Friday, November 17, 2006

Facing My Fears and Defeating Them All

Some time ago, one of my many fears was to be assigned to a particular class of ship within the company because among other things, it seemed to me a horrible place and very unconfortable place to work and live.  Well, guess what? For my third contract I got assigned to an even worse class of ship than the one I feared.  I felt I was not gonna make it and it was not a nice feeling.  Eventually I overcame that fear and that was all about it.  I am very much afraid of changes, as a matter of fact I don't like them, they make me feel insecure and unsafe.  However, the truth is, God wants to deal with this area in my life and he assures me that putting my trust in him rather than in the "what if's" or "I won't make it's" or any other excuse is what I ought to do.  Seems to me that God is destroying every one of my fears one by one by making me go through them and facing them.  Tought huh? Well it is, but at the end of the day, when I get hold of the victory, the feeling is unmeasureable.  For a couple of months I've been scared about some "bad guys" I might have to work with along the way in my job and although I would give anything to avoid them, God seems to be serious about this issue.  Apparently in a few weeks, I will have the chance to work with and it gives me the goosebump, but I am choosing to trust God and even consider being used to bless him.  After all, who can tell the future or know it but God? I praise God for every aparent block in my way which I choose to see it as a stepping rock to grow.  And there will be more fears to be destroyed and conquered.  I am up for it. Bring it on!!!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Updating

So I failed to post on a timely manner that fact that I have been transferred one more time from one ship to another. This was actually my third movement in one same contract. So after sailing in Paradise and finishing my training I was sent to Sensation, an old small ship and spent three long months which by God’s grace alone I managed to survive after facing some differences with a my co-worker. She is our boss’s wife, so things were not particularly fair. Never thought I would find myself in one of those creepy situations, but it happened and I learned some valuable lessons like, no matter how right you can be, never try to win an argument because at the end of the day you are still under the boss’s grip. Lol, of course, that is partially true, but I found about it the hard way. So, we were working very hard during those months to get ready for U.S. public health inspection which we passed nicely with a 97% score and I thought I was going to have a nice relaxation period, but....think again, not even three days after finishing the stressful never ending checking of cleanliness and procedures I was informed that I had been assigned to go on a different ship in a few days to help them get prepared for U.S. public health. Arg, that was a cold shower. So I left Sensation on nassau, bahamas, were I took my plane, which I almost missed because of the slowliness of the check-in process. I must have been checked 4 times along with my luggages 4 times at least, before getting into the plane. I finally reached Miami, where I spent overnight in a hotel and finally flew to Galveston, Tx. where I joined M/S Conquest my new home. It’s been almost two months now and also we finished with public health inspection, so now things are smooth. Although I must admit, that I have less responsabilities in here than I used to have in Sensation. There is still plenty of things that I need to learn, specially with the paperwork and budgeting administration. Hopefully I will get to learn a few things before going on vacation. Uhh, which reminds me about the sad fact that I won’t spend christmas time in panama, as I was expecting. Along with my change of ship, there was a change of vacation schedule. Before I was due vacation to 7 of Dec. Now, I am for 4 of Feb. So, that makes three more months to go, before steping on panamenian soil. I need prayers, cuz I am not quite sure if I am to come back next contract. I am not feeling it, but I don’t want to do something out of my feelings. I want to do it because it is God’s will.

True Comparison

During the last two weeks or so the weather hasn’t been sunny and nice as it is during summer time. It has been rainy, heavily windy that storm the ship from one side to another and make people throw up and wonder why on earth they chose to cruise on a ship. Of course that scene would change as the first two days passes by and would be replaced by the intense heat and humid conditions of the caribbean. Anyway, the other day, while the ship was rocking heavily because of the rough sea and wind, I witnessed something extremely interesting. The sky was partially clouded by big heavy grey clouds threatening to rain hard on one side and on the other side it was sunny and lighted. It was a picture of hope and reassurance that everything was going to be back to normality. It was windy, the sea was splashing big waves and it was partially dark, but far in the distance there was a powerful feeling of secureness given by the sunlight. Suddenly I realized that my life could easily be represented by this whole picture. Perhaps surrounded by difficulties and stress, so much maybe that I fail to look at the side of the sky which is clear and shiny which ultimately represent the hope of my life. Then I felt an interior peace and the promises of the Lord who rushed to my mind that although the weather and sea might be rough, above those heavy grey clouds there is a huge shining happy sun who is going to eventualy defeat the darkness created by the problems and temporarily circumstances and rescue me from my own lack of faith.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Learning to Walk a Steady Life

