Thursday, March 6, 2008

These past couple of weeks were exciting ...

February 24, 2008

Hola amigos,
These past couple of weeks were exciting as we were here for a rather large protest that lasted about two weeks. It closed down schools for a few days, all building projects stopped, buses stopped running their routes for a few days and students and other protesters hurled rocks at police. In response the police were out in massive numbers with extra gear on and they were shooting tear gas into the crowds and fire trucks sprayed people with water. We were very safe during this time just by not traveling in the city for a few days and then just avoiding those areas later. It was an eye opening experience for Brett and me as we have never seen something like this before. It seems like everything is back to normal again.

In much brighter news, we just got done with an English Book camp for kids this past week. We had between 13-16 kids this week ranging in age from 4-12. We translated the material in a few languages for our Book lesson and then acted it out with the kids. We taught kids numbers, colors, greetings, vocabulary from our stories, songs, games, and crafts. This was a great opportunity for us as we had the chance to use a lot of our Spanish we have learned so far. Most of the Chinese children here learn Spanish at school.

There is a very popular Chinese private school here that teaches their students three languages all throughout their schooling. Although this school was created to be a Believer school, it has lost its focus and is not reaching out to the families that have never heard about our father. There are about 200 different families associated with the school that do not believe. The local Chinese church leaders are not ministering to these families or others that are outside their small body of believers. We are glad that starting in March we will be going into this particular school teaching English to 20-200 students while they are arriving to school. We already have made some friends that go to this school because they attended the VBS we just taught. It’s always great to have friends in a new place.

In this culture, education is the top priority for families. To give you an example of how much they value education, I will share with you something my friend Wendy told me. When Chinese women get married they no longer buy clothes because they must save all the money they can so that they can provide schooling for their future children. To provide for the woman’s clothing needs she will fix up her old clothing and her relatives will send their old clothing to the young lady to fix up to wear while she is raising her child and until the child is out of school. Parents in this people group also show their love to their child by paying attention to their school work and helping them study. In contrast to the average American child, the Chinese child loves paperwork and homework. They study everything you give them and will know it by heart the next day. I was shocked to see our students take all ten or more worksheets we had printed for them to choose from. Each day of our VBS we had to find more worksheets for them to do.

Yarp Requests
Yarp that the Father will use us in a culturally relevant way to minister along side a leader in the Chr. Panamanian Chinese community. This man specifically told our m’s that he greatly enjoyed working with the two of us and desires us to work with him on a regular basis in the future.
Yarp that we will continue to learn more Spanish rather than forget it as we no longer have daily language study.
Yarp that the Father would show us a new ministry that we can to do further the work with the Chinese here in Panama.

In Him,
Rachelle Roberts

Many things have happened here since I last wrote you.

Chinese New Year photos

February 24, 2008
Hey All,
Many things have happened here since I last wrote you. We are no longer at our home stay since we have moved into an apartment in Balboa which is right next to the entrance to the canal. We can actually see the old Pan American Bridge just as we walk out our front door. This past week we have begun to start our work here in Panama. We will still meet with our language teacher, but only one time a week depending on our schedule. I feel that the language is going well for us although I could tell I have forgotten some things since we have stopped our daily lessons. That is a little frustrating for me but it just means that I will have to work on it more when I have time.

