At the top of our webpage you can see José Gaitan´s aged hands weaving a basket. If you scroll down, you can see half of his smiling face. Señor José was first our neighbor; his son, Pastor Justo, being one of the main reasons we decided to build in Catrigandí. For a while Señor José was my roommate in our home while I built and Colleen was back in the States.. While we were still lighting our way with candles, I came home to find him asleep with the snub of a candle burning ever closer to the block of wood that it sat upon. I was grateful that I decided to come home a day early and decided the time had come for our first solar panel. José marveled and laughed at the switch and the ensuing glow of the bulb. It was so fun to see his reaction (and such an improvement over candles or kerosene) that we´ve made solar lighting a bit of a sideline project, having now installed simple systems for 2 elderly couples and 2 families. José´s grandchildren finished high school this past year, so he, his son, and his daughter-in-law decided to return to their family land in a very remote scattering of farms called “6 nickels” while the children board in town to continue their studies. It is far, but most of the distance can be covered by an equipped 4×4 in the dry season. So I decided to go and take a blessing to the family that has been such a blessing to us.
Perhaps you could spend an evening, an hour, or even 5 minutes in candlelight or lamplight to help your kids understand how most of the world lives. It may be “enlightening”!!! “You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” Psalm 18:28
It is the peak of summer in Panama. Everybody is busy. The dry season allows tractors to cut dirt roads into faraway places. Products come out, like wood and fruits, products go in, like dry goods and anything else you can possibly sell to someone who has just gotten their hands on the most cash they´ll see all year. For certain relatively impoverished communities, this creates a juggernaut challenge of financial stewardship. Compared with their typical monthly income, summer might be something like winning the lottery.
Our most recent excursion took us to Sinaí and Canaan, named after the biblical locations, on the Membrillo River in Darién. The river is beautiful for bathing, but I wouldn´t recommend you drink the water. They wouldn´t drink it either, if they had a choice. Fortunately, they do! These two communities have most of their infrastructure (tanks, tubing, solar panels, etc) from previous projects. Sinaí lacks a water source (you can´t use the river directly because floods will wash anything away) and Canaan lacks a pump (theirs broke due to silting in the well along with inadequate filtration). Through presentations, dialogue, and collaboration, we´ve convinced these communities to raise money through their summer avocado sells to purchase everything needed to get their systems working. This is an awesome achievement for communities that have suffered the repercussions of a paternalistic history of failed projects! It is also an inroad to talk about stewardship, cooperation, and the love that God has for all of us. Have a blessed summer (or winter) wherever you are!!!
This past month, we have done a lot of traveling, and are preparing to hit the road again this coming week! We received and hosted a film team from the MB Mission office in California for two weeks. They will publish a film on the testimony of Giovany Peña and how God has been working in his life. They also had the opportunity to film the Zuluaga´s and ourselves in action…so more of that to come in the future. Through all of this, the team seeks to give all of the glory to God as they reveal through videos how He is working through the lives of others. We felt blessed to share time with the guys.
Don Warkentin, Alan, Giovany, and John Ervin in Majé Chimán taking a break from filming to pray
Alan did an inspection of the water system in Majé Chimán…
… getting GPS coordinates in a creek bed. We are working with Engineers Without Borders, U of Missouri, to help Majé achieve their goals in potable water.
Girlesa and Einer hosted a youth convention in Yaviza…
Kalea, Alan, Colleen, Gabriel, Girlesa, Einer
Kalea started Kindergarten and is hungry to learn! She loves art, and enjoys taking pictures, so it was really nice for her to get the chance to observe the video crew here in action. We give praises to God and thank you all for your prayers as we have had been staying healthy with all of our traveling, and our little baby boy is growing healthy too!
Don Warkentin, Alan, John Ervin, John-Mark Bergen, and Kalea
Some of my greatest memories from childhood and earliest, are that of being soothed by my mother singing to me as she cradled me in her lap and rocked me. She was there when I was sick, or couldn´t sleep. She was there to encourage me along the way, in all of life´s challenges.
As a parent, we have a privilege, a certain understanding of that unconditional, unfailing, love. From the very moment your baby comes into the world, the raw amazement and glorious wonder of a God that allows us to share in such beautiful love.
If we know the true living God, we know that this is what He wants for us. He longs to nurture us and sooth us with His love.
We are excited to share with you that He has granted us as parents another gift. We are expecting! Our little Kalea will have her baby brother around July 31st. We ask that you would pray for us for continued good health as we travel and work here in Panamá.
So I had two big cultural experiences within the past two weeks. A nearby church had donated us their bus in order for us to take a field trip with the public school in our community Catrigandí. This is the school where I have been volunteering my time teaching English. We decided to go to the zoo which is on the other side of the city from where we live. About a 3 hour trip. The kids, teachers, and parents were very excited. In total there were about 50 that went on the trip.
We never could gather everyone for a photo as everyone was so excited to get moving!
Highlight of the trip: Seeing a school bus full of children look out the windows in amazement at the airplanes as we neared the airport outside of Panama City. I had forgotten that living out in the countryside where we are there is only an occasional helicopter. I was thankful to be part of this experience, knowing, that for some of these children, they have never traveled so far in their own country.
Trying to catch a peek at the airplane.
All in all, it was a successful trip even with occasional chaos of kids running ahead of the group! Happy kids!
