Guano anyone?

lunch with Chief CunampioWe have been enjoying an incredible week with the Trabert Family that is visiting us from Ohio. Todd, Janice and their sweet little girl Malia took us on a 3 day excursion to El Valle up in the mountains, where we enjoyed time relaxing, hiking to waterfalls, going to the zoo, and the butterfly house. When we returned back home we put them to work! We are so thankful for their love and support….and they sure were a blessing to have in our home!

CatrigandíBack at home….I (Colleen) continue teaching English at the local school….the day starts with both teachers and children cleaning up the mess in the classroom. Evidently bats are living above the ceiling panels. Please pray into this, because we realize this is a health threat, and would like to tactfully advocate a solution. On another note….I am still having a blast teaching games in English and singing with the children….it has really sparked new life into me, as children are my passion.

Todd and Alan helped put on a puppet show about health, hygiene, and the responsibility God has given us to take care of ourselves and each other. Gauging from the laughter, I would say it was a success! It was also brilliant that Alan and Todd decided to shoot water into the audience as the iguana puppet was sneezing…and the hairy puppet proceeded to teach about sneezing etiquette. Hilarious!

May you be blessed and filled with joy and laughter today! Thanks for reading!

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Blessings in all forms (By Colleen)

I chuckle to myself as I think about the gift that Abuela  gave me after I complimented the hot cup of crema that she gave me. She gave me ¼ of the package that was left after she filled a large Tupperware container full of the powder. “Where can I buy this?” I asked, as I seriously liked the stuff, not to mention it is packed full of vitamins. Abuela replied, “you can´t buy this stuff, it is from the government.” The government supplies it to the public schools and to retirees on a special plan a bit like social security.

Colleen excited to make crema for breakfast

Colleen excited to make crema for breakfast

Since finishing Abuelas gift of crema, I have yet to find any crema in Panamá that resembles the rich creamy taste that the government provides. Hopefully in the future I will get a taste again, as I am going to start teaching English in our local public schools when we are not traveling! Bonus!

What we´ve been up to:

In Yaviza: We were in Yaviza at the Church camp for 18 days for training and helping get “Club La Cima” started. We are very thankful for the love and care that Rick and Eunice Johnson, and Jorge Quintero Perez gave as they sweated to help clean, build, and teach the children in Yaviza. We praise God for providing Wounaan families that have the desire to serve these children. One family has signed on for one year (or more!) to help facilitate this children´s ministry. They have left their home hours away to serve! Praise God for them, and for the other team member´s that have a desire to work in this area. Please continue to pray for this team and for the children that come.

Everyone pitches in to help with homework

Everyone pitches in to help with homework

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Jorge and Robinson lead us in exercise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Club La Cima is a well organized center where children can be served food, receive help with homework, time for exercise, the opportunity to come to know the word of God….and many other activities, all under the care of adults who have hearts to show each child love as through Christ Jesus.

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Eunice and Rick Johnson with Kalea

 

Church visit: We received a group from the local Church of Christ at our house in Catrígandi. They came out to share a day of fun and games with the children from their church, followed by a short hike to the waterfall for swimming! What a blessing it was to hear the children sing praises to God!

 

Please Pray:

…for unity and direction for Wounaan and Emberá leaders. They desperately need for the Panamanian government to fulfill the laws and promises to title their lands and thus control the many threats of violence and threats to their health and future that are related to this ongoing issue.

…for Panamanian government authorities… for God´s control, timing, and peace:

The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; as the rivers of water, He turneth it whithersoever He will. Proverbs 21:1

 Health:

It is difficult to serve joyfully when one has discomfort or pain! Please pray for Alan´s back, pray for strength. Pray for the pressure in Colleen´s head to subside. She will be having cervical-cerebral MRI in early March, as she has had ongoing symptoms for over a year. Pray for the physical and emotional health of our team members Einer and Girlesa.

We truly give thanks and praise for you! When I am not feeling my best, I still feel glad knowing that there is a family of people praying for me. We could not be here without your prayers!!!!

 

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will rest in the shadow o f the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust”…

He will cover you with his feathers,

and under his wings you will find refuge;

his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. – Psalm 91:1-2, 4

We invite you to take refuge under the wings of our gracious God!

 

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She used to be a Christian…

“She used to be a Christian, but now she has fallen from the faith,” commented our elderly neighbor gesturing towards one of her two daughters as we rested in the cool shade below our home and each finished a delicious bowl of vegetable soup that Colleen had made. This daughter refuses to relinquish her indulgent sin and is willing to be shunned from the family of God and be rejected by her peers and possibly her only social connections. I´m asking you to pray. You see, this fallen daughter is about 50 years old and severely mentally disabled… and her grievous sin is the wearing of gaudy, plastic jewelry. There seems to be a tendency to take the beautiful and perfect Gospel and water it down into a set of petty rules that gain admittance to the church social club. And I know that it isn´t just here.

