The View From Three Thousand Feet
As I sit here gazing out at the trees, sky, and area around me I am amazed by the incredible creation of God. (Potrerillos Arriba, Chiriqui, Panama is about 3000 above sea level. Nestled at the base of an extinct volcano named Volcan Baru the views are breathtaking and air crisp and cool) The song “You are God” is softly playing on my ipad. As I think about the words to the song I can’t help but reflect on the recent events that have occurred here in the Potrerillos province of Chiriqui, Panama.
The last two months seem like a blur. We arrived back in Panama on December 23rd just in time to celebrate Christmas by hosting 23 students and staff members from the base. An added blessing was that my mom was able to come with us for a good visit. Our 3 1/2 weeks in the U.S. was a great time of visiting family and friends, reconnecting with others, sharing in churches, and taking care of business. We returned to Panama anxious to begin implementation of some of the dreams and visions God had placed in our hearts more than 3 years ago. Little did we know that the very concept of implementing those dreams would soon be challenged on every level.
The day after Christmas we began the process of packing up our household items to facilitate a move to a home closer to the YWAM base. We had been anticipating this move for more than three months prior to our visit to the states. Timing and availability was the limiting factor and so we left for the U.S. knowing that upon our return we would have 4 days to pack up and move
Our move was like many others, days filled with scurrying around locating boxes, placing items ready in our vehicle to move other to the other location, painting the other location prior to moving in, etc. etc. In spite of the short time frame everything went smoothly and we were settled in our new `‘home” on the 31st of December just in time to start the new year.
We immediately jumped into the routine of getting things ready at the base because we knew that by the third week in January the population of the base would change dramatically. Two schools were beginning January 31st and with that we would see an influx of temporary staff, permanent staff returning from holiday, teams, students for both DTS and the SLMD leadership school, and the occasional mission builder single or couple. All in all we expected anywhere from 35 to 60 people on any given night residing at the base. All wanting to be involved in ministry. All needing some sort of transportation support. All needing to be fed, and supported. Housing alone was no simple task. Even though the new base facility is 95% complete It can comfortably house a maximum of 45 people. What to do with the other 15 people. Add to that the complexity of housing singles vs couples, a team of 25 opthalmologists and optometrists wanting to see 4000 patients in 5 days, DTS teams coming to do outreach in Bocas and beyond, church groups from 10 to 25 in size, and our base leaders, Rich and Debbie, having to be in the U.S. till January 15th made for some pretty long, busy days.
We were slated to begin the workshop at Arturo Muro the second or third week in January. That workshop was to be the precursor of our trade school endeavors here in Panama. Our dreams and goals for this are huge. We know that only God can accomplish the things that are in our heart. Our plan is to start small, teaching the homeless boys there how to do woodworking, gradually moving them into learning a skill that will be transferrable into them finding jobs in the area. In the future this program will expand to encompass welding, all types of construction including concrete work, carpentry, electrical, plumbing, roofing, etc., nursing skills, office skills, and bookkeeping. Our immediate plan was to get the boys excited by having a church team come from Wisconsin who would help them build birdhouses. In the future our plan is to bring them to a skill level that they could build items available for sale at the local merchants in Boquete (a local gringo favorite).
January 17th much of that changed, at least temporarily. I began noticing something going on with my vision. Many of you know that I had an injury when I was three that caused me to only have vision in one eye. Up until that point my vision had consistently been excellent in my left eye. Now suddenly I began seeing flashes of light, hundreds of floaters and what seemed like a curtain moving over the left side of my eye eliminating my peripheral vision. A visit to the opthalmologist in David revealed I had in fact torn my retina. In the Dr’s words this was a double emergency. First because I could quickly lose vision in this eye. Second because this was the only eye I had vision in. The problem was the retinologist is only in David one week out of the month and he had just left for Panama City. By 8 pm that evening we were on our way to Panama City being driven by our base leader Rich Tracy for the appointment Saturday at noon. By 6 pm Saturday evening I was laying in a hospital bed in hospital Nacional prepped for surgery.
