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.

We are “home”…

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The Short Story….

  • We left Costa Rica at 2 am on 1/8/17. We were using a tourism service that several other of our missionary friends had used to move to Panama and Nicaragua. This was a blessing because we did not have to sell/give away all of our things or weigh our bags for the plane.
  • We arrived at the Panama border at 7:30 am. The “normal” is for it to take 3-4 hours max to get through the border. It took us 3 days. There is not a specific reason…. they gave us many different reasons, put the van and our things in a holding lot, took hours to process paperwork, then needed different paperwork that took more time, etc. But after 3 nights in a hotel and $306 in “taxes” we were back in transit.
  • We arrived around 7 pm on 1/11/17 to our new neighborhood west of Panama City. In about an hour we unloaded the van, grabbed and packed up clothes for the next 3 days, and loaded back up with our team leader to head to the ReachGlobal Panama team retreat that had begun that afternoon.
  • We spent 3 days at the retreat. This was a great time of relaxation, getting to know our team, and setting some exciting ministry goals for the next year.
  • We arrived back at our house on Sunday night where we were greeted with the smell of mildew and dog. We had two 50 pound bags of clothes that were on top of the van. It stormed while the van was in the lot and the bags and clothes got wet. FYI… 100 pounds of clothes equals about 15 loads of laundry:)
  • The residents before us had a large dog that apparently both Reeves and I are allergic to….. no bueno! Just for fun, we walked the neighborhood and stopped by leasing to inquire about another house that was empty and had never had tenants.  Y’all….we signed a 2 year contract for that house 2 days later. We are so excited…not only is it clean, but it also has backyard space. Double yay!!
  • We are now in the process of prepping the other house. We are waiting for power to be connected and are looking forward to moving in and getting settled soon.

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The Bigger Story….

  • Y’all, to say that the last few weeks have not been stressful would be a lie. BUT, to say that God is faithful and was not surprised by any of it is the complete truth!
  • I have been amazed by the resilience and flexibility of Ian and Reeves. We have found the ability to laugh through many of those “that just happened” moments. Yes, we have had some times of discontent and unkind words, but overall our family has had a peace, unity and perseverance beyond comprehension. God is good!
  • PERSPECTIVE….I know that many times people choose a “word” for the New Year… I have never done that and never planned to. However, over the past week God has been putting this word on my heart. Our perspective changes EVERYTHING!!! It doesn’t matter if we are on the mission field, in the states, single, married, parents, kids….whatever. What is it that you are troubled with today? Maybe change your perspective?  So many times I come before the Lord with my expectations, asking for the things I think I need or deserve. Really? Instead, let me come to the throne seeking the grace and mercy to accept what He has given me (Hebrews 4:16). Instead, let me come before the throne praising Him for not giving me what I truly deserve. Instead, let me give thanks for all the blessings in my life that I take for granted everyday. Instead, let me look for ways to bless others instead of looking at myself. Instead, let me have a perspective that seeks to glorify the Lord in all things.

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.

17 Days…

While most people are counting the days until Christmas, we are packing and counting the days until we move to Panama. It is a bit crazy and overwhelming that we will be making another major move in 17 days, but I love how the Lord is continuing to provide along the way…..

  1. We don’t have to weigh bags!! Panama City is about 12 hours from here, so we will be renting a large van to move us. It is more economical than flying and we don’t have to sell more of our things. Yay!
  2. We have already sold our car! This is a huge praise. We posted it for sale and it was sold within 3 days.
  3. We have found a house in Panama. The house is in the same neighborhood as our other team members and will provide our family with a comfortable and safe place to live!

Just as we have praises, we also have some prayer requests…

  1. Houses for rent in Panama, are not quite the same as houses in the states. Currently, there are plumbing fixtures and cabinets (praise!), but we will have to purchase and install all lighting, air, hot water and appliances.
  2. The residency process in Panama will cost around $7,000. Please pray that the Lord will provide these funds.
  3. Transition is always hard. We are overjoyed about the opportunities that await us in Panama, but packing up and saying goodbye is always difficult. Pray especially for the kiddos during this time of transition.

Big News!!

FAMILY

We have heard that there is one thing that is always constant in ministry…. change! There was a time in our lives that change brought fear and uncertainty, but the Lord has been faithful in showing us that change at times is equal to obedience in following Him.

We are excited to announce that after our year of language training and serving alongside the team here in Costa Rica, we have been invited to join the ReachGlobal team in Panama to assist with the Global Fingerprints program. What a blessing and joyful opportunity to join with the team there!

So what is Global Fingerprints? Global Fingerprints is a child sponsorship program that partners directly with local pastors to meet the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of at-risk youth. We spent the last week in Panama City and were able to meet with local pastors and see how Global Fingerprints Panama is working to fulfill the Great Commission. To read more about Global Fingerprints, click here.

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The GlobalFIngerprints program was able to help build a home for one of the families!

Thank you for your continued prayers. We are constantly overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness. This move is another example of that; there is a direct need that we can fill in Panama, and the leadership in Costa Rica, Panama, and all of Latin America are supportive and excited about this opportunity. What confirmation and encouragement. God is good!

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Our new team in Panama.