Two days later, there was a graduation ceremony for the sixth graders, as December is the end of the Panamanian school year. For some of the uprising seventh graders, they have a choice between two schools to finish out the rest of their schooling through Highschool depending on their house location. For some, like my neighbor Elena, they are contemplating moving closer to the road for the convenience of Carlos having an easier time traveling to school. Otherwise, if they stay, Carlos will have to walk a 35 minute walk out as early as 5 or 6 in the morning just to wait and catch a bus to school. We will greatly miss our dear friends if they move! Please pray for their family as the discern this next big step!
Elena and Carlos
Highlight of graduation: Getting to witness my neighbor and friend Elena see her son Carlos graduate. Some adults in the area have not had the privilege of completing a primary school education. What a proud moment to witness the seven graduates of our small rural community!
(Alena is the mother of Luris, one of Kalea´s mejor amigas!)
Kalea and Luris experiencing the zoo together.
How the time has gotten away from us! We have been keeping busy between working away at our house and leaving to go to a missionary conference on the other side of the city with MB Mission. We have enjoyed the time in sharing with other missionaries from other parts of Latin America. It was a time of sharing, listening, laughing, crying and feeling refreshed with our friends…some new, and some old!
Some of the Wounaan Church Leaders participated in our final ceremony with MB Mission during the Latin American Conference.
Getting to know some missionaries serving in Mexico and Peru. Lovely Women!
Feeling refreshed with the words….” But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.” Job 36:15-16
I suffered with anxiety and depression for almost a year in regards to my health. At times I felt defeated. These words were a reminder and a truth that I needed to hear in order to have closure and to speak against the wicked lies that I was consumed with in regards to my health. How great and freeing is it to be under the promises of God. Praise God for all of the healing he has done!
I now have that invitation to a spacious place and really feel that He has put a table with much abundance in front of me. I thank God for His blessings and pray the same for you that you would be encouraged to think about the great food he has put before you. For me the food is all of the great opportunities He has put before me. Not to be overwhelmed, but to try and focus on what God is calling me to.
Please pray for our team members Einer and Girlesa Zuluaga. Einer is scheduled to have surgery in December and are currently in Colombia.
If you happened to be in the Darién jungle a few days ago, and you happened to be on the Tuqueza River, you may have seen a group of indigenous gathered around concrete-skirted hole a little ways from the river bank. Well… if you happened to stop and go up to see what was going on, you may have peered into the hole and seen two white legs protuding from the murky water far below, awkwardly yet perhaps intentionally. Don´t be alarmed. This is the new standard procedure for installing a 4ft. tall pump in a 3ft diameter well sleeve when you realize after traveling very far that said pump must be installed horizontally because of a number of variables which you realize are beyond your control. The procedure involves inverted, underwater excavations somewhat akin to catfish grappling. Perhaps this sounds like an undesireable job, but the water is refreshingly cool, and when you are submerged in it, the dreaded morongoi bug cannot get you. When you are not in the water, you must be covered from head to toe during the wet months in the tropical heat when the bloodsuckers thrive… a less desireable job (Colleen and Kalea stayed home for this one). Praise God!!! We put the pieces from a history of failed projects together and began pumping water for the community. I will return next week for a follow-up visit and some training for community technicians. Be well and enjoy your water.
Howdy from immigration!
We’re trying to get our visa. Please pray that it goes well. We are grateful that Kalea makes herself at home with other kids in unlikely places.
Things are moving fast here at the end of the road, Yaviza. New partners and renewed vision has breathed life into this church-owned property, and it feels somewhat like being part of a winning sports team marching towards the championship. One of the big “games” that we are determined to win is the aforementioned radio station to be operated here on-site by the Emberá and Wounaan. The initial study has been conducted by Avant ministries and the light is green, the equipment has been donated and awaits us in Canada, groups have committed to helping with the construction of the necessary infrastructure to house the equipment and people operating the station, we’ve even been given the verbal go-ahead from the director of Panama’s equivalent to the Federal Communications Commission and promised the license. The only remaining step is to comply with the requirement to conduct a formal technical study by a Panamanian engineer and complete the relevant documentation. While this task normally costs upwards of $5,000 plus legal fees, a compassionate professional has offered to do the job for $2,000, the remaining legal paperwork costing about $1,000. So… Without further adieu… We are asking if you might be called to financially support in part or full this last, big step towards accomplishing the long-standing goal of operating a radio station by and for the people in the rural communities surrounding Yaviza. Are you called to be part of this? We invite you to pray about it. Donations can be made directly to the project through Mb Mission here: Yaviza Camp Please be sure to let us know so it can be earmarked for the radio.
There lived a poor woman with her young daughter and handicapped son in a makeshift shack in the yard of her adult, delinquent son. One day, the son ordered her to leave. Carrying what wood she could, the woman set out to try and find a dry place to spend the night with her children. She went to the church where, despite her financial poverty, she had been devoting 3 days per week to cook for the abandoned children of the community. At the same time, a member of the community learned of her situation and felt moved to give her a plot of land on which to live. At the church lived a family that had left everything to care for and teach the same abandoned children. They also had compassion on the woman and decided to build her a minimal structure to withstand the tropical rains on her little square of land. The same community member was moved by the efforts of the family to help the woman and decided to give them, also, land on which to build a home. Unfortunately, when the first rains of the year saturated the land, the area they were given flooded, and they realized that they could never build there. The poor woman, in turned moved by the plight of this family that had sacrificed so much to help her decided, “Listen… If you don’t mind being my neighbor, we will divide my land, and you can build your house here.” The next time they were gathered together at the church the pastor asked, “Woman, why are you so happy today?” To which she responded, “Because now I have good neighbors.” Sorry I don’t have a picture of Robinson with Maura, that many of you have met here in Yaviza.