in itself is pretty unheard of among the Wounaan, but that touching sight wasn't what caused my tears.

The three young men stood huddled together. No one had come up to claim them, embrace them.  No one had come up because their adoptive father had been killed short months ago in the land conflict their community has been locked in.  Einer put his hand on one of the boy's shoulder, and asked who would come up. Would anyone commit to give these boys a good example?  Would someone tell them…

Our goings ons and up-coming trip!

After saying goodbye to a great team from Oral Roberts University, we have seen the doors opening more than ever for ministry.

We celebrated with the girl's soccer team from Shaday church, who won the local championship. We sponsored a dinner for them and had a great time sharing with them about making good decisions. There is so much potential in these Wounaan young ladies!

The women's bible study is growing and the ladies are full of vision. They are already planning on a Christmas outreach for children, and thinking about how include more women. This coming Saturday we are going to make rice "bollos" to sell, and use the money so that all the women from the church can attend an upcoming workshop that will be held at another church.

We have been blessed by how the Wounaan have opened their lives and hearts to us. Alex has had numerous opportunties to council people and to act as a mediator with conflicts within the church, thankfully ending in reconciliation! We…

What do I do with poverty?

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I sat in a tiny house in the community of Yaviza.The small, one room house was home to seven children and two adults.One child, the oldest, was confined to bed because of severe arthritis.The youngest, about two months old, lay sleeping in a hammock.


The girls and I had just as many after four days in the area, so my heart went out to the poor thing.Those bites really itch.So I sat down and began rubbing her legs.I thought she might be frightened of me, but the relief from the bites must have been greater than any fear.She quieted down at once as I rubbed her legs and spoke to her in a soothing voice.


Suddenly, in that moment, all that was wrong in the community of Yaviza seemed to have focused in that child.All of the poverty, the forgotten children, the lost youth, the lack of sanitation, and the hunger, was there before me in the face of that child. Just one child, crying, with no one to respond.


Perhaps I would have seen her just as a toddler crying, if Einer had not shared with …

today...

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We are in the middle of a sudden rainstorm that came out of nowhere on a sunny morning.I was just peeling my mid morning mango when it started.


The large, green mangos from our neighbors tree are now ripe, and a few days ago our neighbor's son picked us a laundry basket full of them.So I have at least two or three a day.I figure they must be pretty good for us, though I am not sure what they contain other than vitamin C.Either way, we have been enjoying them.


It's been a quiet day at home for the girls and I.Abigail is building a tower out of Mega Blocks with our neighbor's daughter, Sarai.I just noticed that Carolyn has gone into the bathroom and is "washing" some of her toys in the bathroom sink.That girl just loves water.Our washing machine is not totally hooked up, so when we run it, we drain the water into a bucket and her favorite thing is to get into the bucket of sudsy water and play.


Alex is at a church event today with our friends from Shaday Church.He…

Where we were supposed to be

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The large kitchen of our host's house was full to overflowing .Children ran back and forth across the rough wood floor.Women sat near sleeping babies, fanning the constantly with a shirt or piece of material.Others used these to fan themselves, cooling the steady evening and chasing away the swarms of gnats threatening to drive one crazy.Most of those aroundme were dressed in long pants and shirts, despite the trickles of sweat running down each neck.


I was in the community of Platanares, a Wounaan village along the Pacific coast.Next to me sat Steve Ganz.He was halfway through telling the story of Job, and my voice felt woefully inadequate to reachover the squabbling children, barking of dogs, and the flapping of shirts against the legs.


As I struggled to translate his message faithfully, I was struck in a new way by his story.While all of Job's friends tried to explain why tragedy has fallen on him, the beginning of the story was glaringly obvious.Job was suffering, not bec…

English class and other things

Two weeks ago I started a small English class.My idea was to use the class, something people wereinterested in, as a way to serve the church in a practical way and get to know people in the process.We are now half way through our one month course, and I believe we are accomplishing those goals.


