Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Yang to my Ying


Field work with our many recent visitors has taken precedence recently over the very important job of communicating to you, so we´re grateful for this opportunity to exhale an indebted thank you and recap some of what has been happening this month.

Daniel, Chris, and Nick storm Piriatí with another first, banjo music!

Previously, we received a mission trip from 3 gentlemen with BarnabasX, Daniel, Chris, and Nick. They fired an arsenal of support on us including encouragement, music, humor, sweat equity, and financial help while providing invaluable feedback about how we can maximize groups´ visits in the future. They also served as a liaison for donors, including Mount Tabor Baptist Church, to our community´s potable water system project. We´ve got the materials on site and are scheduled to start digging on Monday (tomorrow!).

as far as the truck can go... and then?

I also suspect that some from this group are guilty of fervent prayer, because what started as an effort to provide water for 15 families is morphing into a project with government financial support to ultimately benefit 124 families. We have only verbal commitments at this point, so please keep it in your thoughts. You can read more details about the BarnabasX trip and watch footage of our neighbor getting baptized in the river on their website here.

Grandpa´s first trumpet lesson.

The day after Barnabas left we picked up my cousin, Hunter, who is 16 years old with a big heart for missions. He was a great asset around our home and community whether doing carpentry projects, working on the road, or just fellowshipping with the local youth. I have to say that the most emotional event of his trip for me was when we went to a worship service in my old Peace Corps stomping grounds, Piriatí.

I´ll trade my back for 2 doses of spirit! Hunter and Jorge mix concrete for Jorge´s dad, Justo, who smooths out the upper pad of their new composting latrine.

We were armed with ukulele and trumpet, the latter of which no one around here has ever seen. I suggested we leave the instruments in the car to avoid distraction, knowing that, typically, the pastor invites us to share “special music.” But this day, no such invitation came as the service proceeded. Wondering if the Lord had other plans, I stepped onto shaky ground and asked for a sign… The next song? “My Soul Will Soar When the Trumpet Sounds.” We followed, and it was good.

Now we´ll be able to get out of our driveway in the rainy season. Thanks Hunter!

A couple days before Hunter´s departure, which involved two dead car batteries, angry dogs, and a rut march/bull run at 3:30am…(it merits a story of its own entitled “Escape from Panama”), we received Jaime, director of projects with Mennonite Brethren Mission and Trevor and Joan, veterans from the Colombian mission field that now work in Mexico. Jaime came because of a 2.5 year water/latrine/health project they approved which I mentioned in a previous letter, and Trevor and Joan came, best as I can tell, to overflow with love and encouragement.

As we sat in conference with the national assembly of leaders from the Wounaán church, Jaime told this story from his personal experience having worked for a well-known Christian organization doing projects in the developing world. Summarized:

“We went to this remote village in Africa and determined that they needed access to water. The women were walking at least an hour, one-way, to fetch water each day. We installed a well and pump and trained community members in its operation. Six months later we returned and, to our dismay, found the well and pump destroyed. Who would do such a thing? A rival tribe? Local druglords? Maybe vagrant children? No… the women of the village had destroyed the well and pump! You see, that walk to fetch water was their only respite from the monotony of work at home… their only time to be together and free from never-ending responsibility.”


This story was nothing new to us. We´d heard the same personal experience from another social worker in Africa doing well work. Another example of good intentions is not good enough. And it goes to show that this phenomenon is more commonplace than we´d like to think… not just with wells in Africa, but with all development type work all the world over. What´s the solution? Obviously, know your community, which is best accomplished by living there. Analysis and questionnaires are great, but they´re no substitute.

We at faith and fruit have essentially zero knowledge of Chinese philosophy but assume that they have much to contribute.

Later, talking in private, Jaime told me that we we´re the yang to his ying. He has advanced degrees in theology and international development, and it is his job to channel the generosity of the developed world to sustainable projects in the developing world… sustainable often being termed “capacity building,” ie, in our case, when the gringos are gone, the projects grow rather than wither. He went on to say that, often, well-meaning but unqualified pastors are trying to juggle development projects outside of their expertise… or folks like Jaime are trying to work directly with local people with little help to bridge the gap in language, culture, etc. In a similar experience, this same Wounaán church received a well-meaning group of men to help build a pastor´s home. It was easy for me to empathize with the local coordinator as he expressed his frustration about trying to keep the gringos busy in building the block home, none of which were masons.

I say all this because Jaime´s comment was very affirming for us. And I hope it will encourage anyone feeling called to work in a foreign land, be you a theologian or a plumber. I think we can all find common ground in the old adage “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day, Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” While most of us can manage to get a worm on the hook, there´s no substitute for a lesson from a good, experienced fisherman. Although our endless journey as learners will continue, we hope that the Lord uses us to pass some of it along.

Kalea with Angelica in Kuna Yala



Leave a Comment

Filed under Education, Miscellaneous, Sanitation, Water

Riddle Me This

 “Out of the eater, something to eat;
   out of the strong, something sweet.”

This was the riddle that Samson gave to his wedding guests in the book of Judges. Here´s my version:

“Out of the potty, something to eat; out of the filthy, something sweet.”