During the past several days, I had been struggling big time with my daily walk with God, and that I could tell because of how many spiritual battles consecutiverly I had been loosing. It seems like whenever you are in the higuest point of your relationship with God, then like a rollercoaster you start descending fast till you realize how bad you are. Spiritual rollercoasters has been the story of my life, story the now more than ever, I feel God has determined to change to a different story in my life. After a lot of thinking, I have come to understand that one of God’s divine specific purpose for my life in me being on the ships is that He wants me to grow mature in certain areas where I am weak and tend to be my rollercoasters and the best way was to take me out of my comfort zone, namely, my country and my family and put me in a place where it is only me and God, no one else. How long more? Only God knows, but one thing I know, it will depend on how much I trust and let God guide me and how much obedient to Him I am. I realized that being home, it was easy to not live up to the Spirit standards, a life full of fruits and a life of holiness. I guess, I would feel crappy for I was letting God down, but in my persistant rebellion it could pass days, weeks and even months in that state of sinful life, apart from God, without taking action and repenting. And then again, after some time and help from my parents and friends I would decide it was enough of that kind of life and I would repent and receive God’s forgiveness and then again after some time would come down. Well, on the ships, being down for any amount of days, is something really really dangerous. I have learned that, the hard way. Sin is breathable in every corner of a cruise ship. It can swallow you in a matter of seconds. Only then I realized, that I can’t let my guard down for a second. And whenever I had, the worst days of my life had come to pass. Days like those, I feel extremely crappy, down, wondering the reason of my existance, and even doubting about my true identity in Christ. The devil had won and he knows it, he had me in his grip and he won’t let me go until and only when I lift up my eyes to Jesus to help me out. I guess this would be the second important purpose of my life at this stage of it. And when this one is growing, then the other purpose of my life which is to reach as many people as possible to God, becomes easy.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Dog and House of Mirrors

I remember, once I read a nice story that talked about a dog who entered into one of these Fairs thousand mirrors house and upon entering he saw thousands of dogs staring back at him. Right away he felt overwhelmed and put a hard expression in his face and inmediately the other thousand dogs had the same expression in their faces. The dog, got frightened and started barking in anger and inmediately the other thousand dogs barked back at him in anger. So finally the dog went away thinking to himself, what a horrible place to be. Some time later, another dog entered the same place and upon entering, he saw with awe lots of dogs staring to him and he smiled and started to move his little tail and inmediately the other thousand dogs answered back at him with the same expression of happiness. He left that place thinking to himself, what a wonderful place to be. Point to wonder about....It's all about what you express. If you express anger and show yourself grumpy and picky, that's what you will get from others. If you greet others and smile at them, that's exactly what you will receive from them. That's a lesson I have been learning since I joined the ships . On the ships there are so many cultures and backgrounds and when you first come into a cruise ship with another 1000 crew you feel overwhelmed and not only you but everyone else. Different languages, believes, religion, colors and thoughts. So the first thing you do if you are not extremely outgoing is to put on your hardest face, and try to show that you don't need of others. The outcome of that? well, nobody greets or smile at you and you feel miserable. And when there is more than one with that kind of behaviour, then you have a very unfriendly working environment. So I have been improving a lot ever since I realized it was all in me. I tend to greet every single person that crosses in my way, and try to get into a small conversation of whatever is going on. I have been trying to make every one of those encounters like to most important thing in the world. Even those ones who have a tough face and don't greet no one, even those one, after a couple of attemps from my side, when they see me, they change their expression and put a smile in their face when they see me. I am amazed to see how true it is and it totally works. It not only opens up relationships, but it also opens up opportunities to talk to them about God, his Son and his gift. That's exactly what is happening in my life and for that I thank God, because it's been all him. For me, it has not been easy. I am not an outgoing person, most of the time, I feel like the first dog who in fear shows himself picky. But God upon my request has been changing that little by little over the years, and today I can say I have improved a lot in this particular area.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Take the Decision to Make it Happen

On our last christian fellowship, the leader was talking about spending quality time with Jesus in prayer and meditation and how difficult it had been for him in the last few days because of the Soccer World Cup. Upon getting into his cabin, he would turn on the TV and watch the matches. He admitted that it had been tough for him to get focus on Christ for his attention was on a wordly thing. He didn’t mean to say that to watch a soccer game per se was sinful, he was rather saying that the time he was supposed to invest in nurturing his heart and mind with God, he was using it for something else, and that was sinful. As the discussion went over, one of the guys said “ I am sorry, but don’t ask me not to watch the last three matches of the W.Cup, cuz for nothing in the world I would miss them” Lol, that was honest, that came from his heart, but as the leader later on said “If God wants you to spend time in prayer just during the time the games are being played, you should do”, to what the guy answered he won’t do and then repent later on. Now, let me get this straight, I don’t believe that he would go to hell for this act of clear and open disobedience toward God in this hipotetically example, but as the leader put it out very clear, he would miss blessings from God that were meant to be given to him, blessing that were supposed to be passed onto others through him and perhaps it would also open doors to the enemy that he would use against him to harm him and put him down. The leader put the example of Benny Hinn; he had an upcoming campaign and before those huge concentrations he would spend at least 3 days confined into a room spending time with God alone in prayer and meditation of the Scriptures without any kind of interruption. It happened that his sister who lives in a very far away country came over to visit him and even though he was supposed to spend time with God before the campaign, he decided to spend some time with his beloved sister. Now, don’t get me wrong here, there is absolutely nothing wrong in someone spending time with his sister, but if you have something else that requires your fully undivided attention specially if it has to do with God, then nothing else is more important than that. God deserves our fully undivided attention. So the campaign began and not even one sign and miracle occurred. Could you imagine that? People are used to see signs, wonders and healing miracles on Hinn campaigns, but not this time around. Then, he realized the reason of it. Once again, the fellowship leader put another example, this time, Dr. Yongisho from South Korea. He was praying in his room, and as he says, there is nothing else more important than talking to Dad, so it is a rule for him and his family knows about it, no interruption while talking to the Creator. Suddenly, the president of South Korea rang him up, his wife answered the phone and requested to talk to Yongisho and she said, he is praying in his room, to what the president answered “It is the president of the country who is talking, you don’t know? When Yongisho got that message from his wife, he told her to answer “I am talking to God, you don’t know”. It is a very powerful story and testimony. That we should aim to. We spend way to much time in things that are worthless when viewed against the whole picture of Christ, his sacrifice, our life purpose and eternal future. Like John Piper says, christians are thrilled fishing, collecting shells, sailing in boats and golfing their way to heaven when we should be connected with what is really worthy, when we should be going out there to speak out loud about Jesus and his love for all. We can’t be able to open our hearts and share with others what we don’t have and feel. We can’t have and feel God’s love and passion if we don’t spend quality time with Him. At the end of the day, he is the reason of our whole existance and everything we are and have.