My class started out as a mixture of adults, teenagers and children.I had originally planned the class for adults and young adults, but allowed the children to enter as a concession.Unfortunately, just a week into our time, most of the adults were pulled away by the tragic death of a family member in their home village.Many went to the funeral, others were busy hosting family who had travelled out from the village.Any money that would have gone to cover the small fee we charged for the class was needed elsewhere. (it was suggested to us by those in the church that charge a small fee to add formality to the course and avoid a hand-out mentality)


So, for the last two classes, only the children h…

our day...

I am at home with Abigail and Carolyn.I told the girls we could watch a movie after they finished their bath, and Carolyn asked to watch "Jesus" (we recently got the movie "Magdalena", which tells the story of Jesus from the perspective of Mary Magdalene).We have been joined by two young ladies and their older brother, our neighbors.I smile inwardly as they sit, captivated by the words of Jesus.Even spoken by an actor, these words have a peculiar power.


The girls have gotten bored with the dialogue, and are rough housing together.


Alex is out this evening, meeting with a local Wounaan family.They are relatives of his, on his dad's side, part of the Cabezon family.They asked him to come and pray with their family about a conflict they had with the church.Alex doesn't know the details of their history, but hopes to be a tool of reconciliation in their midst.


We visited their house two days ago.At the door sat three men, carving tagua nuts to sell to tourists.…

Visits and the Red Cross...

Today was a good day. Long, but good.


After getting up and having breakfast, we headed out to the Red Cross headquarters, several blocks from where we live.Our neighbors had told us that they were offering a free clinic for a couple of days, and I wanted to take advantage of that to have the girls see a dentist. I still haven't totally figured out the local health center here. The one day I tried to go, all the doctors and nurses were on strike, and the health center itself had been closed while they were removing some fiber glass ceiling panels.I was trying to work up the gumption to try again.


So the free clinic seemed like and easier option.We arrived around 9:00 and there was quite a crowd there.To make a long story short, we spent the rest of the morning there.We did have to wait awhile, but the results were worth it; a visit to the dentist including a fluoride treatment, a free tooth brush and tooth paste, two immunizations that Abigail needed, vitamins for Abigail (who is …

Moving Day!

Well, we are finally at the end of our time here. Tomorrow we are moving to the community of Chepo.  Our rental house is waiting for us, though we just found out that the landlord has not managed to get the electricity hooked up yet. So that has put a bit of a damper on our excitement about the move. This last week has been full packing up, and cleaning and painting our house for the next occupants.

We don't yet have internet at our new house, so communication will be a little complicated until we manage to get an internect connection. Of course, without electricity, that is irrelevant.  So prayers for that situation would be appreciated!

We have been so blessed during this time by all those who have encouraged us during this time, and given us the courage to take this step.  God has confirmed in lots of ways that this is the right time, and right place for us to be.  It just may take a little time for all the pieces to fall into place.

Look for news and pictures once we are estab…

Meeting with other believers

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Last week Alex had to opportunity to attend a large gathering of Wounaan believers from around the nation.  Those attending are all part of the Iglesia Evangelica Unida, a small denomonation in Panama made up of mainly Wounaan, with some Embera as well.

The church we will be partnering with in Chepo had rented a bus, and Alex joined with others from Chepo for the 5 hour bus ride to the community of Yaviza.  There they spent the night, departing the next morning before it was light.  The Chucunaque river was their highway, connecting with the Tuira River, and eventually leading them to the community of Capeti.

250 Wounaan and Embera believers met together for the next several days, listening to teaching and testimonies from several leaders, eating together, praying together, and culminating in an all-night prayer vigil.

Alex was impacted by too things:

One was the incredible openess he found.  One night, several pastors came up, one by one, and shared at length with him.  Many invited…

A House

Tuesday afternoon found us walking the streets of Chepo (the neighborhood is called Margaritas), asking anyone we met if they knew of a rental house.Neighbor after neighbor told us that they didn't know of anything, and that it was difficult to find rental houses in that area.We saw a couple of rooms for rent, but I wasn't quite willing to go that route.


