Chill Out Church!

Relax & Remember…A culture contrary to Christianity is the Church’s native soil.

growth in harsh climate

Just like many others, I am saddened by the clear moral erosion currently taking place in my country-the good ol’ USA. Even as I watch from outside the country (Here in Panama), each day seems to propel our nation with greater momentum in a direction more diametrically opposed to Christianity and Biblical truth. While I survey the current events and contemplate the different world our future generations will have to grow up in, I admit that I am tempted to despair for future Christians and the church until I remember 2 important truths:

  1. First, The world can and always will be nothing but the world. In fact, we are already told in the Bible, that the moral condition of our world will go from bad to worse in the days before Christ returns. (2 Tim. 3:1-5, 13) Therefore this spiritual decay doesn’t really surprise us nor should it change our commitment to Christ in the least.  We need only to remain “people of the Book”! We just keep on following our Lord. – EYES ON CHRIST!
  2. Secondly, though Christianity may have enjoyed a period of prosperity and a degree of favor in the public eye of this country for some time, it’s apparent that things are changing. This may trouble some but never forget this: Christianity was born in a pagan and hostile environment; that is its’ “native soil“. In fact, not only did it start in an immoral, violent world clearly opposed to it but it actually flourished there! The Church grew so much in fact, that today, almost 2000 years later, Christians are all over the globe-still following Jesus Christ and standing out by doing so-as the Gospel continues to spread!

So my encouragement to the Church is just this…”Chill Out!” None of the things around us are taking God by surprise and none of them should change a thing about those who truly follow Jesus Christ in Word and Deed. Walk forward with Eyes on Christ, Truth gripped firmly in one hand and Love gripped equally in the other, just like always! And when our Lord comes again may, he find us faithful in every way until the end!

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” – Paul the Apostle (1 Corinthians 15:58 -NIV)

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

IF you feel led to support us in our work click here for more information. 

…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!

Love Now.

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My Friend Paul Danner fixing a Christian Brother’s car here in Panama. Cesar is one of my new pastor partner’s.

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Recently, it has become hard to ignore the unusual level of darkness and evil at work in the world. Wherever we turn we see it. For Christians that know and read their Bibles this should come as no surprise though it is still horrific to witness what is being done to people and many times our spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.

To compound this, the affect of the violence has been disheartening to watch as well. While some have actually joined the violence and seized the moment for themselves, exploiting others or surrendering voluntarily to the influence of the wicked. Others have chosen to remain ignorant, oblivious and unaware in effort to preserve their lives the way they like them for as long as possible. Both responses are tragic although there is another that I fear even more.

In reference to the last days, Jesus once said in Matthew 24:12, Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold“. Now I’m no expert on end-times theology, neither do I pretend to be but I do know this: Every day brings us closer to our Lord’s imminent return and the world will get worse before it gets better (Matt. 24:8, Mark 13:8). I believe Jesus tells us here just how easily that can happen–The love of most will grow cold!

I am writing this to encourage my Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Christianity is no stranger to violence and persecution; in fact you might say that it’s our native soil. History has proven that Christianity has not only survived persecution but most often it has flourished and spread even more as a result of it. I want to point us back to a right response to the recent events of our world because I believe we need to be together on this and stay with the scriptures. Paul writes in Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Friends THIS IS OUR RESPONSE. This is our battle plan. We are not doormats that must passively accept whatever the world gives us as if we have no options or no power. Neither are we scared and hiding and hoping to not be found out as Christ followers. We are bold with love for Christ and that is a very active thing. This is our response. Love is precisely the one thing we cannot afford to let grow cold right now and we keep it warm with use, as pumping blood through the veins keeps the body warm. My friends, I do not want to scare anyone with my directness but these recent events do not make me less firm in my convictions, in fact they do the opposite. I hope they do the same in you and in the depth of your conviction and the firmness of your faith you respond with bold love. Love people actively. Love with the Truth of God’s Word and love with the Gospel message. And just like Jesus, may the power of your words of truth coupled with your actions of love be a light for others in these darkening times. Stay close together. Stay close to Christ and let us love more boldly than ever.

 

Romans 13:11-12

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

 

 

A Headless Goat or a Priceless Clue?