Thanks, God for your holy revelation that touches and teaches my heart.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Power of a Good Book

I’ve been reading this book called “It’s your ship” written by a former U.S. Naval Captain who took command of USS Benfold few years ago. The whole plot of the book is about how he used his learned over the years leadership skills to turn USS Benfold in the “best damn ship of the Navy”, as he stated. The book is having a huge impact in my own experience as a leader and it is challenging my own conventional mostly obsolete way of leading. It has been stirring my thoughts and I since I am aware of some things now, I start to realize where I am lacking. I am good at making things happen and getting things done, if someone don’t do something he was supposed to do, I do it myself and end of story. I get the credit from my boss, who only cares about results irregardless of the methods used to achieve it. But the truth is, although I delegate things, I haven’t learned to motivate my junior managers to be passionate about the job, to take the best possible decisions by themselves, and to motivate their subordinates. So that in the end people do things because they understand the importance of it, they get to be more responsible, they get to grow as individuals with potential to achieve more and more and I get to have an easier life, satisfied that I have achieved something real and durable. So now I am into learning this new stuff, that even though is not a built-in skill in me, I can learn and use. Although learning is a painful process that incommodate is worth of going through it. Story of my life. I can tell with all authority about it. Easiest thing in the world is not to try, or learn and continuing with the same stubborn way of doing things that don’t benefit no one. I’ve been applying some principles already and it is paying off. One of the reasons why I decided that I wanted to take the challenge of being a manager in this 50.000 + employees organization is that during my relatively short period of time in the company, I’ve seen to many things that are wrong irregardless of what the company policies and procedures pursues. So I thought I could make the difference at least within my range of power. And, although that is my goal, I’ve been learning the hard way and now through this book, that I won’t be able to change the whole thing overnight. It will take time, wisdom and lots of patience. But as of my small subdepartment that I run, I already started doing changes that will benefit all. I might encounter friction in the way because of other mid level managers’ old and obsolete schooling, but I am up for the challenge. We can’t fight today’s war and be fully effective with what was effective years ago. The world changes and so the rules and goals. Yesterday, in the hotel bussiness, all that mattered was to get the guest satisfied no matter if the employee worked 18 hour straight, with very short breaks among others unconformities. Today, the guest is way more exigent and demandant and it is required from the hotel staff to be mentally fresh in order to greet the guest sincerely and transmit a sense of contagious peace and satisfaction that at the end of the day will keep bringing that guest back. My goal is to make my team take good decisions by themselves within the range I consider safe and at the same time have them bring new and fresh ideas that would rock this bussiness.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Finished the Training Program

So here am I, sitting at LAX airport, once again on a vessel transfer. I am getting tired of these travelings from one ship to another. Extreme long waiting on the airports, long flights and of course don’t forget about the hazzling of packing and unpacking over and over again in a short period of time. Anyway, apart from that, I am satisfied with myself and thankful to God, for I finished the managament training program in M/S Paradise. So finally got my stripes and am ready to run the business by myself. It was a two month program, kind of short for what it really takes, but it didn’t take me more than that to finish it. Gavin (Head Depart. Manager) was very pleased and so was Catalin (evaluator) with my performance over the evaluation period and so am I. They pointed out some aspects that I need to develop though, in order to be a better and more effective manager, so I am ready to take the challenge and improve myself in those areas.

Now, looking in retrospective, when Mussarat (Liberty, AFB Mgr.) told me I was gonna train with a bunch of other guys under the same roof, she told me I had to be the tip of the spear in order to be acknowledged by the trainers and shine above the rest. Also she said that she considered it was a disadvantage to train on the management college for it was to theorical and not to practical. Well, I can honestly tell that she was right regarding being three steps ahead the rest in order to be the first and the best, and though it was not easy because I had to push myself to the limits and do unusual things and what others didn’t want to do, I managed to achieve it and it paid off greately. However, regarding the fact that I would spent to much time dealing with theories and procedures and stuffs without getting to know and deal with the real business, well, I conclude that, if you don’t handle the knowledge which in this case is our main tool, then you could not be an effective manager at all and less likely to succeed. So it’s all up to each new manager to put into practice and practice it over and over again until he becomes a pro. I am grateful to Gavin for he taught me some valuable lessons. Integrity, transparency and honesty is involved in every aspect of a manager job and he showed it to me with his own example and so I know how to do it, in theory at least, but am so putting it into practice from tomorrow on until it becomes natural.

