Wednesday, April 23, 2008

April 8, 2008 Lately I have had many thoughts about home...

Dear Friends and Family,

Lately I have had many thoughts about home and just a few of the things that I miss from the United States. When visiting new places around the world for extended periods of time a person no longer thinks about how neat the things are around you and how different they are from your home. You begin to wish that those things would be done more like they would be done in your home. For example in the morning I am used to waking up to complete silence but lately I have been going to sleep and waking up to the noise of a car alarm or a building alarm going off or the multiple planes that fly over our head. I wish we didn’t have all these early morning noises here in Panama City. Yet there are many things here that I very much like and wish that the United States would take up these practices.

The people here are extremely nice and when they greet one another they greet each other with a kiss on the cheek from a man to a woman or woman to woman. Although awkward at first I have begun to see how friendly it is and that it has become almost like second nature to me. Sometimes I will go up to a man and without even thinking aboutit, start to go and kiss his cheek, which is not acceptable. Then I get all embarrassed because I realize the mistake.

I have come to the realization how much money is a part of our everyday culture and in other cultures it is not that way. There are certain things that we do out of politeness and it is not seen as being polite to someone of another culture but as extremely rude. The other day we had a guy that we worked with give us a ride to one of the malls which would cost a little bit of money and so out of politeness I thought I would offer him a little bit of money for the gas to get there. After getting out of the car I had realized what I had done. He had given us a ride because he was a friend and it was something he could do for us and my offering him money was like saying he was nothing more than a taxi driver to us. I have had to think constantly about what I provide funds for with some people.

This week we finished the kid’s camp and we have starting teaching ESL on Sundays with some adults and hopefully I can meet with one of the young men for private lessons. Please yarp for this as this young man is not a brother and I feel he may be very open. This past week we went yarper walking around the Florida State University campus because we are trying to start some work there and the next day our m’s had some feed back to something he was offering on campus. Dad answered some of our yarpers from the p walk. We are going to be going again today to walk around the campus and hopefully there will even be some more activity for us on the campus. Please yarp with us for opportunities to open up around this campus for our m’s and us.

I had my first guitar lesson with my Spanish teacher’s son and that was fun as we tried to get things worked out with the guitar. I hope that we get a chance to meet again soon. I am a work in progress with this and hopefully Dad will bless this time that have with him.

Other yarper request:
We are still trying to get into one of the schools and we will be handing in resumes to the school to do English conversation or teach a class.
Yarp for opportunities to open up as we go to different places and try to build relationships with the people in those places.
Yarp that Dad would constantly direct our m’s and us as we try to strategize and plan different things.


April 9

Dear friends,

This past weekend was our last English class for the children. Originally that class was directed towards high school students and the goal was to help them with their English through conversation. Because we ended up having much younger students, Saturday classes ended up being games, food, B story, and worksheets about the lesson. It was nice getting to spend time with children but it didn’t seem fruitful for our m’s work here as far as making new contacts with people for discipleship or anything along those lines. Many of the students we had in class already belonged to a ch and had been exposed to the B. Those students ended up giving all the answers which hindered the other students in the beginning until we figured out how to make sure everyone was involved. The week before last a team from Norway came to the English classes to help out and ended up doing a few skits for the children. They neglected to have someone translate for the students and later I found out my advanced students didn’t even understand the skits. I really thought the dramas were a great idea had they just had them translated. The little kids saw the dramas as comedies and loved them for that reason. This past weekend I believe was our best week yet with the English class. We had just the right amount of people come to help with classes, our students really seemed to enjoy the B story and drama, and our conversation after the lesson went very well. This past class was our last one with those students and I’m glad it ended on a high note.

This past Sunday we started up a session of English classes for young adults. This was the first adult class I had ever taught so I was pretty nervous about it but the thought of a few familiar faces was nice. Brett and I ended up having four people in our class and only one of them we hadn’t met before. The new student in class seems far more advanced than the other students and he is very driven to learn. Please yarp that he will be interested in taking lessons with Brett one on one to further his skills and for us to share our father with him.

Last time I wrote to you I told you that we have been going to the FSU library to try to make some friends and strike up conversation. So far the only conversation we had with someone was them asking if we were using our extra chairs at our table and they took them away to an over crowded table. Although our attempts have been unsuccessful there we will continue to go in hopes that one day it will change. We ended up not going paintballing the other week end because our contact from the university never got in touch with us to tell us the time and place. It ended up she had to go take care of some student disciplinary issues that turned up over the weekend. Please yarp for the campus, as drinking and drug use is very high among the American students. Yarp that in these students' attempts to fulfill their carnal desires that they will find that nothing will fill that emptiness inside and that this will drive them to seek out our father.

Last week we got together with a couple other people interested in working with the Chinese and yarper walked around the area we live. We live near several historic areas in the Canal Zone and near a few Chinese businesses. I learned a lot about the role of a particular president to whom the statue near our apartment was created for. He was elected three times but never served a full term. He made laws which forced all people who were not born in Panama to give up their jobs and businesses and leave the country. This was a very difficult time for the Chinese as they returned to their homeland. In their homeland they were not accepted because they had left their homeland for many years. The government and people rejected them for living in a foreign place and refused to give them jobs. As soon as many of them could, they returned to Panama to start up businesses again. Later last week, we found out that after our yarperwalk around FSU, six students called our m’s wanting to be involved in the Mandarin classes. Before that point no one had responded to the flyers on campus. Praise our father for hearing our yarpers!