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            A week ago my boys had the day off of school because there was no electricity. This is equal to a “snow day” for them here in Panama and of course they were not too bummed about it. We don’t live far from the ocean now so for fun we took them to a place where Rio Chame and the Pacific come together to explore (Pic. Above). It’s an unusual spot with lots of sandbars, dunes and pools of fish. While we were hiking we came upon something strange.

Lying high on one sandbar was a dead white goat with no head. The body had not been there more than a day and it was clear that no animals had yet touched it. Stranger still however, was that there were no marks at all on this goat. In fact in addition to no head, there was no blood anywhere around it and no footprints either. We hurried the boys passed to continue exploring but I couldn’t get that curious sight out of my head. What was a goat doing on the beach? Where was its head? Why were there no other marks at all around? I knew we were new here in Panama but something didn’t add up.

After researching at home, I came up with a theory. Evidently, similar headless goat scenes (and other animals) have been found before, South Florida is one example. Many times these have had a connection to the religious group known as “Santería” where goats, chickens and other animals are used as sacrifices for purification or spells. I had never heard of them before so I started looking into it. From what I’ve read, Santería is probably best described as a form of Voodoo, cloaked in the terminology and worship of the Catholic Saints. It’s a syncretistic religion with roots to Africa.   The history of which can be traced through the slaves that were brought to the Caribbean from Africa years ago but since that time has merged in a way with the Roman Catholicism. I learned it’s not only present here in Panama but it is likely growing! I believe the combination of worshipping the Saints and the widespread Biblical illiteracy here in Panama make this country fertile soil for Santería and cults like it to take root and grow. Just like Hosea 4:6 says, “…my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge”.

My concrete confirmation came two nights ago when a man named Felix came to our gate at 11PM asking for shoes. We’re usually careful about handouts from our house but this seemed different. I ended up giving him shoes and also a Bible and we talked for a long time about Christ. As we talked he told me that he had been part of the Santería cult though he no longer was. He was grateful for the Bible. He had never had his own before and asked me where to start reading. I told him John and I believe we will meet again. Please pray for the chance to minister further to Felix but even more pray for the Lord to push back the darkness of false religion with the light of His Word here in Panama. Please pray for our boldness with the Gospel and the fortifying of Christ’s Church to really make disciples for Christ here in this country. And may we all find the darkness and take the light to it!

Our 1 Month Anniversary In Panama!

Steelers Playoffs excitement for at least 1 night!
Steelers Playoffs excitement for at least 1 night!

Well we’ve been here 1 month today. Great! …only 5 more to go before the cycle of “culture shock” gets to the worst part. Right now is supposed to be the “honey moon phase”, though I gotta tell you, if this was my real honey moon, I would have concerns about the marriage. Sure we have enjoyed parts of finally being here in Panama, but we have already had moments where my wife and I have both thought, “Oh no. What have we done!” Prior to this year we had spent a year in Costa Rica to learn Spanish and if you know us, your probably already knew that. That year was vital to our survival here in Panama, because even though we speak on the level of a 1st grader right now, it puts us leaps and bounds ahead with
people around here and of course it affords us more independence as we do life and ministry.

This year will surely be a year of growth, investigation and strategizing. A time for prayer, and listening both to God and to people. We have to perfect the art of question asking as we lay the track for our team coming behind us. We know that we have come to build up the church here in Panama. We know that we want to see the multiplication of healthy, biblical churches that transform people in Panama, one life, one family and one community at a time into who Christ wants them to be. However before we can really succeed we must find out what the people here are thinking, feeling and believing. This is where we get to wear our anthropologist hats and yet assess through the lense of scripture. A great example of what I am
talking about is Paul in Athens. (See Acts 17:16-34). A key verse to note is Acts 7:23, “For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.” This is the careful assessment that I am referring to. I heard a wise man say once that missionaries and pastors must always be students of the “Text” and the “Context”. He was referring to the Bible and those we mean to share its’ truth with and though the balance is hard one to maintain; it is critical to strive for continually. He likened it to a bridge that had to be firmly anchored on both sides to serve its purpose well.

On the home front, we are stressed. I’d like to sound “victorious” but i’m just keeping it real. Please keep us in prayer. I don’t mean to sound alarming or even as if I am complaining. We knew this was part of the process going in, though it doesn’t make navigating the challenges that much easier. We keep wanting stability for our family and yet life only assures us of more change. Please pray for Ethan, Ezra and Eli as they will be starting school this Monday. It is an international school but it is Spanish speaking. This seems like a great school but this will be an adjustment for them from their school in Costa Rica. Please keep them in Prayer for their learning and friendships to go well.