 All bets are off, and fortunately I´m not prone to spontaneous massacres like Samson, so I´ll just give you the answer. What is filthier than a latrine and sweeter than honey!

The "bees" have constructed their hive within the blocks... we just had to bust them open.

 I guess it´s not as amazing as digging honey out of a lion like Samson, but we thought it was pretty cool that some wild, non-stinging, bee-like fly critters set up camp in the masonry of our old latrine and started making honey. We set up a little roof for them and will encourage them to expand their operation while making it a little easier to harvest some of their goods.

 We´re still pooping in a bucket. More on that soon, as well as tales from visits by BarnabasX and my cousin, Hunter.

I couldn´t wait on this one. No one had ever seen a trompet before. It was epic. That´s Hunter with Grandpa







I´ve fallen...again... (giggle)

1 Comment

Filed under Miscellaneous


I knew that we would face challenges ever since I failed a test that God put before me. He knew I would fail, so I guess it was just a much needed unveiling of my black heart to prepare me for what lie ahead. This happened before I left, but it has taken a while for me to process. Here´s the gist with an ironic detail included:

3 days before Nick Gambrell and I were to leave for Panama, back in January, he came over to the house to help clean pecans that we would sell to support the mission. He brought his fiddle so we could make sure it fit the luggage requirements (it was 12” too long. Nick declared that Jesus loves fiddles and would make it invisible. Apparently Jesus does love fiddlin´ because it worked) and we played a little. Reminiscing over supper, we stumbled on yet another common piece of cherished heritage:  the Robin Hood cartoon, which, incidentally, we had a copy of in the basement where the pecan pickin´ was happening. Soon enough, we were watching it for the 113th time, instruments in hand, and singing “oodalolly doodalolly golly what a day.”

The next day, Colleen and I walked into Bank of America, where I´ve had an account since long, long ago, to withdraw all of our savings and change the account type to something that would be conducive to our work in Panama. After much discussion and prayer, we had saved $7,000 that was intended to finish our house, buy a vehicle, and sustain us for an indefinite amount of time as our work and support base evolved.

I was glad to remove it from the bank´s hands, and I must confess a bitter sentiment towards certain players in the financial institution, particularly my own bank. Perhaps I don´t have enough formal education in economics to give my 2 cents on bailouts, but I worked briefly for a landscaping company in the months preceding our departure, and one of the contracts was $1 million on a ½ acre on the lake… a 3rd home gifted to the current wife. The owner? a Bank of America executive that received a multi-million dollar bonus immediately following the bailout.

We spoke to a manager, explained that I was leaving the country in 2 days, changed our account, and received very positive encouragement for the endeavor we were undertaking. Colleen waited while I went to the teller and was given 2 large stacks of bundled cash, and then we headed home. On arriving, I noticed that one bundle was bound and marked ¨$2000¨ and the other ¨$10,000.¨ “Odd,” I thought. “They must have run out of the correct paper or maybe they took half out already.” Alone, I slowly counted the crisp bills, chuckling to myself about how that loveable Robin Hood had gotten the better of the contemptible Prince John, all the while conjuring an impenetrable wall of justification. Wow! Does the good Lord know how to answer a prayer or what?!

I was holding $12,000 in cash and my deceitful logic had killed my screaming heart… me ready to get on a plane the next day with financial peace of mind and a murdered conscience… and then the phone rang. “Hi, Mr. Foster… have you counted your withdrawal yet?” “No, I´ll do that now,” I lied, trying to stall, not from facing the bank, but from facing myself. A group of 3 bank employees came by the house that afternoon to get their missing cash.

And so it was that I began to acknowledge my deceit, my fear, and my lack of faith in God to provide for my family and I.

Last month, as work became so demanding that I haven´t made any progress on the house in weeks, and our finances ran totally dry, we were provided with an opportunity to address this lack of faith. And it has been a tremendous blessing. Neighbors came out of the woodwork with soup, avocados, eggs, mangos, bananas, beans, and more. We had to give food away so it wouldn´t rot. Two dear friends, became our first monthly supporters, each committing $50 of predictable income to our ministry. Daniel, Chris, and Nick with BarnabasX came down and eliminated our personal debt, took care of us for the week of their stay, and purchased $2000 of materials towards our community´s water system that we´ve begun to build (more on that soon). And I signed a contract today for a small job that will provide $1000 of income, designing the planting scheme for Mission Clinics International, a Christian organization that is building a hospital about 1 hour´s drive from our home.

We are growing in faith and know that this test has opened doors for others to share in our work and thus share in our joy. And since our work is just beginning, our financial needs are also just beginning. Considering ourselves public servants, we have chosen to publish our finances, wanting to be transparent so that folks who are interested in joining and supporting our mission know where their money is going. Here is the page where our monthly finances are posted with the months of May and June completed. Our expenditures will vary significantly depending on travel, ministry expenses,  and… well… availability of funds. Please don´t hesitate to get in touch.

In Growing Faith,


Thanks Tio Todd and Aunty Janice for the new threads!


Filed under Miscellaneous