Last week was a wee bit different – in a good way!
My Hydromissions teammate, Raul, arrived in Panama on Sunday. Raul became an Associate for Hydromissions in 2013 and since then we have worked together in Haiti (2013), El Salvador (2014, 2015) and Panama (2015).
I made arrangements for Simon and Raul to visit every village that Simon and I have worked with over these past 11-weeks.
At this point, the different Ngobe families have seen me and Simon on multiple occasions. They know we are working to help, not hurt (use) them. We are far from being completely trusted, but I would say that we are more welcome now that each of these communities have seen our work. We have multiple rainwater catchment and/or borehole wells in each of the communities, with plans to continue working throughout the year. Small steps towards trust and acceptance for Simon in villages that are not his own.
Raul’s first language is Spanish and although Spanish is the second language for the Ngobe, most can speak it in addition to their native tongue, Ngäbere. Simon’s first language is Ngäbere so he can translate between Spanish and Ngäbere when needed.
Raul came to spend a week meeting with the families, sharing about God and listening to their stories. The Ngobe share in the form of stories (similar to the parables in the Bible). Raul and Simon went out every day and did a little work (small repairs, pump installs, etc) in each of our project villages and, afterwards, spent hours visiting with families. Raul’s gift and passion is evangelism (as is Simons). Both men are gentle and kind in their conversations, yet passionate and driven to see peoples lives change. Simon uses analogies to share in ways that the Ngobe would understand. I love to hear Simon share stories, although my language and cultural comprehension makes it hard for me to understand them.
The work that I am gifted and passionate about – drilling wells, designing pumps, building latrines, hygiene education – is the key we use to open doors to villages that we couldn’t just walk into and [effectively] share about Christs’ love. The Ngobe people (and most other people) don’t want to just hear you speak, they want to see action behind it. At Hydromissions, we want to be an organization that provides “Water for the thirsty in Jesus’ name” because we recognize that we need to care for physical needs and ultimately that opens doors to care for spiritual needs.
Simon and I have worked really hard to provide for the physical needs of the families in these 7 villages. Providing the water has opened some doors into villages that Simon had never been to before, but now he is known in them.
I didn’t go with Simon and Raul to visit the homes. I felt like my presence would be more distracting than helpful. Raul is a foreigner, however he is a native Spanish speaking foreigner (and being a male helps too). I am just a foreigner that tries to say things like “dólar” (dollar), but ends up saying “dolor” (pain) so my sentence of “If I had more pains, we could do more work” just doesn’t cut it 😉 I was able to catch up on computer work, inventory and a project I have going on in Bocas while the guys were in the villages.
This particular post is about a family on Isla Tigre. Raul and Simon went to Isla Tigre to install pumps in two wells that Simon and I had drilled previously.
After they finished, they were chatting with different families using the well. One woman, Maritza, was sharing about how neither she nor her children could read or write. Her husband had died in March in a bus accident. This accident killed 18 men from the province of Bocas Del Toro (where we work). The men were being transported to a farm to harvest watermelon. Simon and Raul were trying to figure out how to help with Maritza’s request so they went to her house to continue getting to know her and her eldest son, Benedicto. When Raul asked if they knew who God was, they responded, “no.” This is actually unusual. Even Simon was surprised since everyone (up until Maritza) has known about God in these villages. Whether they care or not, most people have heard about God.
That evening, we were discussing Maritza after dinner and made plans for Simon and Raul to return to visit her and her children. We wanted to give the family school supplies (books, paper, pencils, etc) to help with their request to learn to read and write. We also wanted to have a bible lesson at her house. Raul and Simon had an open door, an invitation to return.
Simon and Raul returned on Friday to give a bible lesson. They taught about creation, sin, redemption – going from the old testament to the new testament. People came to see what was going on, some stayed, some left, some slept, but some really listened. Maritza and her son were two that were really paying attention.
At the end of the lesson, Raul offered an even better invitation than one for a visit to a home. An invitation to start to really know God – to be part of the family of Christ. An invitation to salvation. Maritza and Benedicto accepted.
We were (still are!) beyond thrilled with the news of Maritza and Benedicto!
“In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents [that is, changes his inner self—his old way of thinking, regrets past sins, lives his life in a way that proves repentance; and seeks God’s purpose for his life].” Luke 15:10
Simon and Raul found a lady on Isla Tigre who has agreed to help Maritza’s family learn to read and write. They have supplies that we bought for them in Bocas to get started. We are really hoping the things being put in place now (the tutor, for example) stick. I am glad that Simon will be able to stop by from time to time to make sure Maritza is doing OK. We are also working out a way to get a solar audio bible over to the family soon so they can continue to learn about God.