Dios es fiel!

I am a planner and like to have order to everything (obviously this is Angie writing and not Matt!). But despite all our planning, we don’t hold the future in our hands… and that is OK. Over the past few months, we have made a lot of plans- in fact, our plan was to return to Panama this week. However, we are learning that it is in the change of plans- the disruptions- the total loss of control- that God is growing our faith and trust in Him. 
Our family has a saying, “We either trust God in everything or nothing.” So we are choosing to trust God during this trying season. Over the past few weeks, we have seen God work in some amazing ways. God is faithful! Dios es fiel! So, we will continue to trust Him in the unknowns and step forward in His grace.

  • Matt was diagnosed with COVID-19. Praise the Lord it was a mild case. His quarantine ended this past weekend (and as he says Rapunzel was happy to be released from his tower). He has recovered well and no one else in our family tested positive. God is good. 
  • A few months back, during a CAT scan for some abdominal pain, the doctors found a cyst on my pancreas. After several procedures, they ruled it as benign- huge praise! However, based on the size and some abnormalities within the cyst, they deemed it as precancerous. SO… on Friday around 10 am, I will be having surgery. They will remove the tail end of my pancreas where the cyst is located and will also need to remove my spleen due to the nature and location of the cyst. 
    Am I nervous? Sure. Do I have complete confidence that God is in control? Definitely! As we have said so many times in the past months: God is not surprised by any of this! God is God and He is here even in the disruptions and unknowns.

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
—Zephaniah 3:17

God is quieting us with His love. He is assuring us that although we have some uncertainties in our future, He knows and holds the future. And that is enough!

LOVE FROM PANAMA…..
We have been SO thankful for technology. Despite being miles apart, we are still able to be a part of the ministry in Panama that is so close to our hearts.
Over the past few weeks, Panama has loosened restrictions, and our ministry partners are now able to meet with the kids and deliver food without boundary restrictions. The kids have been focusing on learning Bible verses; pray with us that these verses will penetrate their hearts and that they will grow into young men and women who fear and seek the Lord. 
Coronavirus has had a huge impact on our families in Panama. Please pray for many in the country as they are looking for work so they can provide food for their families. Pray that people will turn to the the Lord- the one true hope in all of this darkness. 


 “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word.”
—Psalm 119:114

Peace and Perseverance

We are still in the States and are eagerly awaiting our return to Panama. To be honest, we did not think we would be away for so long, but have been blessed to see friends and family and continue ministry from afar. Panama is slowly easing restrictions and allowing movement. We are super excited for this news as it will allow many to return to work and provide for their families.
 
We are thankful for modern technology that has allowed us to continue our ministry while we are in the States. We are thankful for our pastors who have been faithful in delivering food and sharing the love of Christ in their communities. We are thankful to our partners here in the States who have given generously to make this hope a reality.
 

WHEN WILL YOU GO BACK?…..
This is a question that we hear often. Panama is now allowing residents to return. Yay! Our hope was to return mid-September, but things look a little different. Since we had such an extended time here, we took advantage of that to have some medical checkups done. There are a few things that showed up that need further examination and clarification. We are thankful for good medical care and want to have all medical issues cleared up before we return. Will you please join us in praying for clear answers and good reports? 
Although this was a bit of a surprise to us, we serve a God that is never surprised. We can rest in knowing He is in control and He is on His throne. Despite all the craziness and uncertainties that we have all seen, we have peace in knowing God’s promises are still the same and will never change. So, let us press on with perseverance trusting in the God who never changes!


Please continue to pray. Pray that we will be able to return home soon.  Pray for a clear bill of health. Pray for provision and protection for our families and partners in Panama. Pray for our pastors as they are serving their congregations and communities. Pray that people will draw near to God and find their hope in Him. 

 

June 2020

Greetings from Panama! June has been quite a month for us. As you know, we have been under a strict quarantine since March 25th. On June 1, the government chose to lift the quarantine. However, the number of cases began to rise that same week and the government reenacted the quarantine on June 5 for Panama City and Panama Oeste, the provinces with the greatest number of coronavirus cases.
Thankfully, we were able to take advantage of that week and deliver a truck load of food to the Embera community. We are so thankful for those of you that have helped feed families. You are a blessing beyond what you can imagine.