On the sad note about the time spent there, I will mention an incident I had with a fellow country college. He didn’t agree with the way I handled a situation and he just exploded and verbally abused me in front of other people and while I never cared about being cursed in front of others, it hurt me so bad, cuz we have the same blood running in our veins and we should be more than friends, specially because we are probably the closest family we are gonna have while far away from Pma. So I had to report him to our supervisor and deal with the incident and he got even angrier and bitter and never talked to me again. I tried to talk to him and make peace, but he refused and said, he didn’t want. So it was incredibly unconfortable for me to have him around hating me and telling people what a monster I was. Catalin said to me that his problem might be something else and that he just found that day’s situation to justify his open hate toward me. Not cool….at all. Well, I left it in the hands of God and I forgive him.

Finally, it was tough to leave people behind wondering if I will ever see again, but at least this time, I took plenty of pictures to those persons that meant something to me and that have left a footprint in my life.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Vows Renewal

The other day while helping the guys from Room Service to set up everything for a special function, I had the opportunity to see one of the sweetest thing I had ever seen.
This 60 person group of people from Palestina which traveled on our ship were celebrating a very special occasion. The 50 years anniversary of wedding of Mr. and Ms. X. It was such a spectacular thing to see many generations there, from the children of them to the great grandchildren of them. Their children, wearing already white hair and those little babies yet learning to walk were altogether cruising to celebrate their vow renewal. The oldest son with his strong middle orient accent was stating some facts about the couple and proposing a toast. Right after it, the captain of the vessel, the Master himself showed up all dressed up to lead the vow renewal ceremony. A white carpet was laid on the floor and an altar next to two roman-styled columns were fixed for the occasion where the Captain of the vessel would read the words and make them repeat their vows. While those two, long time couple and friends repeated their vows with their fragile and hardly perceptible tone, proper of their advanced age many of us got emotional, specially when the lady repeated the words with her still soft and loving sweet way of talking to the man she has loved for so long. A funny fact and many of the crowed laughed out loud was when the captain read something about “nurturing and sharing her dreams” he repeated it, but then said, “whatever short time we still have left” and while it was funny because of the way he said it, in a way that’s accepting the inevitable which is close for them and that can make anyone sad. Anyway, when that part was over, their oldest son quited the crowd and asked the DJ to play a song which as he stated was the first song they danced more than 50 years back. Boy, if the part of repeating their vows made many of us to entertain a tear or two, this part would finish the unfinished business. The crowd stepped aside and let the dancing floor free for them to dance. The song started to sound and they locked themselves in a fragil hug like if supporting themselves, soft steps from one side to another and the bride looking at his face in such a loving way, he would still have some caution regarding showing himself to emotional, he could be very advanced in age but he would still remember very well what he was taught ever since he was a boy, “guys don’t cry and show to much tenderness” and then 3or 4 minutes and they got tired and finished their dancing. The crowd gave them a round of applaused and lots of pictures. This small event made my day and gave me lots to think about a relationship. No doubt they have had their strong differences and arguments but at the end of the day and life they would stick together and forever until the death. What a strong and appealing example of fidelity and loyalty. These days are full of people who get married only to divorce a year or two after because of a difference they were not willing to fix. Easist thing is to run away, doesn’t need effort. Many of the people I talk nowadays have lost hope in marriage and are reluctant to get married. They rather live together to see what happens like anticipating that it will fail soon and then will be easy to leave and find another person and so on. It’s sad. I hope someday I find a beautiful person that would want to spend the rest of her life with me.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Long and Tedious Flight

Uh....finally, I am at my hotel room in L.A. After the whole day flying and waiting at the airports. I am happy I made it good and I am ready for a good sleep session for tomorrow I start paying condemn, lol. I am off for now.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

