April 2016 Panama Update

Hello there! I had several people mention the updates this week (or lack thereof), and so I thought I’d better get one out. Life is really starting to pick up pace and fly by. I’m sorry it’s been awhile since I gave an update. I am really excited to share this month about some new and exciting things going on.

Here is a fun photo. What am I doing with the Chief of Police at the Costa Rica border?

Wendy&HeffeWell, we are smiling in the photo, so that means I’m not in trouble. 🙂

Last week Erik and I found out there are 5000+ Cuban refugees and maybe 1000 African (from East/North Africa) refugees at the Panama/Costa Rican border. I struggle at times with the idea of people trying to come to a new country illegally, but realize that these people are coming from corrupt and at times inhumane governments and they don’t even have an opportunity to come legally. So I do have compassion for them. Especially for the kids I see in the group.

Here is the reality of the situation. We have 6000 people here who ultimately are trying to get to the USA. Nicaragua shut their borders so Costa Rica shut their borders, so they are not allowed to go anywhere right now. They are stuck. Whether you believe in open or closed borders, here is the truth. These 6000 people are going to go somewhere. It may be ultimately the USA. It may be here in Panama. It may be that they are sent back to Cuba and Africa. Wouldn’t it be great if these people had someone reach out with compassion to them, show them kindness, and offer them hope in Jesus? Wouldn’t it be great if they have been shown mercy, grace, dignity and a smile so that wherever they end up, they have not lost faith in humanity? These people are in a really hard place. It took the Africans 3 months by boat to get here. They have been in this refugee camp now since last Thanksgiving. They are frustrated and not seeing any progress. They are in limbo until the government decides what to do for them.

Several days after I heard about them, I felt that nudging in my heart that I have learned is the Holy Spirit trying to get my attention. I stopped and journaled what I felt the Lord was saying and He was telling me to go to the border and check out the refugee situation and that He would give me the plans as we go. I hope this doesn’t sound too forward for those of you who don’t know God this way. But my journey in life has been about learning to hear His voice. And I’m certain of it now when I hear Him.

For a few days after this I could not get this out of my mind and felt an urgency that we are supposed to help with this effort. I decided to plan a trip to the border.

My friend Vicki, who has hosted many YWAM teams and is a real go-getter offered to come along on this trip. She brought two more friends, Dora and Lana, and the four of us prayed for open doors and divine connections.

As we got to the border, we found a crazy no-man’s land type of area. A town is there between the check in/check out buildings of the two countries. There are stores and restaurants, cars and lots of people. This is considered a free zone and when you are there, you are neither in Panama, nor Costa Rica. And this is where the refugees live when they first get to Panama. Oh, and it’s hot. Very hot.

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Here are a few photos from my phone. There are about 500 African refugees currently at the border. And they are stuck, frustrated and angry. The Cubans are in another camp and several thousand have been moved to a town not far from where we live in Boquete. We look forward to working with them soon as well.

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When we got to the refugee camp, we immediately met a journalist there who spoke English. He told us that our timing was impeccable (prayers answered for divine appointments) and that the head of the Red Cross had just gotten there and so did the Chief of Police. He was able to introduce us and interpret for us (provision!).

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The Red Cross gave us permission to bring aid in and work with them to help in areas of food and clothing distribution. They told us who to talk to and how to do it in an organized way.

Then we introduced ourselves to the Police Chief who said, “Glory to God and thank you that you would take the initiative to bring ministry and the Word of God to these people!” He said that their spirits are so low that they need us to come in and help with this. He gave us permission (and the directions of how to do it orderly) to come and bring ministry teams and our worship band and movies and whatever we wanted to do to help in this way.

So, our church and some elders from other churches in town are coming together to work in a united effort to offer help to these people. We actually have quite a few who have expressed interest in helping. I’m so excited to be a part of it. We are headed up tomorrow with food for 500 people and the movie Cross and Switch Blade. We have permission from the police to use their electricity and I’m taking my keyboard to play. This is just the first of many upcoming times. OH.. and these Africans speak French. Yep, good thing I took 2 years in high school! I’m trying to brush up on it quickly because we want to do the worship music in French if possible.

There are of course more details that I don’t have time to put in this update, so those of you interested in coming and being a part please message or email me privately. I don’t want to go on and on for people who aren’t detail people. 🙂

We will go and minister no matter if we have everything we need or not, but it sure would be easier if we had a few items that we are short on. Here is a CROWDRISE link if you are interested in donating. No pressure if not. We are so grateful for every dollar given, I know in this economy every gift is a sacrifice!

At the refugee camp, this is where the showers are. This foundation might make a great stage for a worship service. We will see! We will have to bring in a generator to provide electricity as well.

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So….

In regards to the farm, things are going great. They are going slower than we wish but I think we are just impatient for results.This is an ariel view of 4 sections of  greenhouse that are up. Since the photo was taken this is nearly all covered in plastic now. At the bottom of the photo you can see a guy sitting on the roof working on plastic. That will help you figure out scale.

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Erik and my brother Daniel work very hard out in the sun each day. I’m amazed at how they stick with it and keep going day by day. This will undoubtedly be a time of life they remember forever. They know how to build greenhouses now however and have already been contacted for contract work in other places to help others build theirs! We are more excited for the days ahead where we can share pictures of vegetables growing in those greenhouses though!

The kids are doing great and all going to an American school here. They are making friends, learning Spanish and adjusting to life. We all miss friends and family terribly though and are looking at coming to Colorado in June possibly.

This is getting long, I had better wrap it up. Thank you for your interest and please drop us a line via email! We love getting emails from people and hearing about YOUR lives as well!!

 

Erik, Wendy and the boys

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