Update for our family…..
After much prayer and discussion with our ReachGlobal leadership, we have made the decision to travel back to the States for home assignment. The US Embassy is offering humanitarian flights, and we will fly out today. It is hard to leave Panama right now, but we do feel that this is the best decision for our kids. Over the past 3 months (other that the photos above), we have only been able to work with our ministry partners through internet communication. We will continue working with them and are committed to helping feed and care for vulnerable kids and families during these difficult times.
Please continue to pray for Panama. Pray for provision and protection. Pray for our pastors as they are serving their congregations through food delivery. Pray that people will put their hope in Christ.

Update from Panama…

Hello from Panama! We just want to give a quick update and say thanks for your encouragement and prayers. Here is a glance at what our last month has looked like:

  • We got a call on February 25th that Angie’s grandmother had passed away. Thanks to the gift of airline points from her aunt, we all were able to fly back and be with family. I returned the following Monday and Angie and the kids stayed an extra week and flew back on March 9th.
  • March 9th was the first reported case of COVID-19 in Panama. Schools were closed within days and soon all bars, dance clubs and large gathering places were closed. All were encouraged to wash their hands and stay home if possible.
  • On March 14th Angie began to feel pretty crummy. She immediately quarantined herself. After about a week she was still not well, so we called the Ministry of Health. Impressively, about 6 hours later they were at the house to test her. Thankfully, she was negative.
  • March 18th a curfew was enacted.
  • March 22nd all commercial flights in and out of Panama were suspended until further notice.
  • March 25th Panama enacted a strict quarantine. You are only permitted outside of your home during a 2 hour time period that is determined based on the last number of your cedula (which is like a SS#). You may only leave to go to the grocery, pharmacy or doctor.

I ventured out to the grocery store today. There were masked police checking identification when I entered and then I received hand sanitizer to clean my hands. I must admit it is strange to see so many restaurants and businesses closed. This is honestly the first time that I have traveled through Panama with practically no one on the roads.

We were asked if we are trapped in Panama? I guess you could say the answer is yes, but we made the decision to stay. This is our home, and we know that this is where the Lord wants us. At times it is a troubling thought to know that we cannot get back to our family in the States if something were to happen, but we cast our cares on Him, knowing that He holds the answers to all the “what ifs.”

Here is how you can pray during this time:

  • Pray for our GlobalFingerprints kids here in Panama. They are the most vulnerable, and with the strict quarantines we have no way to reach them or provide supplies. The government is forming a program that is targeted to care for the vulnerable here in the country. Pray that this would be successful and provide sustenance for these families.
  • Pray that the Lord will show us opportunities where we can minister and serve. Everything is different right now, but we have no doubt that the Lord has a purpose and plan for it all. Pray that we will find creative ways to encourage and pour into the lives of others. Salt and light.  (and FYI… we are praying this for our churches and all of our brothers and sisters in Christ back in the States!)
  • Angie is feeling better, but is still not 100%. Please pray with us that the Lord will restore her health.
  • Praise the Lord that He has given us peace. Pray that we will continue to put all our trust in Him. Different country, different culture, all communication in a different language, so many unknowns… it can become overwhelming at times. May we continue to be anxious for nothing and let the peace of God guard our hearts. (Phil. 4:6-8)                 

HOW CAN WE PRAY FOR YOU? Please email us and let us know how we can be praying specifically for you and your family. We thank the Lord for each of you. May we continue forward with confidence. God is good. All the time. Let us not forget…

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 Just for a laugh…. here is what is looks like to get tested for coronavirus in Panama. They dropped the nose swab on the ground, so Angie had the pleasure of having 2 swabs! Not fun, but so thankful they were able to come to the house. 

