Friday, July 30, 2010

Whats up? From Panamania!

Today was our last day to work on the church. It is amazing to see what all we have accomplished in the short time we have been here! The church is coming along nicely, it will be no time until God's word will be preached there. I think I speak for us all when I say we are relieved that its over but at the same time we wish we could have done more.

Tonight was also our last day in Panenome. We had to say goodbye to our new found friends here in Panama. It was really sad but at least we went out on a high note. There were about 120 people at church tonight, which is triple what it has been! I can tell that God is already doing such amazing work here. Some of the best moments of the trip has been the worship at night. It is so cool hearing the Panamanians sing songs in Spanish that we know in English.

God is so much bigger than just Jonesboro, Arkansas. He's so much bigger than America. He's the God of this world and we need to remember that. God is doing just as much here in Panama as he is back home in the states. And that's a reason to be glad!

Being here has opened my eyes to just how much we take for granted. We have been so blessed just because of where we were born. We hold onto our material things and think we've some how earned them. We have earned nothing! We deserve nothing! We have only what God has given us. Worst of all we take Jesus's sacrifice for granted. I've lived so much of my life knowing what all God has done for me, but completely disregarding that fact. Chasing the instant gratifications of this life. Disgracing the name of Jesus, in the process. We are called to be so much more.

The trip has flown bye and now its almost over. I am so blessed to have come though. I have never been apart of a group so close. Our genuine love for each other binds us together. CHRIST's love binds us together.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

First Mission Trip With Southwest

Please bear with me. I'm a first time blogger.
This is my first experience with the Southwest youth. This has been a surprising experience. I've never worked with a youth group on a mission trip before so I did not know exactly what to expect. The energy level has definitely been very high in spite of everyone's fatigue. But I have been amazed by how everyone has keep such a positive, Christ-focused attitude. I must congratulate the Southwest congregation for having a very impressive group of young people. I am surprised by the way they support each other so much. No one ever seems to get an attitude. Everyone is constantly looking for ways to help others whether it be bringing them water or taking a turn with a shovel.
However, the thing that most surprises me is how much everyone has ministered to and encouraged me (especially with the singing). I feel Jesus' presence very strongly with the group.
I guess I should say some things that I observed today. Well, I tried to float around and experience a little bit of everyone and the jobs they were doing. The thing that made the greatest impression on me was how the Southwest team in spite of the language barrier is reaching out to and encouraging their Panamanian brothers and sisters. The desire to express love and gratitude transcends the language barrier. I can see bonds that have formed that I know will never be forgotten by the people here.
I feel blessed by this team and I know that Panama is being blessed as well.

Words from the Uptons

We have been so blessed by your group so much we don't know where to begin. They are full of joy and compassion. We wish we could take the time to speak about each one of them, but there is not enough time to express the message in our hearts. Perhaps a summary of our thoughts will suffice:

First, Abby is wonderful. She has a true serving spirit. She blesses all of us with her energy and upbeat attitude all day. She has the courage to step forward and try new things and meet new people. She is always the first to try new words or phrases in Spanish, even when they are all wrong. But, her accent and her true enjoyment of the moment make every okay for everyone. The Panamanians love her and are so happy that she is trying to learn their language.

The other adults on this trip are obviously handpicked for their talents and skills. They each bring a special ability to the group. Chris has a talent to sing and lead their minds into spiritual discussions. Angie mothers each and every one with a true nurturing heart. They respect her experience and follow her suggestions willfully. Jeff has a special relationship with the team. He is full of laughter and a special talent for telling stories just the right way to keep everyone on the edge of their seat as he unfolds the tale. Many memories have been made listening to and laughing with him. Brian, [not sure about the spelling :) ] and Mallory are both great examples to all of us. They show us daily how a Christian couple can do His work together and enjoy being with each other and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Brian swings a pickax better than most we've seen and Mallory can move concrete with the best of them. Thank you so much for allowing these two to be a part of this trip.