Kalea wanted to give the adorned daughter a colorful rubber-band bracelet to complement her clash. At first, I whispered “no,” not wanting to increase her sin or upset the old lady. But we spoke with her about her belief and decided it was better to encourage the generosity of a child than cower at religiosity. Although her words were unintelligible, her smile and gestures were unmistakable. She liked the bracelet. bracelet blog 6

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Banking with God

Apparently, opening a bank account in Panama for U.S. citizens is supposed to be a nightmare under current law (google it). We need to do it to get a visa. We prayed and passed, one by one, through two sets of 3″ thick tubular glass doors after being wanded and frisked by a guy with a big gun. Beam me… in.

God paved the way. 3 desks later, we were in a private office with the manager laughing such that they probably heard it in the lobby. What happened? Well, we were entertaining Kalea on the laptop with videos of the baptism party that took place at our house in Catrigandí. Hitting it off with the managers, they wanted to see what she was laughing about so we shared that the church from Chepo had a baptism and party at our house and showed them the video.

The dear manager, Laura, looked very concerned and serious: “So… the person goes down and when he comes out, he is baptized?”

The video was of our friend Giovany going down the 100 ft. slip and slide we made to enjoy after the baptism in the river! Check it out below. Laura, chinese-panamanian, is a baptist… and didn´t know what to think of this new method!!! We showed her pictures of the  baptism in the river, and we finished our time with prayer in her office. What a blessing.

 

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Children´s Ministry

panama photo Platanares with kids

Having fun with puppets and music in Platanares.

By Colleen

Sometime in my past I could recall daydreams of thinking about having a home of ten children (not my own!). In having a small orphanage of sorts, giving the kids my love in a real way that would teach them how special they are, the kind of love that Christ gives all of us.

God put this on my heart a long time ago…and so when our family started out to Panamá, for me, it felt like a dead end. Little did I know, I had forgotten that our God is a good God, and He goes before us, and prepares for us.

And now I feel as if God has pushed His opened hands towards me and served me with a golden platter, as I find out about the plans for the Church Camp in Yaviza to start a Children´s Ministry, or more like a youth center; to include any and every child that is hungry, or in need of a safe place to care for them.

I´m not really sure how this will unfold, but one thing I know for certain, is that God knows. Somehow I get the feeling it won´t be just ten kids that come here! Our God thinks big. For me, this is a miracle of sorts….being able to put my past into the now approaching present, knowing that while I´ve received a real blessing from God all He wants me to do is to love and obey Him. I will take that step of faith, and He will lead my way!

How has God prepared you to serve? Follow your heart!

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The kids having fun making their own memory games.

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What´s in a gift?

(By Colleen)

Blessings and Greetings from South Carolina! We arrived back to the U.S. yesterday. We are thrilled to be able to share time with family this Christmas, and we are excited about the work ahead of us back in Panama!

the Platanares river is a great place to be in the hot afternoon

the Platanares river is a great place to be in the hot afternoon

We have spent the last month busy traveling…we took a quick trip back to Platanares to visit with some folks from the MB office in Canada….

I felt so much love and so well received as this was my third trip back to this community. The Pastor´s wife specifically prepared arroz con coco (coconut rice) because she remembered how much I said I liked it the time before when I visited. She physically had to shred the coconut with a special grader that takes a lot of time and effort. I felt like she had just kissed me on the face! What a gift.

My Wounaan Sisters invited me to do a traditional dance!

My Wounaan Sisters invited me to do a traditional dance!

Leaving, they insisted that we watch some of the younger girls do a traditional dance. Towards the end, some adults started to dance, and they insisted, and invited me to join them. I had never been invited to do so before by any of my indigenous friends, and felt privileged and loved. Another gift.

working together to make stepping stones from tile rubble.

working together to make stepping stones from tile rubble with Osneider.

One of the biggest blessings for me was having our thirteen year old friend Osneider come live with us for a month. He comes from a large family, one of 10 siblings. He had to leave school for lack of money to help his father work, and he is very skilled and intelligent! He helped me with Spanish and his language, Woun Meu. I helped with math and English. He worked with Alan too, and learned some new skills, while also teaching Alan as well. The house really came to life with him around, and we laughed, sang and played a lot! We are praying about the possibility of him living with us for an extended period of time when we return, and would like for you to join us in praying about this decision. He helped my learn how to sing I have decided to follow Jesus in his language.