Feliz Navidad…

We are praying that you have a blessed Christmas as you spend time with family and friends. I was reading a devotional this morning from Billy Graham’s God’s Blessings at Christmas and loved this paragraph:
“Those chubby little hands that clasped the straw in His manger crib were soon to open blinded eyes, unstop deaf ears, and still the troubled seas. That cooing voice was soon to be lifted to command demons to depart, to teach men of the Way, and to raise the dead. Those tiny feet were to take Him to the sick and needy and were finally to be pierced on Calvary’s Cross. That manger crib in remote Bethlehem became the link that bound a lost world to a loving God.”
As we celebrate the birth of Christ, I am so grateful that the manger is just the beginning of the story. Joy to the World... may all our hearts prepare Him room!

We can’t be with friends and family back at home… so we are working on building new traditions. Please enjoy the chaos of togetherness, give lots of grace and lots of hugs, and laugh big! Feliz Navidad and mucho amor! 

Summer 2019…

“Many hands make light work.”

This was such a truth for us this summer as three different teams traveled here to serve alongside us. It was amazing to see the relationships that were formed and all of the work that was accomplished. God is so good!


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When we are thirsty, most of us simply go to our faucet or fridge and fill a glass with water. We don’t have to stop and contemplate if the water is clean…. that is a privilege we take for granted!

The Embera-Drua are an indigenous group that live here in Panama. Over the past year, we have had the honor of getting to know Valerio, the pastor of one of the communities. During our visits, we learned that the community did not have clean water. This resulted in sickness for many of the kids and the adults as well. Something that we take for granted is the one thing that many in the village longed to have!

HUGE praise…. this summer we worked with Pathways Church and installed a clean water system in the village. This was not a small task. It was truly humbling to see how the Lord provided the means for this to happen: the funding, the team, the materials, the schematics, and even the weather. God is so faithful!

One mom from the village reported that for the first time in ages, her son woke in the morning and did not have diarrhea. I seriously had no words. It brought me to tears- tears that represented so many things- heartbreak, joy, surprise, but most of all, thankfulness. I thank the Lord for His goodness and His provision. Pray with me that the Lord will use this clean water to point people in this community to Jesus, the source of living water.

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FAITH CHURCH

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We were blessed to serve with Faith Church. It was a packed week working with the local church to help build relationships within the community of Lidice. We provided music, arts and crafts, snacks and Bible stories for the kids; served breakfast and gave out Bibles at the local health center; spent a morning worshipping and playing soccer at the rehab center; and taught English and played games at the schools.

On Sunday morning we had a time of dedication to celebrate the “breaking gound” for the new church kitchen. Part of the ceremony was to mix the concrete to put in the “cornerstone” of the kitchen. I must admit the locals were surprised when Matt grabbed the shovel and started the mixing process….they were even more surprised when he did it correctly!


NORRIS FERRY COMMUNITY CHURCH

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The last group of the summer was Norris Ferry Community Church. It is always great to host groups, and it was super special to have our home church here. We began the week serving with the church in Nazareno. What a joy for the youth to lead worship, and Ian was happy to jump in on bass. The group had the opportunity to play soccer, hand out food bags, share the Gospel in the school and do some updates to the church building.

They finished their week in the Embera-Drua village. We provided a mini VBS for the kids, began work on the roof to cover the water tanks, and ended with a hot dog and movie night for the community. We look forward to seeing the Lord continue to grow these relationships and pray that He will use them to grow His Kingdom here in Panama.


Here are a few more pics from the summer. We were able to visit family and friends back in the States for a few weeks, rescued a sloth, got a new puppy, and Matt celebrated his 50th birthday (despite the fact that he neither looks or acts 50:). We are SO thankful for life and the opportunity to continue our ministry here. Thank you for your continued prayers and support!

 

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USA Bound…

AIRPORT

We are sitting in the airport (after 3 security checks!) waiting to board our flight to the USA! We will head to Shreveport for a few days before we head out to Minnesota for a week of training and meetings for Global Fingerprints. We will then travel to Texas for a week to visit friends, family and our supporting churches before we head back to Louisiana.

We are so excited to see some friends and hug some necks! We love our home here, but are definitely looking forward to a few weeks in our other home!! Shoot us an email if you want to meet up while we are in.  Blessings and see you soon!