We had prayed before leaving that God would open a door for us to move soon.But things were not looking promising.Then one woman pointed down the path behind her house,


"I heard the house down there is for rent."I couldn't tell which house she was pointing towards, but we followed her directions to talk to the step-daughter of the owner.She took us rather unenthusiastically to see the house, but her mother had forgotten to leave the key.The house didn't look like much from the outside, but when she said "two bedrooms" we were encouraged.At least we had one viable option.We agreed to meet the owner t…

Trouble in Wounaan communities

I have written in the past about our outreaches to the communities of Rio Hondo and Platanares. But this week we learned of some serious conflicts threatening these villages.

Friday, as we were in Chepo looking for houses, we stopped by a friend's house. Diogracio is a leader in Rio Hondo, though he lives in Chepo and works there.

He has been at the forefront of a battle for these communities to receive the rights to their land. Several years ago, violence broke out with settlers who were moving in on land traditionally belonging to the Wounaan. Several Wounaan were injured, but no action was taken by the government.

Now, it has happened again.

According to Diogracio, a logging company has moved onto their land and is taking out their forest at an alarming rate. Those logging do not own the land, it's been claimed by the communities of Rio Hondo and Platanares, though the government has not officially recognized that.

When the loggers were confronted by several people from th…

Thoughts on Being Scattered

YWAM in Panama is going through a whole new stage.  In a little over a year we have gone from one base, to four bases, with individuals, like us, going out from the bases in minister in other areas of the country.  Basically, we are being scattered.

But most of us didn't really want it to happen.  It was fun to all be together on one base, with lots of friends to share your vision, and many hands to make light work.  It was great.  Until it all started to change.

Our former director, Richard Tracy, and his wife, felt the call to move out and pioneer a new base in the Chiriqui province.  Leaving new leaders in charge here, they went out. Just months later, another team, made up of two families, were sent out to start an urban base in the middle of Panama City.  Then other staff began to feel to pull to move out, and settle closer to the people they feel called to reach.

Then, before we knew what was happening, Alex and I sensed that we too were being pushed out of the nest.  We kne…

More about Chepo

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This is Panama!  Here you can see the province of Panama. Currently we live on the YWAM base just north of Panama City (near Las Cumbres). Chepo is about 2 hours east of Panama City, just before you get to lake Bayano.  As you can see, it's on the main highway.

Chepo is a mainly latino community, but it has a large Wounaan population.  There are two Wounaan congregations there.  It's a stopping off place on the way to the Darien province, and the destination of those coming in from the coastal communities.  Many come to Chepo to study, or find work.

It's really an ideal location for us. We can live in a community with Wounaan, where we can do daily disciplship, and also been in a central location where it would be easy for us to travel to the more remote communities.

We hope to find a decent rental house, or perhaps one that we can rent to own.  So we are in the process of looking into a house and those other details of moving.  There will lots of challenges in the months…

Changes brewing for the Cabezon family

We aren't leaving Panama, or YWAM, just moving closer to where our vision is. For many years now we have served the indigenous people of Panama, mainly through short term outreaches, and by helping teenagers go to school, through our "Home" program, or "Hogar" as we called it around here.

It was amazing and challenging experience to disciple young people up close and personal, living with us 24 hours a day, getting to teach them, and invest in their lives. It's also been exciting to see many of them go on to university, start their own families, and continue walking with God. Who knows that the next 20 years hold for these young people?

As we prayed about 2012, both Alex and I felt that it was time to put the "Home" program aside for awhile, that God wanted us to focus on something else. Through prayer, seeking counsel and prayer from people we respect both in and outside of YWAM, we felt it was time to move into a Wounaan community.

We had been …