What is Global Fingerprints?

So what is Global Fingerprints you say?  I’m so glad you asked!

It may look like your average Child Sponsorship program but there is a lot more here than meets the eye! This is not like other Child Sponsorship Programs you may know about.  Since ReachGlobal is all about multiplying healthy, transformational Churches this program is firmly rooted in that idea. Everything that Global Fingerprints does happens in and through the local church and Panama is no exception.   We, together with the sponsors are bringing fire-power to Holy-Spirit filled pastors and church leaders to take what they are already doing to the next level.

By God’s grace, our team in Panama started the first chapter of a Global Fingerprints in a Spanish speaking context about a year ago and now we’re ready to expand our list of child sponsorships to 150 kids here in Panama. In 4 locations we are partnering with pastors to accomplish the Great Commission and make disciples in their context.  The tangible help that Global Fingerprints provides for these vulnerable kids gives these pastors a greater voice for greater influence in their communities than ever before.

Our National Global Fingerprints Director, Pastor Cesar Guerra (Pictured below) is a dynamic, and passionate visionary with a huge heart and busy schedule helping to oversee all the work that is done with this program and his church.  In addition, there are several Panamanian supervisors that perform monthly well-ness checks on the kids with sponsorships and a team of Americans that assist in the background with other nuts and bolts necessary to run this program optimally and help these kids in a holistic way.

We are so excited about how God is using this tool to share the Gospel in Panama and care for the physical needs of at-risk children and we wanted to share it with you so you can be included as well. If you want to learn more about Global Fingerprints in general click here.  If you want to learn more about what Global Fingerprints is doing in Panama specifically stay tuned!  More info is coming about what God has been doing and what you will see very soon.

Some of our prayer requests and immediate needs are:

1) the On-Going need for child sponsorships (Click here for more info) and

2) Pastor Cesar needs a vehicle.  We are in need of a donation of $3000 to complete the vehicle fund for Pastor Cesar who currently has no reliable transportation.  We are praying that we can give him a vehicle by the end of this month (Dec. 2017). This would make his work with the program, his church and his family a whole lot easier. If you feel led to help with this specific need then just click here.

Above all, please pray for all these kids, churches and pastors in Panama. God is doing tremendous things in and through his people and we’re so glad you get to be a part!

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“When you have a child, you have the heart of a parent in your hand.”

These words recently came roaring back to my mind in a rather unexpected way…

We have been taking baseball pretty serious lately within our little family here in Panamá.  All three of our boys (Ethan, Ezra & Eli) have had to wait a long time to do the “normal” things that kids their ages do in the States and Bianca and I had decided enough is enough. So, in July when we got back to Panama from our furlough, we signed them up for Baseball.  First time ever!  As it turns out, we learned that we were just 3 miles from one of the most competitive youth baseball schools in all of Panamá.  To be frank, it has been awesome and the timing couldn’t have been better. The boys are growing leaps and bounds and in addition to sports, it has become a humungous cultural connection for all of us. We all feel like we’ve been seeing blessing after blessing as a result of this decision and we thank the Lord for that.  One of those unexpected blessings occurred about 3 weeks ago and it came from Venezuela.

Ethan and I were at one of his practices that day and I noticed that a new coach showed up to help but I had never met him.  He was a big guy, like 6’ 5”, 260 lbs. type of big.  It caught my attention because I’m usually one of the few guys over 6 feet tall in the crowd and he was way bigger than that.  I introduced myself and discovered that he was one of the many Venezuelans that has recently come to Panama in search of critical economic help for his family in Venezuela. (More on that later) He told me his name was John and his expertise was baseball and specifically batting.  In fact, they called him “Bam-Bam” (yes like the Flintstones) because he was apparently known for crushing baseballs.  He had played in Cananda, Venezuela and a bunch of other Latin American countries as well. Now his formal player days we nearing an end and he really wanted to coach.  I had noticed he’d been working with Ethan intentionally and it just warmed my heart.  So after practice I asked him if he’d come over and do some more coaching with all three of my boys.  I had no idea how important that move would become.