What a Hectic Last Day at Panama

So I woke up early in the morning, say around 9:00 am and I was up for the day. There was plenty to do and to think. First thing I decided to do was to develope couple of photographs I made of my friends and give them away as gifts to my friend Zuleyka, Liri and Sandra. I thought it would make a great gift. Since I am not to much of a gift buyer or shopping lover I think that was an easy and effective gift. Anyway, right after that I went to "El Hogar Bolivar" (nursing home) to visit Aquilino. He is good, strong and relatively healthy. I was very happy to see him, but at the same time, sad to know it´s gonna be months before I see him again. We chatted a little bit about God and the decision he needs to make to receive eternal life and we talked also a little bit about my last trip to San Blas. Now that I think about it, I shared with him every single trip I made to the countryside during my vacations. When I went to Pedasi, before I departed I told him about it and when I came back he asked me about the trip and about places he had seen years ago when he visited Pedasi. When I went to Chiriqui, before I departed I did tell him also about it and the same story after I came back. I was like, uhh, how were things and the weather and everything, since that´s the place he grew up. And when I went to San Blas, same story. I am very glad I had plenty of chance this time to share with him and I know that made the difference in his life during this period. He was sad when I told him I was leaving the following day and that made me even sadder to see his expression. I asked him if it was ok for me to hug him and so I did. He is taller than me but that didn´t prevent him from holding on to me tight. He even offered to give me 5 bucks and I was like, nah, you don´t need to do that, even though I know that was the only way he knew to compensate in a way my visits to him and the time I shared with him. We said good bye and I truly am looking forward to see him alive and healthy next time I come down to Panama. I thank God for blessing me through this relationship with Aquilino while I know I´ve been of blessing to him. I wish everyone could adopt at least one elder from any of the nursing homes or sick people from any of the hospitals or inmates from the jails. That would make the whole difference in their lives. So right after I departed from the nursing home I was heading to my house for I wanted to make some phone calls and take a nap when Ana Cristina rang me up asking if I was forgetting something. I checked my watch and I alsmot had a heart attack. It was 12:30 pm and I was supposed to be at her place at 12:00 for lunch. She cooked lunch for us and I totally forgot about it. It slipped out of my mind completely. I could almost see her expression on her face of "as-soon-as-I-see-you-I-will-kick-you" So I sped to her house and we had lunch and chatted. That was my second lunch of the hour. I was looking pretty much like a ballon. So we talked about life and the future and some common friends and finally I was time for me to go somewhere else. So we said good-bye and I left. Later on I went for mom and took her from her work to our home and then I went to say good bye to some other friends. So I´d been pretty much running from up and down from one side to another the whole day, buying last minute things and calling people to say good bye. Finally I got to go home for an hour or so where I took a short nap and then woke up to go to church with my parents. It was then, and only then, in a hidden corner of my humble home when I sort of broke down. I had been sad the whole day, honestly I didn´t want to go, AGAIN, but while I was waiting for my parents to get ready for church, in that corner I start giving way to my thoughts and the events of the day and the inminence of the next day and I couldn´t hold the tears of sadness any longer. Silently they ran down my cheeks and I couldn´t help it. That was it, and I didn´t want to pass that over my parents, so I pulled myself together and we headed to church. It was such a wonderful time there. The words from Pastor CedeƱo where those words I was needing for that hour and began to pray and God started to do something in me. Now I feel better, I even got a home made cake from Amarelis I got when I went after church to say bye, and it is exquisite. So that was my day and I am just 6 hours away from taking off from Panama for the next 8-10 months.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Time is Over

Well, well well...I can´t complain about my time in my home country this year. I had a wonderful time, I spent marvelous moments with my family and my closest friends, I visited places I had never visited before and made some new friends. Unlike other years, this time I feel like I don´t really want to go back and leave all this behind for the next 8 to 10 months. Memories with my adopted friend Aquilino, my new friends from the small village in Chiriqui (Vista Linda), Berna and Playon Chico, Sandra and the trip to Pedasi, the old-style kind of long and productive conversations and arguments with Howard, the movies with Ariel and his friends, the lunchs and dinners with my brother in On-the-Run, the long sleeping sessions and the time with my family, it is all about to end for a long period of time. I tend to get sad of course for it is normal and get myself into thinking about until when it´s gonna be like this. However this upcoming period of time away from my country, family and friends I wills still count with them and their support in prayers as usual plus God´s help of course. Memories are always an excellent way to cheer me up, it´s always had, specially during tough times that are plenty. I will miss so many thing, so many things. It is always hard to depart, doesn´t matter from where. Either departing from there or departing from here, it is always a painful period that longs sometime and hurts and it´s not nice. Anyway, I am leaving Panama again this coming thursday 13 of april a day before dad´s b-day and will fly to miami and then to final destination long beach, california where I will catch my ship and start again. I am already shifting my vacation brain mode to slave, I mean, working brain mode. Lol. Let´s see what God has for me and for others through me in this new period of time, this new chapter that is about to unfold.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Visiting the Kuna Ayalas in San Blas

So my church (casa de oracion cristiana) sent a missionary, to the lands of the natives of Kuna Ayala, who happens to be from that same land. His name is Bernabe and he was sent by our church as a missionary to his own land, the land that saw him when he was born, the land that saw him grow his first few years before coming along his family to the big city in Panama. So my friend Howard who is one of the coordinators of the missions ministry in my church thought it would be good to invite me over to visiting Berna. Our ride was a 40 min. travel from Panama city in this small old-creepy plane. We were seated right behind the pilot and the co-pilot just like we seat behind the driver of a bus. We saw everything and while it was interesting to see them doing what they love to do, it was frightening. The weather was bad within the period we spent there. It was raining and raining and it wouldn´t stop raining. There was a moment when we were flying over some hills with the sea on one side when suddenly we entered into a super heavy stormy section and we changed in matter of seconds from day-time light to complete night-like darkness and then after some time we got out of that storm and finally landed into Playon Chico. I think I was very thankful to God for we made it safe and sound in one piece having into consideration that many of those small planes have crashed before. Howard and I were happy to see Berna and we exchanged greetings and we started our wonderful week overthere. Basically our mission was to supervise how things were developing among the church members, inspect the area and see what needs there were and how to improve many things in order to be more effective. There is plenty to be done, lot of discepleship meetings and leadership training needs to be done in the near now and lots of praying for freedom from Satan´s grip as well, but I believe Berna is taking the necessary steps with the guidance and support of our church to do some great and interesting stuffs there. In the time being we ministered the youth group which consisted of a few young ladies and a few young guys. We held praise and worship meetings and though we wanted to do some training with them somehow God directed Howard to do different things with them. There is still lots to do and to learn for them and I guess that´s gonna happen sometime soon but what we tried to do was to share, to transmit into their hearts some real passion for God´s things into their lives. And we talked to them, we prayed with and for them and I left Playon Chico with a strong conviction that some of those young people were transformed forever and are committed to serve in God´s work. During those days we barely saw the sun or the moon shining for it was non-stop raining and storming but the last day before we departed it cleared out a little bit and we were able to do some tourism here and there. We took this small kayak and paddled around the island to some other small private islands. Howard finished up his previously unfinished body tanning and even captured and kept a starfish agains my will. Berna showed to us his small personal island where he plan to do some fishing business to support missions and they even got some seafood they would prepare later on that day. We paddled back to the main island and we survived the trip without sinking the kayak. The previous day we decided to hike up one of the hills to pray on the higuest point of it to clear the airs and rebuke satan and so while it was raining cats and dogs Berna and I still made it to the top of the hill and we had a wonderful time praying and worshipping God. There was an amazing view from up there and it was a little bit cold. The hiking wasn´t easy either, it was muddy and slippery but it was a great group thing to make the three of us. The shower time and toilet time was a thing to never forget ever cuz it was unusual and weird but at the end of the day it was all part of the mission trip. I praise God for once again he allowed me to be part of this and because on the process I was able to streghten ties of frienship with Berna and Howard. It´s always good to have good christian friends on whom to count and be accountable. We finally left the island, say good-bye to the friendly kuna-ayalas and Berna and we took our small-old-creepy small plane back to airport in Panama city where my brother was supposed to pick us up but was rather sleeping in his confortable bed. Pray for the missions everywhere in the world. They need our support in prayers and financially. Remember, it is in your hands to do in obedience according to the Bible things that affect positively the perfect work of God.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Aquilino

