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The team will serve at the SOS Children's Village in David, Chiriqui Province, Panama, which consists of 12 family houses, staff houses, a playground, a library, and a community house. The will also work at the Potrerillos orphanage which has average population of 60 boys and consists of a complex of 5 or 6 buildings that are in need of repair and paint. It is located in Potreillos about 30 minutes drive from David.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Panama City and Canal

Panama City Skyline


Mira Flores Locks of Panama Canal

Mira Flores Locks of Panama Canal

Marques, Chad, and Jon at Mira Flores Locks
4:25 AM came very early since we were up past 11:oo playing cards and packing. The team was all ready to go at 4:45.  This team of guys have been great. They have not complained (not even when moving chicken manure!), not squabbled with each other, worked hard, remained flexible, etc. We were reflecting on the trip in our devotional time last night and we were amazed how long ago it seemed that we did our first project in San Felix and at the same time how difficult it was to believe our work in David was completed.

There were no complications and we boarded the 5:30 AM bus out of David.  Although the window was fogged, those of us that were still awake, were treated to a beautiful scene God created - mist rising from the jungle on a backdrop of the mountains as the orange sun rose.  We received a text message indicating PBU was delayed 2 hours because of snow.  That seemed so strange since we were enjoying the phenomenal Panama summer.  High today is predicted to be 90. 

Our bus ride lasted 7 hours. Next challenge was to find our tour guide.  Imagine trying to find a guy with a piece of paper that says "Philadelphia Bible Collage" in a large bus terminal (a former US Air Force base terminal).  Our guide, Byron, helped load our luggage into the bus and proceeded to give us a 4 hour tour of old Panama City, souvenir shops, San Jose Church, the Mira Flores locks, and museum of the Panama Canal. Part of the deal included dropping us off at the hotel.

Since we had a very small breakfast and no lunch, we dropped our luggage in the rooms and immediately ate dinner at the hotel restaurant. Everyone is staying in tonight and many are watching the Central American soccer semifinals.  While watching the game I received the following from the pastor of the church to whom we donated some baseball equipment: "Here is a picture of our kids trying out the equipment you gave us. Thank you so much. They are using it right now".   Picture provided below.

A very smooth day. The team is ready to be home. Personally, I am looking forward to familiar surroundings and being able to communicate more easily.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Baseball Donations to Potrerillos & Iglesia Bautistia Biblica de David

Departure at 7:00 AM made for a very quiet bus ride back to our friends in Potrerillos.  Today we set out to paint the front of the two dormitories that we painted on the inside.  I am tempted to say that painting in the Panamanian sun was brutal but we kept reminding ourselves that you got 3 inches of snow and another 3-5” is expected.  We gladly endured the sun!  We painted until we ran out of paint and did complete 90% of the building’s exterior.  The Director, Victor, shared his appreciation and wanted us to see the balance of the complex.  Trades in welding, metal working, carpentry, woodworking, and the electrical field are taught to the boys.  Victor told us that they have many successful graduates that are working in these trades and as lawyers, engineers, police officers, etc.  It was very encouraging to see the rest of the grounds that included fields and livestock supporting the boys home and bringing income into the organization.  They have several crops including beans, sugar cane, corn, tomatoes, papaya, coffee, pumpkins, squash, etc.  Livestock included pigs and chickens.  After lunch we revealed our gifts that were made possible with the donations collected by the PBU team members and Myrl.  The boys were and staff were very excited and appreciative.  They tried on the hats and batting helmets and began throwing the balls.  One of the boy’s errant throws ended up breaking a small window so the equipment testing moved to the athletic field.  Then came the hard part we had to say goodbye.  After several team members exchanged email addresses we boarded the bus for David with about 10 dozen eggs for delivery to the market.

