Do you have Christmas traditions?Do you set up a Christmas tree, make homemade eggnog, make fudge, and hang out with your family? Well, everything I mentioned, we did too.Until we answered the call to be missionaries. Our world was turned upside down (in a good way).Last year we actually came to the states to celebrate Christmas, but this year, we’re going to have to stay in Mexico because we’re getting a team three days after Christmas.
But while I’m writing, I want to discuss how different Christmas is here than in the states.
Weather:the weather here, during Christmas is around 70 degrees on the hottest days, and 40 on the coldest days.The people here do not like the cold weather so the actually wear parkas, scarves, and mittens, I think that they wear more in their mild winter here than than some people in the States (especially my Granddaddy) wear for one of our mild falls.
Decorating: People take decorating here very very seriously, about every other house has at least one string of lights. All the big stores have tons of Christmas trees for sale for about 400 pesos (20 dollars) plus they have all the regular Christmas songs in Spanish.
Traditions:About a week before Christmas people do a thing called a Las Posadas. Las posadas is kinda like caroling, but its very Catholic.So what they do is they go down the streets and they sing and knock on peoples doors and ask/sing for something to eat.If the people in the houses want them to eat with them, then they will sing back to the people on the street.Another tradition is eating a special bread called rosca which is kind of like a circular fruitcake.But there are actually little plastic baby Jesus’ in the cake, so everybody gets a chance to cut the cake, and the person that gets a little plastic figurine of baby Jesus in their slice of cake has to buy all the participants tamales on February2nd.
The coolest part about Christmas is getting to spend time with your family.My favorite gift that I got thisChristmas was having my Grandparents come down here to Mexico to spend Christmas with us.It was probably my favorite Christmas present ever.
It was December 11th, 2016 and we were going back to Panama! Outreach was finally over and we were pooped (Pardon my language). We flew from the La Paz to Santa Cruz to catch our second plane that left for Panama at 2:00 a.m. Our initial plan was to get to Panama and stay there for a week so we could go to the DTS students’ graduation and then fly back to the states.
The team had all gone through registration and it was our turn to get our mountain of bags checked in. So we waited, and waited, and waited, but mom and dad were still talking to the airport guy (I don’t think we ever caught that guy’s name). It turned out, that my passport was expiring in 2 months and the minimum to enter into panama is 3 months, so I couldn’t get in to Panama (basically it means I was illegal in every country except the United States). After the airport guy left to go do something, Dad started shooting ideas to mom, as to whether or not mom and I would stay in Bolivia, and Dad take the rest of the kids back to Panama. Or we stay in Bolivia, and let the team go to Panama without us. Right now, we’re in an airport setting with lots of people talking, shouting, and making a bunch of noise. But finally, mom and dad made a decision for us to stay in Bolivia, and let the team go back to Panama.
We gathered the team and told them about the situation, it also meant that we wouldn’t see some of the DTS (discipleship training school) students again. After a tearful goodbye, (for some people) the DTS group left to go catch their flight.
But our story is far from over. All the kids were asleep (now 3:00 a.m.) taking up two large booths in a restaurant and somebody had to watch the luggage, that responsibility fell on yours truly. So Mom, Dad, and I basically had an all-nighter (and not the fun kind where you spend the whole night playing Halo). I was in charge of watching over baggage, so in order not to get bored I goose-stepped back and forth in front of the mountain of bags and watched the second Hobbit on a near-by T.V (in Spanish). Mom got special permission to go behind the desk and talked with the airline so we could get our flights connected. Dad was trying to get to mom and they refused to let him back in the office with her because of security reasons. So dad had no idea where Mom was and he became a bit upset with the security officer. He wanted to make sure Mom was ok. So Dad calmed down because he thought a Bolivian jail would only make logistics worse in our present situation. I had no desire to become then man of the house.
There was no direct flights to United States so we had to make a stop in Panama City. The Panamanian government like most governments let us go through their airport long enough to catch the connecting flights to Houston and then to Northwest Arkansas. But we had to wait two days in Bolivia until the plane left for Panama. By the time we were done making plans at the airport, it was 6:00 o’clock in the morning. We got a taxi to a hotel in Santa Cruz, Bolivia and hung out at the hotel until we left for Panama two days later. We got into Arkansas at 8:00 in the evening the next day. We were finally home after nine months! God was faithful, and you can never say we live a boring life.