As for the young people let us simply say they are a joy to us. Their willingness to work hard and laugh with each other is a true blessing to share. We have worked with many groups of teens in the past, but this group is special in so many ways. They are more caring and open than most veteran teams. They take on hard tasks with a smile and diligently work until the job is done. And in the heat and humidity of Panama, that is an accomplishment! We have not heard one word of complaint or concern from any of them. None of them hesitate at the suggestion of more duties or longer hours. No one fusses about the food, no matter what it is.

We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for sending your children to be with us and share in our work. We know you are proud of them, but we want you to know that we see your teachings in their lives and we are proud of them as well. You have placed God in their hearts and they are actively showing Him in their behavior. They are unselfish, unassuming, and unafraid to show Christ. They help each other instantly and are quick to offer assistance to others as well. We want you to know that when we unload the buses at a hotel or restaurant, we are proud to show your children off to the world. Thank you for giving us that opportunity. We notice that the children of Panama receive them freely. And that is very telling of the spirit of each them. Children seem to sense the love being offered from another and know if it is real. You have seen a few pictures of how the children have accepted their love, but we have seen many.

The brethren from El C0pe and Santa Marta are receiving a wonderful gift, because of the sacrifices you have made to send this team to us. We speak for them and ourselves when we express our appreciation for that gift. Words will not give the message justice. We will ask the Spirit to interpret our message of thanksgiving and pass it from our hearts to yours.

In His Love and from the Uptons in Panama, Mark and Miriam....Thank you.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Picture Day!!

Beunos dias la familia y amigos,

As you can tell, the mission team has been picking up Spanish quite well here in Panama. This post will be consisting of mostly pictures rather than descriptive writing to mix things up a little bit. Hope you enjoy!

Our day started with a Americana breakfast and a van ride to El Cuope. We loaded the vans with numerous suitcases full of beanie babies, flip flops, and tshirts to hand out to the Santa Marta ninos (children).

Our means of transportation for the day was, to say the least, interesting. 2 groups of 12 amigos squished into the back of a pickup truck with numerous luggages was made for close bonding.

At the top of the mountain we stopped for a group picture. The scenery was breath-taking.

We then arrived at Inglesia de Christo in Santa Marta.
Chris, Abbey, Hayden, Mama Murrey, Stephanie, Jeff, Bryan, and Mallory sorted the flip-flops and got the tshirts and beanie babies organized for the kids. While everyone else played "Chicle, Chicle" with the kids. It was great fun!

Our mission team has all fallen in love with the native Panamians :)
Many kids walked in barefoot to receive new shoes.
Chris was well loved by the children, and Stephanie helped them pick out their favorite color of flip flop while making sure they fit. Also, Mallory and Bryan found a new member of their family, haha.
And Heath bonded well with the kids while playing games.

The ride back down the mountain consisted of riding through streams, a downpour, tarps over our heads, watering leaking down our backs, and the Panamians driving us watching soap operas in their dry, air conditioned trucks.

The trucks took up to El Cuope where we hiked to a miraculous waterfall. Cliche as it sounds, God has made some great handy work. We had fun jumping into the mucho frio (cold) water, sliding down the moss covered rocks, and standing under the falling water, and the boys, well, acting like boys.

During service Mallory, Abby, and Jameson gathered the kids for a fun time of coloring and games.

After showering and a quick nap we headed back to El Cuope to participate in the church service. We were glad to hear that Peto's wifes' surgery went well, and she will have a rapido (fast) recovery. Please keep praying for his family, and for Segrada and her family. We are planning on doing something special for her later in the week.

This blog entry has taken an hour, and we are exhausted. We have a long work day tomorrow at the church site and thankfully some of the younger El Cuope boys will be helping us out. Hope you enjoyed all of the pictures and thank you for the blog comments. They are always encouraging and funny to read. Keep them coming. We love and miss you all, adios!