That night he came over and after dinner started working right away with our boys on batting drills. What impressed me most was the way he shared batting tips but he had an equal focus on motivating my boys to believe in themselves, dream and be confident. I could see it affecting their attitudes, especially Ethan our oldest.  Day after day Bam-Bam kept coming back and working with the boy’s and every time I saw the same thing.  One night I felt the clear tug from the Lord to give him a Bible and talk to him directly about Jesus.  On our way home that night I couldn’t get the words of one of my former pastors out of my head. It was something that my Senior pastor had said to me on my first day as the new Youth Pastor at the Bible Chapel in Pittsburgh years before.

Pastor Ron Moore had taken me and the other new youth pastor, Dan Basile out for a drive around the community to show us where all the important places were.  He showed us the schools, the parks, the places that kids hung out and during that drive he gave us the scoop on the youth culture there. It was priceless information and I know he was just sharing it because he wanted to help us reach as many youth for Christ as possible.  When the drive was over, we ended up back at the church parking lot and as he was turning the car off.  I remember him saying something that has stayed with me ever since. He said, guys “never forget that when you have a child, you hold the heart of a parent in your hand.” It was a powerful statement and it was as true then as it is now; though I didn’t understand the gravity of it until many years later. It’s interesting how having your own kids gives you a fuller perspective.

That final night, watching Bam-Bam working with my boys with such intentionality and care, those words came rushing back to my head once again! Working with my boys, this stranger from Venezuela was holding my heart in his very hands.  There really is no price for the love that people show to your children.  In fact, I believe that one of the best ways to love people is to choose to love the things they love and there are not many things that I love more than my kids!  I was so grateful for his work with my boys and I knew that the Lord was telling me to love his kid “Bam-Bam” the same way.

That night, I had the chance to share the Gospel and I took it. I explained about how he had impacted me and my children and then I shared about how much the Lord loved him and how loving him was even a way that I could show love to my Heavenly Father because he had Bam Bam in his heart as well. I told him that the Lord wanted me to share with him how he could have the certainty of salvation in heaven and become an authentic son of God according to John 1:12-13, which says:

12 “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

Immediately after I explained this, Bam-Bam decided right there in my car that he wanted to pray and put his faith and trust in Jesus for his salvation. The timing was fortunate because he found out just 2 days after that he had to fly back to Venezuela.  Even though his visit was short, Bam-Bams’ impact on my family was long-lasting and his place in God’s family is eternal. We’re forever grateful for all that God did in His own amazing way and for that we praise Him.

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Please remember to keep Bam-Bam (John) in your prayers. He is a young Christian and he is living in a very difficult environment. He is recently married and has a baby boy that just turned 1.  He hopes to return to Panama to find work very soon and if he does we hope to have a chance to encourage him even more towards the Lord. His country, Venezuela is in shambles.  Perhaps you have been aware of some of the difficulties that are happening there largely because of the oppressive government and Dictator Nicholas Maduro. Please keep on praying for Venezuela. The situation is desperate and we meet more Venezuelans every day here in Panama desperately seeking work to help their families that couldn’t leave the country.

 

 

 

 

 

Though we weren’t looking for that blessing we are thankful for how the Lord works. We are amazed at how God even uses broken economies, dysfunctional governments and dictators to move people around and accomplish his will. I guess that’s why they call it redemption.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It sure is a blessing when God puts people in your life to love but even more when they love and care for your own kids. And just like when people love our kids, every time we love God’s kids, I know it’s like holding God’s heart too. Please pray for Bam-Bam and his family in Venezuela.  If you want to help them specifically please contact me. Please pray for all of Venezuela too because it is a very hard place to live right now. Many people are suffering though God is redeeming all the brokenness like he does.  We are so thankful we got to meet this young man and we give God thanks for that.