Over the past few years I’ve had some really interesting birthdays. This birthday was a lot more interesting then all the rest. You may have read the border crossing blog, (we had to spend three days in Costa Rica to renew our visas) if you have read it, you may have figured out my………..(what’s the right word?)……………..distaste, for borders. So every time I hear the word “border,” I always imagine a sketchy border town with run-down hotels and a lot of paperwork.
We woke up at five o’clock in the morning (it was still dark outside in Laredo, Texas, a border town). We had stayed the night at a non-profit place for missionaries to stay when entering or leaving Mexico, and before crossing the border, filled up on gas and exchanged money. We exchanged our dollars for pesos at a sketchy little exchange stand. The only way the exchangers make money is by giving you less of what the actual exchange rate is; basically, they rip you off ever so slightly. Meanwhile, all my siblings were sleeping blissfully, while I stayed up and made sure mom didn’t nod off to sleep while driving.
We got to the Rio Grande (pronounced rē-ō grahn-dā) at about six-thirty and we crossed the bridge without a problem. We drove up to a scale for cars and drove on to it so it would weigh our vehicle. I was in the van with Mom, and we got through fine. But dad called us on the walkie-talkie and said that he had been stopped and that the border guards were checking the truck. After a few scary, long minutes he called back and told us he made it through. We were kind of lost, so mom asked directions from a Mexican border worker, which led us to a big, concrete building where we had to get stamps for our passports so we could be legal and we had to get stickers for our car, because we have Missouri license plates. It actually only took an hour to get through immigrations, so we got on the road at about eight a.m.
We still had a ten-hour trip ahead of us, but we were glad that the border stuff was behind us (or so we thought)! After we drove for about half an hour (and got to pay an outrageous fine and/or bribe to a Mexican police officer for speeding), we came up to what looked like a big toll booth that you drive your car through, but this was not for cars to pay tolls, this was a checkpoint so that a bunch of soldiers (equipped with bullet-proof vests and Uzi’s), could thoroughly search your car for weapons and drugs. We definitely had God’s favor because the guy only talked with mom for five minutes and he let both the van and the truck through without any problems. The rest of the ten hour drive was pretty un-eventful except for the fact that dad’s truck lost fifth gear, meaning he couldn’t go more than fifty miles an hour on the Mexican highways.
I forgot to add that we celebrated my fourteenth birthday in a roadside food court. We waited a while to eat, because we were looking for a place with a playground so the kids could unload their energy. We got tired of looking, and decided to stop at the next place we saw. It turned out that it actually had a playground! I actually opened up my presents at the restaurant while a bunch people looked at the “gringos”(it’s what the Mexicans call white people) celebrate a birthday in a food court at a rest stop. We celebrated the rest of my birthday four hours later with a chocolate cake and the biggest candle I’ve ever seen: It was literally a firework. It had a fuse that we lit, and it erupted with a shower of sparks like a fountain firework. Being a missionary has its advantages, and having an unpredictable birthday with a crazy candle on your cake is one of them!
We had the pleasure of bringing 4 Ngabe missionaries from their Comarca (Indigenous Reservation) and their country of Panama! They are making history by being some of the first missionaries in their tribe to do international missions. It was their first time flying in an airplane. Mom had to help them to fill out their immigration papers, and Richard, the base director, told them that it is safer to fly in an airplane then in a car, to settle their nerves. They are having a great time, and are actually ministering to other indigenous tribes in Guatemala. As YWAM, it is our goal to have different cultures sharing God’s love with other cultures.
Many of the Ngabe students have scholarships, but when it came time to fund-raise for outreach, it was hard because nobody in the Comarca has that much money. They tried their best by selling hojaldres (much like Native American’s fry bread), at an all-night prayer meeting. They didn’t raise much, but we were thankful for their help and effort. So we have been helping them raise money using our contacts.
I´m writing this blog to help my family out by raising enough money to support myself. I am setting a goal for $500. The money goes to two plane tickets at $160 and two bus tickets at $65, plus food costs. My parents will take care of the budget and administrating the donations. I felt the Lord spoke to me to raise $500 to help with my families’ budget.
Right now, we are in San Pablo, La Laguna, Guatemala, right next to Lake Atitlan. We´re here painting medical clinics, doing children´s ministry, praying for the sick, helping local pastors, and working with teens.