Recently before leaving Panama, I told Andrea that Osneider had helped me learn a song Woun Meu. She listened and helped me practice, and after many times singing it alone, she told me I should sing it by myself  in Church! I had never been invited to do so before. For me, it was another  gift.

I left Panama feeling so recharged and encouraged by many of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and am so on fire for what God has in store for the future. What is God calling you to gift this holiday season? We can express our love in so many different ways…

I read this poem in a devotional;

If God can hang the stars on high, 

Can paint the clouds that drift on by, 

Can send the sun across the sky, 

What can His power do through you? (Jones)

May you be filled with great love and joy this Christmas. May the Lord bless your soul, and bring you Peace as we celebrate and remember the birth of our King and Savior!

Love,

The Foster´s

 

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What´s in a name?

LemoThis is Cara [de] Viejo… “Old Man Face.” After spending 9 days in Platanares and spending time with Cara Viejo every day, I´m ashamed to say that I don´t know his real name. Nicknames are the norm here in Panama, and I´m still struggling with the cultural etiquette surrounding this phenomenon. Often, I´ve asked someone in a small community such as Platanares the name of another person in that community. And often, they have a hard time responding… what name should they give? Names seem to carry a different value here. But I believe names are important. I believe this based on what I read in scripture, where names carry tremendous weight from Genesis to Revelation. “Isaac reopened the wells… and he gave them the same names his father had given them” Gn 26:18  and  “… but only those whose names are written…”  Rev 21:27. Also because I much prefer to be called “Alan” or “The Beard” or “White Indian” as opposed to “gringo,” which is not a name but rather a label.

So one evening in Platanares we had a lively discussion about names and nicknames. We learned that Hermes, our host, learned what his name was when he went to graduate from 6th grade, until which time he believed his name was Hermito. His brother, Lochi, knew his given name and went to great lengths to avoid its use. His given name was Rosi, a name as feminine here as there. The story sounded like a rewrite of Johnny Cash´s “A Boy Named Sue.” And, of course, we were all in stitches as Cara Viejo´s mother shared the detailed history behind his other nickname: “Mama teta de Rosa”… “Suckles the teet of [the dog named] Rose.”

It bothers me when a familiar face greets me and I can´t call the individual´s name. Unfortunately, it seems almost impossible for me to remember all the names of the people we encounter in the many communities we visit. So we try to use tools and methods to learn names and remember them as we go… And we hope to recognize when and where the Lord would have us invest more time to deepen our relationships with individuals (and of course learn their names) as we go about the work ahead.

May God Bless [you] in all you do,

los Fosters

ps We just got back from another trip to Platanares. Old Man Face´s name is Lemo… pronounced Lame-O. Some folks just don´t get a break I guess.

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Tip of the slung

We thank God for gentle reminders when we mess up… because harsh reminders stink. I´m very proud of Colleen for the progress she is making in language and culture, and I´m realizing that I have a long way to go. I thought that I´d pretty much got the handle on Spanish and could focus on Emberá bedea and Woun meu, the languages in the two indigenous groups we work with primarily. And there´s much truth to that, however, culture hoppers must always be wary and careful… and remember that we will never fully understand the other culture, much less express ourselves flawlessly in it. A recent reminder follows:

In English we can speak of “with the spiritual gifts…” or we might say “with spiritual gifts…” At least in my English anyways.

In Spanish, however, if you leave out the “the”, it changes from “with the spiritual gifts…” to “spiritual condoms…”

donkey tongueFortunately for me, it was just Pastor Einer and I… and he is very forgiving. But what if I had been in front of a congregation of indigenous for whom Spanish is a second language. I would have breezed right through without knowing. None of them would have ever said anything. And the few that heard me clearly might be struggling to assimilate this new teaching… or at best trying to decipher my strange metaphors. Maybe I´ve already been saying weird stuff.

Cake tare of tour younge,

alan

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Where did the time go?

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kids help Pastor Ermes bring soil to the planter

We traveled to the community of Platanares for 9 days to work on finishing their water filter and help with children´s ministry. Alan trained people in water testing, and we stayed very busy with puppets, movies, music, art, and worship each afternoon and evening. Pastor Einer guided the construction of some raised planting beds made of bamboo and taught discipleship classes each morning as well as helping with the water filter. Alan got to be part of a “boat dragging” where a freshly hued canoe was dragged from the mountains to the river.

