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Friday, June 28, 2013

What a World!

Today, I was sent with my team to go down to a church and paint. We walked about 300 yards down the road and found the unfinished walls, with it’s cement structure. Michaela and I were pulled aside and we sifted dirt for a little bit. Then, we went inside the church and began to help out there. After several minutes of scraping the walls to make them smooth for painting, we began to paint the walls with the base paint. There was a limited amount of rollers, so a lot of the group went out on a walk to meet the people living around the church and to pray for them. But I stayed behind and painted with the village men that were there. Cassidy and I met a really cool guy named Isa. We had a lot of fun painting with him. We couldn’t speak Spanish very well, and he couldn’t speak English very well, but we communicated through actions. It’s really cool to be able to talk to the people without words. Sometimes it’s difficult to speak to them, because neither one of you know what the other is saying, but when you finally understand, it’s really exciting. Isa laughed when Cassidy and I got in a water fight. When the rest of the group got back, they swapped out, and the other group went out. But Cassidy and I still stayed back. I didn’t want to leave the relationships I had formed, and Cassidy wasn’t feeling her best. But the group that had just returned commented that I had been painting for a long time. They didn’t ask to paint, but I knew they wanted to. So I put aside my “if I don’t do it, it won’t get done” attitude, and let them paint. By then we had started painting the crème color on the walls, and it looked really good. I went outside and found Kaylee surrounded by ten children. We brought them all back to the camp and gave them stickers of the good Samaritan story. I suggested that we acted the story out for them, so Daniel, Kaylee, Cassidy, and I acted out the story, using the very little Spanish that I knew. That was my favorite part of the day. I learned all of the children’s names, and we talk quite well together, although it is kinda difficult with the language barrier. God is ever-working in and through us here in Panama, and it is amazing to see what he has done, and what he is doing, with this village. I love the people here, and I cannot wait to see what will happen tomorrow. Whatever it will be, I know God’s hand will be on it all.
~Diana Dvorak

Panama is by far the most beautiful place I have ever been. My time here has been filled with laughter, tears, smiles, friendship, love, and joy. Over the passed few days I’ve seen so many amazing things that I hope I will never forget. Today, I was blessed with the opportunity to paint the inside of a church and go on a prayer walk through the village. Our prayer walk entailed us going around to people’s homes and asking if they needed help or prayer for anything, all but one lady allowed us to pray for them. The lady while she was thankful that we came, she said she would go to church if she needed prayed for. While that was a very humbling experience, it didn‘t weaken our spirit as we kept going to other homes. Later, a group of little village children joined our group. We decided to walk down to the pier, my little girl Ruth told me she had to go put her sticker story away. As she ran off, I realized she was going to the house of the lady I mentioned earlier. And while the memory still stung, I realized that I had a purpose there when Ruth came running out of the house toward me with the biggest smile on her face laughing for no reason. As I spent my time at the pier with Ruth and her brother Josue, I couldn’t help but love them as we laughed as we struggled to communicate. As I’m sitting here writing, Ruth and Josue are around playing with other students here in our base camp. Ruth, Josue, and many others, I will never forget their faces, smiles, and laughter. But most of all, their joy. Their joy for living life, because it’s beyond contagious, and you can’t help but feel this joy when you’re around them. This is only one memory of many that I will take away from this trip and I can’t wait to see what God will do in the hearts of all of us on the rest of the trip.
Love, Amy Chadwell

Today my morning coffee was made in a pot 300 yards away at a local church kitchen. This same pot was walked over slippery grass and leaves in the pouring rain by our translator, Steve. Vanilla milk was offered as the perfect addition. It was poured into a navy blue (my favorite color) 8oz plastic cup--too hot to touch except the rim. It is perfect. I’m sorry for all the non coffee drinkers who are missing out. There is no coffee like Panamanian coffee sipped outside, under a tin roof, out of the rain, with the ocean waves crashing in the distance, contemplating the creation of God.
Wish you were here, Pattie Graffe