The Beautiful Things

So here’s a random mission’s reflection.  I’d love to hear your thoughts so feel free to join the conversation here but this has been in my head for the last few days…

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In mission’s and ministry in general, we are trained to constantly ask questions about what is wise and strategic; especially when it comes to the stewardship of money, time or other resources.  We are careful because there are about a ker-jillion reasons that testify to the wisdom of such thinking.   We truly do not want to create unhealthy dependencies nor take away people’s dignity.  We truly do want to help people “up” not just help them “out” by being smart in how we minister and not just passionate.  We are aware of the book “When Helping Hurts” and others like it which have been part of this conversation on how to do ministry with your head and not just your heart. BUT…

And I do mean BUT…I have also become aware of another problematic byproduct or perhaps an unintended side-effect of some of the warnings and information that we’ve been given about how to do missions and ministry.  I call it the “Paralysis of Generosity”. I define it as “the effect of being inundated with so much information about the failures and incorrect ways of being generous or kind in missions and ministry that people just don’t do anything since they aren’t sure what they can do that won’t be criticized.” Now don’t worry.  I am not about to argue for irresponsible spending sprees or reckless, uncalculated giving to the poor or any other destructive method that we know for sure has proven to be dangerous or counter-productive in the past.  However, I think at times we need to balance the scales or be reminded that there may be another scale altogether that matters to Jesus too.

So, I read this story about Jesus getting anointed at Bethany in Mathew 26:6-13 (See also John 12:1-8) and something jumped out at me that I had never noticed before.

Just days or hours away from his death on the cross, the culmination of his work and ministry on earth, we find Jesus hanging out with close friends at the house of Simon the Leper. Then out of nowhere this woman comes in and begins to pour perfume on Jesus. We don’t know if Jesus knew her from before or if anyone knew her for that matter.  We don’t know if she was already there or if she just walked in to the house. We don’t know her name, where she was from or where she went afterward but we do know what she did (Matthew 26:6-13). And as unusual as it was, it turns out that what she did was a symbolic act to prepare Jesus for burial and it also created a lot of conversation among the disciples.  It seems that the perfume the woman used was extremely expensive.  It was actually worth about 300 Denarii which is equivalent to a year’s wages in Jesus’ day.  Today it might be like paying $25,000 to $50,000 or more for just one bottle of perfume or cologne! Yikes!!!

Now I can’t imagine owning a bottle of perfume or cologne worth that amount, much less pouring out on someone.  However, if there was ever anyone worthy of that kind of treatment I think we all can agree that it would’ve been Jesus.  Though in that moment the disciples were not thinking that way. In fact they were asking questions similar to what I have been trained to ask.  Like, “Is that good stewardship?” or “Is that the most strategic way to use that resource?” I totally understand because I’m there every day, sometimes several times a day but must admit that I absolutely love how the Lord responds:

 

10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you,[a] but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

 

Isn’t that refreshing!!!  Jesus didn’t agree with the disciples at all, even though they made good sense and had solid logic.  Even though a lot more people could’ve been really helped with the money from selling that perfume.  Jesus just stops and calls this act “a beautiful thing” and then he goes on to say much more, including making a promise that wherever the Gospel is preached this story will be told in memory of her!  I love it!  It’s a reminder to us all really.  This is a lesson that so many are prone to forget these days including myself. Here it is…

Strategy and stewardship are critical and important and should always be in our minds but there is another critical category that we must also make room for called “things that are just beautiful to Jesus”.

These are the things that are unforgettable to Jesus and thus he wants others to remember them as well. Radical love, devotion and sacrifice for Jesus Christ are too beautiful to not remember and we should never be afraid to show them to Jesus.  Even if Jesus is the only one that understands and approves, we need not be afraid.  Even though we want to be strategic and wise and careful in our ministries we cannot afford to forget that there is this other category for “beautiful things” that Jesus loves to see too and it is Jesus that we live for!

May the Lord lead you in your strategy and in the romance of your love for him may you also still surprise him with the beautiful things as well!