Isaiah master the pipette

Isaiah masters the pipette

 

The time spent with the children was priceless. Even when there are no “programs” scheduled, the children come to the house where we are staying. This time spent playing games and talking is my favorite part. I have been reading through a book on becoming “emotionally whole.” This time for me personally was an awesome learning experience. My personal preferences for private time were pressed to the limit with having the children over all the time, and not having anywhere to go to have a few minutes of privacy. It´s okay to set personal boundaries, but it´s all in the way you handle yourself emotionally, verbally. I reflected on this hours later as I thought about my tone as I told some kids I needed time to rest. I didn´t feel good about myself and how I handled the situation. I thought about how I could have told them in a more loving tone; this is a recurring problem of mine; I wait to express myself right as I´ve “had enough” and my attitude seems out of control!

Javier

Javier studies about Noah

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one of our favorite forms of “church”

The next afternoon I was reading my book on emotional health and was enjoying the silence of the house, when Javier showed up. Normally, I would have taken an unloving tone and told him this was my time, and I would have continued to read. …I finished reading a sentence in my book and marked it. I put the book down. Javier looked at me beaming. Just before he showed up I was reflecting on the fact that  all of the children that show up to the pastor´s house where we stay also show up to church, and most have parents that don´t participate in the church. They show up to the house because they are curious, because they want my time, because they want my attention, and my love. So as Javier showed up, I thanked God that he sent me a blessing in the form of a child named Javier to smile at me, and remind me that all I need to do is love this child with the time here that God graces me with….it´s not “my” time! It´s Gods time! I am thankful for this lesson and have been mindful to be loving with my tone when I do need time to myself.

Coming up:

We will be traveling back to Platanares on the 14th of November with Jamie and Murray from Mb mission. They will be facilitating dialogue on Asset Based Community Development, a mindset that empowers -rather than subjugates-  our partner churches in Panama.

Praise Report/Prayer Requests:

Praise God for all the little children of the world!

Praise God for the close relationship that our team is forming and the vision He is giving for His work in Panama!

Pray that God would help me have peace with my health (There are no tick borne illnesses in Panama! I am currently being treated for a pinched nerve)

Pray that our growing relationship with Engineers Without Borders would be a blessing to many people.

Pray for the Einer and Girlesa as they deal with sickness and death in their family.

Here´s a short video of dragging a newly made boat off the mountain and into the river:

 

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Tengo Pena

For too long I have daydreamed about the future of what it will and can be here in Panama; visions that will be put into action once I have the language skills. An event happened a few nights ago that has brought me to my knees crying. Reflecting on things I haven´t done, but yet the good in it has made me realize I need to take more action in my life. I have had “pena”, I´ve been shy and have not been outgoing with my Spanish.

We woke up the other night at midnight to our dogs barking somewhere down the road. Our dogs are like the neighborhood watch. They know who and what is walking in the night. Once the dogs quieted down we could hear someone in the near distance singing something. The voice sounded calm, and repetitive, somewhat like a song. [Alan thought someone had been drinking, so he went downstairs and got the spotlight, but was soon in bed asleep.] We usually don´t have any such disturbances in the night. Shortly after we heard the voice, I could hear a woman talking in the background as if she were consoling. I didn´t sense any urgency, although I could not sleep, something felt wrong, I eventually drifted back to sleep.

The next afternoon, as we got ready to travel to town to run some errands, Abuela stopped  us in the road. She explained that last night our neighbor, Anastacio, was bad off and was calling to her husband for help. He was having a stroke. By the time her husband went to check, he had collapsed in the road, but was still conscious and talking. The neighbors carried him to her house, and he asked for prayer. She and the neighbors prayed for him for an hour until his nephew came to pick him up to take him to the hospital. When we asked why they didn´t they come get us, as we have the closest car in the neighborhood for such an emergency, they told us that they had “pena”. Today, Anastacio passed away in the hospital. His brain had hemorrhaged as they left the community.

We have asked ourselves so many questions, and we are still trying to make sense of all of this. We love our neighbors and have shared great times with them. They can come to us if they need something. So why now do they have “pena” to wake us in the middle of the night? As I keep reflecting on this, I know God has a plan for all of us, and now knowing Anastacio has passed makes me realize that his hour of prayer was more precious than having been closer in car to the hospital.

Anastacio IIIThe very same day our neighbor had the stroke I saw him in passing. Although we have shared much time with his niece and her family, I only knew him mostly in passing. After passing him on the road and waving, I remember thinking that I have never invited him over to share a meal. The same evening he was gone. Life is too short. Don´t delay!

What areas in your life are you avoiding, or delaying to take action?

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.  - 2 Timothy 1:7

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. – Deuteronomy 31:8

 

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