We went p walking again today but this time with a team from Norway. I really enjoyed our time p walking with these students from YWAM. I felt like our p time today was much more successful than the past time and it was great to fellowship with one another. The group I led went p walking just around the FSU campus and talked to a lady who works with all the international students on campus who is a sister. Our time spent with her was very fruitful.
Part of our p walk both last week and this week was up a hill which had a spectacular view of much of the city. On the way up the hill we got to see monkeys in the trees. I was so excited because the hill is in the same area that we live and I never would have imaged monkeys living in the city. It was such great place to go to p walk because from the top we could see the old town, the barges waiting to go through the canal, the area where we live, the business district, and poor run down neighborhoods.

Thank you for all your yarpers about the work the Father is doing here in Panama and for our time spent here. I really feel like today was an encouraging day and that was very much needed. Continue to yarp for our outreach to the university students and students at the internet shops, as well as those we teach on Sunday nights.

In Him,
Rachelle Roberts

March 26, 2008 It seems like just the other day...

Hey Everyone,

It seems like just the other day when I last wrote you. I will say that everyday is very different than the last. We are still doing the Saturday ESL class with the students and that is going very well. I feel that Rachelle and I are both starting to make some good friends in that group of students. I have one boy that is a little slower mentally than everyone else and he has a few physical disabilities which make him not fit in as well with everyone else but I feel drawn to him. The other day he took my hand and walked with me all the way back to the ch after eating lunch. He likes to say my name in English and then start to talk to me a hundred miles in Spanish. I can only pick up a word here and there. He is a joy to me and to everyone around him and I praise the father for him.

This past week Rachelle and I have started going to Florida State University the Panama extension to the Library because we had heard that there are a number of Chinese students that hang out there in the library. They never seem to stop studying and many times they don’t have any friends because of that reason. So we have e-mailed a contact that we know in the University that has a ministry with FSU students to see if we could help her out with her ministry. After talking with her and our m they are thinking about starting a church here in the area where we live with the students from FSU. Be in yarper about this possibility. The father will have to do this and not us if it is going to work.

We have been told by a young 4th generation Chinese friend that the guys from the same generation as she, like to go play war games on their computers in special shops designed for this in the New China town. I have started to go to gaming places in hopes to build relationships with the young Chinese guys. A problem with this is I can’t seem to find the shop that the Chinese go to. I have been out three times and every time I find a shop it is the wrong one. So finally in frustration I have asked one of my friends to go out with me tomorrow and help me find this place so I will know where it is in the future. I never in my life thought I would be out playing video games as a ministry but I know Dad can even use video games to reach out to people. Be yarping that this would be a ministry that would work.

Thank you everyone for remembering us in your yarpers.
G Bless

March 27

Dear Friends,

Not much has changed since the last time I wrote you. We are still involved in our Saturday English classes with the kids. Last week we did a literary study of 1 Corinthians 11 with the older kids. The girls didn’t seem very interested in the task because they had just spent the three days before that doing the same thing on 1 Timothy with people at a Chinese retreat. Needless to say they were burnt out. The guys on the other hand really were interested in dissecting the scripture. I was really glad to hear that the Chinese ch had an event for all ages during the Holy Week (Easter); during this week no one goes to school or work and most people go to special services on Friday and Sunday.

We have started visiting the Florida State University extension that is located in our neighborhood. We were told that the Chinese students like to spend their time in the library between morning and evening classes. We really feel like we need a friend at the university to help us make friends, other wise we are just strangers in the library. We might have the opportunity to go paintballing with some of the university students this Saturday if the time doesn’t end up conflicting with our other ministry. Please pray that the Father will open a door for us to work with the Chinese students at FSU.

We have also started going to computer/ internet shops because we were told that the young Chinese guys like to play war games after school and after dinner. We have found several of the shops but haven’t found a place that has the right kind of games and when we go there never seems to be many people there. Today we are going to be meeting one of the people that told us about the Lan parties/ gaming shops, hopefully we will find the popular shops today. Please yarp that we will find the shops that the young people like to go to and that the Father would give us the words to speak to these young people.

It seems as though the outreach strategy for this ethnic group may be changing drastically as new ch plants seem impossible with the turfism going on among the established ch throughout the country. I believe Dad is giving those working with this group a vision for the future and possibly for now. Please yarp that all those ministering with the Chinese will have the confidence and courage to do the things that the Father is leading. Trying to reach a people that have not been successfully reached before can be very intimidating. But as it is said if it were easy these people would have already been reached. Just continue to yarp for relationships with these people and openness to the good news.

In Him,
Rachelle Roberts

The picture above is from language class a couple of weeks ago when our language teacher taught me how to cook a few Panamanian foods.

March 10, 2008 It has been a good couple weeks...

