Transformation

“Watch! I’m about to carry out something new!” “I provide water in the desert and streams in the wilderness to give drink to my people, my chosen ones.” Isaiah 43

The church camp in Yaviza has come alive. God is transforming not only people, but this place as well. And the current team from Canada has jumped in wholeheartedly, planting trees, teaching children in Club La Cima, shoveling muck, and getting us one step closer to having water 24/7! Carry on Grovians!

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Who’s Timing?

Two nights ago, we had a program for church. Not a lot of people, but amongst the few and faithful was, of course, Egidio Puchicama, laughing heartily at our puppet show. Afterwards we bid each other goodnight “nan mash oju” “see you tomorrow”. Egidio co-founded this community, Platanares, and was it’s chief for many years. I didn’t make the connection until tonight that I used to stay with the family of one of his 11 children while in Peace Corps. His character shines in his children that I know. So what do Egidio, a group of Canadians on a short-term mission trip, a Wounaan scholar/Bible translator, the national chief, and I have in common tonight ? We’re all in front of a huge gathering of Wounaan. We are singing to the guitar in a mix of languages and harmonies as Egidio lies in his wooden box surrounded by flowers. In an hour or so the morning light will break, and the younger men will dig Egidio’s grave. He will be carried across the river to his final resting place, the recently established cemetery, a forested hill that holds chief Alquilo who was murdered in 2012, and a child who lived just 2 days. Then we’ll get on a boat and head home. Sometimes we question the practicality of short-term missions. Perhaps rightfully so. Nonetheless, it has been heavy yet affirming to see how God has used a few young people from far away to accompany and comfort a grieving community. Thanks for your prayers for our team.

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July 2014: Foster Family Update

By Colleen

Alan left yesterday for Panamá. I am here with Kalea in SC.

I went to the specialist yesterday about my elevated pancreas levels. They repeated labs on my pancreas and liver levels. I had been treated the week previously for a bacterial infection found in the colon: campylobacter. The doctor said if the levels go down, the campylobacter could be responsible. Since the levels are going down, we are prayful and praising God for his healing and that they will continue to go back to normal.

Alan arrived back to our house today…reuniting with neighbors. Alan will be leaving the house in a couple of days to receive a wonderful group from Forest Grove Community Church from Saskatoon, Canada along with Einer and Girlesa Zuluaga. Please pray that God would use and guide each one of the team members, that the love of Jesus would shine out through their actions, that they will stay strong and healthy as they travel to the remote village of Platanares.

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(To our dear friends in Panamá, we love you and miss you and hope to see you soon! ! Bendiciones! Love, Colleen and Kalea)

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Cleaning the toilet

You can cruise through a lifetime in North America without every encountering any situation to really put into context one recurring theme in the Bible, demon possession. Having now spent a few years out of the country, I still fall into this category; and my western, diagnostic, pragmatic, objective, background easily explains away any less-than-normal happenings. So I was a bit taken back when our training with the relatively conservative Mennonite mission included a straight-forward “how-to” crash course on this topic. But it resonated with me when the exercise (or exorcism) was compared to cleaning a toilet… “It´s not something you talk about, you just do it and move on.” Nonetheless, I don´t see any other way to share this particular praise report and give glory to God without including certain facts. No matter how I view it, possession is a perceived reality for many people in the world, especially where animism and spiritism have a foothold or stronghold.

Fact: In May, leaders of a large indigenous community deep in Darién contacted the Iglesia Evangélica Unida (IEU) church leadership and requested help, citing that they had been unable to convene school properly for 3 months because a large part of the student population was being directly attacked by evil spirits.

Pastor Dalecio and Pastor Américo baptize

Pastor Dalecio and Pastor Américo baptize

Fact: On the unsuccessful heels of two other religious groups, a leadership commission from the IEU traveled to the community and invested time meeting with local authorities, the families, and the children. They led studies and worship services and went from home to home.

Fact: 39 young people were baptized and school was brought back in session. The National Ministry of Education offered to fund a follow-up visit by the IEU which is scheduled for this week.

Hooray!

Well, I (Alan) travel back on Monday to Panama while Colleen and Kalea stay here in SC a little longer for some medical appointments. It has been a wonderful visit home sharing precious time with many of you.

with Hope,

los Fosters

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Blanket of Love

by Colleen

“I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings…” Psalm 57

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On occasion, we all get that warm fuzzy feeling from a picture of a loved one, or something someone says…

But nothing compares to the presence and love of God! Today after a morning Bible Study, I was challenged to think about the times in my life when I have felt Gods presence, and in how He reveals himself.

Through scripture, through others, through prayer, through nature….he reaches us…

A gentle presence of love, comfort and peace….all fear and pain is washed away.

Thank you Jesus for this day! I know you have me in your hands and I have so much to be thankful for.