I visited Aquilino today and he seemed to be a´right. It was raining today so it was colder than usual. He was sitting on his rocking chair when I saw him. He was happy with the cold cake I offered to him and we chatted a little about my last trip to Chiriqui. I w¡sh I could spend more time with him.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Chiriqui Mission Trip.

Once again I have been truly blessed by God by going to a mission trip in my country. Last saturday I got a call from Benjamin, my brother´s best friend´s brother inviting us over to work as interpreters for this group of american fellows from Texas. So I raised up my hand and counted myself in for the trip. So we departed from Panama city the following day very early in the morning for we knew it was gonna be a long ride to reach the high lands of Chiriqui. My friend Benjamin told me to pack all my warm cloth because we were heading to the coldest area of Chiriqui. I´ll refer to that later on here. Anyway, so the ride itself wasn´t to bad for me, cuz I spent the whole 7 hours sleeping like a King with no crown on a very unconfortable seat of an old bus but as I said, it wasn´t that bad. When we finally made it we were eager to stretch out badly our dumbed bodies but I was happy to be there safe and sound. Our brothers and sisters from the north stayed in a local hotel and I was told we (interpreters) were gonna be relocated to local homes of some church members. So the teams were formed and I was assigned to a three-person group. Pastor Larry and his son Andrew and Mr. Ron, we were assigned to a small very humble village called "Vista Linda". Houses there cannot be called as so, they are made of zincs and pieces of wood, on the inside there is no other floor but the bare soil and health condition is real bad. That was the first glimpse of the village I perceived and I knew it wasn´t gonna be an easy week. The other two interpreters were from Costa Rica, James and Jujesky and they also knew it was gonna be hard. We started right away evangelizing people using the evangicube from "Global Mission Fellowship" and we went knocking doors from house to house. The one interesting fact about americans on missions here in Panama is that people inmediately opens up their homes and themselves to hear what they have to say or share. It is unusual to have white-tall-blonde-blue eyes-people walking in their neighborhoods so as soon as they are seen, specially the children come and surround them. So this, I conclude is a wonderful way to break the ice and be able to communicate the message. As an interpreter I realized that the way you transmit the message has an extremely important role and I have been blessed with both, the missionaries and the people from the village on the process of interpreting. As we entered house after house and we shared with them and we spent time with them, a strange love started to grow inside my heart for this people and an urge to be of any help either spiritually and economically. We were able to share with as many people as we saw during that week the gospel and we held also discipleship meeting with them for a few days. An interesting fact was that while it was extremely hot and the sun was very intense, from time to time the wind would blow hard and would kick up the dry dirt and because we were sweating very bad the dirt would stick to our skin. Anyway, at the end of the week I was very bonded to many of the villagers and it was a sad thing to depart. I learned something very important though. Once couple of years ago, my friend Travis and I were walking in Panama city and we saw a homeless who was probably on drugs as well, but he approached us and Travis decided to share the gospel with him. The guy listened to us to the last word and was very happy that someone would take a time to speak to him. Afterwards he asked for something to eat and Travis said, "yes of course", so we took him to a restaurant and we bought him a meal. Later on, Travis and I talked about the experience and he told me, "I want to share the gospel to as many people as I God allow me, but the same way I am giving them spiritual food I want to be able to give them material food if needed, I want to be able to meet their needs if it is possible" That was quite a lesson for me and ever since then, when I see people like the ones I met in Chiriqui I feel like I should be of more help, yeah, it is important to evangelize all, but part of the discipleship is to help them if it is in our hands to do so. Many people however, think that it is wrong to help poor people because then they would become dependant of them and that is true to a certain point. I think we must find the middle point where we help them economically while not making them dependant but at the same time we are making sure they are growing their faith in God as His all powerful supplier and helper and not in the help of other humans. I saw how much need there is in this small village of perhaps 200 people mostly children with no proper houses, electricity, potable water, jobs and the basic things and I felt in my heart that I could bless some of them with what God has blessed me. I think that´s all about. The more you receive from God the more you should bless others. The more we put this into practice the more God is gonna bless us and so we are gonna be tools of blessings to others. We minister people with the Gospel of Salvation, but it will be incomplete if we having in our hands the material bread dont feed those who are in a worse condition than us.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Getting Ready for the After Death