 

Family Life In The Ministry

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Life is just what happens when you’re planning on doing something else and that describes what’s been going on with our three boys! It is incredible how fast they are growing up!  We’ve noticed that shoe size and grocery bills seem to be going up together!

Ethan is now almost 14 (as of Sept. 5), Ezra is 11 and Eli is 8! They have been and will continue to be our first ministry and a vital part of our missionary team here in Panama.  They frequently help us at churches, the orphanage, with hosting teams and other guests and when we go to the Indian villages but lately their new passion is….Baseball! Below are some snapshots from their lives in the last few weeks.

We’re proud of our boys but we invite you to  please keep them in your prayers as God is forming them into the men he wants them to become! Would you commit to praying with us for them to become global Christian leaders for Christ in their families, churches, communities & the world? That is our prayer as their parents and it is certainly a desperate need for the world we live in today too!

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Eli with some of his teammates at a tournament.

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Eli with Pastor Seth Fagerland at the Indian Village.

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This rock was a group effort and deserved it’s own photo opp.

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Ethan and other youth from Rockpoint Church working on excavating rocks.

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Ezra found this sign at the sight of the new house that was built for the Global Fingerprints family. It says “God Bless this home!” Pretty cool.

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Ezra and Elvis enjoying breakfast together!

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Eli and Mom on a date!

A Life Well Lived

On June 3rd , Saturday night, just two days ago I received some terrible news from Panama.  Our family learned that our friend Mirko Delibasich, had a sudden heart attack and went home to be with the Lord unexpectedly.  Only 54 years old, he left behind his amazing wife Traci and his three wonderful children Caleb, Rachel and Natasha and an incredible ministry that he founded that has literally impacted thousands of people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  With that in mind, I feel the need to say some things about this man since I don’t know if I will ever be given the chance to share publicly what’s been on my heart these last few days.

I have known Mirko for 13 years, which isn’t much time compared to many others that knew him much longer and more deeply than me though we first met in Pittsburgh in 2004.  That day Mirko suggested a mission trip for the youth group that I was leading at the time. Two years later it happened.  In 2006, I arrived in Panama for the first time in the company of 42 other people from our church. Our team of mostly teens, had hoped to provide some needed horse-power for his ministry which our church had already been supporting financially for many years. That was the beginning of a friendship that marked me and only deepened over the years.

In 2011, Mirko invited me to be a featured speaker at Word of Life Camp as he had done on other occasions but that year he insisted that it was time for me to bring my wife and kids to Panama which he paid for personally. At the end of that trip, after all the preaching was over, he approached me and asked me to pray specifically about coming to Panama long-term to help start and build up churches.  He was concerned about not having enough biblically grounded churches to disciple all the people coming to Christ through the ministry of Word of Life.  To be honest, based on what I had seen, it was a legitimate concern considering the amount of people that had come to know the Lord just through their ministry alone over the years. I told him that I would pray and now, today, six years later, in 2017, I serve the Lord in Panama doing that very thing with my family and my team of missionaries.

I share that because I need to explain the impact of the news I received on Saturday night.

Mirko was not like most men to me.  It is impossible to quantify his impact on my life. I am certain that he didn’t even know. Though I know I’m just one of many that he greatly influenced, I can honestly say that I can count on one hand all the men that I’ve ever even known of his caliber.  I simply cannot say enough about this man who lived with such a constant ferocious love for God and people.  The grief that I have felt in the news of his sudden loss is only surpassed by the honor I feel to have counted myself as one of his friends and the confidence that I have in knowing that he lived a life of radical devotion to Jesus Christ.  I know that many people will be in heaven someday because of the faithful life of Mirko Delibasich.  He was a man of God. He was a man of conviction. He had exemplary faith.  He was my friend and I will miss him greatly.