Bianca is amazing. I am undeserving of this women. And no, I am not being humble. Those of you who know us can attest. Over and over again she has displayed a remarkable resolve that quite frankly has me in awe much of the time. Not many women could do what she does and make it all look so easy. She does it and adds even her touch of style and grace to make it complete. We have moved more times than I can count. In fact now we have a 3 year Christmas tradition going of moving to new countries. (I’m eager to break that tradition!) I think we have lived in every kind of house except maybe a teepee or a yurt and yet she finds a way to make anything feel like home. The girl who could win beauty pageants can also
crush cockroaches with her flip flop and thinks geckos inside her house are “cute”. What a women! I thank Jesus for her. If you could solicit prayer for her, I think she would also ask for a feeling of peace from the Lord for a place to stay for a while. However that is accomplished. We don’t want to leave the area of Panama that we are in and change the school the boys are going to attend this year but the house we are in is also for sale and therefore we can’t get too comfortable. Pray for us to find a place to stay for at least a few years, if the Lord would permit it.

For me, I am thinking about lots of stuff. The Lord, life, family, ministry, my team, tools and finances. We miss our family, friends and partners in the U.S. and think of them often. The holidays have made that feeling even more acute for me. If you would pray for me, please pray about my heart being nearer to Christ than ever before. Pray for me to hear his voice as clearly as crystal as we take our first steps here in Panama. We need wisdom with commitments and partnerships. We need His provision for the 2nd van. We are hoping for a 15 Passenger – Toyota Hiace which used would be about $23,000 and at present, we still need at least $13,500 to buy it. This tool would certainly allow us to be able to do more but we are dependent on the Lord’s timing for all these things and everything else. Most of all, I think I need patience, trust and not to fear. I don’t know what will happen in the future and everyday I think about that. Though the possibility of all that could
happen for the glory of God keeps me moving forward. I think often of the phrase “perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf” from the mouth of Jonathan in 1 Sam. 14:6. Its that possibility that I hope in. God is so good and we walk forward into unknown future by remembering what He has made known to us of himself in the past.

Well hopefully this has been a helpful update for all of those “Following the Fowler’s”! I can tell you with confidence that we are so thankful for each person standing beside us. There is a feeling like I cannot explain when you are far from home in a foreign country and often alone, yet sure that people are remembering your family before the Lord and interceding for you routinely. We are part of you and part of your churches and we know it and feel it. We love you and praise the Lord for you and hope to connect with as many of you as possible in the days ahead since we are now finally here in Panama.

If you desire to connect with us our new information is below:

Phones

(724) 466-0682 (Free for USA Callers)
(507) 345-3527 (House Phone-Panama)
(507) 6578-6736 (Jon’s Cell – Panama)
(507) 6578-7788 Bianca’s Cell – Panama)

USA Mailing Address: Attn. Jon Fowler, 1239 Rolling Meadow Rd., Pittsburgh, PA 15241

PANAMA Mailing Address: Not Coming Soon. Best way to mail is bring it in person or pass it to someone coming.

Emails:
followingthefowlers@gmail.com (Family Email)
jon.fowler@efca.org (Jon)
bianca.fowler@efca.org (Bianca)

Blog: http://www.followingthefowlers.com

Facebook: Look for followingthefowlers or Jon and Bianca each have a page.

Skype: Jon.fowler2 is the best to use.

Bendiciones in Cristo,

Jon Fowler

Feelings Right Now.

Panama through new eyes.
Soon Panama will be home.

I’m sitting here wishing I could write something that would make people see and feel what I do right now. So much of the journey with my family over the last six years has been spent anticipating. Although, right now as I sit in the Tocumen Airport outside of Panama City, Panama, waiting for my flight to take me back to my family in Costa Rica, I am realizing that the next time I will be here, it will be my home.   In just a few days (14 to be exact), we will finally be here in this country, to live and minister.

As I drove around these last few days between appointments and the Panama Pastors Conference, I saw this place differently. I wondered where my kids might play; where I might take walks with Bianca, where we would shop for groceries and even where I would meet people and what their stories might be. I realized more deeply than ever that we are not coming for any other reason beside the fact that the Lord wants us here. He has been preparing us for this moment and he doesn’t waste a single thing. The good, the bad, the enjoyable and the downright horrible and painful are all valuable material to God when it comes to developing us. And however much of each we have received, I know there is more than a healthy dose of all of it waiting for us here in Panama.