Hey All,

It has been a good couple weeks for us here. We are starting to work on Saturdays with YWAM to teach ESL classes to some Chinese students. It was originally supposed to be coffee shop kind of event but I guess no one understood that so it is just like a VBS. We have a lot of fun playing with the kids, many of the kids that were at our last kids camp are also at this one only they are traveling about a half an hour to come to it instead of it just being up the street. I was able to share the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den and the Good Samaritan with the more advanced English speaking group. I have found that telling B stories here is one of the most effective ways to tell about our father.

We have started to become an active part of our C in El Dorado this last week. We were invited by a girl to come and watch the local C Volleyball tournament and it made me glad that I was not playing (they where very good). We are starting to make a lot of friends with the Panamanians and they are so very kind to us. I think that I will be playing some basketball with them soon. The pastor of the C said that I was good at playing basketball. I laughed and asked him how he knew because he had never seen me play. I do look forward to it though.

We met this last week with a whole bunch of people from all over the world that work with the Chinese to discuss how we might get some type of work started here in Panama. It was a great learning experience for Rachelle and me. It helps us to understand more about the mind set of the Chinese and what is the best way to reach out to them. We also went out with Francisco to hand out tracts in Hakka and Cantonese of the J film. It was such a blessing for us to see how he works. Francisco is a native Chinese who speaks 4 different languages not including English and he basically is a M director for Panama but he is not acknowledged by the local Chinese C’s that do exist in Panama because he does not have the right schooling. He has an amazing gift of gathering the masses but our problem is he does not know what to do with them when he gets them together.

I got my first hair cut in Panama. Needless to say she took a little bit too much off the top, back, and sides. It was the longest hair cut I had ever gotten. I got the Royal treatment all for 8 dollars. I got the hair cut, my hair washed, and a massage. Apparently the hair wash and the massage all come together. I told Rachelle when I got out of there that I thought I was going to die because the lady was massaging my head and back so hard. But all is ok and my hair will grow back.

Yarping request:
The school that we were supposed to be working with for a couple times a week in the morning might be backing out on us due to some things that happened with the last group that came to the school. Be yarping that the directors might have a change of heart and let us teach in their school.

Be yarping for both ESL things that we are doing on the weekends, that we would start to build a base and an opportunity to go and visit with these kids’ families.

Be yarping that we would be able to develop some friendships with in the Chinese population that we meet with. It is hard for us to build friendships with them when they are doing nothing but working and taking ESL classes with us.

Thank you all for your yarping and support it means so much to us.
Brett Roberts

Dear friends,
Since I last wrote you, we have started to lead an English class for ethnic Chinese students under the age of thirteen. The local YWAM are the ones that came up the this idea and they have asked for our help. The first week when we showed up it seemed like no one had planned any activities so I stepped in and came up with many English activities on the spur of the moment. Later the next week we met with the YWAM leaders and discussed the activities for the next week and planned who would lead each part. Brett and I are responsible for deciding which B story will be taught and we teach the lesson to the older students. For the second time now I have been able to use my artistic ability to draw out the stories we are sharing with students. The pictures are used to help the younger students that don’t know the language very well. Our students are advanced in their knowledge of English but still lack many conversational skills, so we are trying to help them in that aspect of their language. The parents of these students are willing to send students because we have told them we will teach their children good morals, English, Mandarin (taught by a local Chinese minister), and sports.

We are hoping to start a B study with some of our students from Saturday and some of the adults we see on Sunday but we are still yarping about who we should ask and when the best time and place for that would be. Please yarp about the start of a B Study with these people.
A couple weeks ago we were a part of a conference consisting of m’s working with Chinese in China, Canada, Dominican Republic, Taiwan, and Panama. This meeting was held to share successes and failures while working with this ethnic group and to encourage m’s. This had to be done in person because much of the information is not safe to share through electronic sources such as the phone and e-mails. It was wonderful getting to hear the ministries going on with the Chinese all over the world and to hear how others have overcome some of the same obstacles our m’s and we are trying to overcome. During this conference we got the chance to see two of the three Chinatowns located in Panama, the Panama Canal locks, old ruins of the city, and the Chinese Baptist Seminary. It was great finally getting to see some of the well known places in Panama City.

In Him,
Rachelle Roberts

Yarp requests:
That we would be successful in building relationships with the ethnic Chinese through conversations at the mall, the university near our apartment, our English students, and visiting Chinese owned stores.

That we would be good examples of believers to the Chinese as they have had very negative impressions of believers. (Chinese businesses are frequently robbed and have family members killed by local Panamanians who are professing believers or who have a cross on their necklace or tattoo.)

That we would find favor in the eyes of local C Chinese School (only C in name) so that we can begin teaching in their schools in order to build relationships and share J with the student’s families on visitation.

That we would continue to learn and have more opportunities to use Spanish.
P.S. I have attached some photos from our time here. The picture of the dragon was from the Chinese New Year, the group picture is of the group that went with us on a retreat to the beach for the Chinese New Year, the one on the couch is also from the retreat, there is a picture of Brett and our host family's son David standing in front of ancient native writings.