I had the privilege to hear Mirko preach many times. I heard him at churches, at camp and many, many campfires.  Though for as many times as I heard him, I would still say that he was a man with just one real message.  Every time he opened God’s Word, somehow, in some way you could count on him delivering the message of Jesus Christ.  The greatest message of hope for mankind. The only message that matters if you have only one encounter with another human being. The only message that guarantees to make every human interaction truly count. The Good News – The Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Countless times and to countless people over the years, Mirko proclaimed the truth that there is only one real way to prepare for life after death; and God already provided it through his Son Jesus who died on the cross for the sins of every person more than 2000 years ago.  And all those that put their faith and trust in God’s Son Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins, surrendering their lives to him and inviting him to be their Savior, God promises will receive eternal life and become his children forever.

I don’t know much but I do know that my eyes are tired of crying and my heart just aches inside when I think about journeying on without my friend. I also know that when your time on earth is done, Mirko would have wanted you and everyone else to be as prepared as he was to see God face to face.  The Bible promises that if you choose to begin this relationship with Jesus, you too can look forward to a rich welcome in Heaven and eternity with God (ref: John 1:12-13/John 3:16).  You will be prepared and will have the same welcome that has already begun for my dear friend; though he will be terribly missed for many years to come by many people on this side of eternity. It can be said beyond a shadow of a doubt that His was a life well-lived and I do thank God for the life of my friend Mirko Delibasich.

Just a simple praise

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Life is so crazy sometimes but living abroad and doing life in a country you didn’t grow up in and with a language that is not your own is very crazy most of the time.  I understand that better now than I once did. I remember when I told my pastor at the Bible Chapel, years ago, that I was certain the Lord was telling our family to get ready for the mission field.  I remember him, immediately asking me, “How is your marriage?” I remember thinking, “I think it’s great! Why?” He told me that few things can ruin a marriage like living on the mission field. He said, “If there is a crack in your marriage, then Mission’s will make it a canyon!”  I never forgot that! His words have hung in my mind since and have taken on deeper and deeper meaning over the last few years. There have been some stressful moments…days…weeks…months, etc.  You get the idea.

Anyway, I just want to praise the Lord for my wife.  Proverbs 18:22 says— “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” I can tell you today that that is a true fact. God has been so gracious to me in the gift of Bianca.  She has hung in there.  It has been one wild ride but she has been there with me through it all.  She is my best friend and overwhelming joy to my heart.  I thank the Lord constantly that he has given us this gift of our marriage and if I could ask for your prayers, one prayer I would surely ask for is that God would always let us experience his protection and blessing and that he would keep us close to each other, even closer to Him and far, far, far away from Sin.  That is a prayer we have prayed together many times over the years and God has been answering it, even in the midst of the craziness and for that we just give Him praise!

 

3 Years Ago Today 

I remember that morning so well. We had decided to spend the night at Bianca’s Mom’s house just to give her a little more time since we figured she was the least likely of our parents to visit us in Latin America.  Her cancer had made it almost impossible for her to fly on planes by that point.   I myself could barely sleep that night. I woke up early to journal my thoughts.  Since it felt like a momentous occasion, I thought I should record what was in my mind for posterity.

I remember the snow outside. I remember it still being dark.  I remember loading up the kids and Bianca in her Mom’s Blazer and thinking “Is this really happening?”.  I remember seeing almost all the family in the airport that morning.  So many had come to see us off and it was such a cool blessing to leave with that feeling of support. I remember friends helping us move all those bags.  I remember our boys receiving gift bags with binoculars, candy and Steelers stuff.  It was such a sweet goodbye that morning.

It was also a hard goodbye that morning.  Bianca’s Mom hated saying goodbye so she didn’t come to the airport that morning. That was also the last time I ever saw my Grandma alive. We knew we were walking away from a lot of people that we loved and opportunities that my kids were never going to have. We would not have easy access to a lot of the things that we had always known or depended upon.  We were walking away from the comfortable and familiar and into the unknown and unpredictable, intentionally.

We were trusting that the Lord was going to meet us and I can tell you now, he has.  It has been quite a journey for the last 3 years. More has happened than I can recap.  Some days we have seen unforgettable surprises that God had waiting for us but not all of them have been fun. In fact, I would be lying if I had told you that we enjoyed every experience we’ve had.  Many days have been very, very hard but we have learned again and again that our enjoyment is not the point! God is actually developing our faith and he puts that way ahead of our comforts and feelings!  And I have a sense that we are not unique and he works that way with all his followers.