This past week the Hansen’s, Rachelle, and I worked in an area on the other side of the city with about 12 Chinese kids with ages ranging from 4 to 12. It went very well. Even though it was so exhausting, the time that we had with them was just so wonderful. In this type of camp we go in teaching English and tell a story that is in the Book. With this type of camp we are able to get some kids to come. In contrast, if we were having just a VBS, none of the children would have come. The parents of the kids want them to learn as many languages as possible. Many of the kids know 3 or more different languages. This means that we had to translate the stories 3 or 4 different times to make sure we had everyone covered because some may know one language but not the other. It was a complicated process but eventually everyone heard. The topic of the week was holidays and for each day we had a Book or M story to teach the kids. For most of these kids this is probably the first time that they have ever heard the name of JC or Father. Although they may have seen their Grandma in the back of their home offering incense to a god shelf but that would be their closest connection. I would never imagine that this group of kids could be so clueless about our Father when there are this many Panamanian believers here in this country. It is sad that many of the local leaders of the believers do not care whether or not these people go to heaven or hell. It is not that these kids live in some isolated apartment or out in the middle of nowhere but all of these children live above Mini Supers which are like the local grocery store, that their parents own and run. Please be yarping that the local believers will take an interest in the local Chinese population. This upcoming week we are going back to all of these kids' homes and are going to hand out some tracts dealing with our father and the movie of his death and resurrection. Hopefully there will be a connection made with these people through these things.

We have really been blessed with an individual that called our M’s and asked if she could help us with our ministry here. We will be meeting with her and two other women to talk about some ministry opportunities that we might have with them. Please be yarping with us as we meet with these women to find new ways to connect with the people here. We thank everyone for their support in P for us and we love you all so much.

In Our Father,
Brett Roberts

It is an exciting time here in Panama for all people.

February 11, 2008

Dear friends and family,
It is an exciting time here in Panama for all people. The Carnival which is a huge national holiday just ended. During this holiday everyone goes on vacation and celebrates by throwing buckets of water and water balloons at people driving or walking by; we were able to experience this first hand while we were in El Valle. This holiday is much like Mardi Gras in that it is also marked by women dressed in very little dancing in parades, loud music, fireworks, games, lots of food, excessive sex and drinking that lasts five days. This is celebrated all throughout the country and draws in huge crowds from others countries as well. The evangelical Christians in Panama feel that this is a very sinful time, thus most of them go to the beach or to the mountains for their vacation. Our host family invited us to go along with them to El Valle which is the biggest city located in the crater of a volcano. During our time there we visited with many of our host family’s friends, rode bicycles, visited a zoo with local animals, played games with their son David, and hiked up India Dormida, which means sleeping girl. There is a legend of the mountain: an Indian princess fell in love with a conquistador, and when her father would not allow the relationship to continue, the lovesick princess laid down and died, and the erosion over the years covered her.

The day after coming back from El Valle, we met up with our m’s and about twenty young Chinese for a retreat at Santa Clara which is a beach a few hours from the city. Wednesday marked the beginning of the Chinese New Year and this is why many of the young people were able to get off of work to go on vacation for a day. One of the girls, Wendy, whom I have become friends with, said this has been her most exciting New Year Celebration since living in Panama because of going to the beach and fishing with friends. I stayed up until two in the morning talking to her about many different aspects of Chinese culture. Yarp that I will have many more opportunities to meet with her again. While our time at the retreat didn’t seem to last long, I really felt as though I was starting to build some good relationships with a couple of the girls. The two girls I spent most of my time with know Cantonese, Mandarin, and a little Spanish and English.

After coming back, our host family and Brett and I went to the convention center to see some Chinese performances and go to small booths which were set up. When entering the convention center it seemed like a completely different country because everyone was Asian. At one of the booths we picked up a language book with CDs that teach basic Mandarin so we can communicate with our new friends in one of their first languages. Also while we were there we were able to see a performance of the Chinese dragon. It was one of the best performances I have ever seen in my life. The men in the dragon costume jumped onto very high pillars and moved to the sound of drums. The costume was so detailed that even the dragon’s eye lids moved!

This week we will continue language lessons again, as we were on a break for the national holiday, and we will move into our apartment at the end of the week. The week after that we will be helping our m’s with a English VBS with Chinese children and young adults with the theme being holidays. Please yarp that everything works out with the VBS concerning language as we will be working with children and young adults who might only know Hakka rather than Mandarin which means we will have to have three translators (English, Mandarin, Hakka, and possibly Spanish). Then we will take part in a conference here in Panama about the ministry among the Chinese. I am very excited that we are finally going to get involved in the ministry here in the next couple of weeks.

