El Valle Summary

 Here's a summary of what we've done over the last week.  Some of it has already been stated in previous blogs.  Some of it is new.  Enjoy!

June 19

We had a great day yesterday. After spending some time in small groups, we went to the market for a presentation from some of the church members who are Kuna Indians.  There are many Kunas in the area.  They originated from Columbian islands.  (I'll send pictures in a separate email). Some of the women still wear the traditional attire of colorful skirts and shirts made from molas (squares of multilayered fabric that are appliquéd in ornate, colorful designs). They explained their culture to us and showed us the items they have for sale in the market. It was fascinating!

Next we split into three groups. One group went throughout the market talking to the shop owners and helping them with their English. Another group painted handicap parking spaces and hung no smoking signs in the market. My group went to the local police station to deliver first aid kits and talk to them a little about how to use the items in them.

The police offers were very thankful. They showed us a small medicine cabinet that held the only first aid items they had. We are so used to our police, fire, and medical community working together, but here they all work on their own and it seems that the police are often forgotten. They were excited to hear about the health, substance abuse, and children's classes we were doing that afternoon. Substance abuse is especially a big problem here.

That afternoon we had the health fair in the market. I worked with the children's activities.

Overall it was a good day. You will have to ask me later about how we (God) pushed the van out of a ditch, how much we were impressed with the church members, and how I stopped a van that started rolling into the street.

Today we are still in El Valle and will be working in the preschool here.

June 21

Tuesday we worked in El Valle again. My group went to the preschool here in the morning to do our children's activities. The activities included songs, games, a story, puppets, and crafts. The children were precious!  They loved the puppets, especially when it tried to eat the balloons we gave them. There was one little boy named Ramses that was a ball of energy and had an infectious laugh. He was so much fun to watch!  I'll send a picture of him. Lunch was at an italian place (who knew?)!!  That afternoon, part of our group provided our health fair to the parents of the preschoolers. For dinner we went to the missionaries home for a typical Panamanian meal provided by the sister of one of the church members. It was delicious!

On Wednesday, we started the morning by going to a local waterfall.  This is a different waterfall than the one we went to last year.  On the hike up to the falls, you pass a large stone cliff that has pictographs on it.  We aren't sure how old they were, but they had a Spanish inquisition cross on them so they may have been from the 1300's.  At the falls, there is a small swimming hole and several members enjoyed jumping off the falls into the water  it was beautiful scenery.  Later, we traveled back down the mountain to have the health fair and children's activities at the church in the small town of Elespino. It is very rare for towns in Panama to have their own church building. This one was a one room building with a porch and a baptistry inside. We didn't have that great of a turnout in numbers, but we stayed to present our material anyway. We were glad we did as we found out the church is struggling there and our brothers and sisters needed the encouragement. That evening we met with the El Valle church members for singing and a lesson on Romans.

This morning (Thursday), Stone, Colin, Emmanuel (one of the local teens), and Josh (college student visiting the missionaries from KY) climbed up to the top of the sleeping Indian mountain.   One of the mountains here looks just like a woman laying down. We got a call at breakfast that they were at the top and we were able to step out of the restaurant an see their tiny figures at the tip of the "nose". They said the view was incredible and they could see all the way to the ocean. Then we travelled up the mountain to the tiny village of La Mesa. We did our presentations and activities at the school there. This is the same school that our group painted last year. The children loved singing and participating in the activities. This afternoon we have a little break before meeting again with the church here in El Valle.

June 22

Today was an amazing day!  We started early this morning by loading up most of our group in "taxis" for our trip to the school in the mountain village of Loma Grande while the construction crew went and painted the outside of the preshool we visited on Tuesday. Now when I say we loaded up in taxis, what I really mean is that we loaded up us and all of our supplies (including lunches for all of us) into
4-wheel drive pickups that have a metal frame around the back with a tarp over it and there are wooden benches that are tied to the bed of the truck and that's where you sit. The road basically goes straight up the mountains and then back down and through a stream and then do it all over again. It is bumpy, the benches move WITH you and you basically hold on for dear life or you could literally slide right out the back. What an adventure!

The school was located on a small hill. They have no electricity and only water from one outdoor faucet. The bathrooms are basically concrete outhouses - yes, I had to rough it and go (it was still better than some of the banos i had to use in Mexico). There was a great turnout for both of the adult classes and the children's activities. This school doesn't have much so it was special to be able to give the director school supplies that were collected by Dylan's school (North Texas Christian).

This evening we had a meal and our final worship time with the El Valle church. It was a special time, but also sad because we won't see most of our Christian friends for the rest of the trip. We learned so much from this group of Christians. They live and worship as a family and are doing such great work in Panama. God is definitely working El Valle!

Tomorrow we are headed to the Enabara Indian village. We WERE able to secure reservations. We are all excited about meeting our 6 new brothers and sisters in Christ and to learn about their way of life. Another adventure awaits!