Tag Archives: ngobe

A key, An open door, An invitation

My absolute favorite photo from Panama. This is Elia, watching her son pump water from their new well in Valle Escondido. Photo Credit: Raul 

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).

Raul, on his way to Isla Tigre with Simon.

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.

Simon, bailing dirty water out of a newly drilled well in Shark Hole.

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.

New well and pump on Isla Tigre.

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 sharing stories to the family outside of Maritza’s house.

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.

Simon sharing about God.

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.

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Three Volunteers (and TWO video clips!)

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I can’t explain in words how hard it is to “walk” here. These logs get slippery, the mud is deep and the mangrove water smells awful when you fall into it (even though I am holding a shovel in this photo- using it as a walking stick – I still slipped off the logs and got full of mangrove awesomeness) 

I had three visitors this week! Sal arrived on May 10th and Jim and Kathy came in on May 13th. Sal left yesterday morning (May 17th) and Jim and Kathy will head out on May 20th.

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Kathy is back at Agua Dulce! Agua Dulce (“Sweet Water”) is the name of the Wood family property that we live at while working in this region. 

Sal and Jim after working with me and Simon (well, Simon and I worked while Sal and Jim just played in the mud 😉 ) 

Sal and Jim have teamed up with me and Simon in the field while Kathy has been working at Asilo and the preschool that Melissa (a super cool speech therapist from the States) started in partnership for the adjacent Ngobe village.

Before Jim and Kathy arrived, Sal, Simon and I worked in Buena Esperanza, Shark Hole and Valle Escondido. We installed a pump in the well mentioned in my last post – where Hortencio and his wife worked together to drill in Buena Esperanza. We also brought more medicine for little Elmer – the 3-year old child with the infected sores on his body. Please keep Elmer in prayer. The medicine is a temporary fix for the moment, but he needs prayer for overall healing of his little body.

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Hortencio’s family (Minelm, Hortencio with 6-year old son, Marlon) and Simon

We also installed a pump in the well for the birthing mothers and babies home in Shark Hole. This was Simon’s first well in Shark Hole which he drilled to support the birthing house.

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We started to install this pump about a week prior, but had the wrong schedule pipe. It was much nicer to install the pump without a downpour this time!

We continued to use Simon’s cayuco with Sal here, but once Jim came, we moved into a bigger boat. Three adults in the Cayuco is ok, but four just wouldn’t fit. Before the bigger boat, Sal got a fun (and literal) taste of the ocean. I have a little video of one of our commutes home from Shark Hole. The water isn’t usually this choppy, but Sal was a good sport and didn’t mind the extra salt-water shower he received en-route home.​​

​With the addition of Jim, we couldn’t fit in the cayuco so we borrowed one of Bobby’s larger boats. 

Look at how much room we have in this boat!

(side note about Simon’s boat: A friend commented on my last post about what we were doing to raise money for Simon to have a fiberglass boat. We don’t have an official fundraiser set up, but if anyone would like to donate specifically to Simon’s boat, you can hit the “donate” tab at the top of this website and it will bring you to Hydromissions donation page. There is a pull-down menu to direct the funds to my name. The funds will be sent to me here in Panama and I will direct them to the boat. A rough estimate at this point is $1700, of which we have received $400 so far).

With Jim and Sal now on our little team, we tackled some harder tasks that Simon and I couldn’t handle alone. We all worked in Valle Escondido. This was the community that I said should change their name to lots of hills! The community of Valle Escondido had a little spring that they were piping down into the homes in the mangroves. I had worked with Andy (healing fund team) to replace a broken water tank directly below the spring, but the spring itself needed some improvements. I really don’t like working with springs because they are hard to protect against contamination, but since they already had the spring and were using the water, I wanted to make improvements to their system. The two pictures sort of show a before and after. As you can see, its a muddy mess, so you can imagine we didn’t take our phones out much for photos.

“Before” Photo: I have the shovel in my hand in this photo, but Jim really did the majority of the digging and Sal worked hard to pull part of the metal material used to dam the water originally.

“After” Photo: Again, I look like I am working hard here, but I was just moving rocks and stabilizing our new wall. We used fiberglass as our little water dam.

It took us two days to finish the little spring improvements, but we also worked on rain catchment on those two days as well. We installed gutters/tanks on 5 houses total in those two days. I can’t really express how different it is to work here, so just see the photos of one of our gutter installs.

