Thanksgiving in Chile

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! 

My little brother, JonDavid, with a Quechuan Indian girl.

       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!!!!!!! 

Nice picture of three of my siblings & I where we took a potty break by the side of the highway.

Medical Outreach

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.


Medical team and Emma at the Ngabe Camp


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.

The “International Medical Relief” team in the back of trucks

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.)

JonDavid, Emma and Me with the line of Ngabe people behind us.

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.

Ciao for now!


PS: To view a video my dad made on this week’s outreach, just click on this link:


Unexpected guests


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


The Funeral

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.

This is Isaac, signing off with a heavy heart.

Isaac with Demesio
Me and my friend, Demesio. He is fifteen years old. We hang out a lot.

Panama Survival Guide

When you go to Panama, you need to know the do’s and don’ts of surviving.  First of all, you need to know about the inhabitants. The Panamanians are a peaceful people. They can be very strong-willed, but also very laid-back and relaxed.

The second thing that is very important in this region is food.  The most popular fruits here are oranges and bananas.  We have bothkinds of fruit in our backyard, and the other day we made banana bread from a bunch of bananas that fell from a tree out back.

What upsets me is the fact that when we arrived in Panama, all the once- delicious, ripe oranges that were once on the trees had just passed the point of harvest. They were on the ground molding from the inside out and making the place stink.  So we had to get rid of them.

The third and worst thing to worry about is bugs. From the tiniest ant to the thumb-sized rhinoceros beetle, bugs are the worst. The ants bite harder here than in the U.S. The other problem about ants is they don’t go anywhere alone; they move in groups of at least fifty or so.  If you mess with one, be prepared to mess with the whole army!  I once stepped on an anthill while I was playing “capture the flag,” and the army of that ant hill just bit me up like a piece of rawhide. It hurt!  The worst part was I was tagged in the game so I wasn’t supposed to move.

The cockroaches aren’t any better, though they don’t bite.  I’ve killed probably 30 Cockroaches in our small house.  The first couple of nights we stayed there, we had to check our clothes for cockroaches. Thankfully, I haven’t had any scary encounters with the VERY LARGE Rhinoceros beetle. If I did, that story would have a blog of its own!

My little brother, JonDavid, with a rhinoceros beetle!


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Filling the tub to wash my dishes

Water is very precious to us because we have around 1 to 2 water shortages per week.  The reason we have had water problems is there’s a pipe up on the Mountain that breaks and the city has to get a backhoe up there to fix it. This usually takes around a day or two before we can get our water back.

No water means you can’t take a shower, wash dishes (which isn’t that much of a problem for me), or even have a water fight.  No showers is an even bigger problem for my family, because we are still in the dry season in Panama, so there is dust and dirt everywhere! Every time Joey or Emma come inside from playing, their skin color is brown from the dust.

Last weekend, we came up with a solution for when the water is out: we filled up some large water containers (they hold about 10 gallons.) So even when we don’t have water, my mom can wash a few dishes and can help my siblings take a “sponge bath.” It is a happy day when we wake up and we have running water!

So, when you wash your hands or take a shower, remember this blog and you might think of water from a different perspective!

Elon Academy


Elon Academy is the school I go to every day. It’s one big room, about 20 by 20 ft. There are windows all around the room. To the back of the room is the door and right next to it is where we keep our backpacks.  There are actually two classes: one class is the “learning to read” class, the other class is for the kids that are Jesse and JonDavid’s age (8 and 10).

The school is actually a school for the local missionary kids and their parents are the teachers.  The first thing we do when we get in the classroom is we get everything situated.  Then, the lead teacher asks us what day, month, and year it is.  Then, someone prays for the day and we get started.  We have a snack break at 10:45 and school ends at 1:00.  One of the things I don’t like about the school is the school schedule in Panama is from February to December. So, no summer break. Bummer.

We brought our schoolwork to Panama and we barely passed the baggage check because we had so much weight in our bags.  I still feel like my parents should have taken my advice to leave my schoolwork at home…. But, that wasn’t the Holy Spirit speaking through me, it was just me!

My two brothers, sister, and friend “Elias” in front of the school room.

The Chinito (small Panamanian store)

“Chino” is Spanish for a Chinese person.  In Panama, the tiendas (little shops) are all owned by Chinese people. So they are called “Chinitos.”  Me and my family have moved to Panama to live for the next nine months.  We have just moved in to a new house and we’ve been working on painting the house.

One early afternoon, my dad gave me some money and sent us down to the Chinito to get ourselves a pop.  It was about a half-mile walk to the Chinito, and on the way we passed a bar. All the peopleat the bar kept staring oddly at the three “gringo” boys that were walking along the Panamanian path.