If you feel God puts it on your heart to give, you can give thirty dollars a month to consistently help out our family, or you can give a special donation. But, no matter what you give or how you give, you are becoming a part of our ministry! In order to give, click this link rkmissionsIt’ll take you to our website, where you can choose the amount you want to give.
David Livingstone said, “I would rather be in the heart of Africa in the will of God, than on the throne of England, out of the will of God.”
Like David Livingstone, I would rather be in Guatemala right now than be in the U.S.A. eating food that tastes good, and sleeping in a bed that is comfortable. Thank you in advance for giving and praying for us; we have been kept safe in our travels and are looking forward to 6 more weeks of outreach. Thanks for reading!
Panama has a law that says after visiting for six months, you are technically illegal. Being illegal is not the best thing that could happen to you. For one, there are a lot of checkpoints here, and if you get caught, you could get fined, or even jailed. This affects me and my family because last year we stayed almost ten months in Panama. When we reached our six-month mark in Panama, we had to leave the country for three days, and then re-enter. Then, we would be allowed to stay another six months.
The easiest way to do this is to drive two hours to the border of Panama and Costa Rica. One day, my dad decided he didn’t want our family to be illegal and we went to the Panama/Costa Rican border named Paso Canoas. The plan was to cross the border and stay on the Costa Rican side for three long, twenty-four hour days. So, we left at noon and made it to the border at 2:00 in the afternoon.
The Costa Ricans aren’t as obsessed about border patrol as we Americans. They basically have a building big enough to let cars go through, and they have a bunch of houses and stores lined up wall-to-wall alongside the building and that’s it! No ten-foot-tall walls, no obnoxiously guarded gates, just the building and a bunch of stores. The stores were right on the border, so there is a Costa Rican door on one side of the store and a Panamanian door on the other side.
The next thing we had to do was to leave Panama. That sounds easy, but anything that includes paperwork is obviously hard. After we left Panama, we entered Costa Rica. That part wasn’t hard. We just walked about two blocks to another building that says “welcome to Costa Rica.” Thank goodness for the sign, there is absolutely no difference between Costa Rica and Panama at Paso Canoas.
On the Costa Rican side, we had to wait thirty minutes at the immigration office so they could do that boring stuff with your passport: examine it, stamp it, and hold it up to the light to make sure we weren’t fakes. (I haven’t mentioned yet that the border is hot and humid. So, while we waited, we lost a little water weight in sweat.) After thirty minutes, the border officials were satisfied.
We walked around until we found a “wonderful” hotel called ‘Real Victoria.’ Then my dad and I went back to the Panama side to get our car we had left parked on the side of the road. My dad then drove around to try to get our Panamanian-licensed car to the Real Victoria’s parking lot. (Technically, our car is not legal to drive in Costa Rica.) Even though the hotel is on the Costa Rican side, we were able to drive a short distance in some back alleys that connect Panama and Costa Rica in order to park it at the parking lot of our hotel. This is a much better option than leaving the car on the side of the road, where at a border town, your car might disappear! It did feel a little like being in a spy movie as we tried to smuggle our car to another country without being spotted.
The room we stayed in was a bit larger then my own room (about 12ft x 14ft), had an air- conditioner, and no blankets on the beds. The a/c made the room so cold! I think this was their foolproof system to save money: they had an air conditioner but no blankets. So, people would get cold and not use the air conditioning. Well, my dad had the air conditioning going full blast, blankets or not. So, we got our money’s worth. The hotel owners also saved money by not heating the water. I did my best to avoid having to take a shower.
Speaking of saving money, my parents avoided the extra cost of eating out by stocking a cooler with milk and sandwich supplies. We had cereal for breakfast, and sandwiches for lunch and dinner. The disadvantage was the cooler took up space in our cramped room, but having cold juice and pop available when we were thirsty was a definite bonus!
During the three days that we had to spend in “Costa Rica,” (basically living in a cramped hotel room for three days), we had a number of different activities for our entertainment: swimming in a pool with murky, green water, leading a church service for a bunch of Venezuelans we met, and watching Animal Planet in Spanish on a “non-flat,” very thick, monstrously large T.V.
Finally, after three days of staying in a tiny, cold, and uncomfortable hotel room, we got to go home. We were overjoyed to get back to Panama. Jesse was kissing the ground, I was doing the snoopy dance and JonDavid was running around. It sure was good to be back!
