BOLTS2PANAMA. BOLTS 2 PANAMA. Bolts 2 Panama.
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The strongholds of the enemy are great, as they are in many places In the world and Panama is no exception. Visiting Panama can be very sobering, one may visit quite a few people there, and each one of them, separately may warn you not to take a family to the Bocas area. They tell of many murders, sexual immorality, drugs, animism, witch doctors, and evil “traditional” practices. Most will speak of the indigenous as worthless dogs and liars. Our hearts break for the indigenous and for their hard way of life.
The poorest of the poor in Panama, the lowest caste, considered worthless by so many. The ones whom Christ has called us to love.
The Bocas del Toro area is a melting pot of different people groups, Panamanian, Indigenous, Jewish, Afro-Caribbean, Ex-pats, and Chinese. Most of the stores are run by the Chinese, they are 7/11 sized stores jam packed with things you would find at the grocery store, hardware store and appliance store. Many of the items they just have one of, one microwave, one generator, etc.
On Isla Bastimentos the majority of the island is protected land, like a reservation of sorts for the indigenous. There are many indigenous that live on this island, at least 1,500 Ngöbe-Buglé. In Panama the Ngöbe-Buglé are one of seven tribes, there are about 128,000 of them total. They are the only tribe the Spanish was unable to conquer during their reign here.
There is much malnutrition, poverty, sickness and injuries. We treated one young boy medically who had fairly good sized gashes in his feet from machete accidents. The machete is their main tool, some of them also use a chainsaw. They are true craftsman who can cut down a tree and cut beautiful straight dimensional lumber out of it. The main language of the Ngöbe-Buglé (no-bay boog-ley) is Ngöbe (no-bay), their heart language, there is also a large portion of the Ngöbe that speak Spanish as their trade language, but using Spanish to speak about spiritual things would be foreign to them.
This area of the world is still fairly untouched, wild jungles filled with sloths, monkeys, snakes, frogs and every bug known to man only 10 times the normal size. The water turns from an amazing transparent green to aquamarine to sky blue to deep blue, filled with coral, sand and mangrove. In many places you can just stop the boat, snorkel and see some amazing creatures, from dolphins to starfish. Most live in difficult conditions, eating purchased rice and beans all meals of the day, working for minimum wage when they can which is $1.75 / hour.
The Ngöbe-Buglé in this area have never really been a farming group of people, they have always been hunter gatherers so the ideas of planting crops and planning for the future is very foreign to them. There are issues with parasites and other water borne illness mainly due to a lack of knowledge of these things. Marriage is very rare within the Ngöbe. Number one it is expensive in Panama to get a marriage license and number two, well this has not been a custom. The children generally stay with the mothers and the men tend to stay with, well, women. Not all men are like this but many are. Selling children is still a practice and when a young girl reaches womanhood, age 13, she is available for the men in the village. Animism is prevalent, witch-doctors are present and other horrible practices still exist today such as burying infants with deformities or disabilities in order to please the gods.
All of this is not said to tear them down or to make the situation appear to be hopeless, all of this is said to prove there is a need for Christ.
Through Him (Christ) relationships can be built, and education and information shared that will turn their hearts towards the Creator. Why would God send us to a place where there was no need? Exactly, He sends those who are willing to places there is a need.
When we think of the people, especially the children, we have a deep love for them, for the next generation to be raised knowing, loving and serving Christ. Pulled from poverty, preserving the good things of their culture and leaving the evil things behind.
As we make this presentation our new staff person and volunteers are holding preschool classes in our newly completed educational facility. During these class times the children will be nurtured, held, and taught basic reading skills. care, proper nutrition, and basic hygiene.
Kim and Dale Kapsar in front of our almost completed educational area
Women in the Gnobe culture rarely speak to one another. Even as Christians. They are treated as secondary citizens and required to walk behind their husbands. Much of the focus is on pleasing the man and providing for him. Here the focus is on what the Bible says about women as leaders.
Children receive very little to no nurturing. They learn to work and learn survival skills at an early age. Through the pre-school program we hope to provide modeling for the women regarding supporting one another and caring for their children. We believe scripture provides a perfect example of how women, men, and children can exist in harmony.
Through pastors and leaders training conferences we hope to further equip those in the area who are already doing the work of teaching others. We will continue to provide materials, educational and visual media, and meeting locations for those desiring to hold bible studies.
We know from our experience in Torreon Mexico that financial resources alone is not the answer. We have seen that when Christ is introduced into a Bario or village the entire socioeconomic structure begins to change. This the hope we bring to the impoverished and downtrodden. This is the hope we bring to the hopeless.
Much of our work here is tedious and each new village must be sought out by navigating the local creeks and tributaries.
Medical care is at least a 30 minute boat ride away. We now have our boat rigged to enable us to haul critically ill people to medical care even in heavy rainstorms.
Thank you for partnering with us through prayers and financial resources
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We currently receive about $1000 per month in donations. At the end of May our personal income will decrease by $400 per month and our outreach to other islands will increase our expenses by an additional $200 per month. Please keep us in your prayers and pray for the indigenous of Panama. Terry and Liz (and Odie)