I want to testify today specifically, to the fact that if you step out and trust the Lord and take whatever step of obedience that he is calling you to take, regardless of your fears or what you think it might cost, you will be the one who gains. The one who obeys the Lord always gains in the end no matter what your senses, your friends or enemies tell you! Christ followers obey the Lord because it’s how we show Him that we absolutely love Him (John 14:15) but in the end you will see many times over how much He loves you too!

 

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”(Luke 18:29-30)

So what exactly DO we Do?

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I can imagine that when we post pictures of the things we are doing here in Panama, it can evoke an array of reactions. So for those of you that might have questions allow me to share a little about our work.

I will take this last weekend for example. We took an overnight trip to an Indian village in the jungle along the Chagres River and visited an old contact of mine that I have not seen for some time. My friend’s name is Valerio. Our purpose was to see how he was doing and ascertain how my team and I might be able to help him, his family and his church.

Now before I elaborate, let me say, that whatever you might think that we do could likely be inaccurate. The concept of “missionary” can conjure up all kinds of images, so let me just say that we are not superheroes, nor are we culture-wreckers. We are just Christians. We are just Christians living in a cross-cultural environment, learning to live for Christ here like we would at home in the States. We focus on building up the Church and it’s leaders in order to fulfill the “Great Commission” found in the end of Matthew 28:18-20, which says…

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Now, this information is not new for many of you; nor is it for me. This focus has been part of my DNA since I started in youth ministry years ago and learned it from the Youth Pastor who trained me. The only difference now, is that I am doing this with my team here in Panama! When we approach a ministry opportunity, such as the chance to work with the Embera Indians, an Orphanage or even a church, etc. I start with two basic ideas in mind.

  1. Start with the fact that we are all humans.” These words have echoed in my mind and often because my sweet wife has been so good about reminding me. These were Dr. Tite Tienou’s words when we were at Seminary at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. It’s significant to me for two reasons:

First, we want to minister to the whole person. In other words we want a holistic ministry. We want to care about clean water as well as clean hearts; the physical health and the spiritual health and not just one or the other. This doesn’t mean that we give them equal importance because we don’t but it does mean that we recognize that people have a hard time hearing the Gospel message over the grumbling of their stomachs or other glaring problems. Therefore, we must care about the whole person.

Secondly, we have to think about what Jesus said when he was asked to summarize the biblical commandments. What did he say? Remember in Matthew 22:37-40 where we read:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

We have to remember that all of what we do as Christians should flow out of a central, all-consuming love for God and eventually that has to translate into loving our neighbors as we would love our own selves. These points come to mind when I think about starting with everyone being human. Even in different contexts, languages and cultures, there are so many things that make us very much the same.

  1. The best book capable of speaking to the human condition is the Bible.

No matter where people are physically or spiritually, the Bible has something to say to them. When we go somewhere new or different, we have the opportunity to prayerfully and carefully ask questions and learn about the people and minister to them through God’s Word. This is often a need that people don’t know they have while they are more than aware of the physical needs.  We have to walk through a careful process of “assessing and addressing” and it takes time and trust. Through conversation and question asking, listening and learning we find out more about where both believers and non-believers are and we know that the Word of God has something for each of them. If we can work with Pastors we can accomplish things a lot faster. That’s what makes our friendship with Valerio so critical.

At the end of the day, we want to see the church here in Panama (meaning all those who, know, follow and confess Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord) strengthened and fortified. We want to encourage individuals and communities to move forward in their spiritual growth and obey the Great Commission here and abroad.