Yesterday I met a guy who accepted Jesus recently. I was interpreting the conversation between him and couple of canadian missionaries. So it turned out that he is fighting lung cancer and he and his wife were devastated until they heard about the story of Jesus and how he offers him eternal life and unconditional love. We were on a local hotel sitting on the restaurant by the pool and while it was fairly empty there were always people passing by. It was hot but this guy and the missionaries seemed not to care. So the missionaries started praying and right after it, they started the discipleship. He was very receptive and seemed to be very confortable around them. As they spoke and I interpreted I learned that he was real bad and his greatest fear was to die. The canadians began approaching the fact that when we have Jesus in our hearts there is nothing to fear about death. Even more, it´s far better to spend one day with Him in Heaven than a thousand year on the best of the Earth. This guy was assured that God was gonna take control and care of his family after he died. He was told, that God performs miracles, but it´s up to Him to determine if he is gonna grant it to us or not, for all is related to His perfect plan for each and everyone of us. But even if he didn´t heal him from the cancer, he should be in peace that things would turn for good. While I was interpreting, I thought, what kind of approach is this one? Usually I hear on the churches how the main approach is about healing and miracles from God, but hardly I hear people dealing with the death. So it was amazing to be there and experiment it. At the end our guy said "I feel such a peace right now, that I don´t care if I were to die tomorrow" He was ready for it and he knew what was to come for him....are you?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Ministring With the Language

I was still under my bed sheets when Selegna rang me, I was all sleepy and grumpy and she was like, hey ya lazy, wake up, it´s time to be up. She was needing couple of interpreters for this canadian missionary group who is in Panama working with Campus Crusade for Christ. So I was like, nah I already have plans, but then in the middle of my sleepiness I realized that these are the chances God gives you to serve Him and work for him. So I inmediately changed my mind and decided to help. This was my first time working with grown-ups and it wasn´t that bad, I mean, having in mind that I have always work before with teenagers and college students and that I am still young, lol. These were nice people like most of canadians plus they were christians. So we had a great time sharing with some guests that were invited to a house and we had dinner and then they started sharing their testimonies of their life and how most of them had succeed big time in terms of money, jobs and everything, but how they felt that there was still an emptiness in their heart that wasn´t been filled and how only Jesus filled it up. 8 people commited their life to Jesus tonight and are willing to learn more and more about this new relationship with God. So after the dessert and the afterward time we had getting to know them we headed back to the hotel and we had a drink(lemonade and coke) while we were discussing about the event and what was gonna happen. Finally my sister showed up and I said good-nite to my new friends and we left.

Visiting The Unvisited

Today I woke up and the first thing that hit my mind was Aquilino. Last week when I visited him, for some reason I can´t remember I asked him when was his b-day and he told me it was the 7th of march. Well, I don´t know why I thought today monday was 7th, so I bought him a nice small piece of deliciouscarrot cake and a papaya milkshake and I headed to the nursing home. So I was all happy about surprising him and stuff and when I saw him and whished him happy b-day, he was like, ohh thanks very much son, but you came a day earlier. Lol, if he could see the embarrasing expression on my face he would´ve been laughing. So he told me it was nice of me going there to spend some time with him and he was happy which ultimately made me happy. He is doing good in terms of health, only his vision impairment affects him but he´s learned how to deal with it and the thing that really impact me strong is the fact that he seems happy all the time and has always a song in his lips and when someone approaches him he always has something to say and share. I really wish his children took more time to visit him and make him feel loved and important. Yes, I can understand nowdays why in some cases we children have to take a sad decision to take grandparents and parents to nursing homes when there is no other way, but boy, one thing is to take that decision and the other thing is to just leave them there alone and not visiting them like they ought. It is so sad. Aquilino I met while I rotated on that nursing home when I was still finishin my PT studies at college and ever since then I sort of adopted him and I´ve been visiting him year after year everytime I am in town. Three weeks ago when I visited him after almost a year of being out of Panama, I started talking to him and I didn´t expected him to recognized me for he can´t see, and he surprised me. After 5 min. of talking to him, he was like, hey, I know you, you are....Josh. That was it. I got all emotional cuz last time after I spent another 8 months out of Panama and I visited him, he couldn´t recognize me and I had to tell him who I was, so I wasn´t really expecting him to recognize me, but well, that was the wonderful case. But this time, I when I leave, he won´t have to wait to long to hear from me again. My panamenian friend Sandra who I already introduce to Aquilino is gonna pay him a visit every now and then and she will take over while I am out. When I was about to leave the NH I ran into another grandpa who I met 3 years ago while I was there, and it was nice to see him still alive and feeling good. It was a very productive morning for me.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Friend´s Trip to Pedasi

