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!!

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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.

Gracias A Dios….

Gracias a Dios. To be be honest, the first time I heard this phrase, I thought someone was saying, “Gracias. Adios,” meaning “Thank you. Goodbye.” I was quite confused, but I soon came to learn that it simply means, “Thanks to God.”

We have so many things to be thankful for… and I think that November is the perfect time for sharing those. It is amazing to think that we have been here for 11 months. The Lord has been so faithful and continues to pour out His mercy upon us. Sure, there have been hard times, sad times and struggles, but even amidst those we have been reminded that the Lord is good.  Below are just a few things that we are thankful for!

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We are so thankful for each of you! We could not do this without your love, support and prayers! Thank you for your faithfulness.

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Thankful for the beauty that we continue to discover here in Costa Rica.

HUSBAND

Thankful for a creative husband. Because of the rainy season and no backyard, it can sometimes be difficult for the kids to find active things to do.

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Thankful for friends and a Halloween celebration. Reeves was very thankful for “dirt ice cream” and “graveyard brownies!”

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Thankful for our time at language school. Hard to believe we only have 2 months left!

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Sometimes it’s the little things! Thankful to find cornbread mix for my corn casserole recipe. Yay!

LADIES

So thankful for this group of ladies! They have been such a blessing and encouragement to me. We will all be heading in different directions come December, but thankful for the time we have had together.

CAR

Praising the Lord that the tire fell off after Matt and Ian were off the highway! Thankfully they were back in town, in a safe neighborhood and only going about 3 kph. Thankful that Matt is friends with our mechanic and the car was repaired quickly.

PRAYER

  • We will be finishing up school in a few months. Please pray for wisdom and direction as we move into full-time ministry.
  • Pray for our safety as there has been a increase in robberies in our neighborhood.
  • Pray that we will continue to grow in the Lord and cling to His promises.

Hello from Nicaragua…

We are currently on a visa renewal trip (we have to leave Costa Rica every 90 days to renew our visa). This is our second trip so that means we have been in Costa Rica for 180 days! It is hard to believe that we have been here for 6 months.

The last few months have been filled with many changes….

We began our second trimester of language school, the kids finished up their year at Sojourn, and we moved into a new house. Although we are nowhere near fluent, we are learning the language poco a poco! The funny thing is Matt is able to understand the language more easily, and I am able to speak it more easily. So, when having a conversation with a local, Matt translates into English what is being said, and then I respond in Spanish! Teamwork at its best!

We have been blessed to housesit this trimester for a couple who is visiting the states for their daughter’s wedding.  This house has great space, a garage for our car (no more parking at the school!), and a backyard that is quite big for the neighborhood. The first thing the kids did was have a water hose war in the backyard! What a blessing!

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“Bags for Beds”

We had the opportunity to take part in the “Bags for Beds” project in Los Guido, a very poor district here in San Jose. The school and others in the community collected plastic bags. We took these bags to a group of women from a church in Los Guido, and they were taught how to crochet these bags to make sleeping pads.  The ladies were paid for each mat they crocheted, and then the mats were distributed by another organization to the homeless in San Jose.  It was great to see the kids serve and interact with the ladies and the neighborhood kids that were there.

We had our first visitors….

Mom and Dad visited for 10 days during our trimester break. We had a great time discovering more of Costa Rica and simply spending time with family. We spent some time at the hot springs, visited the beach, and Reeves finally got to see her first sloth! It was hard saying goodbye, but we enjoyed the time that they were here.

Thank you for your prayers. We have seen the Lord heal us when we have been sick; comfort us when we have longed for our friends, family and our “normal”; give us peace despite the dangers that surround us; encourage us when we get blank stares from the locals when speaking Spanish; and give us laughter amidst the ants, las cucharachas, and the daily rains. We can see how the Lord is molding our hearts and calming our spirits. Please continue to lift us up!

 

I lift my eyes up…

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I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made the heaven and the earth.
Psalm 121:1-2

 

We have now been in Costa Rica for a month. Many have asked, “So what is different there”? If I am completely honest…at this time, almost everything. The smells, the language, the food, our transportation, the kids reactions/emotions, our schedules – our lives. The transition has been tough; we miss our friends, our family, and our “normal.” And just about the time I want to scream “I can’t take it anymore!”, the Lord gently reminds me, “Lift your eyes up…”

This verse has come to have greater meaning to me in the last month. As we walk the streets or even look out our bedroom balcony (pictured above) we are bombarded with razor wire and gates and bars and frustrations. But if we just look up, we are bombarded with God’s beautiful creation, His gentle reminder that he is here and that He is where our help comes from.

At that moment, we are not overwhelmed with the different, but instead are overwhelmed and overjoyed with peace and encouragement of what the Lord has called us to do. We are so thankful to be here. The enemy tries (and will continue to try) to defeat us through the different, but we will fight and we will not be shaken!  The end of Psalm 121 reads:

The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day, Nor the moon by night.
The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.
We don’t know what the “razor wire and bars” in your life might be right now, but we know that we serve a God who cares for us! We encourage you to look UP. He is there!

BUTTERFLY

The butterfly decided Ian’s head was a happy resting place.

FROG

We are still looking for a sloth, but Reeves was happy with the red eyed tree frog!

WATERFALL

One of the many waterfalls in Costa Rica. Another great reminder of God’s handiwork.

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The rainbows in the mountains are AMAZING, such a reminder of God’s promises!


Thank you for your continued prayers. We seriously could not be here without the love and support of all of you! God has been faithful in answering many prayers. We are beginning to build relationships and are seeing our kids make friends- what a blessing!

Here are a few ways you can continue to pray for us:

  • Pray that we will continue to adjust to life here. Our desire is to not simply survive, but to thrive!
  • Pray for us in language school. Y’all, is is hard to get these old brains back into learning mode!
  • Pray for us to have wisdom as parents. With culture shock/adjustment, sometimes it is difficult to know the root of certain behaviors. Pray that the Lord will direct us when to discipline and when to just give extra hugs and encouragement!
  • Pray that our house in Shreveport will sell. We had an offer fall through, but trust that the Lord is in control.

We are Here!

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Wow!! We are in Costa Rica and it seems so surreal. We are so thankful for the Lord’s faithfulness and so thankful for each of you who has helped us to get here. Thank you for giving. Thank you for praying. Thank you for encouraging. Thank you for being a part of this!

The last few days have been a whirlwind of emotions- excited, scared, happy, sad, doubtful, hopeful, exhausted….. Please continue to pray for us as we adjust and jump into school. We will be attending Instituto de Lengua Espanol and the kids will be attending Sojourn Academy, a Christian school that is part of the language school.

We are happy to have internet and can easily check email. If you would like to text us, please download the app called WhatsApp. It’s free and is a great way to communicate with us. Again, we can’t express how much we love and appreciate y’all. Thank you for your continued support and prayers!

2 Weeks…

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Y’all… we now have tickets… wow! It is happening!! Yes, we still have to raise a little more support, but we just want to give a huge shout out to everyone who is a part of this. God is so good and is continuing to bring along partners with us in this journey. We are overwhelmed by His goodness!