I Found Us!

Ethan and Eli meeting one of the Embera.

Maybe the title sounds egotistical but let me explain. Down here each day seems to bring new and curious things for our family. We’ve been in Panama almost 4 months now and so far Bianca and the boys and I have almost visited every spot I had any prior experience at. Although this past week was one highlight I have been waiting a long time for.

            The Indigenous group we went to visit is the Embera Indians in one of the several villages along the Rio Chagres. The only way to reach them is by canoe because there are no roads to this part of the jungle. In truth, I would have never met any of the Embera without the trusted relationships built over the years through Word of Life and Mirko and Traci Delibasich. Traci in particular has had quite a history as a connector in Panama and I can safely say that we are living proof of that.

            On this visit I was hoping to finally introduce my boys to this group of Indigenous and also reconnect with their Pastor again. It had been a long time since I had seen Pastor Valerio Ruiz.  He is Embera and has a small church in the village where he seeks to reach his people for Christ, though he feels woefully ill equipped to do so. And though his situation is complicated, he’s actually one person we had in mind to work with throughout our time of support raising back in the States. When I first met him, he was traveling 1 hour by canoe and 3 more by bus to get a few days of training so he could feel prepared to lead his congregation in his village. His sincere conviction and faith have really given me perspective on my small sacrifices for the Gospel. I have a lot of respect for him even though we haven’t spent much time together. I really expected him not to remember me.

            When I climbed the hill to look for him by his home, I found him working under his house, which is raised on poles. To my surprise, he acted like he remembered me though I still had my doubts. Until he motioned for me to follow him to a small, concrete building where inside on the wall he pointed to my picture. It was old and it was dirty but it was there held up by tape. There we were, my family and I on the first prayer card I ever had to share with people who wanted to “follow the Fowler’s”. I wasn’t sure what to say. I was greatly humbled. He told me he had been praying for me and had been waiting for me to come. I honestly had no words. Though I felt in that moment, a great responsibility toward this man.

            So now I am praying. I am not sure how we can best help him yet but please pray with us to have wisdom as we move forward. I know the Lord wants us to do something but we have a lot more questions to ask and trust to build before we can really serve this Christian brother well and in turn the Embera Indians. I see Valerio as one man with the potential for great influence over his village and many others, if the Lord sees fit to use him that way. Please pray for the following things as the Lord leads:

  • Training up/Equipping of Pastors and church leaders like Valerio
  • Discipleship of new Christians among the Embera and others
  • The Gospel to go forth in and from Panama
  • The faithful sharing of God’s Word at all times in all places

15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. –Eph 4:15-16

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…Here are some pictures from our brief visit and thanks again …For Following The Fowler’s!

Our first prayer card from 4 years ago.

Our first prayer card from 4 years ago.

Valerio, His wife and daughter with Traci and I in front of their church.

Valerio, His wife and daughter with Traci and I in front of their church.

An Embera Home

An Embera Home

Eli found a kitty

Eli found a kitty….no we didn’t keep it.

Possibly the ugliest parrot in the world.

Possibly the ugliest parrot in the world.

Ezra wasn't quite sure what to expect.

Ezra was actually optimistic.

Me and my men!

Me and the men!

3 comments on “I Found Us!

  1. Jon, what a wonderful story! You’ve stirred my heart again for Valerio. I had a similar experience with him. I was down there for scholarship week with a group from the chapel and Valerio brought a group of boys to camp, I think for the first time, and they all had to sleep at the pool. Most of the week he and the boys sat together under the pavilion, not really interacting much with other people. I was intrigued by him and decided to try and get to know him even with my limited spanish. We sat and talked a lot that week. He invited me to come to his tribe and I said that hopefully someday I would be able to, not really believing that it would ever happen. I took a picture of Valerio and me and had it on my refrigerator ever since I got back. I prayed for him often. Several years later I led the women’s trip to Panama and I asked Traci to take us to Valerio’s tribe. I took the picture off my refrigerator and had it with me when we pulled up to the boat dock on the Chagris. As Valerio was approaching our group, I held up the picture and when he saw me, he got the biggest grin on his face! He kept saying You came, You came. It was a wonderful reunion! I brought him a few little gifts to remember me by. We took a new picture that I now have as my reminder to pray for him.

    When we were there, his house had fallen down and he was living in the church building. Has he finished his house? We left him money to buy the metal sheets for his roof.

    Thanks for such a touching story! I totally agree with you that Valerio’s devotion to the Lord and his sacrificial service to his people is absolutely inspiring! When you see him next, tell him I say hi please. And I really mean this. I gave him a small orange, waterproof, plastic box so if he doesn’t remember my name, maybe that will jog his memory. Let me know how your ministry intersects with him in the future. I’d love to keep up with him!

    Blessings to you! Cheryl

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