So I went to an amazing trip this weekend with Sandra, her family, Dina and Howard. It was quite an experience to travel deep into panamenian territory very far away from the capital. As per the schedule were were suppose to departure at around 11:00 am, but...like good panamenians, we finally left at around 3:00 pm. However, we couldn´t make it all the way to Pedasi that same day because for different reasons it got late very late and we were still waiting for Howard to show up, so we decided to stay the night somewhere nearby and so we stayed at my uncle´s yet-to-be-finished vacation house. It was extremely crazy, cuz we had to fight all night long with the hot temperature and the crazy bugs and mosquitoes everywhere around. They were like, woohoo, fresh meat for banqueting. However somehow, after a long lost battle most of us finally jumped into the world of sleeping beauties and when the temp. was just getting slightly colder and the bugs were already exhausted of bugging us and making us miserable, it was already time to wake up. We woke up early because I knew that had we woke up later we would´ve taken forever to get ready to leave, and since we were already out of schedule I was radical into making us to leave too early in the morning on friday. So we resumed our road trip to the land of our church Pastor, Hermes. As we were on our way there, I thought, what a wonderful opportunity to see new towns and lots of vegetation and raw nature. Truth is, traveling gets you wicked tired. Finally we made it and we found ourselve a very nice and cozy place to stay the following two days. First thing we did was to get a nap after the long road trip, but right after some of us got good to go, we went to visit some of the local beaches. It wasn´t that wonderful like some people said, but it was good enough to enjoy a peaceful late afternoon. The following day we decided to go to the beach very early in the morning right before the sunrise. Sunrises and sunsets are my favorites and it is always a good time for reflexion while admiring God´s marvelous and divine art creation. It wasn´t exactly what we would´ve wanted to have as a group but I guess we still enjoyed the wonder of the born of a new day. Later on that day, we went to La Playita Resort which according the knowleadgeble it is one of the best beaches around. So everyone put on their swimming suits and we headed toward this famous place among panamenian beaches. So we arrived there and surprise....there are a bunch of exotic animals roaming around like huge parrots, emus, monkies, turkies (the real beautiful ones) and a lot more of these amazing animals. The place was simply relaxing and great, expensive though. It was extremely cozy and confortable. So we unpacked everything and we were all set for a fun day at the beach. Sandra, Howard and Dina they spent the afternoon chatting and playing table games, Sandra´s mom spent the afternoon in a very relaxing hamac under the roof of a hut and so her other daughter. I wasn´t in my best mood to be hanging around however, so I decided to spend some time for myself and while I rested a lot and eventually got myself tired of resting I did some photographs around the place. Finally my friends decided it was about time to get into the water and so they did. They played and tried to learn how to swim, and afterward they made a sand castle or so they tried. Lol. Then it was time to leave and we got everything packed and in the cars and we left almost with the sunset going on on our back. I definitely owe an apologize to my friend Sandra for not hanging out with her more as I was expected to, but I really wasn´t on my best mood and for that I am really sorry and hope you forgive me. Of course I wish she didn´t remember this in the future but I guess we´ll have to deal with it.
Sorry Sandy, you are my good ol´friend and I love you a bunch.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Awesome Poem

I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed.
The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made.
I am a disciple of His and I won´t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.

My past is redeemed. My present makes sense. My future is secure.
I am done and finished with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees,
colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don´t
have to be right, or first, or tops, or recognized, or praised, or rewarded. I live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by Holy Spirit power.

My face is set. My gait is fast. My goal es heaven. My road may be narrow, my way rough, my companions few, by my guide is reliable and my mission is clear.

I will not be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed.

I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice or hesitate in the presence of the adversary.
I will not negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity,
or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won´t give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paide up, and
preached up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus. I must give until I drop, preach until all know,
and work until He comes. And when He does come for His own,
He´ll have no problems recognizing me,

My colors will be clear.

(written by and African Pastor, found among his papers after his martyrdom)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

First Car

So I decided that it was about time to buy my first car. I started looking for a good looking second-hand car for my first car and after couple of days my mind was set on a two doors cavalier. My dad wasn´t all excited about the idea of a two-door car, but the one I chose had everything and almost intact. However, and here is the big thing, I found an hour later after I purchased that it has a serious problem of overheating. That we couldn´t see when checking the car because you check it and run it for 10 min. and you can´t realize about it. So, I was running with it and suddenly I see the gauges and I was chocked to see that the needle was going dangerously to the right. So I went to the mechanic and he checked it and concluded that it was a water-bomb problem. Puff... to make it worse, it is on the bottom of the engine so in order to change it, he has to remove the whole engine and other stuffs first to be able to reach it. So this is the thing, I took it back to the seller and asked him to get it fixed because it is suppose to be part of the warranty that he gave to me, but he refused and said that he rather give me the money of the car back. So unless he changes his mind within the next few days, I will be looking for another car very soon.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Back in Panama

It´s great to be home once again. I set foot on Panama on the 26th of Jan. when Liberty came over to Colon. Three days earlier I was told to get my bags ready to leave, they were sending me on vacation and even though it´s not usual, I am cool with it. Usually you know at least 30 days with anticipation about your signing off the ship, but not this time. So I find myself constantly trying to change my work-thinking mode to vacation-thinking mode. This time I am spending more time in my country than the previous ocassions which is awesome, cuz I want to finish some pending business around here. I´ll be here till mid April and then back again to work.