I’m sitting here listening to rain thump down on the tin roof of the church we’re helping remodel. There are no side walls, only a front and back, and half of a concrete floor. Our plan was to fill the other half with concrete, but bad weather has halted many of our efforts. Bad weather is also a cause for most of us being more tired today than usual. We were awaken abruptly last night by rain blowing into tents and thunder and lightening disrupting the silence of sleep. I kid you not, the rain was so loud on the tin roof of our camp last night that you wouldn’t be able to hear a conversation with a person two feet away from you. Although it was an inconvenience for many, having to get up and put the rain flies on, not being able to sleep with the noise, it was a great reminder of God’s power. Now we are dealing with the aftermath of last nights chaos. Usually I would complain; we get enough rain back home. Yet this rain is welcomed on my burned neck and blistered hands. It is cool to see my fellow teammates, and the Panamanians working through this rain as well. God’s strength is flowing through all of us, giving us that second wind to shovel rock, pound ground, pour concrete, and share His love with the people around us. We have three more days, including today, for organized serving. I’m excited to see how God will continue to appear and impact lives. Karen se dice hola a mis amigos en los estados. (Karen is the little girl sitting next to me as I type this, she says hello to my friends in the states). Jorge se dice hola tambien. Tambien David.
~Michaela Nelson

Casa Paraiso

Hey Everyone, I know you can't wait until the next blog post from the Panama Crew (I can't either! :), but until they are able to post another update, here is a great video that talks about the place where the team stays while they are in Panama City. If you haven't seen the video already, it gives you a great picture of where your student was living for a couple days!

Casa Paraiso Panama from Batchelor Visions on Vimeo.

Also, another video the check out is the one below. It talks about the Ministry the students are serving through, Sonrise Ministries Panama. It's an older video, but again, it will give you a sense of the kinds of things our team is up to down there!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Follow the Nudge

These are several blogs from our adventures and experiences over the last several days. We are currently in Mariato, Panama, which is much more rural than where we started our trip. We will do our best to continue to make regular posts to the blog, but if it ends up being a few days, we will be back in Panama City on Monday. Pictures will probably come Monday. But in the meantime, enjoy the following...

Dear Panama, you are definitely more than I expected. And beautiful pain is a great way to describe the way you’ve left me feeling after these first two days. Just to hold the hand of a beautiful girl with special needs. To have her speaking to me and not understand a word. To pray for her and have her wrap her arms around me and never want to let me go…is to feel the pure love of God in such a real way. As I was leaving, she said one word that I could understand, ‘recuerdo’, which means ‘I will remember’. I told her I love her and God loves her, and then I had to leave. But oh I didn’t know what to think. I sat silent on the bus on the way home to Paraiso, just as I am sitting silent on this 6 hour bus trip today to Mariato. I can’t help but remember the names of the eight kids I prayed for last night. Or the boy at the school who wanted so badly to salsa with me, that he pushed his friend aside when it was time to switch partners. I know God has a plan for every girl and boy that I have met, and that He also has plan for me. Yes, I might be familiar with this amazing culture, but I am continually being surprised and challenged with every experience. And I love it. Dios te bendiga! Love, Cassidy Sharrett

Dear Panama, I never expected this trip to be as impacting as it has been. This trip so far has been beautiful, but also very painful. The past two days spent in the orphanage and in the school left me attached to kids that I know I will never see again. I spent the days in the school teaching the third and forth graders English, Spanish, and bible study. They showed us so much love and so much gratitude. Calling us all teacher and calling me Miss. Emma. I spent most of the time with a girl named Marissa, She was in the class I was teaching. She came up to me crying and saying she had a headache, so I took her outside and held her for what seemed like hours. After we left we traveled to Malambo orphanage where I was one of the three people assigned to the toddler house. That was the house with kids ranging from a few months old, to two years old. We came in and helped with feeding and just gave the kids love. Immediately after coming in the first day one little girl ran up to me and would not let me put her down for the whole two days that we were there. Her name was Anitalia. If I even put her down for one second to stretch my arms, she would reach up and cry to be held again. These kids broke my heart when they called us all Momma over and over again to get our attention. These little babies were convinced that we were going to take them home and actually be their “Momma.” This trip has been full of beautiful pain. I just wish I could bring them all home with me! Love you all, Emma Collins