The teenage son of the homeowner was on the roof, pulling this “gutter” on, while Sal and I stabilized it.

 

It is a tight squeeze to slide these pipes onto the roof because we just cut one slice down the pipe. In this photo, Jim is hammering the pipe on as the teenager on the roof is keeping it in place. I also hammered, but once I missed the pipe for a third time, Jim said “three strikes and you’re out”

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Above is a photo of Nelson and his wife receiving a solar flashlight and a bible. We have worked with Nelson on five different days by this point and we had lunch at their house earlier this week (the first Ngobe family to invite us in for lunch). Simon had been sharing with Nelson that we did this work to glorify God and share His love with those we helped. I appreciate that Simon takes his time and builds a little relationship before handing out the bibles. I think the recipients value them more that way.

The last house we worked at was the furthest away from the main section of the community. It is the home of a single mom, Elia. I had two different projects planned for Elia (rain catchment and drilling a well), but we were only able to accomplish the rain catchment on Tuesday.

Today, Jim and I are returning with Simon to drill the well. It is difficult to work at Elia’s house because she lives so far away (about 25 minutes of HARD walking up/down slippery slopes) with just her children and elderly parents. Usually, with well drilling, we insist one having at least 3 volunteers, although 6 is ideal for well drilling. We bend our rules for certain scenarios and this is one of them. Elia can’t get volunteers because she lives so far from everyone else so we are just working on our own to help her and not making her search out volunteers. Hopefully the little middle school-aged boys that helped us carry equipment to Elia’s on Tuesday will help us again tomorrow!

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Our tiny crew! The little guy in the white/blue shirt to the left is Ismael. He quickly became my favorite little helper…probably because he relieved me when I was carrying the 55-gal drum 😉 

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The tank looks like it has a worried face, doesn’t it? I bet it is thinking that I am thinking of rolling it down the hill. Which I was absolutely thinking while carrying it down the hill. 

I am sorry if this particular blog felt a little hectic – this week of projects in three different communities has been a bit hectic! I hope that you all enjoyed the little videos – I had a meeting in Bocas town yesterday so I used a restaurant’s wifi to upload the videos.

 

 

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11-days of AWESOMENESS!

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Back row: Ellie Wood, Phil, Bella Wood, Sarah, Aleph, Zia (hiding behind her grandfather), Dr. Ron, Dennis, Don, Al, Rob, Shirlene Wood, Me                                                                                             Front row: Andy, Dennis, Rick, Linda, Bobby Wood. 

The Healing Fund, a 13-person missions team, led by Aleph, spent 11-days doing all sorts of cool things on Isla Bastimentos, Isla Tigre, Buena Esperanza, Tierra Oscuras, De Jada and Valle Escondido. We had medical/dental clinics, baseball clinics for the kids, repaired water tanks and installed new rain catchment systems, dug ditches for pipelines, drilled wells and started constructing a medical clinic building at Agua Dulce (the property of the Wood family).

I really loved how well everyone worked together and each had an important role to play. We had the medical staff, construction staff, water staff, ministry staff…everyone used their talents to serve in the name of Jesus; with joy and love (even during long hot days and too many biting bugs).

Aleph has been leading missions teams to this region since 2007 to provide rain catchment systems and bring medical clinics to the Ngobe communities. Aleph was trained by Hydromissions in 2011 to add manual drilling to the mission. He has since incorporated Hydromissions’ manual drilling method into their short-term missions trips. Serving in the same way to the same indigenous people group, The Healing Fund and Hydromissions partner to keep providing safe drinking water in this region of Panama year-round.

Now that the team has left, part of me can’t believe all that was accomplished in the short time, but part of me can – the part of me that is sooooo tired after the fast-paced week and a half.

Below are a few photos, but I did not get shots of all the activity – baseball clinics went over really well with the kids, but I wasn’t at the clinics to get photos.

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The kids sat on long benches, watching cartoons about hygiene, while waiting to see Dr. Ron.

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Repairing a rain water catchment system at the school in Buena Esperanza.

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Carting and carrying supplies for the clinic at Valle Escondido.

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On this particular day, I thought I was going to be helping the Dentist, but I bounce where needed…which is why I am dressed so nice to dig ditches at Asilo 😉 P.S. Sarah, Rick and Andy really did most of the ditch. I helped on the second day of digging, when it was nearly finished!