Next stop was the delivery of three large suitcases of baseball equipment for the youth league of Iglesia Bautistia Biblica de David.  Pastor Willis and his associate were equally excited to see the donations and indicated that they had been playing without batting helmets.  After buying our bus tickets for Friday we returned to one of our favorite restaurants for pizza. 
Caring for the Bees

Cutting the grass with a machete


Painting at Portrellios

Painting at Portreillos


Cutting sugar cane

Matt cutting sugar cane

Enjoying sugar cane

Portreillos donations

Portreillos donations

Donations to Iglesis
Bautistia Biblica de David



Donations to Iglesis
Bautistia Biblica de David
 

Potrerillos Boys Home and Rotary Meeting

The boys’ home personnel must like us because they asked that we be ready an hour earlier this morning – 8:00 AM.  We crammed our group of 10 into a Toyota Land Cruiser and journeyed the 30 - 40 minutes north to Potrerillos.  The final touches on the first dormitory had been completed and a second dormitory was prepared for our arrival.  We went straight to work.  After working through the morning and into the early afternoon that included a “coffee break” of banana bread and fresh papaya juice and a lunch of soup, rice, macaroni and tuna we had fully completed painting two dormitory rooms green and the main entrance, bathroom, and showers white and blue.  Our foreman was very pleased with our work and said several times with great a big smile “rapido”- translation: he thought we were working very fast.  Around 2:00 the boys finished school and it was very evident in their smiles that they were glad that we had returned.  It was encouraging that we had learned many of each other’s names and their English was improving as was our Spanish. Of course a rematch in soccer was in order.  We played better but the USA still lost to Panama in a close match with the final score being 5-4.  Remember we are a baseball team; not a soccer team.
Around 4:00, time in Panama is a little less precise; we joined the other workers on their bus and returned to David.  We joined Myrl for dinner at Hotel Alcala.  After dinner we flagged some taxis to attend the local Rotary meeting.  We met the Rotarians, introduced ourselves, and thanked them for their assistance in making our missions trip possible.  We especially appreciated the efforts of Hector Palacios and Patrick McKittrick and thanked them by giving them each one of our team hats – a Philadelphia Phillies baseball hat.  The group was very excited and immediately recognized the connection with their beloved “Calicho” [their nickname for hometown favorite Carlos Ruiz].  Myrl also made a presentation to the Rotary of quilts form the Quilts for Kids group.
Later that evening back at the hotel we had our group devotions.  These group devotion times have been very special providing a time for some reflection on our work and God’s word.  We were all challenged that at all times and as we head into the latter part of our trip and are getting tired that we should avoid complaining.  Philippians 4:4-6.
It is 6:00 AM and I need to sign off because the folks at Potrerillos must really like us – they want to pick us up at 7:00 AM today!
Getting the donations ready for tomorrow


Chad congratulating the David Rotary Winner of a Phillies cap

Coach Haas thanking Patrick McKittrick for his assitance in setting up contacts in Panama
The soccer players

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Panama Baseball

Some days what you plan to do gets changed.  On a mission trip, changing plans seems to happen daily.  On this particular day the plans changed with a knock on our hotel room door at 7:30 AM.  One of our Rotary contacts, Patrick, called us to tell us that our 4:00 PM scheduled time to meet Carlos Ruiz and play some baseball at the local stadium was changed to 10:00.  We gathered the team, relayed a new set of instructions, put on our baseball uniforms, and loaded the familiar taxis for the stadium.  Upon arrival at Kenny Serracin Stadium we were warmly greeted and took occupancy of the 1st base side dugout.  After stretching and tossing we awaited Ruiz’s arrival.  During our wait we took infield and outfield practice and then met another Rotarian Hector Palacios - an architect that played baseball at Southern Mississippi.  Ruiz did not show and the scrimmage we had anticipated did not occur.  However, we were not overly disappointed because we took batting practice on the same filed that many Panamanian greats have played upon [Current – Carlos Ruiz, Mariano Rivera, Carlos Lee, and more; Former – Rod Carew, Roberto Kelly, Ben Ogilvie, Ruben Rivera, Manny Sanguillen, and many more].  We learned that Panama has more per capita baseball players in the majors then any other country.  After BP we were exhausted from the heat and humidity.  We returned to the hotel and after showering we went over to the Pan American Highway area, grabbed some lunch, and visited the local stores.
Hector had arranged for front row seats for the team to view the national playoffs of the 15-17 year olds.  They are good! Several of the guys enjoyed the local ballpark fare – beef on a stick.  Tomorrow we return to the juvenile center in Potrerillos to finish our painting.
Coach Drake showing how not to
catch the ball with one hand