Dear Panama, I never thought I could fall in love with kids this easy. The very first day we were in the school Tyler and I went into the Kindergarten room just to goof off with the kids and sing songs and color. These kids had so much energy and everything they did made me laugh. I fell in love with a little boy named Aaron. I drew a picture and he liked it a lot so he drew the same thing, came over to me and put it down on the table. I looked at it and pointed at my picture. He nodded his head like he was saying “Yeah its just like yours!” I felt so touch and I hugged him and when I tried to let go he held on tighter. I spent the rest of the class holding him until his teacher said he had to go. The next day he remembered me. He ran up and hugged me and then turned around to look at his classmates while leaning against me. It made me feel so loved. At the orphanage I was one of three people who went to help out with the very young toddlers. The first day when we walked in the kids were eating their food and so we just went right in and started to feed them a rice and bean mix. When they were done in the next room a little girl ran up to me and sat on my lap. We all sat and bounced them on our laps and dipped them back and when they came up they had the most beautiful smiles on their faces and the would giggle and start to throw themselves back again and we would follow their actions and dip them and bring them back up. It was very hard to let these kids go. When you have three babies wanting to be held at the same time and everyone else has three babies to watch you are torn because all of them want to be high up but you have no choice but to sit. When one girl called me Momma I didn’t know what to do because I didn’t want to give her a false hope that I could take her home. She called me Momma twice and it broke my heart to leave her behind because I would love to have kept her but I cant and all I can do is pray she and the other kids we met grow up to be amazing people. As we left the toddler room on the second day all of the children ran up to the door and started yelling at us and giggling and smiling and I just wanted to go back in there and lift them all up and spin them around but I just waved and turned around and walked away. I will never forgot those babies and all the laughter and smiles they had and I hope that when they grow up they laugh just as much and they smile just as much and they are happy. I will never forget their faces and how they lit up when we walked to them and how their noses would scrunch up when they laughed and how their eyes would water when we put them down. I am going to miss them forever but I am so grateful that I got to spend the time I was given at the orphanage with them. Love, Mackenzie Nelson

Dear Panama, It’s only day 5 and I never want to leave. The first two days spending time in the orphanage with Gabbie and Chris with kids ages two to five have changed my life forever. I didn’t expect to get attached to them so easily. Hours of smiles, toys, cookies and adventures on the playground left me breathless at the end of it. One of the little girls was named Helen, she was two years old. When we got to the house with the children in it on the first day, she wouldn’t say a word to me. I tried to interact with her as much as I could but she was so shy. In the last hour we were there on day one she came up to me while a little boy of about eight was sitting on my lap and she joined him. The two kids on my lap were the kids that could make me smile in an instant. On day two I played with the two kids again. We collected toys, raced some “cars” or tricycles around the little outdoor patio and had a couple of booboos along the way. I have never, in my entire life smiled brighter than I did on that day. They caused me to feel what Mike would call “beautiful pain.” Leaving the orphanage brought numerous tears to my eyes knowing I would most likely never get to see these children again. In our debrief time at the end of the day, we lifted the names of the kids that impacted us to God. I was so thankful for Jim to be there for Gabbie and I. His prayers for us, the kids and the families were what helped us through the tears of beautiful pain by helping it be known that the future of those children would not be in our hands and it is all up to God. I will always remember all of those kids and that God has an amazing plan for them. I hope I impacted them as much as they touched my heart in ways I never thought possible. Love, Brooke Fisher

Dear Panama, Oh how I am amazed I am with the beauty here. Not only the country itself, but the people as well are so beautiful. The first two days spending time with the children was outstanding. Never have I felt such joy around little kids. Two little boys, Aaron and Angel, filled my heart with such joy that I started to cry. Aaron just wanted to be held and loved. Angel had so much energy and was willing to try anything. I taught him how to throw a football and he played catch with Mike and I for most of the time we were at the park. As we drove around I got to see how beautiful the country was. Green trees and grass, but not like back home. Leigh and I picked mangos off a tree outside the house and ate them fresh. Never have I had such a delicious mango. I love it here! The people are amazing and so welcoming. The weather and the landscape are just as beautiful. I never want to leave this place and I know it will hurt me to say goodbye. I never imagined I would love it this much. Love, Tyler Stolz

