Monthly Archives: April 2011

Loneliness and our Easter

 
 
Loneliness (by Alan)

 

When Mother Theresa was asked what she thought caused the most suffering in the world, she replied ¨loneliness.¨ This may come as a surprise considering that she was consistently confronted with disease, hunger, and poverty, but when we reflect on the fact that we are here to enjoy each other´s company… fellowship that is… it is no surprise at all. What has surprised me is that I can feel lonely on a crowded bus, or surrounded by 80,000 people at a ballgame, or in a community where we receive neighborly visits on a daily basis. I suppose it´s because fellowship is not necessarily a physical presence but rather a form of communication… an intimate form intended to mold and deepen relationships and often one based on shared experiences. Having grown up with a strong foundation of blood family and church family, I regret having taken for granted many of these shared experiences and my subsequent failure to deepen many of these relationships. And I´ve come to realize that there is absolutely no substitute for the relationships that begin in childhood… relationships which are founded in common experience. Moreover, the relationships made working overseas, although no less genuine, can be difficult to deepen because of cultural and language barriers. If you haven´t guessed by now, we´re lonely! Be you friend or family, there is no substitute for you, and we miss you! Every time we go to the city, we anxiously check our email, hoping for some news, any news from ¨home.¨ Share your joys, prayer needs, the name of your new cat, anything.  I haven´t exactly dove into the era of techy communication, but we hoped this blog would serve as one side of a dialogue, helping us to maintain and deepen relationships with our loved ones far away. And to those that have helped us stave off the loneliness by dropping a line now and then: Thank you! with Love,!

 Our Easter Story (by Colleen and Alan)

 

We thought about hugging this saved tree until we realized it was crawling with giant biting ants

A tree is saved! Tremendous joy takes hold of me, a fabulous way to start Easter, I give thanks to the Lord, and am reminded of his awesomeness. It all started the afternoon before Easter… I was home alone in the house with Kalea as Alan went to harvest coconuts in a nearby farm over the hill from our house. It was said that a few trees were to be cut down on the property beside us. Let me interrupt the story here to describe this land. The adjacent property to me is a little piece of heaven…all trees, a sanctuary for birds, and at night, home to some small monkeys that almost peed on our heads as we peered over the

I can´t believe this pregnant sloth survived the felling of its home

 side of the balcony looking for them… I have only seen a couple trees cut down in my lifetime, and it was very strategic in the way that the trees were tied, and taken down limb by limb more or less. .. The man arrived a day earlier than expected to cut these trees….I thought  only a few, but he seemed to be cutting one down after the other. I was overwhelmed with deep sadness…while I have always considered myself to be a tree hugger, this moment gave it new meaning. The sadness came from the thought of what took at least the same number of years as my lifetime or more to grow, was cut down timber style in a moments time. I watched some of the same trees fall that only a day earlier I watched my favorite bird perch. As the neighboring children watched in excitement and thought of it as a game to run from the towering 80 foot something tree drop… I´m not embarrassed to say, I cried! Ironically, the man cutting these trees, is the same man that we bought our wood from to build the house…I thought about this as I watched the other trees fall. The next morning, Easter Sunday, the man arrived early to finish the job… to cut my favorite tree to use as posts to fence the property. The tree that I think as of the cornerstone to my house, as it sits at a diagonal directly behind the house, a tree that I admire and enjoy its beauty every day. I told Alan that I thought about tying a sign to the tree “por favor salvame.” (Please save me)  Alan responded with, “I´ll just talk with the man, it doesn´t hurt to ask.”

…The representative has begun to fulfill his promise about fixing our road and came to town yesterday with the legislator, the highest ranking government official in our province, to survey the task at hand and give us his promise. He visited our home and told us how to find him if we needed anything. I guess it doesn´t hurt to ask. When Nehemiah was trying to rebuild Jerusalem´s walls he asked,  [¨If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king´s forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?¨ And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests. Nehemiah 2:7-8] Couldn´t Nehemiah have just prayed to God for those things? Of course, but that would have relinquished the king of the joy of contributing; and it would have taken away the opportunity for Nehemiah and the king to strengthen their relationship through working together.

I suppose it is most difficult when someone is potentially harming me or doing something I don´t agree with, and I would never discourage prayer, but you won´t see me bowing me head and closing my eyes asking the Lord to deliver me from the physical suffering I´m enduring because you´re standing on my foot. I´ll let you know. So in the end, most of our neighbor´s beautiful little forest is still standing, and we were able to serve the laborer and his family Easter lunch and talk about the importance of this holy day.

hi

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Busy, busy, busy

“]It feels like there´s hardly time to breathe so much has been going on… jobless and busier than ever. We received an injection of hope this morning when the local government representative visited an awaiting masse of community members at our request this morning to promise justice and action for the absurdity that has been our ¨road project¨ up until now; so there is renewed anticipation that the stretch of mud hole we live on will soon become a passable road (a good one for prayer).  [corruption + incompetence = mosquitoes]

Rodrigo, a visionary Panamanian agronomist, has a pet toucan that is free to come and go as it pleases (no clipped wings). It used its freedom to repeatedly attack me.

