Monthly Archives: June 2011

Discipleship: Inspired by Jack Daniels

“You´ve got your first disciple!”

Obdulio´s comment caught me off guard. He is a businessman. His business is his ministry (buying and selling the artwork of his people), and he practices what he preaches. He is one of my mentors… aware that we all aren´t called to be preachers… and doing everything wholeheartedly.

Voracious chickens necesitate Erik´s invention of tarp, sticks, board, and bedsprings.

Obdulio was referring to my recently turned 15 year old neighbor, Erik, who had just planted a garden for his family, similar in size and form to my garden, with seeds that he got from me. He´s already appeared in several of our blogs. We´ve fixed the water system together, explored new water sources, planted trees, and we´re just starting a project to graft fruit trees. We also read scripture together. Erik teaches me the names of plants, animals, insects, and birds, when to plant, when to harvest, and he gives a fairly accurate weather report. He dug a well for us next to the creek when the water system was not working, and he contributes significantly to our diet with gifts of avocado, sugar cane, lychee, banana, plantain, coconut, and more.

Erik has also been subjected to my ranting on charcoal and its potential as an agricultural amendment, and being the typical 15 year old pyromaniac, he is glad to help with any and all experiments that involve burning stuff. We´ve done smothered charcoal pits, chimneyed charcoal pits, and in-between charcoal pits with varying degrees of success and pollution.


Shortly before leaving the U.S., I saw a program on the History Channel about whiskey which included the Jack Daniels how-to for making the charcoal they use to filter their famous bourbon. It goes like this: 1) Make a big pile of loosely stacked wood… like a sacrificial pyre. 2) Light a small fire on top. 3) Let it burn down. 4) Douse with water. Simple, right? By starting the fire on top all the gases are drawn up through the flames, effectively burning up all the smoke… a smokeless, “clean” fire!  The jury is still out with regard to what is best charcoal for agriculture applications, and this process does not allow for the capture of wood vinegar, nor is it a very efficient conversion, but the surprise for me was how clean it burned and how little work it involved. The International Biochar Initiative is a good place to start research if the topic interests you.

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Baby dedication, Every Man for himself, and final thoughts (by colleen)


Kalea with Elena our neighbor... I see Bryce, too!

June 5th, the Sunday after Kalea´s birthday, we had a baby dedication held at our house (the pastor that led the service is the same missionary that married Alan and I four years ago). There was singing in three languages; Spanish, English and Woumeo .  For me, this service was unique to witness, because there are some prejudices here between the latinos and the indigenous. At first, I felt like I had traveled back in time to middle school, you know the dances where all the boys stand on one side, and the girls on the other, and the two look at each other ackwardly….as it turned out, the latino´s were on one side, the indigenous on the other, and I chose the middle to play it safe.  At one point the pastor even muttered, “we´re at a party, not a funeral!”, but things warmed up and soon enough we were singing hymns together.

music and clapping brings down cultural barriers

The night before, we enjoyed the company of 10 others that stayed at our home, most of which are our partners with which we will start working on the MBMSI project.  The final turnout for the celebration was about 45. Kalea slept through most of her baby dedication,, which was fine since the service stressed the importance of the parents role in their children´s lives, but also the importance in all children´s lives.

prayer with pastor Einer

After the service, we enjoyed the typical arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) which I am thankful my willing neighbors took on themselves to prepare. For dessert, I prepared Ma Foster´s recipe for carrot cake…for those of you that have never made it…don´t let the name fool you. Carrots are not the main sh-bang….there is pineapple and coconut too. For this special birthday, and because we live in the tropics, we substituted the canned pineapple and bagged coconut for the real deal….and not to toot toot the horn…but it was fabulous!!! Thank you Mama Kat and thinking of you Stephen as you missed out on this one…when you and Adri visit, I will prepare a fresh one for you. At this time I would also like to dedicate a shout out to Bryce Chapman. He was so helpful! Our go to guy…dishes, food prep…we name it, he cheerfully does it! Thanks Bryce!



And now….final thoughts…not to end on a sour note, but it needs to be addressed. Panamá needs help! It never fails, I am constantly reminded through mother´s actions how in dire need these folks are for lessons in health. Quick examples, mother wipes snotty nose with her hands and then proceeds to touch my child….mother stays at my house the day after her child breaks with chicken pox and does not tell me (once I noticed the red bumps on her son, I brought it up and addressed it)…so, when I feel like I don´t know why I´m here….this is why… and I will help create a curriculum that is geared towards health concerns in rural Panama….have any suggestions? I´d love to hear from you…prayers are always appreciated too!

Thank you all!

developing a taste for fine art with Nehemiah


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One Day Older

(by Alan)

Life has been quite random recently. After three unsuccessful attempts to elect a new water committee in Catrigandi, the old president, Fredino, called a meeting, showed up early, renounced, and left promptly… definitely wise on his part given the prior difficulties he had in renouncing. By the time I arrived to the meeting to find out who were going to be the new committee members, about 40 community leaders had gathered, plotting in small groups. The meeting began rather informally but abruptly. I was nominated and voted in unanimously as president of the water committee and then given a chance to speak. I renounced the presidency, as gratefully as possible, and offered my support as a technician. The various offices of the committee were eventually accepted by several well-meaning, reluctant gentlemen, and we agreed to visit the Ministry of Health together to get our water project moving forward. The Ministry of Health claimed they could not see us, so I called their bluff and went unannounced with my trump card, Kalea. We are now BestFriendsForever with the secretaries, which is good, because all the higher positions will change the next time the government has elections.

Yesterday we found ourselves drinking overpriced coffee in a 5 star hotel lobby with a humble and world-renowned consultant in the international coffee industry, Andrew Hetzel, making conference calls to Hawaii. Because we´re now trying to help get an indigenous coffee cooperative off the ground, and we need a person with Andrew´s exact skill set and team of professionals whom we had no idea even existed, it would seem ridiculously coincidental that Andrew was one of six brave pupils in the community center Spanish classes I taught back in Hawaii. But we know there are no coincidences. Thank you Andrew for taking time to come see us and believing in what we´re doing… and for putting up with my inept, rambling attempts at teaching.

rubber ducky, you´re the one

And last but not least, today is a big milestone for baby Kalea as she turns the big 01. She has surprised us with her first steps and continues to speak to neighbors and strangers alike in a language no one understands but everyone enjoys. We thank God for her health and pray for wisdom in our responsibility as parents.

what mess?


I want you!

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