Celebration Sunday

Today was a church service, celebration and lunch at the Juan Diaz center in Panama City. It was so fun watching Ryan in his element as a Panamanian son – he is greatly loved here and doing a great job of translating. But what is he doing in the picture?! (You can ask team members what that picture was about when they get home).

 

A very cute, young Wounaan dancer in training.

 

 

She helped give out gifts to our team.

 

 

Our team sharing

 

Reconnecting with old friends…

 

Cocobolo Wood

The beautiful cocobolo wood from the jungles of Panama, has a deep meaning, significance, beauty and economic value for the Wounaan people. In some ways, you could says it’s a symbol of conflict, since it represents the illegal logging on their lands because of this valuable wood, leading to ongoing land disputes with governments, and more extreme conflict that even led to the death of one of their village chiefs in 2012.

As we gave the gift of pens today, I shared with them how over the years, cocobolo has not only become my favorite wood for pen-making, but a symbol of unity, not conflict. They have given me many pieces of the wood for making pens and it’s a privilege to give it back in another form that represents so much. The hardware is from Canada, and the wood is from Panama. The wood has many shades of color, as does the hardware. Together, they reflect the beauty and unique aspects of our partnership – a symbol and reminder of unity for everyone who was here.

 

Today is a full days of sharing our stories of faith, challenges in ministry and to encourage one another. Our FGCC team shared this morning and did such a great job of sharing from their hearts, both the highs and lows of life and ministry – but God’s faithfulness throughout. Many laughs and many tears together. This afternoon, we are hearing from the Wounaan leaders and the Panama missions team. God is at work in our midst!

It’s great to be making, eating, and cleaning up meals together – an important part of team building. Ryan led us in some fun games – laughter breaks all cultural and language barriers.

I’m not sure yet, but tonight will be times of worship, pray and maybe some cultural dancing. Looking forward to Jim Davidson’s cultural dance 😊…

 

We are Welcomed

We all had a good flight with a short night in Toronto.  We were welcomed at the airport by Einer and Girlesa and others from the Wounaan leadership. Settled into our place – a missions based called Casa Paraiso just outside of Panama city. We are so close to the canal, that we can hear the ships from where we are. It’s a beautiful spot and we are loving the warm air (29 degrees). Tomorrow our team of 6, plus the missionary team of 6, plus Rudy and Emerson from South America, will be joined by 15 Wounaan leaders for the day. We will be sharing our personal and also church stories, celebrating what God is doing in this partnership and be doing some planning for the years ahead as well.

Tonight we began by a small group of us meeting with some of the missionary team to help work through some challenges that they are working through. Pray for God’s Spirit to work in new and fresh ways. This is such a gifted and diverse team, but life is complicated and the enemy never wants us to work in full unity.

For those wanting a glimpse into where out team is currently staying, you can see some pictures here.

 

We arrived!

 

How many team members can you find in this picture?

 

 

Tonight we go to Toronto. Tomorrow morning Panamá. Appreciate the many praying folks behind our small team. We want to be a blessing to our Panamá friends who are going through a tough season. Pray for much wisdom for us!

 

 

Final Preparations!

What do you do the night before leaving to Panama? All the important final preparations – a quick haircut while watching Corner G, and the installation of a new toilet. Anyone needing a used one? It’s ready for pick up… and it hardly leaks. I’m sure it will be gone by the time I get back…

 

 

“It’s sort of become tradition – each time I go I bring gifts of some pens made from their cocobolo wood”

 

Thank-you for the gift of Sunday’s farewell.  We were honored and blessed. And we were delighted by the extent to which we as a fellowship could laugh together…be it the skit; the presentation of the cane; the laughing song; and other humorous comments. And the evening was extended as we later opened the many cards which provided added words of appreciation and affirmation. Even received  a sleeve of tennis balls as gift. It is not that often that a new retiree receives both a cane and a sleeve of balls together! Thank-you to the church for the flowers, the financial gift, and the Wordle, a gift we will always cherish.  Thank-you for the many warm memories…not only from Sunday evening, but from the years of relational engagement at Forest Grove.

Pastor Harry and Judy Strauss