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Most days, we used two boats to get to the various villages – even with two boats, we had to be creative to fit tools and humans. 

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Rick and Andy pretending to work for the photo. Just kidding… they worked really hard.

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This path doesn’t look nearly as precarious in this photo as it was in real life. 

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Unfortunately, a typical latrine in these Ngobe villages along the water.

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“Don’t pollute; dilute” must be the motto for this latrine 😉

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Sometimes you find cool things in the ocean…like a water tank. 

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Andy, working with Nicholas (right), using a hot machete to create the hole needed for the inlet pipe in this tank.

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On the last full day, Dr. Ron taught a class to the “gringos” from the area. We had about 60 guests come to learn about tropical diseases and the infections/fungi common in this area. This is the slide on the fun little unwanted guest, the botfly. 

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After Dr. Ron grossed everyone out with 20 slides on infections (which we all really loved, even though it was gross), Andy taught an engine repair class. This class attendance was split between gringos and locals so it was translated to Spanish. 

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Simon, far right, is my drilling teammate. Phil, center, is the best talker I ever met (in a really good way!). Phil is fantastic at just sitting down and sharing the gospel with all ages. He makes everyone feel so comfortable and at ease. His main purpose on these trips is to share and build those little relationships in the villages. Phil is fluent in Spanish from his 25+ years of mission work in the Dominican Republic. He is also Dr. Ron’s brother-in-law. 

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Al was our dentist on this trip. Sarah and I assisted him during most of the clinics – setting up the lidocaine needles, cleaning the tools and, most importantly, being the “dentist chair” since we didn’t have a real one. We would have the patient in one chair and we would sit behind in another chair and tilt the patient back so that Al could work on pulling their teeth. Al, like Phil and Dr. Ron, is also a super cool missionary, fluent in Spanish. Al served in Ecuador. 

 

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Linda & Rick Doty: What do you need? They can do it! Crochet, puppets, build desks for the school, read to the kids, baseball, art projects, dig ditches, organize, sew and hand out dresses. I could never keep track of where these two were because they were always out and about helping in unique pockets of service to the kids in the villages. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dejavú?

This same scenario has played out time and again over the past 8 years. I go go go with the planning, fundraising, packing, etc …however, I don’t actually post an update until I’m sitting in the airport, waiting to depart (and, yes, it’s always a bit of a rushed post)

My morning started at 2am and if all goes well, I’ll be at my final destination (Isla Bastimentos, Panama) by 7 or 8pm. Not bad considering this trip used to take over 30 hours!

I’ll be working with the Ngobe people group (an impoverished indigenous group in Panama) for the next three months. My home base will be with the Wood family (can’t wait to see them again!) on Isla Bastimentos. I’ll be working alongside Simon, a Ngobe man that I’ve trained over the years who is our primary driller in Panama. Two different teams will meet me here over the duration of the project. Jessica, Zack, Pat & Kat will arrive in about a week. Together we will check on wells that Simon has drilled, test the water quality, check all the pumps and drill one well together. Later in April, Jim & Kathy will return for a week. Kathy will continue helping at Asilo while Jim joins me and Simon for drilling. 

Well, I’ve just boarded the plane so this post is about to end 🙂

Thank you all for your prayers!

-Cait 

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9:00am (Part 2)

*to make it easier to share this update, I am going to call the community leader “John.” I had originally written it with “community leader” throughout, but it seemed difficult to read it that way.

The next morning (Wednesday), I started packing my tools at daybreak to head back to the village. I was still letting doubt and anxiety creep back into my mind, however I knew that we (myself, the Wood family here in Panama, my family and friends back in the States) were all praying for the community and for the project.

I went back to the pipes, alone, and started repairing all the spots that were cut. About 2 hours later, John came out and met with me. He was very pleased to see the water flowing full in the 2″ pipe. Suddenly, he was agreeing with everything I had told him and the other guys on Tuesday. Herd mentality, or mob mentality, describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors, follow trends, etc. That can be in something as simple as purchasing trends or as severe as a mob of people rioting. Since I had John alone on Wednesday, he was much more understanding because he didn’t have the other men all rallying with different ideas and hacking away at the pipe.

I was not cured of all my anxiety, however I felt that God was taking care of the community and me. Bursts of encouragement like the transformation of John on that morning and having Bobby Wood walk the pipeline and reassure me that the system looked sufficient gave me comfort. Continue reading

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