In Him,
Rachelle Roberts

These past two weeks have been very good for us.

February 9, 2008

Hola Friends and Family,
These past two weeks have been very good for us. We have really gotten to see much of Panama during this time and learn much about the people in this country. This past week was Carnival which is celebrated in many places around the world. It is the Mardi Gras of the world, only it is much bigger than Mardi Gras. It really is a sinful few days during the first part of the week. It is like our Christmas holiday season because everyone gets off work. It starts on a Friday and basically everyone gets extremely drunk for the weekend, then it is concluded on Tuesday when they sober up for ash Wednesday to repent of what they did during carnival weekend. Then on Wednesday is the start of the Chinese New Year which is the biggest holiday for the Chinese.

The language learning that we are doing is going really well. We are starting to be able to speak in sentences and we can understand most of what is being talked about in a general conversation. Although this past week made us realize we do need to learn a little bit of Mandarin so we are going to start working on that this next week and hopefully we can be successful with that. Continue to yarp about that as we realize how important that is in our work here with these students.

This past week we left town with our host family to go to their other home in the mountains which is in the valley of a dormant volcano. It was really beautiful there. We did a number of things with the Chu’s son David while we where there. We were able to hike to the top of one of the mountains and along the way our guide would pick us oranges which were very refreshing. We also went to the zoo while we were there and saw a number of animals that were native to Panama. The Chu’s love to entertain when they are in the mountains so they invited about 16 people over while we where there so we met many new people. It was a good chance to make some new friends. It was nice to leave the city for a while and get some fresh air.

We went back to the city on Tuesday night only to leave Wednesday to go to the beach with the Chinese students. On Wednesday morning I was awakened to the start of the New Year’s celebration with a bang. There were some very loud fire works right outside my window at about 4:00 am; not the best way to start out the New Year in my opinion. When we got to the beach house we had a cookout where I had some really good grilled chicken wings and shish kabobs. Rachelle had a great opportunity to get to know one of the Chinese girls. After trying to communicate with the guys I did not have as much luck as she. Be yarping that the father would give me a chance with these guys and give me some type of bridge with the language. This is why we are going to start learning Mandarin with Spanish.

The next day I was out at the beach just enjoying myself and all of a sudden I had some sort of shock on my toe. As I got out of the water I noticed that my toe was bleeding. I got back to the house and felt some cramping up into my whole leg. So we called a doctor that our M’s knew and she told us that it is not anything serious. It was very painful for about 2 or 3 hours but the medicine kicked in and took that away. Praise the father that it was not too serous. That afternoon we headed back to the city.

Thursday night we went with the Chu’s to a festival for the Chinese New Year and there was a show with a Chinese dragon. I would have never thought I would have enjoyed that but it was so neat to see it in real life; it will be one of the highlights of my life. The skill it took to do some of those things was just simply amazing. I would love to see it again if I have the chance.

That night I felt like I had been hit by a truck and the last couple of days I have been really sick. Dr. Chu thinks that I somehow got some type of food poisoning when I was at the beach. So please be yarping for me that I could feel better. We start back up with language this next week. After that we will be starting a VBS with our M’s. We are excited because we will be preparing some lessons for that. Yarp for us as we are going to start with our ministry to these people and are going to be moving away from daily language learning and living in our own apartment. I have many pictures for everyone but it seems that we have forgotten our cord to our camera, but we will have pictures soon.

In our Father,

We have gotten settled in here in Panama City...

January 27, 2008

Hola amigos y familia,
We have gotten settled in here in Panama City and know how to get around the city quite well now. We started our first full day here doing language learning which takes place three hours a day, five days a week. The first few days I felt overwhelmed with all the new information but now I just keep yearning to learn more and more of the language. I’ve gotten to the point where I can talk in short sentences and am learning past and future tenses now. Everyday we take a couple of buses to language class and then take a taxi back to our home stay. For this first month we are staying with the Chu family Dr. Chu is an eye doctor, Tina is a real estate agent and their son David is twelve.