In the case of the Indian Village that we went to, these were the 2 lenses that we had on while we were there. Valerio is actively caring for the people but we could see that there are many challenges. For Valerio specifically, one challenge is his training. He doesn’t feel adequately prepared to lead his people spiritually. This comes into play in the day-to-day preaching and counseling but also because they often have different religious groups that try to come and spread their messages as well and he doesn’t always know how to refute them or help his people refute them from scripture though he can see many errors in their thinking. I also personally think that Valerio also has not realized his tremendous potential to reach other Embera Indians yet. He is still thinking about his local context but I believe he is uniquely gifted to have a regional impact if he catches the vision.

As for his people, the 115 Embera Indians in his village, it is also complicated. In Panama, there is a clear pecking order. It may be subtle but it’s in the fabric if you look for it and the Indigenous are usually on the bottom of the bottom. From what I gather, the people in his village moved to their location years ago (1960’s/70’s) and it was after that time when the government told them their land was going to be dedicated as national park and the land outside was now considered private property. This meant they were stuck and that in order for his people to continue living in their homes they would need to agree to be a tourist attraction or leave.

So now they always have to be ready to “put on a show” of their culture so outsiders can see their old customs and ways. They are not permitted to chop down trees, hunt or plant gardens because it’s a national forest. They are permitted to fish and get jobs in the city if they want but if they want to stay in their village and earn an income from there, tourism is their only option. Though it is possible it is difficult to make a living this way.   There are times when it gets really hard between May and December (8 months out of the year) because it is rainy season and most tourists don’t prefer to go far into the jungle during rainy season, which means that Valerio’s village doesn’t get much traffic and therefore not much income. At times during the year, they have next to nothing to live on. It’s very hard for them to buy food and medicine and that is a different level of learning to trust in God.

This is the kind of situation that we’re trying to learn how to help in. We are asking how can we, as Christians come into a circumstance like this and offer help and hope? …And care for the whole person both physically and spiritually?   It takes time to find these answers but I want to remind you all that this would be impossible for us to truly help them unless we were here in person. For those of you that are supporting us in your prayers and sacrifices – Thank you for being part of this ministry. It is making a difference in the lives or more and more people all the time. Please pray for the Indigenous in Panama and Valerio and his family. Pray for our team to know how to help them best and be an encouragement spiritually and physically. Pray for the spread of the Gospel and a strategy for discipleship among these people. As always, if you choose to support us financially on-going or want to make a one-time donation just click this link and make it happen. Thanks for your love, prayers and involvement!

In Christ – The Fowlers In Panama

By the way, Here are a few more of our favourite pictures just for fun…

 

 

 

 

How The Body Works

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A few days ago, we celebrated the life of Diane Schultz, my Mother In Law. On March 12, just before midnight she passed away at the age of 64 after a long battle with cancer that lasted 28 years…that’s almost 3 decades. As long as I have known Diane, she has been in her battle at one stage or another. She literally lived in the “shadow of death” for almost half of her life.   She was a fighter in the truest sense, like few people I have known. However for much of that time you wouldn’t have guessed she had cancer just by looking at her. On the surface, she seemed so healthy and beautiful but on the inside the disease was breaking her body down. Of course, towards the end it was the hardest, when we could finally see the affects on her physically.

It has been particularly hard on all of us but most of all on my wife.   Bianca has watched her Mother decline over the years and these last few were from a distance, on the mission field in Panama. As you might imagine, it has been very hard. Feelings of guilt, sadness or frustration have been a constant struggle for her specifically. However there is an incredible list of great things that have come to mind in recent days as well, specifically concerning the story of Diane’s life.

When I think about how cancer was destroying her body, I also can’t help but think of another body that was building her and others up at the same time. It would not be a stretch to say that Diane had been an international prayer concern for many years. We knew for a fact that, people from the USA, Panama, Costa Rica, Russia, Belarus, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Brazil, Korea and many other countries have prayed for her! All the people that have known us have also known about Bianca’s mom and carried her in their prayers before the Lord for a long time.