Settling in…

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It is hard to believe that we have been here for 6 months! This time has been a compilation of so many emotions. We are elated that we have received our temporary residency… then on the flip side, we gasp just a bit as we realize that this IS our new home! As we encounter both locals and gringos here in Panama, a very normal question is asked to us, Where are you from? This brings us to a pause….. where are we from?!?

Texas, Louisiana, Panama…. where are we from? Where do we belong? We know that this is a very normal stage of transition, but it is hard (especially for our kiddos). We all want to belong, right? Although I have a Panamanian driver’s license tucked in my wallet (yay!), I can walk my blonde haired, blue-eyed, basic speaking Spanish self down the street and there is no doubt that I do not belong. I chuckle as I write this… it is not rocket science, it is just obvious that I am not “from” here.

And then we talk to our family and friends back in the US.  We hear about their lives- lives that mirrored our lives a few years back. But now our lives are quite different, and we are quickly reminded that although our roots are there, we are no longer “from” the States. This is not a bad thing… it is just our reality.

While this transition is hard, we know many have traveled this path before us and are confident that the Lord is using this time to draw us to Him. He is teaching us that we can always- no matter if we are in Panama, the States or Timbuktu-  find our identity and belonging in Him. That is a truth we can all cling to!  Please join us in praying that the Lord will provide significant relationships for us and the kids here in Panama- our new home.

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It was such a blessing to have a team from Wisconsin serve a week with us here in Panama. Much of our time was spent in the Lidice community, where we are looking forward to beginning the Global Fingerprints program. We had the opportunity to play games, teach an English class, and help with some projects at the local church. Along with that, we were able to share the Gospel with over 100 kids right there in the public schools! How incredible is that!

We also visited the Embera village, an indigenous group who lives about 30 minutes up the Chagres River. Our family has now been to the village several times; it is encouraging to see how the Lord is continuing to grow our relationships there. The little ones were happy to see Reeves and it was fun to watch her pour into those around her. We look forward to continuing to grow those relationships and see what the Lord has in store for that village!

Thank you for your continued prayers and support. We are constantly awed by the Lord’s faithfulness and goodness. Here are some ways you can continue to pray:

  • HEALTH. We have all (other than iron-gut Matt) been struggling with some stomach issues. We are learning what foods cause problems, when we can/can’t drink the water, etc. Pray that the Lord will strengthen our bellies!
  • MINISTRY. Pray for the new relationships that are forming. Pray that we will have the wisdom to know when to step in to help and when to step back and watch. And of course our Spanish- pray that we can communicate with love and effectiveness.
  • SUPPORT. We have lost several ministry partners. We were advised that this can happen in support raising. Although we are not completely surprised, it has created a financial burden for us. Please pray that the Lord would raise up others to fill this monthly gap.

THANKS

This Is Why We Are Here…

We were blessed to be part of this GlobalFingerprints medical clinic. A team of doctors, nurses and more came from Springfield, MO to perform checkups and love on all the GF kids here in Panama. Ian and Reeves jumped in wholeheartedly – they helped with translating, sports, and arts and crafts. When we were driving home after our first day at the clinic, Reeves said, “Mom, I finally understand why we are here!” 

Those words made my heart leap… yes, this is why we are here. We are here to share the love of Christ. We are here to serve. We are here to partner with churches to reach out to those in need. We are so thankful to be here and look forward to all the Lord has in store as we grow in our ministry here.

 

THANK YOU

Thank you for your continued prayers and support. We have seen the Lord answer so many prayers over the past few weeks. Thank you for standing with us. Here are some ways you can continue to pray:

  • Although our Spanish is coming along, we still have a long way to go. Plus, the Spanish in Panama is so much different than Costa Rica! Pray for us to grow in this language.
  • We are building many new relationships. Pray for wisdom and clarity as we navigate these relationships cross culturally.
  • Praise the Lord the house is all done! Pray that we will begin to find healthy rhythms for ministry and family.
  • There are 6 GF kids who have lost their sponsors. These children must be sponsored before we can add new kids to the program. Pray that the Lord will provide new sponsors for these kids.