Post made by: Kaitlyn and Abby
Pictures made available by: Mallory Manning and Abbey Jackson

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Greetings from Panama!

Today was the second day on the work site. As we started off construction, we were all quick to realize we were definitely a little run down from yesterday's hard work. However, as the examples of Christ we are, we followed WWJD to get us through the day. That is, What Would Jeff (Webb) Do. Haha. But on a more serious note, watching my fellow mission members was a true blessing. I have never seen more hard working and determined people. It is truly amazing just to sit and watch them work. The guys did a tremendous job digging stairs. Seth, Daniel, Bryan and Heath really went to town with the pick axes. As for the girls, I'm pretty sure we sifted at least 30 pounds of sand. All the Southwest team members along with Abel (Ah-bell), Peto, Solomon, and some children who will attend the church we are building got so much accomplished. I am truly in awe. Not once did anyone complain. Instead, everyone was constantly lifting each other up, whether it be by taking over someone's job when they got tired or telling a funny story (Trust me, Jeff had plenty of them).

After the construction, we once again showered, went to dinner, then went to the church in El Cope. Chris Taylor, the missionary we are supporting, led the sermon. His lesson was about Jesus washing the feet of his peers and how similar our mission trip to Panama is to that. We were so uplifted and encouraged to hear him speak of us in those terms. I feel like I can speak for all of saying his message really put us in high spirits.

This whole mission trip so far has been such an incredible blessing. I feel like I keep repeating myself saying that, but it really has. I feel like I am being equally if not more blessed by this trip in comparison to those we are helping. Every one has been such a joy to work with and I cannot even put in words the feeling it brings to see the faces of the people we are helping whether it be from the little children we brought sandals to Sunday or those who have seen the construction of the church. God has really worked wonders.

Everyone back home is missed and loved! We enjoy reading everyone's comments at night during the devotional! We ask, however, that you keep our Panamanian friend Peto's wife in your prayers. She is having serious surgery tomorrow in Panama City. We ask that the Upton's friend Cagrada in your prayers as well. Mark and Miriam told us tonight that she is a single mother with four children and two grandchildren living in impoverished conditions and was recently diagnosed with Lupus. Also, our friend Abel is not a Christian and we are really hoping our work will help him come closer to Christ!

Jameson Murrey

P.S. Mom, this is Chelsea, the story is totally cool and i will explain it all when i get back BUT i need you to text Logan Aunt Marie's phone number. Miriam and Mark used to live in Belzoni and Miriam's sister went to HA and Aunt Marie was her best friend and she has been looking for her for years!! Totally cool right!! Please and thank you! oh and i can check facebook, so thats how i will get the number from Logan because i know you were wondering! I love and miss you :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Recap, A Laugh, and A More Serious Note

Dear Family and Friends,

We have only been here for three days, but it feels like we stepped off the plane into Panama City a week ago. I think I am going to break this entry into three sections so I can keep everything clear in my mind. Here we go!

About Today:
We woke up early at 7:00 am and had breakfast at the hotel. Once again we Americans gave our best attempt at ordering food that we didn't really know how to order, but for the most part we did a good job. There was a whole lot of pointing at what we wanted on the menus. After breakfast we headed to the work site. At the site we met our "Jafe" or boss and jobs were delegated. About five of us worked on mixing of cement while the others trudged off into the jungle to gather rocks to lay in the foundation. (It was not really the jungle, just down a hill with a few trees. More like a rainforest.) To make three bags of cement you had to take 27 buckets of sand, 21 buckets of rocks, and then add water. This was a very tedious process that we had to do by hand because there was not a cement mixer. We then loaded wheelbarrows full of the "concreto" or concrete and poured them over the rocks we layed. Everyone worked extremely hard. We were all ready to step in when others needed a break. Miriam and Mark made us lunch. We had PB&J and other fruits, nuts, and other snack items were available to us. We continued working after lunch, but after a few hours it started to pour and we packed up early. We stopped at a grocery store and got some snacks then all showered. It was one of the greatest showers of my life. We were all looking really great when we headed to dinner and then to worship in El Cope with the locals. We sang some in English and Spanish and the service was translated for us by Rauel (who is awesome by the way). There was one little baby there who just refused to smile. Other than the baby everyone seemed to like us despite our language barrier. After service we headed back to our beautiful hotel for a devo outside led by Daniel who had me close to tears. We called it a night at about 10:00 and are doing it all again tommorow!

