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Our learning journey

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(photo:enjoying some  of the beautiful artwork of the Saanich people on Vancouver Island)

"It's too cold here, let's go back to Chepo." our three year old daughter announced after we had taken a trip through Idaho and Montana.  I think it was the first time in her life she had encountered below freezing temperatures, so I don't blame her!
I too am eager to return to our little house in Panama. Not so much for the heat, but because of our sense of anticipation for what God will do in this coming year.
Many people were understandable puzzled about us taking a trip to visit Native American communities in the Northwest. Don't we work in Panama?  Are we thinking about moving to the US?
No, we are not thinking of moving. We love working in Panama and don't think God will have us move any time soon. So why are we visiting Native American ministries?
One reason is to learn.  As missionaries, sometimes the obstacles and challenges can seem daunting. So spending t…

It's Finally Connecting

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It was a typical day in rainy season. The air felt heavy and sticky, and it looked as if it could rain soon.  I carried my umbrella under my arm, along with a bag carrying my bible, some water, some paper and crayons.
Today was our first day of the new ladies bible study.  They had asked me to go through a bible study book with them, but I hoped to teach it in a way that would connect. 
I am always a little nervous before leading a Bible study.  When I arrived at the church, the front gate was locked.  I maneuvered through the mud, over to the pastor's house to ask for the key. Thankfully his son was outside and soon fetched it for me.
But then the pastor's wife, Marienela, came out. She didn't think we should start the bible study today. A couple of the ladies were away, and she didn't want them to miss out. I sighed, pushing down my frustration. I had planned the whole week around this Bible study, and had turned down another invitation because I had said I would be her…

Culture Shock

I am writing this from my Dad's office in Oregon. The weather is cool but sunny, and a little over a week ago I was in Panama.  I love coming home, and I love to see everyone, but I don't look forward to switching cultures.
When you go live in another culture, much of your energy is spent trying to learn the new rules.  Your eyes are always open, observing how people interact, and trying to learn what is appropriate in each situation.
When you are in your home culture, it's all pretty automatic.  You know what is right and wrong, acceptable or unacceptable to the culture.  And you feel free to challenge those norms as you wish, since it is your own culture.
The tricky part comes in when you return to your own culture after an absence. After spending so much time learning about your host culture, you find yourself back home, but nothing seems to fit anymore.  What used to be intuitive now feels uncomfortable.
I find that for me, the emotionally energy needed can be exhausting. …

"Thanks for not putting me to sleep..."

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"Thanks not for putting me to sleep during the class!" said one of the students in YWAM Panama City's Native Roots DTS after we finished a week of teaching with them on worldview.  
For this group of students from indigenous backgrounds, we focused on the stories that have power to change both our lives and our communities.  We chose stories from the Bible that have the power to change our worldview, and our world.  Some of the stories we simply told, others we acted out, illustrated, and applied to specific issues in their home communities.
The woman who thanked me for not putting her to sleep was suffering from a bad cold and had a hard time paying attention in class. She thanked us for keeping her involved with the dramas and stories. Another student, who is very much an oral learner, and has been struggling with understanding teaching that is heavy on theory, also thanked us for teaching through stories. He was eager to comment and participate when we were speaking his…

Snapshots of the last few weeks

Today I wanted to share moments that are snapshots of what we have been up to:

Sharing with friends:

A couple with their 1 year old son showed up at our house just as we were getting home from visiting another family.  We sat in our living room sharing a snack and talking about their experiences.  When we moved to Chepo a year and a half ago, Alex determined to get to know this family who had no interest in Christianity. He started visiting their home from time to time, just to chat. Sometimes we would go over as a family.  Eventually we shared some meals together, and trust was built.  Then one day we were surprised to see them in the evening church service.  We had never brought up the subject of church attendance or pressured them about their relationship with God.  They asked us to pray when the wife was sick.  Then, that evening, they shared their whole journey with us, honestly talking about their mistakes, and where they hope to go for now.  Their family has changed.

Teaching:

"Give me advice..."

“He is discouraged, give him some advice,”said Laura, pointing to her friend Robyn.We were in my kitchen, cleaning up after a youth meeting and birthday celebration.There was a big soccer match the next day and the girls had gone to practice up.Only Laura, Robyn, and on other girl had stayed behind to help me with the dishes (not only help, they wouldn’t let me even touch them).
They explained to me that Robyn, a new believer, would start coming to church, and then get discouraged when someone criticized him.I saw a sensitive young man who was hungry for God, but couldn’t figure out why this Christian thing wasn’t easier.Why people weren’t more loving.They were difficult questions.
We spent nearly an hour talking, mainly about how he could seek God in spite of the failings of those around him.I could tell that it was hitting home.Laura opened up as well, sharing that she knew she was at a turning point in her life, a critical time when her decisions were important.
Eventually, the dishes…

Down the river and across the sea...