As one of the privileged adult volunteers (however, most of the students would debate my “adult” status!) I’ll never cease being amazed about what God can and will do when we get away from the trappings of the “good life“. The illusion of stuff to make you happy is never more evident than on a trip like this. To see our students “unplug” and really love others as Jesus taught, to serve as He did, to engage with others is really heartwarming. To have a front-row seat for all of this is truly humbling. In just the short time we have been here, several of our students are looking at missions or working with children as their life work. When your students come home, they will be filthy, smelly, tired, and have lots of really icky laundry. But they will be different. They are changing. You WILL have a different student coming back home. Please continue to pray for broken hearts, humble attitudes, ears that hear, and reactions to “the nudge”.


Jim Graffe

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wednesday, June 26

The Panama Team is headed out to a town called Mariato today and will be there until Monday when they come back to Panama City. Just in case they don't have internet out there, here's where they are!

Day 2... June 25th

Buses. Piggy-back rides. Soccer. Salsa lessons. Espanol. Joy. Laughter. Mangoes. Swings. Bracelets. Hannah Montana. Tears. Water. Humility. Sunshine. We will shout. Blue. Follow the nudge. all of which explain our beautiful pain and our second full day in Panama.

Our second day in Panama was much like the first; we went to help out at the school, then spent time with children at the orphanage. However, today showed me how extremely hard and emotionally taxing the rest of this trip will be. Yesterday I met a girl named Grace. We spent time together teaching each other new words and just talking. She was one of the smartest, most caring and mature 4th graders I had ever seen in my life; she stole my heart in a way she’ll probably never know. So today was time to say goodbye to Grace and the rest of the children and staff. We went from room to room, praying for the kids, teachers, classrooms, etc. Finally when we got to Grace’s class, I stood behind her with my hand on her shoulder and she offered to share a prayer as well. She spoke very quietly and I could barely hear her, but I realized that she was praying for me, for a safe journey home. She gave me so much in that one moment, and there was so much I wanted to say to her, but I couldn’t find the right words. So, I took off my necklace and put it around her neck, because it was the only thing I could do in that moment. I really hope that she keeps it, as a reminder that someone will always be looking out for her, and that there will always be someone who cares. I want nothing more than for her to grow up and be happy, and the same for all the other kids I met today. They deserve nothing less than that. I hope that during the rest of this trip, we can continue to spread happiness and hope to everyone we come in contact with. I am so blessed to be here and I can’t wait to see what else we can accomplish. –Alexa DeYoung

Day 2 and I’m already questioning why I’m going to college instead of moving here, to Panama. Here, every action feels purposeful and “finding God”, typically a complex hunt, feels blessedly simple. We started the day off like yesterday, at a local elementary school. On our way to the school, I was, admittedly, nervous. I’m not one of those people that just has that natural gift with little kids- I have cleverly evaded baby-sitting jobs for the past four years now. With that said, my time at the school was incredible. Kids were jumping all over me, wanting endless hugs and piggy back rides. We played tag, frisbee, soccer, and even salsa danced (true story, these hips don’t lie). There was one kid in particular that made today especially heart-wrenching. Juan spent more time on my back than on his feet and when it was time to leave, he refused to let go. I kept trying to say goodbye; saying I didn’t want to leave, I had to leave. His teacher came over in an effort to help, and when the effort proved fruitless she explained that Juan’s mother works constantly and is never home. He was raised by a loving grandmother who passed away just two weeks ago. Needless to say, that added a good ten minutes to this goodbye process. With my choppy (to put it generously) Spanish, I told him that it was time for me to go, but he would always be my friend. Walking away from that beautiful kid left me with deep, painful ache that can only be labeled love. But I figure if God loves Juan even more than I do, I’m just gonna have to trust that he’s in good hands. –Casie Lively