If you’re going to South America, probably the first thing on your bucket list is to see a llama. I mean, when you picture South America, you would probably picture a llama.
We spent three weeks in Bolivia and we didn’t see a single llama. It was kind of sad to be leaving Bolivia to go to Chile without seeing those adorable, furry animals. After getting five hours into the thirty-three hour drive (to get to Chile), we came into this desert-like area, and all around, their were herds and herds and herds of llamas.
But it was only at a distance. It was still disappointing, because we couldn’t feel their soft, fluffy fur. But then, we came to a big city in Chile,called Iqique. (Pronounced ē-keek-ā ) we stayed with a family that had three alpacas. They were adorable! Their fur was so soft and fluffy! They are also very curious, and kept sniffing our hands with their noses that look like a camel.
One day, while we were outside, the owners let their alpacas out of their pens. When they got out, they ran all over the yard, running extremely fast! When they saw us, they started to charge at us, making us think we were gonna be pancakes, but at the last second, they stopped and gave us a neck-hug. My mom now wants a pet alpaca. I don’t think my dad’s up for the job, though.
Now, I can officially check [See a Llama] & [Play with Alpacas] off my bucket list! It was a pretty awesome experience. If you ever get a chance to do this, I highly recommend it! Ciao por ahora.
Normally, we would wake up on Thanksgiving morning and eat a big breakfast of bacon, cinnamon rolls and breakfast casserole with our cousins and second cousins. Then, in the afternoon at some point, we slice up a massive turkey with 10 side dishes and sweet desserts and eat for hours. But not today! We’re in Chile, South America, and they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here. Instead of doing stuff I just mentioned, we drove to church to do work duties. I’ll tell you, there’s nothing more disappointing then painting a church on a national holiday. But, to our great surprise, the truck carrying our supplies never made it to the church. God answered our (actually, my) prayers!!!
Dad needed to get money out of the bank, so we all decided to make it an outing. We found a playground that was close to the bank, and we stopped and let the kids play. All around the play area were dogs and kids and kids and dogs. It was crazy!
We shopped at a big market for a while until our stomachs grumbled so loud the ground was shaking. We stopped at a food court and ate our “glorious Thanksgiving lunch” of pork chops and fried fish. While we were eating, we heard a bunch of drums and bunch of pipe flutes, and then, about fifteen high school students wearing red vests, and funny-looking hats appeared. They marched into the food court and played traditional Andes Mountain music. After three songs, a girl took off her hat and went around the tables and asked for money. As I was eating my pork chop, listening to Quechuan tribal music, I had that sudden realization: this is the weirdest Thanksgiving of my life!
This was my second Thanksgiving to celebrate out of the United States, and probably the least stressful. It was relaxing to know that you didn’t have to cook a gourmet meal for 20 people. However, even though it was relaxing, I still miss playing “Risk,” (a strategy game) with my uncle and cousin at my Nana’s. I also miss playing baseball with my cousins at my Grammy’s house. I don’t know how my Grandmas do it, but they manage to make Thanksgiving really special. So, I guess I will finish my “Thanksgiving Blog” giving thanks to my two grandmas back in Missouri: THANK YOU!!!!!!!
This week was a super busy week for all of us. Here’s how it went: We got up a tad bit earlier than expected on Sunday morning, then dad told us not to get into our church clothes,
“Why not?” I asked myself. After breakfast, I asked my dad why we weren’t wearing our church clothes. He said that we were going with a team of medical people to a Ngäbe camp.
Imagine in your head: three buildings forming a square, but the square is missing one side. Then, make the concrete buildings look old and worn out, and that’s what the Ngäbe camp looks like! We got there around 12:00 noon, and stayed until every person got cared for.
The following three days, we went to a village called “Rovira.” The medical team cared for a lot of people. There were doctors, a dentist, a booth giving away reading glasses, and hygiene and health education.
The next day, Thursday, we didn’t have school, and the whole family loaded up in the brand-spanking-used-new car to us and drove off into the sunset (that wasn’t there because we left at 6:00 A.M.).
After two hours, we got to the base of a mountain, and the Medical group got out of the rinky-dink vans and got into three four wheel driven cage-covered pickup trucks. And we began the mountain climb.
For thirty minutes we drove up and down very steep hills on a dirt road. We even crossed a bridge made of wood, suspended by cables!