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Monday evening we returned from a six day trip to the community of Platanares. As I have shared in the past, Platanares is a small Wounaan fishing community along the Pacific coast.

As I pondered what to write about our days there, I am struck with the dilemma I often face: there is so much to share. Should I write about the trip there, about how we had to get to the dock at 2 AM in order to catch the high tide, and the ensuing trip downriver as the girls slept on the deck? Should I talk about all the teaching that we did, the people that we talked to, the things we learned?

When you invest 6 days of your life on a trip like this, the impressions and moments can seem overwhelming to share. So I will share just one.

The second morning we were there our hostess, Eleida, asked us to visit her two sisters in law who lived up the hill from her. The first visit was long and she was eager for us to stay. Finally we pulled away and went to visit the other sister in law, whose name is Sidra.…

Two visions...

I wanted to share a quick encouraging story...

Recently Alex and I have been praying about having a property for our YWAM center here in Chepo.  The idea of aquiring a property is a big challenge for us, considering the fact that we don't exactly have $70,000 in our back pockets.

We were talking about this with our little volunteer team two days ago, and praying about how God will lead us in the future.  After our meeting we spent some time just chatting and Fernando, one of our volunteers, shared the following with me...

"Quite a while ago God gave me two visions. In one vision I was in a place I had never seen before. Someone was showing me around this place, but in the vision I couldn't see who the person was.  I felt it was significant to my future.

"The next vision was of me being given a large property. In the vision I understood that the property was not for me personally, but for the church. Only instead of being like a traditional church the property had bui…

Sweet Fellowship

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Most missionaries will probably tell you that ministry is often full of lots of just plain hard work, with a few moments interspirsed that are pure joy, when you get to see something extraordinary, or connect with someone in a special way.

Last night was on of those moments. Nothing spectacular happened, at lease it wouldn't seem so to one looking in from the outside. But for us, it was a sweet moment of fellowship and friendship.  Alex had helped put together a potluck, so after a brief service, everyone got their plate of rice, plantains and Panamanian style chicken spagetti, and sat around, sharing and talking.  I enjoyed talking with one of the young ladies in church as we made lemonade with raspadura together.  She told me that she has an English entrance exam coming up for University, and we agreed to study together this coming week to help her get ready.

One of the girls in the youth group had a birthday yesterday and surprise party had been put together for her afterwards.…

Overwelmed.... in a good way.

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Overwelmed. That describes our experience this last weekend in many ways. Overwelmed by what God is doing in the lives of Wounaan belivers all over Panama. Overwelmed by the hospitality and generosity of the Wounaan people.  And yes, tired as well.

We started out on Thursday of last week, waiting at the port of Coquira. Soon our captain arrived and the process began of buying the gasoline, and waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive.  Meanwhile the girls and I enjoyed a breakfast of fried tortillas and beef at a small restaurant.

Soon everyone arrived, including our team from YWAM Chiriqui, and the boat was loaded.  We headed out down the Bayano River, only to realize that our motor was too small for the weight.  So we turned around again and switched out with a friend's larger boat and motor.  And we were off again! 

The day was sunny and we covered ourselves as much as we could. The wind was low and we made good progress.  About four hours later, just at the day was cooling …

Reaching out to Wounaan Youth

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Once a year the Iglesia Evangelica Unida (Wounaan churches) gets together for a weekend event, featuring teaching, fellowship and planning.Last year Alex attended alone as it was being held in a village near the Colombian border, and recent confrontations with the Colombian FARC made it unsafe for me to attend.
This year we plan on attending as a family, as the event will be held in a coastal community which we have visited before.Alex is heading up the planning team for youth activities during the event.They hope to combine sports and outreach for the young people who attend, and are encouraging young people from Wounaan villages all over Panama to make the trip.
We will be traveling out on February 14th, and spending the weekend in the community of Maje, along the Pacific coast.Its past the village of Platanares, a trip of about 7 hours total by boat.Besides looking forward to a time of ministry to Wounaan young people, it’s also a key time for net-working with other Wounaan communiti…

January: come and gone

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(Our recent team from YWAM Chiriqui)

It seems as though I blinked my eyes and January was gone.It went by in a flurry of activity for us.At the beginning of the month we welcomed our good friends and fellow missionaries Steve and Malana Ganz, who will be living in Panama this month and working alongside us from April on.The day after an all-Panamanian team from YWAM Chiriqui.After three weeks of ministry with the team, they moved on to another location, while yet another team (also from YWAM Chiriqui) arrived.
Perhaps you will forgive me for the infrequent updates now.J
While very busy, this past month has also been rewarding.The day before we received the call letting us know the YWAM Chiriqui team would arrive, a vacation Bible school for the children at the local church was requested.While I would have loved to say "yes", I knew it would be hard to pull off on my own.The timing of the team’s arrival seemed providencial.The next week we had the Vacation Bible school up and ru…