Bienvenidos a nuestros familia!
This month marks 6 months that we have been in our new environment here at Potrerillos Abajo, Chiriqui, Panama and we are excited about all of the things going on.
We had the privilege of attending the YWAM Leadership Conference of the Americas at the beginning of May in Panama City. While there we heard great speakers, slept on the Gamboa church floor, and met many new friends. It was a great time of spiritual renewal and getting to know our new YWAM family. The theme for this conference was family. It was time spent discussing, exploring, and strategizing about how we as parents and grandparents raise up younger people to carry on the mission, and how we best go about reaching the unreached people groups throughout the world. Since this was a conference of the Americas we had breakout groups of North America, Central America, and South America. What we heard in our outreach group was one of the most powerful show of God’s amazing desire for all people to know Him.
As you know, we do outreaches into the mountains of the Comarcas ( like reservations) to the indigenous Indians here. Rich and Debbie Tracy, our directors here, have worked with the indigenous groups for 20 years and last year had the first all indigenous Discipleship Training School. We want to train them to reach their own people group. One man went to a “regular” DTS several years ago. His name is Raphael.
Rapheal is a very quiet and humble man. He, his wife Bertillo, and their 7 children live on $110 dollars per month in order to spread the gospel to his people. In the discussions about reaching unreached people groups he and his wife sat very quietly. Rich asked him to share his story. I will try to summarize what he said. I was honestly afraid he would only say a few sentences when I knew all the things God has done through him. He surprised me and spoke so honestly from his heart I started crying almost in the first few minutes. To hear people who know nothing but Christ is a great honor.
Raphael started his story by saying that he understood very little of what was going on in the conference because he and his wife are uneducated and Spanish is their second language, but he would be glad to share his story. He stated that he understood very little of what went on in his DTS but knew he needed to seek God in all things. He went home and shared with Bertilla and they began to pray for God’s direction. At the time they lived in the town of San Felix. After some time they believed they were to travel into the Comarca and share the Good News with their own people, so they packed up their belongings and headed into the mountainous jungle to do just that. The village they settled in was two days walk from the main road back into the comarca far from any resources or paved roads. He said they didn’t know what they were to do so they prayed and God told them to go hut to hut and share. They began sharing with their neighbors and new friends and over time impacted the lives of others in the village. As they went from village to village, they started churches by finding someone willing to take the lead. As Raphael shared his simple story of how he and his wife and family trusted God in this act of obedience people in the room began weeping. It was simply overwhelming to hear this simple man, uneducated in the ways of school and books, talked of his clear connection with his loving heavenly father and blind trust in what he believed God was telling him to do. He ended his story and I am sure he wondered why the whole group was now crying. Rich (who has been his mentor) asked him how many churches they had started. He stated 12. Then Rich asked him how many people have been baptized and he said ” we think about 500″. Numbers stated simply and without any kind of bravado. No church planning seminars, not evangelism teaching, no structures, just people sharing what they know with their neighbors. Raphael and his family live in a wooden shack with dirt floors, no electricity, and walk every where they go yet they are far richer than most of us. It is our privilege and honor to know him and be able to work alongside him.
The work in the Comarca continues and is growing rapidly. We now have two wooden structures and will return at the beginning of next year to construct yet a third unit. There is now a school at the bottom of the hill with oversight from YWAM that educates children from the area. Raphael, on one of his outreaches, discovered a village about 4 hours walk (for the Ngobe, it would take us two days) where about three hundred people live whom are totally illiterate. At their request we have joined forces with the government and will be sending yet another Ngobe Bugle YWAMer to live there and teach them basic reading skills. Once the children have basic reading skills they will be eligible for residency at the new structure we are building and will live there during school semesters and attend the school. Their families will be able to visit and they can return to their villages when they complete each semester or during extended holidays.
In addition, the location Raphael originally settled has now been determined by the Ngobe indians as their future capitol city in the Comarca and named it Tugri. We, YWAM, through Raphael , have been given an additional parcel of land that is situated in the two crossroads of this city where we will build a community center. This community center will host year long DTS training for those in the area further creating more disciples There are an estimated 200,000 Ngobe Bugle indians living in this area of Panama.
Beginning July 5 we will host our last all indigenous DTS here at the YWAM Chiriqui base. All future DTS’s for the indigenous will be held on location in the Comarca. In addition, we have been developing plans to host year round DTS’s in other areas in order to disciple people in their own areas. It will be held on weekends to allow people to stay with their families during the week.
On other fronts, the work continues to progress on our new base location in Potrerillos Aribba. This base will be the hub for continued DTS trainings, an orphanage for about 100 children, outreach into the local orphanages, nursing homes, children’s cancer hospitals, and prison ministries in David, and various other outreaches to the community. We have been working very diligently to complete the structure and have plans to move into it by the end of June. All of this has been made possible by a huge financial gift from one of the churches in the U.S. and God also blessed us with the ability to purchase commercial kitchen appliances at 1/4 retail cost. They came from a local restaurant owner who is returning to the states and wanted to bless the ministry.
God continues to provide us with resources both financially and staff wise to accomplish the tasks before us. We are truly blessed.
On the personal front:
Terry had the opportunity to attend some formal spanish classes in nearby Boquete thus allowing him to better communicate better with the people here.
One of our friends from the states came to visit us in April and our kids, Chris and Ashley came last weekend to celebrate Terry’s 60th birthday. It is such encouragement to us to have visitors. So some of you need to pack your bags and come visit!
We will have the privilege of keeping Rich and Debbie’s 18 month old foster son for the next 3 weeks while they are in the states. Due to the laws here, they are not allowed to take him out of the country. We love Andy and are looking forward to hearing the pitter patter of little feet in the house again.
We will be leading the DTS here beginning on July 5th and we are working construction each day on the new base in order to have it completed before that time. We currently have 10 students registered with a couple of others who are considering coming. This is the 5 month course we attended in Tyler before we came to Panama. We would really appreciate your prayers during that time. It will run until Nov 22 and then we will be heading back to the states to eat turkey and see all our friends and relatives before the new year begins.
We are now in the rainy season here which runs from May through December. It rains pretty much every day for a couple of hours very hard and things have really greened up. We were very close to having the government schedule mandatory blackouts due to a shortage of electricity (Panama gets it electricity through hydroelectric power) but with the rains that should ease up a bit.
We continue to be grateful for each of you and knowing you are behind us gives us encouragement to carry on.
Terry, Liz, and Odie