As things were getting visibly worse around Christmas this year for Diane, it was believers that stepped up and paid our way home just to see Diane one last time. We had prepared ourselves for a funeral but God had other plans. Diane actually rallied back while we were there and we ended up spending precious time with her for over two weeks. Those turned out to be our last moments to see her alive. We were able to hug her. Talk with her. Pray with her and enjoy her as a family thanks to the Lord and the generosity of his people, the Body of Christ.

The night she passed away we received the news within minutes and the next day we purchased a plane ticket for Bianca from Panama. Though we ourselves did not have the money to send her, I had made a promise to my wife that at the very least; she would go home for her mother’s funeral. We had accepted that she would go alone though we were not happy about it because of how hard that would be. Then a few hours after we made her flight arrangements, another Christian family stepped forward to help the boys and I fly home as well to be at Bianca’s side during this past week. It was a tremendous, unexpected surprise. Then as if that were not enough, that same family loaned us their vehicle for the week as well. We were astounded – again!

Finally the day of the funeral service came and it was naturally packed with emotion. We were so thankful to see so many people that we love, turn out to honor the life of Diane and grieve with us. Our feelings fell between grief and relief while we cried together and celebrated her life. At the end of the funeral, another Christian man came forward and gave me an envelope that contained cash that sufficiently covered Bianca’s plane ticket. We are honestly overwhelmed at God and the Body of Christ.

For all that can be said against the Church regarding all its’ failures, sin and hypocrisy, I can tell you that it is something amazing to behold when the Body of Christ is building itself up! My friend, Ron Moore has remarked on many occasions “Nothing works like the church when the church is working right!” And I completely agree. We have witnessed in the life and death of my Mother In Law, just how awesome God can be through his Body on earth – the Church. We are still praising God for all that happened this past week and will always cherish the privileges we have been given through our glorious Heavenly Father in and through his Body – The Church.

If you, your church or someone you know would like to partner with us and support us in ministry click the link below: Thanks and God Bless!

Support The Fowler’s IN Panama

Be The Difference…

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We’re making this special post because we received some feedback that this important message may have gotten buried in our last newsletter and not received adequate visibility. So here goes again… (:

The Status of Our Support

Hello Friends! First of all, let me start by saying how incredibly thankful we have been for all of you who have stood with us over the last few years. We started our journey of support-raising for ministry in the Spring of 2012 and it has been an amazing ride. We have seen the Lord do miracles – literally. Things that “should not” have happened and things no one could have known about other than our Lord have taken place that we will never forget. We are constantly in awe of Him and we know that this is and always has been totally his ministry. As long as the Lord provides for it we will continue to walk. That has been our commitment from the start and that hasn’t changed.

That being said, we want to let you all know that we are actively and urgently seeking new partnerships. We have had a lot of help come in (especially in December) but most of it has been one-time gifts; These have certainly helped us to make up for changes in commitments and people who have either moved on, dropped off or in a few cases even passed away. What we need now is a renewed commitment from more people who are willing to put in and help us minister here in Panama and we need your help to find them.

The amount you can give doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you are willing to help us, pray for us and sacrifice as the Lord leads. When you help us, you are giving to fortify the churches here in Panama. You are sending us as your team to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the children in orphanages, disciple the Indigenous in the Jungles and help the pastors in poor and middle class communities around this country. You are making an impact when you help us and we are your team.

We want to share with you about the giving roller coaster we often experience, just by looking at the last 2 months to give you an idea of the need. There are so many things that we want to see happen here in Panama but we are constantly wondering if our monthly support is going to be there. Maybe you can be one who makes the difference – literally! Maybe you have never given before or committed to give and now you can. Or maybe you know someone that would like to hear more about our work and they aren’t yet “following the Fowler’s”…now’s the time! We are in pursuit of partners who want to help make the difference. If you want to talk please email us at (followingthefowlers@gmail.com) or you can click this link to go to our blog and learn more. Please help us find more partners and if you know that you want to support right now then you can just go here: (GIVE)

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Thanks for taking time to read this and being a part of our lives and ministry!

IN Christ – The Fowler Family! (http://www.followingthefowlers.com)