We recently helped form an excursion for several indigenous leaders to visit farms in the Chiriqui province for ideas and inspiration. In conjunction with MBMSI missionaries  and local church leaders, we are forming a proposal for an agricultural project that will accompany our recently submitted water and latrine project proposals to benefit communities that were devastated by flooding this past winter. We visited coffee nurseries and farms, a hydroponics operation, and stayed at a working aquaponics farm courtesy of DeadWheat International Foundation. Many thanks to them for their help and generosity in this educational excursion.  And thanks to YWAM for hosting us afterwards; your work is an inspiration, too!

a coffee farm in Chiriqui

 

Mayeli, 8, helps me nail some siding on the house

In between all the meetings, proposal writing, and community activities, we´re trying to find time to finish our house… with the help of our neighbors of course. Your words of encouragement are always much appreciated. Dios te bendiga!

and, of course, the star of our show.

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Cultural Differences (by Colleen)

In two words: No Privacy! While adjusting to the heat of Panamá and lack of running water (fixed now!), nothing seems easy. Most of my days start out with “Why am I here?” While I´m sure the good Lord is testing my patience, he is also helping me to understand why I am here: to help ensure  that folks get good clean running water, always!

Back to privacy. Visiting is the thing to do here, and seeing as I have the only white baby in the country (ha! Ha! No but seriously, it does feel this way at times), she is pretty popular. Some days I have visitors what seems to be all day, and other days, I might only get one visit. Don´t forget it is more difficult for me to receive visitors, because I am still learning Spanish.

One day, I felt so frustrated and Alan came back with a really good analogy that hit home for me. He said, “Colleen, we might as well be from Mars. Some of these people have never left the countryside, if they do travel, it isn´t far from home. Some of the wives that visit you are lonely, their husbands are out working all day, the kids are in school…Picture a family moving next door to us from Mars…they build a funny house, and look and act a little differently from what we are accustomed. Of course we are going to be very curious to learn more about them.”

Sure enough, the next afternoon, while receiving a visit from Elena and her 2 young children, her little girl kept saying she wanted to go home. Elena responded with some words I didn´t understand, but I made sure to remember them and ask Alan later…She responded to her little girl with….I am lonely.

So while being from Mars helps me cope, little by little I have learned to appreciate my neighbors. They are all genuinely interested, friendly, helpful, and generous (and of course helping me learn Spanish faster). I really couldn´t have asked for nicer neighbors. I do realize as the language barrier lessens, I will be talking up a storm!

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Catrigandi Arriba spring box

Erick, Justo, and Samuel helped tote the formwork up where we met the other guys and poured the springbox.

Today we braved the tick infested pastures and managed to complete a spring box which will serve as our water intake. Each community member chipped in money to buy the materials and we worked together to build formwork for the concrete and used horses to haul several hundred pounds of rock, sand, and cement up the mountain. The most impressive part was that community members put up the money to buy everything and did all the work. I´d call that a good start on sustainable development. This was my first spring box, and I learned a quite a bit. We built the inner and outer formwork down at my house, as I had seen on other spring boxes, and toted it up on our backs. Unfortunately, upon excavating the spring, the lay of the surrounding rocks made the outer formwork inappropriate, so we rebuilt it on the spot and had a good laugh about having carried the awkward thing all the way up the hill. The spring box is just the start of our project, and we´re still seeking funding for the tubing and reservoir tank. I´ll visit the Ministry of Health, which is in charge of rural water systems, in the coming week to solicit assistance, but that has limited promise. Outside assistance would also be very welcome. The total cost will be around $2,500 and will serve 15 houses with the overflow benefitting another 70 houses down the mountain.

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Sleeping in the doghouse (plus a picture of Kalea)

I know what you´re thinking. Sure, we just returned from the couples retreat that I mentioned in a previous letter, so we should be running on a fresh set of spark plugs with a new look on life. Well, I´m not in the doghouse for bad behavior. Like so many dogs, I´m in the doghouse because I´m covered with… ticks!

click on the picture for a larger, more disgusting view of this single blade of grass

Apparently, cutting down all the jungle and turning it into pasture affects the ecology, so every dry season, which coincides with the only time to measure the lowest flow rate of spring water sources for aquaducts, all the pastures and everything that passes through gets covered in ticks; all shapes and sizes of ticks, ¨garrapatas¨ as they´re called here, literally ¨clawfeet.¨

This slick 2¨pvc pipe was lightly brushed against the blade of grass. Can you imagine how well they grab onto clothing? Maybe I will douse myself in kersosene next time.

One would think that ticks are dumb, but these here have figured out how to locate the most frequently used paths and congregate by the hundreds or even thousands on the tips of grass blades and twigs. When something touches the grotesque blobs of ticks, those on the outside latch on and they quickly disperse themselves over the object… or person. I´m quite certain that ticks must have evolved after creation because they are clearly minions of the devil. Enjoy the cold back home!

if this doesn´t get your mind off those nasty bloodsuckers, nothing will. Watermelon does taste better in a rubber ducky.

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