The Laughs Thus Far:
Jefferson Webb.
Haha, but really most of our laughs have come from him. He has a story about everything. Usually ones that really just take it too far, however he never ceases to bring laughter to us all. For example, Chris and Jeff seem to have a very close relationship. They didn't really know each other prior to the trip, but after one fateful plane ride and one night sharing their sleep apnea machine they are the best of friends. The pair is absolutely inseparable! Jeff has offered us all dating advice and just examples on how not to go about things. Our time with Jeff can be summed up in a few short words: first dates, drug references, rose bushes, steps that are too small, first dates, sea paps, and pillow talks.Just feeding each other like best buddies do!
Monica and Denise: The better life counseling center is open 9-5!!!

Today while working I enjoyed singing to my fellow workers the following song:
Bi's, Tri's, and Thighs, the three I's of exercise!
Speaking of thighs... I better move onto the next section.

My More Serious Thoughts:
I came onto this trip not expecting much. I expected your cliche mission trip. We were headed to a foreign country to do "good". I expected to hold children, smile at the locals, and do my best to use some spanish. Don't get me wrong, I was VERY excited, but I had no idea what I was in store for. I was a firm believer that we should focus on mission work in the U.S. before we thought of any other country. I though I should help the others around me before I put effort into complete strangers. Once again God has humbled me and shown me that I am always wrong and he knows what he is doing. Poverty here is just far more widespread than in the U.S. Yes, I know that we have needy people in America, but we have resources (clean public bathrooms, water fountains, welfare, and shelters) that the people in this nation have not even heard of. The rich get richer and poor get poorer here. The wealthy are wealthy and they do not share. I do not make much money, but if I just sent someone $50 a month in Panama they could live on it for about a month. I could not eat out three or four times and have that money to give! The need is so great here, just as it is in many places around the world. If we had more of a concept of a international body of christ rather than one limited to our surroundings, we could do some serious good. I realized being here for less than 48 hours that my world view was completely twisted and I feel that God has opened my eyes to a truth that many do not understand. I hope that some of you can feel the same way I do. Thank you for reading. I speak for everyone when I say we love and miss you. We will stay safe and will see you before you know it.

Speaking of thighs,
Katelyn Jackson

Sunday, July 25, 2010

So today we woke up and enjoyed a good hearty breakfast at the suave hotel. Then we embarked on our journey to the church. It was very difficult to communicate with the people but with the help of our translators we had class, worship, and communion with them and we all realized that as different as we are and as hard as it is to communicate with them that we are worshiping the same God and we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. After church we went to the mall to eat and we all were really startled at how nice of a mall they could have while there are literally people living in shacks just down the road. After the mall we visited the Panama Canal which was very interesting and historical. O and they sung happy birthday to me(Seth) over the intercom while I danced which was really awesome. After the canal we traveled two hours to our hotel which doubles as a zoo. After fighting off a bird on the top floor and dominating a large lizard and destroying a table and its glass top in the process within the first minute and a half in the hotel we settled into our rooms. Its really a nice hotel though. After a good swim in the pool and an amazingly heartfelt tear jerking devotional lead by the awesome Heath Walton we shared a few good laughs courtesy of Sir Jefferson B. Webb III and Chris Buxton.

Sincerely yours,
Seth Pinkston

"Smokes if you got 'em"
-Jeff Webb