We have spent most of our time here so far just learning the language but we have had the chance to do a few things with the Chu family and with our m’s. Wednesday of our first week we went with our family to dad’s house where it was a special youth service in which the families of the youth were invited to come. The music and yarping was done half in English and half in Spanish. It was great getting to be around all the youth who were excited about our father. Later on Sunday we went to a Spanish speaking church with our m’s and afterwards we ate some Chinese food which was very good. There we ate Janzit which is a lot like a boiled ravioli with vegetables, chicken, or pork in it.

Later we went to ESL classes both Espanol and English classes for the local Chinese. They are so eager to learn that even after classes they wanted to learn more and soak up any language they hear. It was very inspiring to be around such good students.

After class the students, our m’s and Brett and I went to celebrate someone’s birthday (compleanos). The students cooked traditional Chinese food which took several hours to make. I had a great time getting to know many of them on an individual basis and got to learn a lot about their culture. The Chinese in Panama have all come here at different times from many different places. Some have lived here their whole life while others came here as teenagers without any other family members, while others come here with their whole family in order to start a mini super (small super market) or a restaurant. A very common thing found outside the businesses owned by the Chinese here is a small mirror. They believe this will keep the evil spirits out of their businesses. It is a constant yarper that the people would be open to our father and would find relief through Him from the spirits that plague them.

This week other than language learning we got to spend time playing basketball with David and his cousin Armando, went to the causeway with the family to ride bikes, went to Dad’s house, and went to ESL classes with the Chinese. Also this week our language teacher told us that if we would help her son, who is our age, with English, then he would teach Brett how to play the Spanish guitar (which he was just starting to learn before leaving for Panama). We are excited about this as we will have a chance to build a good relationship with him.

Please continue to yarp for our language learning, our relationship building as it is difficult to fit into a social/age group here since it is not acceptable to be married as young as we are, and for a retreat for the Chinese English students during the Chinese new year (which is in about a week and a half).

In Him,
Rachelle Roberts

Everything so far here in Panama...

Hola All,
Everything so far here in Panama is going well for us. For this first month we are learning the language and getting to stay with a national family which is such an amazing thing for us. The family is half Panamanian and half Chinese so we get a little bit of the culture of the people that we will be working with here which is the Chinese and a little bit it takes for us to live in Panama City to survive. Our language teacher is such a wonderful lady. Part of her first name is Luz which means "light" in Spanish and she is truly a light in this world. We meet with her for about three hours a day for five days a week. Then we study the rest of the day using the language that we have learned for that day. It is a slow and exhausting process for us. It feels like my brain is on overload constantly but I do feel like we are getting somewhere with the language.

This last Sunday we went to Dad’s house here in El Dorado which is one of the sections in Panama City and we had a chance to participate in their ESL class which here is called Espanol as a Second Language. Then we went over to the M’s house for a Birthday party with about 15 Chinese students and they all cooked us a Chinese meal made up of about 10 things that I did not know existed. Needless to say I did yarp for the meal thoroughly before eating.
During this time I had a chance to talk with one of the students for about a half an hour just getting to know her. She works as a helper for a translating company and hopes to be able to go to Canada to learn more English. She wants to work in a hotel or in a store there. Later I found out that she has dealt with demon possession for much of her life. It is so sad how real things like that are in a culture that is dominated with superstition. Please be yarping for her and the Chinese that they would not be controled by the demons of the world.

In Panama there are about 500 Chinese believers of about 300,000 Chinese here which comes to about 0.0016 percent of the Chinese population here are believers. This is where father wants us right now and may we have the chance to change the lives of these people. Be yarping for a movement to begin among that Chinese here in Panama and that he would be known throughout this people group here. I thank all of you for your p of us while we are here.
From Panama,