The Tides of Change

Hi All!  It was another great day here in El Valle.  We did more painting at the school in La Mesa and more teaching in the school here in El Valle.  It’s been so exciting to see the changes in the way the school is looking in La Mesa, and the way the children are speaking English with the ESL team in El Valle.  I think the greatest changes that that I have been seeing in the past few days, though, are in the people I see .  Whether it’s the shy little girl at VBS who wouldn’t look at us on the first day, who is now high-fiving us, or one of our own mission team members who has never read Spanish,  acting as one of Jesus’ disciples in a skit written in Spanish, I have seen so many positive changes already.   I am just so humbled by what I am seeing the Lord do with those who have open hearts, and who are willing to “step-out on a limb” for Him.   I mentioned our ESL team in yesterday’s blog.  Only one of them is a teacher, and she is a high school teacher, and yet they have given their all for the children of El Valle, and because of that, our VBS grew tonight.  One young man, who had been a bit of a discipline problem in the classroom for the ESL team, came to VBS tonight, brought friends, and was totally engaged in all of the activities!  That was totally unexpected! I am willing to say, without hesitation, that I bet he will be better in the classroom the next time he has one of us in there, because he’s ready for a change.

I’ve also seen a change in the way the team is interacting with each other.  When we first started mission trip training, some of us knew each other-- some didn’t.  I knew of few of the people going, but most I didn’t know, really.  As time went on, I would have a cordial conversation or two in the training classes, but not really a lot of meaningful chats.  Then we got here, and immediately things began to change.  When you’re away from everything, and for some of us, everyone you know, and you are in a place where you don’t speak the language or you only speak a little,  or  you don’t know how to get a kindergartner to understand that “A” in Spanish is different than “A” in English , or  you have a laughing gecko on the ceiling over your bed that you don’t want to fall on your head in the middle of the night (can I get an “Amen”, Teresa?!), you tend to draw close to those around you for support….And that, is what we have done!  We have circled the wagons, and we’ve come to know each other, love each other, and totally enjoy being with each other!  It’s great to see, too, that it’s a love and respect that crosses age and gender, as well.  I have had the privilege of being the only girl on the construction team this week, and I have utterly enjoyed hanging out with the guys and getting to know them—the young’uns and the old’uns (you know who you are!)  We’ve turned into a well-oiled painting machine, but more than that, I think we have truly become family!    A change that I will forever treasure!

I’ve also seen a change in the people around us.  Once skeptical faces have softened when they see us.  Parents who were not so sure about leaving their kids with us at VBS are dropping them off, shaking our hands, and talking with us.  Some have even asked about meeting with the church here in El Valle at the Chownings.  The vendors in the market, who didn’t seem thrilled with us having VBS behind their market, have asked us to help teach them English, so that they can be more successful in their businesses.  Parents who were staying together and working in their own groups at the school in La Mesa are now working along side of us.   Our bus driver, Alberto, who has been driving us all around for the last few days has changed, too.  He was very quiet and shy in the beginning, but if you know this bunch at all, you’ll know that we drew him in quickly, and tonight he was laughing with us at dinner, smiling when we told him he was special to us and had made a difference to us this week.  Alberto also helped us paint at La Mesa this week.  I think that’s pretty awesome!  I’m beginning to really like change.

I think when we get back from this mission trip, if you ask any of us who came to Panama, did your trip to Panama change you?  I think every person you talk to will give you a resounding YES!  If you should ask us to expound on that, I’m sure you’ll get 27 totally different answers about how we were changed, but I know this…Every one of them will be totally fantastico!!

Feeling the tide of change,