God is so good! I have always known that he works in miraculous ways and always provides but I had never experienced it personally. The past few days have really opened my eyes to this. Here in Panama I have experienced a kind of love that I didn’t know existed. The children we worked with at the school were so beautiful. They are so full of joy even though they do not necessarily have a reason too. We were told that many of the children lived in homes where their parents worked multiple jobs and were never home with their children. Because of this they loved to be held and touched. It was a fabulous feeling to have smiling children running up to you and climbing all over you. It is such a blessing to serve when you receive such a love in return. With all this love and witnessing the beautiful, we have also been heartbroken through this trip. Working at the orphanage these past two days has been difficult for many reasons. First there is the language barrier and secondly just the awkwardness of meeting new people. My group was put with the teenage girls and at first it was very difficult because they were very quiet and unwilling to interact. Later in the day a really cool translator came and we were able to communicate through her. It broke my heart to hear the stories of the girls living there. Immediately I felt the urge to pray for a certain girl. I truly believe that God spoke through me during that time because I had no idea what I was supposed to say- just that she needed prayer. I am so excited to see what else God has in store for us this week and I put all my faith in him. –Rachel White

Today our second day in panama was a lot like our first we started out by going to a local school were we started out by hearing a couple songs performed by the kids at the school (2 in English and 1 in Spanish) they were very good! Next at the school I went to down to the local park with the 4th and 5th graders were we played soccer I met a really cool student his name was Angle he loved piggy back rides… and soon after we took them back to the school it was time to bring the 1st and 2nd graders down, they were a lot of fun they did not want so many piggy backrides as the others. right before we left we got to go into all of the class rooms and have a chance to pray for all the kids it was such a great experience! , as soon as we were done at the school we went to an orphanage, were I was with younger kids probably ages 1-6 were we just played outside and just held them and showed them love. It was really hard to leave because you knew you would never see them again and they grew so attached to you. After that we just went back to the house and had a chance to relax and take a well needed shower. That’s pretty much a day in panama! –Derek Erikson

Monday, June 24, 2013

El 24 de Junio

We have arrived in Panama and are just wrapping up our first full day in the country!!! Our trip down could not have gone anymore smoothly, from our check in at the airport, to on-time plane travel, and hassle-free immigration and customs. Our team is full of energy and has jumped into this adventure with everything they have.

Here are Hunter and Alexis's description of our first day here...

Fun. I’m blogging in Panama. The place I have been talking about for months. It is so much more amazing that I ever thought it would be. And its only the first full day!!!! I saw Gods work everywhere today. I felt it personally in myself. I helped teach a 4th grade bible class. It was awesome. The kids understood and finished the teachers worksheet with my help. I saw many smiles and it was so contagious. The highlight of my day was when we were at the orphanage. I talked as much I could with the little Spanish I have leaned to a young 12 year old girl who had been there for 8 years. She told me that she sees her mom 2 Sundays of each month. She was the sweetest girl. I also successfully taught her the cup song I have been learning even through our language barrier. It was so much fun. I think this was the best use of the word fun ever! I can not wait to see where the nudge takes me tomorrow! - Hunter

Today was my first official day in Panama. I still can’t believe I’m in this beautiful country! I have dreamt about this place since I was little, now I’m actually here. Of course it’s not everything I expected, but that’s what makes it better. After eating breakfast and having devotional, we went to an elementary school to help out. The children there were filled with life. I can still see them squeal with excitement and running to us with open hands, ready to receive our love. Later on, I helped out with teaching the 1st grade English class. It was unbelievable how smart the kids were and how much English they already knew. At lunch I learned that even in Panama you still can’t escape the rain. After lunch we went to the Paraiso Casa and learned about the adoption system and Ley 61 (law 61), which was generally about the difficulties of adopting in Panama. Right after, we went to an orphanage that ranged from 10 month babies to 18 year olds. I was able to spend my time with toddlers who were tragically were born with HIV. The part that most awed me the most was that the kids looked perfectly normal. Full of energy, joy in their eyes, and wiling to express there love with anyone. Now it almost time for dinner, and I can’t wait to go back tomorrow. Already God has opened my eyes to wonderful new things, and I can’t wait for the next one. - Alexis J.

Monday, June 10, 2013

bring an eye patch and make sure you don't "dance the hempen jig"