Our dreams and fears are right in our face right now. I think of all the optimistic hopes I have for starting churches and working with leaders to strengthen believers that will no doubt be met with tons of challenges and disappointments in the days ahead. I think of all the things that my kids will not get to have or experience because of not living where I grew up in the USA. I think of how hard it could be to watch them struggle making friends here while they labor to learn a second language. I often I wonder if they will see it all as a price they had to pay for there parents decision. I wonder about health issues and security for our home and how we will get help from police that are often corrupt and unmotivated.   It really sounds easier sometimes to just stop here and pat ourselves on the back and for having come this far.

BUT. And that’s a BIG BUT… Then I remember why we are doing all of this. Its not because we have been promised we would achieve all our missionary dreams – because God never guaranteed us that; its not because we want to be seen in a certain light by other Christians who admire the notion of being a missionary. As strange as it sounds, it is not even because “the need” is so great. The real reason is that we believe the Lord wants us here-nothing else. We believe and know that he wants us here in Panama to serve Him and build up his church (Capital “C”) and to do anything else would be disobedience. I don’t write this to draw attention to us but actually I want to encourage anyone reading this. Whatever God has told you to do, do it; even if you have to do it scared. Start the habit of saying “Yes” to God and watch what He will do with it. You will find yourself places you never would have guessed you would be and you’ll be wondering, “How did I get here? …And What does God going to do next?” But it’s a grand adventure to be sure and it’s only beginning!

Lastly, I want to acknowledge those who have stood by our side and supported us through all of this. You have blessed us countless ways and your investment has really been with the mindset of blessing the Kingdom of God. We look forward to reporting to you all that the Lord will do with your decisions and prayers in the days ahead. I will end with our current top 3 prayers.

Dios Les Bendiga!!! (God Bless You All)

IN HIS Service,

Jon Fowler

Here are some things you can pray for us if you like:

1. The details and emotions of our family’s transition to Panama on Dec. 10, 2014. It has been hard for our boys to leave again and think of making friends all over. Pray that they see it as a sacrifice to the Lord.

2. Needed Vehicle Fund. We’re praying for $30,000 for 1 large van or 2 medium ones if possible. At present we have received $1000 and we are hoping to get at least one van for when we arrive. Pray for the Lord’s provision.

3. An ever-deepening Love for God and his people and Wisdom beyond our years. In the midst of all the changes our first love must be our constant anchor. Please pray for our walk(s) with Christ as we move forward and minister out of His love through us.

If you want more info or need to contact us email us at followingthefowlers@gmail.com or look for us on Facebook.

There were about 70 Pastors present. I was grateful for the chance to share my heart with them.
With about about 70 Pastors present, I was grateful for the chance to share my heart with them. The President of the Alliance (Above) is Rolonado Hernandez.  They are eager to share the Gospel with their country for Christ. (11/25/2014)
Taken on my way to the airport.
Pic taken on my way to the airport; feeling surreal.

Coming up for air…

 

 

We finish school at noon along with Eli.  Then we wait for Ethan and Ezra who finish at 2:30.  Sometimes we get tired ;)

So I’ll start by stating the obvious…it’s been a while! We have been driving hard at learning Spanish for almost a year now! Costa Rica has been good. This year has been full of the joys and stresses of learning a new culture as well as a new language with all of us being in school full time. It has been intense and we have learned a ton, but as with many things the more you learn the more you realize you still have yet to learn. We are by no means “fluent” after a year of study, but we are able to understand and be understood! We have come a long way from the “Sesame Street” Spanish that we came in with.

But now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel! To be honest, with our move to Panama on the horizon, we have a bad case of “senioritis”. We are so excited about what is to come! God has been moving and we are amazed by His provision over and over again. This past week we went to Panama to look for a place to live and to explore a new school for the boys. We are so grateful to have been able to come back having found both a house to live in and the school that the boys will most likely be attending.

We don’t know all that the Lord has planned for us in Panama, but we are so excited to be moving forward, listening, praying and walking by faith in The One who holds the plans for our future! (Jeremiah 29:11)

Please pray for us as we finish up our time here at school and continue to work out all of the details of our move to Panama.

Until next time…Bianca 🙂