Chad's ready

Jon stretching out Dean

Austin and Marques getting loose

Matt warming up

Shawn, Nick, and Austin receiving instruction from former Southern Mississippi shortstop Hector Palacios.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Potrerillos Boys Home

Today’s journey took us north towards the mountains and the Potrerillos area.  Bus transportation was provided from the orphanage.  Paint had been purchased by Myrl and we joined Myrl and Patrick, another Rotarian, at the Do It Center, a Central American equivalent of Lowes or Home Depot.  I did find it a bit strange that Patrick was asking me how many brushes, rollers, and other supplies to purchase.  Continuing with our themes of flexibility and faith we made our purchases and left David for the rural areas north of the city.  Our bus driver, Elvis, and I tried to communicate with our limited knowledge of each other’s languages.  I did learn his name and told him we were a baseball team from the Philadelphia area. He had an “aha” moment when he recognized my Phillies cap and we “talked” about Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz. 
Soon after our arrival we saw locked gates and learned that the community did have some orphans but that the large majority of the approximately 60 boys were troubled youth ages 8-18.  No problem, after a little time spent assessing our supplies and numbers we were put in the capable hands of one of the adult workers.  We proceeded to paint and were told we had to stop after just half an hour of work for freshly squeezed pineapple juice and some very moist banana bread.  Marques and Matt both were beaten in a game of ping pong by the resident king of the table.  We got back to painting and then had to stop again for the hospitality of our hosts and enjoyed a delicious bean, rice, beef, and cole slaw lunch with more of that freshly squeezed pineapple juice.  We eventually did paint two dormitory rooms green and half of the main entrance, showers, and bathrooms.  The white upper half of the walls were completed and we will return later in the week to complete the lower half with a sky blue and whatever else they have planned for us.  Remarkably there was little of the oil based paint that ended up on our clothes and bodies.
Throughout the painting we were watched by the boys and eventually the bolder occasionally “assisted” us.  After cleanup we played the boys in soccer and they showed tremendous skills many of them playing in bare feet or in crocs.  The soccer game was a wonderful opportunity to really connect with many of the boys and we also treasured the opportunity to run in the sun and warmth of Panama.  During the game Jon said the only thing that would make this better was if it would start to rain.  As few minutes later a few clouds rolled in and it started to pour.  The rain felt so good and we continued to play in the rain without any hesitation.  Unfortunately, the game was stopped 15 minutes later because the bus taking most of the workers form the home was returning to David and we needed to be on it.  Soaking wet we boarded the bus with smiles on our faces looking forward to returning to see our new friends.
This team is a group of great travelers.  They are trying many new dishes.  We have and will continue to avoid McDonalds, Dominos, etc.  Tonight we ate dinner at a restaurant about 6-8 blocks from the hotel ordering as always from the Spanish only menu.  The fresh seafood is superb.  Tomorrow we will continue with flexibility and faith.  The tentative plans are to go the Chiriqui baseball stadium and participate in some form of baseball and the last we heard Carlos Ruiz may be at the stadium.



