A Forgotten People

Buenos Noches, Familia!  Hope this finds you all in well in Tejas.  We here in El Valle are tired but very happy with the extremely productive and rewarding day we had today.  We went non-stop today from sun up til’ sundown, and boy, did it feel great!   Our day started early with our group splitting into two teams going so that we could attend to projects at a couple of the local schools.  One group went to the school here in El Valle, while the other team went to another school up the mountain in La Mesa.  We had to very different tasks at the schools.  In El Valle, the team was teaching ESL classes to the students.  From what I hear, they did an awesome job, and it must be true as evidenced by the children that showed up at VBS tonight.  Most of the children we had at VBS were taught by our team today at school and decided to come, because they enjoyed spending time with them.  That’s pretty cool, if you ask me!  I’m really impressed by the team leading ESL, because most of them have never been in a classroom in that capacity before…they are not teachers, but they have chosen to go out of their comfort zone to teach the children, so that relationships can be established with the people here in El Valle.  These relationships will open a door of opportunity for us and for the Chownings to share God’s good news with the people here.   

Our second team went to a small four-roomed school in the mountains above El Valle.  It was quite a trek getting up there.  The road going up is a narrow, bumpy, winding road that is partially dirt and partially asphalt.  “Why is it a mixture of the two?” you may ask--Well, apparently, there is a large commercial chicken farm up said narrow, bumpy, winding road, and the semi-trucks that need to get up there to get the chickens were having problems doing so in spots, so the chicken farmer had a couple of the more dangerous spots paved using his own money.  I personally was flabbergasted the semi-trucks would even attempt to go up there, but knowing, not only do the attempt it, but they actually make it, now that was even more astounding!  Anyway, we made it up in one piece--the joints were a little looser, and the teeth a bit chipped here and there from all the jostling and jarring going up, but we made it.  When we got there, we found a school in dire need of painting, a small group of school children, and quite a few people from the community, mostly parents of the students, ready and waiting for us.  The kids did their morning routine of raising the flag, singing their anthem, saying their pledge, and saying The Lord’s Prayer…yes, you read that correctly.  You don’t have to check your glasses or rub your eyes:  All together, in the courtyard, the students and the parents said the Lord’s Prayer!  Pretty Awesome!  The kids then had breakfast and were dismissed for the day so that we could paint. 

We began painting, and as we did, we were joined by some of the parents.  As time went by, more and more of the parents joined us in painting.  By the end of the day, we would be in a room and it would get so crowded in there, you could hardly move.  It was a rockin good time!   There was paint a flowin’, brushes a slappin’, and smiles all around!   As more of the school got done, the mood of the adults seemed to become lighter and they began engaging with us and with each other more.  It was really neat that our “work force” kept growing, because, we really wanted them to be, in the involved with the work and with us, but we didn’t want to force it

 It was so interesting.  I think this gradual involvement occurred for several reasons:  They were becoming more comfortable with us people who were there to help them; they were taking pride in their school; they were taking ownership of their school back; they were being served by people who expected nothing from them, but if they chose to give us their help we would accept it readily.  We heard from the some of the parents and the school’s director that the school hadn’t been painted in probably 15 years or more.  This was a forgotten school.  One of the parents came to Vivian while we were painting today, and asked her to make sure that we always remember them, and what we have done for them, because they will always remember us, and what we have done.  That brought me to tears, because I realized not only was this a forgotten school, but they were a forgotten people!  So high up in the mountain and so poor that no one saw them, literally or figuratively.  

 I think sometimes, in this world, we feel that way, too, like we aren’t seen…like we are a forgotten people!   But then God makes Himself known to us in some way, and if we will let Him, He will renovate our hearts, and we will become more comfortable with Him; we will take pride in who we are in Christ, and we will take ownership of our faith and our relationship with our Creator.  We will see that He expects nothing of us except what we are willing to give.  He will not demand our love, but He yearns for it, because He loves us.  If we choose to give ourselves to Him, He will readily accept us, and we will know longer feel like a forgotten people!

The people in La Mesa really touched me today, as have the friends we’ve made in El Valle the last two days.  Some don’t know it yet, and probably never will,  but others will be told before I leave this place, how much they mean to me, and that I will never be the same for having spent time with them-- know matter how brief a time it may have been!  I am already in love with these people here in Panama, and I now know why are mission team leaders chose this place for us to come:  They knew we would be blessed by these people just as much as we pray to be a blessing to them!

Feeling blessed,