Walking in our Panamanian neighborhood.

We got to the Chinito and casually walked in like we owned the place. Earlier, mom gave me a shopping list, and I started looking around for things.  After the unsuccessful shopping spree, I went ahead and started buying our pops.  I noticed that the glass bottles of Coke were super cheap ($0.35), so Jesse and JonDavid got themselves some pop in plastic bottles, and I got two glass bottles: a bottle of pop for me and one for my dad.

When we got to the counter to pay, we paid for all the pop and started to leave, but the owners stopped us and said something in Spanish.  I figured the prices were so low because I had only paid for the pop liquid, not actually the bottle the pop comes in. So I switched the glass bottle of pop for a plastic bottle, and everything was A-Ok. We then started walking back to our house, sipping our pop in plastic bottles, and being stared at by the Panamanians. Not bad for my first solo trip to the store!

God Speaks

Every Tuesday I’m going to try to get a blog out. If, for some reason, I do not get a blog out, you can assume:

A. I am at a place where there is no internet,
B. I never got around to writing one, or
C. the super old excuse: “My dog ate my computer.”

I suggest you go with the first two and save option C. for desperate times.

While we have been visiting our family in Joplin, I have been attending a tiny Christian school. It has altogether 25 students, and each Tuesday we have chapel. The first thing we do in chapel is sing a few songs. Every week, they have a guest speaker who speaks for a while. This week, who better to have for a guest speaker than: (drumroll please…) my mom!

Mom pointed out some great tips about being a missionary, and she talked about hearing God’s voice. After about an hour of discussion, she told us to bow our heads, and let God speak to us. When someone felt like God showed them something, they would tell my mom, and she would share it with everyone. If there was someone in the room that wanted prayer for that specific need, they would raise their hand, and the other kids would pray for them.

I really wasn’t too surprised and I actually felt kind of proud that my fellow students were hearing God speak to them. One kid felt like someone had pain in their knee. Another person raised their hand that they were having knee pain, and he got prayed for. Someone else felt like there was someone in the room that was struggling with depression, and someone else with suicidal thoughts. People raised their hands and received prayer. As I looked around the room, I saw kids praying for each other, and eighteen year olds crying like babies in the presence of God. This time of prayer and ministry lasted an hour, but it felt like 15 minutes.

After chapel, the kids started praying for our teachers. Shortly after, we went to lunch, but after lunch, my teachers felt like we needed to pray more for one another. We ended up praying the rest of the school day. It was a great day. The only thing that could have made it cooler was if this day of prayer had happened in schools all over town!

House Build Blog

On our fifth week of outreach we got to build houses for five different families.  The families we were building for were part of a people group called the Ngäbe (pronounced no-bay). There were 5 groups working on the houses, as well as a group that worked in a clinic, and another group that went door to door giving out Ngäbe Bibles.  We had four days to build the houses, but our lead builder was used to building houses in two days, so we got our house done first.

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Michael and I painting walls.

When we got to the build site, there was already a new poured concrete slab: 20 by 16 feet. We began right away by building the wall frames.  When all four walls were up, we painted around 20 4×8 Flat boards. We put all the flat boards on the walls and then painted the outside of the house. While we were doing that, other people were working on the roof.

My parents were the “electricians” of the group. The new house had only four lightbulbs: a bulb in each of the three rooms, and a porch light. There were also four wall outlets in the house. The house had two small bedrooms, and a larger room with a table and chairs. There was no porch, no running water, and no bathrooms inside.  There was a bunk bed in the larger room because the bedroom was too small for two bunk beds.  Even though the house was the size of most people’s outdoor shed, the family was so thankful to be getting a house that would keep out rain, dust, and disease.

Michael, myself (Isaac), and Jeyson.

On the last day, we had a ceremony where we handed the keys of the new house to the family.  Since our team is a “music and missions team,” we did some worship. Then, we stood in a circle and passed the keys around the circle. When you had the keys, it was your turn to say something to bless or encourage the family. Finally, the moment came when we handed the father of the family the keys to his brand new home!  Then, the family went inside by themselves and shut the door. We gave them some time to go through the house as a family. After a few minutes,we knocked on the door, and they welcomed us into their new home as the first guests.  We went into the house, read a few verses, and prayed a blessing over the family. The Ngäbe Indians are very shy, and don’t show much emotions, but they were smiling from ear to ear, and hugged us tightly when we said goodbye.
Even now, I think about the family we built a house for. Their lives are so different now. They have a house with glass/screened windows that keep out bugs; they sweep their concrete floor, and have safe electricity. Four work days for us became a lifetime change for a Ngäbe family. And I think that’s pretty awesome!

Happy Family!