Liz quickly sent out a request for prayer on facebook. We have heard from others, over the years who said they knew people were praying for them. In fact, we have experienced that ourselves but never at this level. From the moment this started we had a deep sense of peace. It was more than a hope. It was a deep sense of knowing that God was in control. As the song says, you are God of the heavens and God of the earth, you are God of our saviors virgin birth. You are God when we fall and God when we stand. You are God who holds us in your hand. We have remarked to each other the amazing fact for us that through this we never questioned whether we should go home. For us, Panama is home. None of this comes from some superior strength we may have that others don’t. It simply comes from the knowledge that our lives belong to Him. Whatever He chooses to allow we know it is all for His purpose. `‘For we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” This is the life God has called us all to. A life of complete surrender to His will and purpose. We cannot achieve this through any natural means. It is only achieved through His strength. “For as many as who believed in Him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God”.
Some of you may be saying “I could never do this or that”. We in fact have said that very thing regarding some things we saw others doing in ministry. How does one go forward in the face of extreme obstacles and circumstances? Our base leader Rich brought this home when, in the hospital in Panama City, he stated; “this is where we lost our first little girl”. One cannot help but wonder if they had been in the U.S. whether that would have happened. One of the things God is teaching us is He is not impressed with our sacrifice. He is impressed with our obedience. It’s not what we give up or how difficult the situation is that God measures. It is our willingness to be obedient in every circumstance. It does not matter what the circumstance. Each of us have had our challenges. It matters how obedient we were and are willing to be. In that obedience God provides us with the measure of grace and strength we need to go through it. We personally are grateful that God didn’t call us to serve in Africa or Afghanistan. However, we have friends who are called to these places and yearn to be there when they are away. Their hearts are there and that is the grace of God working in them. If God hasn’t called you to these places it’s ok. Be faithful and obedient in the things He has called you to.
Through this process God has taught us many things. Perhaps the most important is how He has highlighted the strength and power that comes from a family of believers all lifting one another up. You are our family and we are truly grateful for how you have stood by us, prayed for us, and even financially supported us by helping us with our medical expenses. We anticipate our out of pocket costs to run about $6000.
We are also pleased to tell you that the team was able to go over to Arturo Muro’s and help the guys build birdhouses, the opthamologist/optometrist team did indeed see more than 5,000 people in 5 days, teams came and went and were able to minister in the Comarca.and we were able to hold the fort down until January 15 till Rich and Deb came back. This Tuesday marks our first workshop at Arturo Muro with some of the hand selected boys there. The Director is very excited about the prospects and has already identified the first project he would like to start with. We know this program along with the other ministry opportunities here are all according to God’s plan and timing.
We have one more surgical procedure coming up in the next couple of weeks. We ask that you keep this, the Arturo Muro boys home, the Nursing Home ministry, and all of the teams and ministry groups here in Chiriqui with the largest number hitting about 300 in April.
On another note, it was a special blessing to have my mom, Dorothy Brumlow, and Kathy Yarbrough visit us here in Panama. Their being here and ministering to us came at a very important time.
We welcome all visitors! Think about it.
Terry, Liz, and Odie
P.S. Liz is going to show her side of the story in pictures. Well, at least we are going to try. :) Also ministry pictures from the outreaches into the Comarca.
Christmas day on our front porch.
Lots of people Christmas day in our tiny home.
Exam completed. Waiting for glasses
Seeing clearly for the first time….EVER Many
said they had never seen leaves on the trees.
More than 5,000 waited for hours over 5 days to
be examined and fitted with glasses.
Starting the footings for the new educational building
in the Comarca.
All the building materials for the 40 X 60 building
had to be carried in by hand.
Odie standing guard while Terry patiently obeys
the Drs orders of staying on his left side. FOR 5
WEEKS. His mom kept him company and helped
Liz with all the housekeeping duties.
The kitchen in our new home and Terry’s view for
Fortunately we had a chance to celebrate Liz’s
birthday before all the medical excitement.