When we got to the village of Quebrado Loro, there was already a crowd of about two hundred-fifty people waiting to get medical attention. It was sad to see all these people stand in line and wait four hours in the rain just so they could see a doctor. Literally, everyone had to get a tooth pulled. I watched one little girl get her tooth pulled and nearly lost my lunch! (Scratch that, I hadn’t eaten lunch yet!)
My siblings and I helped with a program for the kids. The teacher decided to start out with a couple of songs. Nobody sang with us. So, we tried to play some sort of game, but only the boys would play. This was a problem, because the boys made up only 20% of the crowd. Lame game. Finally, we tried face painting, which ended up being our great success! The indigenous children here are pretty shy, so singing and playing games made them uncomfortable. But, most of them were pretty happy just holding still and letting us paint their faces!
I also enjoyed helping out with the medical team. I brought water to the doctors and their translators (which included my mom and dad). I also spent some time watching them work (until the dentist kicked me out.)
Suddenly, in the midst of the very busy clinic, the skies started POURING down rain! Then, like a sonic blast, it thundered. It was so loud and close, that a nearby car’s alarm went off! It rained pretty steadily until about 30 minutes before we had to head home. That was a blessing, because traveling on the roads in the rain would have been pretty rough.
So, there you have it. Just another week in the life of a 12 year-old missionary kid.
Last Sunday we had a couple visitors over for lunch. (Actually we had nine visitors for lunch, not three.) It all started like anyone’s usual Sunday: Get up, get dressed, eat, stress your dad out about being late, Go to church. When we got to church, we worshipped along with a YouTube video which is very………….. interesting. Then after what non-spiritual people would call an eternity, they sent us to a children’s class that me and my mom teach.
After church, my mom found out that the six-member family that comes to church ran out of food and two other kids from school who missed their ride home had been staying with them all weekend. My mom, being the generous person she is, invited nine other people to eat at our house for lunch!
We got our two-burner gas stove heated up, Dad drove in the new car to the chinito (corner grocery store) three different times. The rest of the “fam” was busy too: Jesse, JonDavid kept seven boys entertained, Emma played with the little girl and, Joey was busy taking a nap. I helped Mom make a huge pot of spaghetti. There were so many people, we had to eat in shifts to fit everybody around the table. I’m pretty sure that it was the first time those Indigenous kids had ever eaten spaghetti! The moral of this story: make sure you keep plenty of food on hand on Sunday in case you need to invite a family of nine over to eat after church
When we first arrived here in Panama, we noticed a nice, Indigenous couple who had with them a small two-month-old baby. I didn’t really take much notice of them, but 2 weeks ago I was walking home, and mom told me the little baby had died. I was shocked! When I saw the baby, he looked fine. But the reason he died was because he had a hole in the chamber of his heart. The problem was bad enough that he didn’t even live to see his third month of life.
The next day, school got out early so those who wanted to attend could go to the funeral. When we arrived at the little cemetery in the middle of a large field, there was a small outdoor chapel where we met. There was a tiny coffin on a bench in the middle of the room made out of pine painted white.
Someone played guitar, and everyone sang a couple of songs in Spanish that I couldn’t decipher. Then the base directer said something, (again, I didn’t understand what he said), then the family members spoke. My parents told me later that the mom said she was grateful to have had the chance to hold her baby and love him for the short two months of his life. She said the only thing that gave her joy was knowing that baby Dionisio was with Jesus, and that they would see him again one day.
Next, we went to a hole that had been dug earlier and the coffin was opened one last time before it was buried. The baby was in a soft, blue blanket, and he looked like he was asleep. He had dark, black hair and long eyelashes. It was hard, knowing that his life had been so short.
Finally, the coffin was placed in the ground. The Bugleri Indian’s tradition is to dig a small tunnel at the bottom of the hole where the coffin is placed. Then, that tunnel is sealed off with rocks. Finally, the hole is filled in with dirt. It was very important to the parents to bury the coffin this way so the weight of the dirt would not “rest on the baby’s chest.” What I also found interesting is that in the parent’s culture no one was to leave until the hole was filled up. Before we left, I gave the baby’s brother a hug. His name is Demesio and he is a friend of mine. It was hard for me to know that he wouldn’t get to see his baby brother again until he goes to Heaven. For the rest of the day, I mourned for my friend Demesio.
Thanks for reading this blog. If you think of them, please pray for the Indigenous family who lost their baby.