Hola! Como estas? Muy Bien! Gracias! Como se llama? Buenos Tardes!
These are just a few of the phrases we became quite fluent in during our time in the villages of Ogobsucun and Ustupu, part of the San Blas Islands in Panama. Each day literally dozens of children would come and ask us those questions. They wanted us to teach them as much English as we could. It was fun to learn Spanish and Kuna from them and then teach them the same thing in English. There were always lots of children around. The island we were on was roughly 3/4 mile long and 1/4 mile wide and had over 1000 children ages 5 to 14!! I think we met each and every one of them! They were precious, beautiful children, many with swollen bellies from malnutrition and also hungry for attention and affection. What a blessing to see our team minister to these children each and every day.
Our project was to construct a roof on a concrete building that had been damaged by a hurricane several years before. The challenge was to remove the damaged second story. There was no floor on the building’s second floor so the demolition part of the project was quite dangerous at times. Praise the Lord, no one was seriously injured and the building was completed!! Here are some before and after pictures of the project.
Our team consisted of 24 teens from all over the US (including two from Alaska) and one girl from Canada. They were such a fun group of teens and Shannon and I both commented that we laughed more this summer than we can ever remember. 🙂 We had three of our team members accept Christ during the summer and nine of them committed their lives to full-time Christian service! What a blessing to see these young people grow in their relationship with the Lord and acquire a missionary burden! They all fell in love with the Kuna people. It was hard for us all to leave our beautiful island home and new friends.
Our journey began with a three-hour flight from Orlando to Panama City. We spent the night in the Panama airport and the next morning, had a two-hour drive over the mountains to the Ferry Port on the Kuna Indian Reservation. We then took a six-hour boat ride across the Caribbean Sea (in the pouring rain) to our “new home”. We had our team split up in three boats. Here is a picture of one of our boats. When we arrived, there were so many people, mostly children, there to greet us and help us get settled. We were so wet and cold, but what a warm welcome we received!
We spent five weeks on this island and became well acquainted with many of the people there. Whenever you would walk through the village, people would come out to smile and greet you. Hola! Hola! Hola! The Kuna lifestyle is more Polynesian than Central American. Most people live in bamboo huts with thatched roofs. Their diet consists mainly of rice, coconut, pineapple, plaintains and mangos. We had a difficult time finding vegetables on this island other than potatoes and onions that were flown in or brought by boat. The native Kuna Indians are very short in stature and we seemed like giants to them. 🙂 There were no vehicles on the island—no cars, motorcycles or bicycles. The only form of transportation is a canoe or boat. And there was no electricity, unless you had a generator. (Thank you Aunt Linda and Uncle Dave for your gift of a small generator to take with us. It was such a blessing to have for the construction project). And because the island is coral, there is no way to dig septic systems, so the outhouses are built out over the sea. It was hard to adjust to the thought that the beautiful water all around us being polluted with human waste.
We had an amazing summer with the Kuna people and worked with a wonderful pastor and missionary. Special thanks to Pastor Juan Colman and Omar Colman and their families for hosting us and being so gracious and helpful. Pray for the believers on this island. There are nearly 3500 people living in this small area. There are four churches and probably no more than 100 people attending these churches. Pray the the Lord with be proclaimed on this island and that the believers will be encouraged in sharing their faith with their neighbors and loved ones.
Since returning from the summer, we have been very busy. We welcomed 13 new students to our Bible school on August 31. This brings our student total to 24 students—one of the largest classes (if not the largest). They are a great group of young people. We live on the property here at Teen Missions and we are what some would call “dorm parents” so we have 13 new neighbors. One of the new things we are doing this fall is a gardening program taught by our county extension agent. It is an adaptation of the Master Gardener program especially for us. They are calling it a “Master Missionary Gardener Program.” Each student has a 30’ by 30’ garden area that they will prepare, plant and maintain. We are excited to give the students this life skill that they can use to teach our orphans in Africa.
Overseeing the Bible School (BMW) program and keeping up with the students keeps us very busy. We also coordinate the Retreat and Conference Center. So far, we have only had one retreat, but we have several inquiries and possible bookings starting in late October/November. Pray that we will have the energy and endurance to meet the demands of our daily schedule.
We are so thankful that God watched over our family again this summer and brought us all back together safely after being separated by such great distances and an extended length of time. Taylor returned home from China two days after we left for Panama. She decided not to return to China for a second year and is now working as an Admissions Counselor at Asbury University, where she graduated from. She is doing a lot of traveling this fall to Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia to recruit new students. She loves her job and is happy being in Kentucky again.
Thank you all for praying for us and for your generous financial support! We cannot express the gratitude we have for your partnership with us in our ministry. Our kids received all the support they needed for their summer teams. God is so good and provides for us in every way! It is though your obedience and generosity that we are able to serve here. We are ETERNALLY grateful for you!
In Love and Gratitude,
Shannon and Vikki Bobb