Church in David and Visit to Las Olas

The half mile trek to Iglesia Bautistia Biblica de David (Bible Baptist Church of David) went without incident.  The streets of David were the busiest we have seen them.  We did have to endure the bright sunshine and 87 degree temperature that caused us to sweat.  Worst of all we had to avoid the temptation to stay and watch a softball game that was right by the road on the way to church.  We were greeted with all the Christian love and joy that is often experienced in Central and South America.  Pastor Willis introduced us to a guide that seemed to take us to every one of the 35 Sunday School classes that were in progress.  It was particularly humorous to see the teenage girls’ class reaction to 8 college age guys walk into their classroom.  We eventually joined the English class that was studying Genesis 1.  After class concluded, we returned to the main building where we were again reminded that we were in Central America.  We North Americans would have been horrified that the 11:00 service began at 11:18 (yes, I was checking the clock.)  We were embarrassed to be introduced once in the service and then a few minutes later we were asked to stand as we were introduced one by one to the congregation.  The service was amazing.  Led by five or six young men and women and guitars we sang songs in Spanish that we recognized the tunes to.  There was a special number with 7 young men playing guitars and singing.  I wasn’t sure what to expect in a bilingual service.  Pastor Willis, born here in Panama the son of missionary, seamlessly preached from Psalms 8 presenting a phrase and sometimes a few sentences in one language and hardly taking breath he would repeat the same thought in the other language.  It was truly amazing and easy to follow.
After church we did stop and watch half an inning of the softball game on the way back to our hotel.  We quickly changed, grabbed some lunch in the cafeteria/restaurant next our hotel, and piled into our now familiar $2 taxis across town to the bus terminal.  Although a little anxious as to whether or not we were on the right bus we departed the terminal hoping we were going southwest to Las Olas on the Pacific Coast.  While we traveled the 45 minutes through the plush green country side we weren’t completely certain we were on the right bus until we could see the ocean.  However, we were once again guided in the right direction and we were greeted by Mryl at the end of the line.  The team played volleyball, went in the ocean, played some more volleyball, went in the ocean again, and ate dinner.  Dinner consisted of local fish (the whole fish on the plate) or shrimp.  Our Sunday in Panama was a very relaxing day in preparation for our next four days of service to the Province of Chiriqui and the city of David.  Tomorrow we will serve at an orphanage of approximately 60 boys with a complex of 5 or 6 buildings that are in need of repair and paint.  The orphanage located in Potreillos is about a 30 minute drive from David.  Please keep praying for us.

Street in David

Volleyball in Las Olas

Team Pictures in Las Olas

Saturday, January 15, 2011

San Felix Missions


Coach Drake

Dean
Austin










We were picked up by Larry [David Rotary member] and colleagues at 6:30 AM.  Traveling 45 minutes east we then stopped for a great local breakfast along the highway – a Panamanian truck stop.  After fueling up we hopped back in our vehicles and soon arrived at a mission in the town of San Felix.  We spent the day at this mission that had classrooms, a kitchen and outdoor cafeteria, several other buildings, community rooms, and a farm. We joined a few local workers carving a field out of the forest/jungle.  Some of our team assisted the workers in hoeing out the plant life and working with the tiller to pull roots and stones from the area.  The other members of the team spent the morning filling and moving about 200 garbage size bags with chicken coop filler that included the chicken droppings.  We transported the chicken manure bags that were then spread in the field.  The field is intended for papaya plants.  Although we were working with manure we kept reminding ourselves that it was January and we were putting on sunscreen and sweating in the sunshine and 88 degree temperature. 
   
Coach Haas

Marques

Nick

Shawn

Jon
The mission fed us a very nice meal of rice and beef with cilantro.  After lunch we cleared weeds, used machetes to chop up plantain trees, fed the goats, moved brush to a burn pit, etc.  At the end of the work day Larry, his son, and a business partner took us to the development they have created at the beach outside of Las Lajas.  What an awesome locale.  There was 100 yard of pristine beach up to clear Pacific Ocean water that was probably 80-85 degrees.  Everyone enjoyed the water.  This yet to be discovered beach was deserted; we couldn't see one other person on the beach or in the water.  Boarding the public transportation and paying the $2 per person fee we took the 45 minute bus ride back to David.  After showering we went out for pizza and are now back at Hotel Occidental.  Tomorrow we will attend an English speaking Sunday School and a bilingual service at Iglesia Bautistia Biblica de David (Bible Baptist Church of David).

Matt
Chad


Las Lajas