In the book of Philippians Paul says, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” 4:12-13

My prayer is that we all may know this contentness that Paul speaks about. To be content is being free of fear or worry.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:25-27

 

How is God revealing himself to you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pump it up for Jesus!

scrapping together a playground

scrapping together a playground

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our home church from SC came to Panamá for a “Vision Trip” and Team Bethel was pumped and ready to work! We put them into action….no time to rest here!

Catrigandí playground

 

 

 

 

 

Catrigandí school

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

We had an amazing first day at the public school where we live in Catrigandi. The guys got started on refurbishing an old metal playground, there was lots of sanding, sawing, welding and sweat! The playground is a fun blessing to the children here as playgrounds are scarce to none in our parts. As for the women folk, we entertained and played games with the children……I believe we all sweated equally! Catrigandí playground 3As for our Panamanian counterparts, the women cooked a delicious typical arroz con pollo (chicken and rice), and some of the dads of the students worked hard in collaboration with Team Bethel. The Team highlights of the day included watching Pastor Bart hoola hoop while “Carileth” giggled continuously and watching about 12 boys up against our cousin Andy trying to score a goal….he was unstoppable!

 

Bethel Latrine Dream Team with the Osorio family

Bethel Latrine Dream Team with the Osorio family

Another project they undertook was to finish a composting latrine in a family´s home across the river from the church camp at the end of the road in Yaviza. The construction was inventive and effective, and the true blessing was spending time with the hosting family as they worked alongside us and shared a meal with us.

Our Bethel Team left us feeling encouraged, and excited to have more visits from them!!!! They were a tremendous help, and truly a blessing to us. A special thanks to our brothers and sisters at Bethel Baptist that prayed (and continue to pray!) and blessed us by sending this team to say the least! We are so thankful!

“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.  -Genesis 12:2

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Children saved the day

From Colleen:

I had felt an urging previously that I didn´t want to do many community visits. That I would stay in the community where I live, teach some English, homeschool, take care of my family…my heart was won over by a community called Platanares, why go anywhere else?

The original plan pertaining to my work was to help facilitate community health awareness to go alongside Alan´s work with the water and sanitation. That plan has seemed so far off in the distance, as each community has its different set of needs, and it takes time to build relationships in each one.

Then I went to Villa Caleta . Heart changed! I fell in love with the kids just as I did in Platanares. I led activities and games each day with the children, and although for some the living conditions would be less than ideal (living without a faucet or bathroom in your house)…I couldn´t have been happier! The children were an absolute joy. All of the pain I had physically been feeling before disappeared! What an awesome time! And thank you God for sending us!

From Alan:

As one comedian put it, “Happy wife, happy life.” So I had a great time, too! Moreover, with the help of some new teammates that God has sent our way, the Gonzalez family (Alcibiades is a magician with anything mechanical or electronic, Damaris is great with kids, and their precious daughter, Liseth is about a year older than Kalea. They are all great with people and have an appreciation for the indigenous peoples), the installation of the water well and structure to house electronics for Villa Caleta´s pump went even better than planned… not to mention God´s timing. In the span of 3 days, were able to build the infiltration well and test it on the driest day of the year, perhaps of the decade; then the sky opened up and we got to check its performance in semi-flood conditions. All this was done with materials left in the community from failed projects of the past. The village came to life as everyone soaked up the first downpour of the year.The community put in over 100 man-days without counting the children, which may have done more work than the men! Great idea, teacher man, to cancel class and lend many hands. We´d never have finished otherwise. Everyone seemed pleased with the results. Check out the video below!!

On the downside, I´m writing from the emergency room where Kalea lies asleep with an I.V. in her arm. It appears that she picked up something out there or perhaps on the way back in. She was holding her own for a couple days, but got worse this morning so we decided to bring her in for fluids and tests. We are very grateful for your support that allows us to use the best medical care available here. And we thank you for your continued prayers for her health and ours.

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Villa Caleta

Everyone is in a rush to get things done before the rains set in… prepare fields for planting, fix houses, get their lumber out of the mountains… Compounding this dry season are the upcoming elections in May. Cocobolo wood has become so valuable that little blocks that will fit in your hand are weighed to be sold. The indigenous are digging the cocobolo roots out of their mountains so that others don´t come in and steal them at night. What will be left for the next generation?

We´re busy, too, because there certain stages of building water systems that simply must be done at the driest point in the year. Tomorrow we return to Villa Caleta to work with the community to build an intake well near the river and a structure to house the electrical equipment that will power the pump. Last time I went with Obdulio and our new team member, Alciviades, to scope things out and finalize the design with the community. This time we´re going as a family and Colleen will be working with the women and children while we do the construction with the community. If you want to gain an appreciation for having water in your tap, take one day and tote all the water you use about 100 yards in buckets.

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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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