Friday, March 30, 2012

Faith Like a Child

I have begun transitioning into my new home here in Panama.  Now it is spring break!! I have been waiting for this since Christmas break! Really looking forward to some time off - at the beach/on an adventure!  I will be updating this blog about my week once it happens!

Today, though, rather than share new stories about Panama my heart was touched by the responses my students gave on their Bible tests.  There was a journal question that asked the students to write why being in God's family is so special to you. Now there are some students that probably do not fully understand what salvation is.  There are also others who have not made the choice to become a child of God yet.  And others wrote the 'sunday school answer' just to get a good grade.  All this being said, every single one made my heart smile because of the innocence and sweetness of these children.  The childlike faith shone through.  Here are some of the responses - I hope they encourage you too.

~ "Because I can be in a place where everything is good, and I can be with the best person ever... Jesus."
~ "Because I am going to heaven and be with Jesus and God."
~ "God made us.  We love God and God loves us and he sent His only son named Jesus."
~ "Because He is the Savior, and no body else is the Savior - He is the King."
~ "Being God's child is a big thing because it means that you don't have to go to hell."
~ "He is the last sacrifice so I put Him in my heart to obey Him.  So now and always I'm God's child.  And all of us are if we accept Him as our God."
~ "Because He created me."
~ "Because we can live eternal life and He is powerful."
~ "I think that it is really nice to be God's family because He promises that He protects you from evil and sin."
~ "Cause I can always be with Him"
~ "Because Jesus saved the whole world."
~ "Because being with God is so cool.  It is anything you could ever imagine, and so that I can tell other people about God so they can go to heaven."
~ "Because He is the miraculous God and He is holy - hasn't ever sinned ever.  I feel safe with God from the devil."
~ "Because God is very special."
~ "Because He died on the cross for our sins."
~ "Because it's to be with God.  God is the best reason you can imagine.  To be in God's family is to be God's child.

*Grammar and spelling edited ;-)

What a blessing to read these at the end of a long week!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Prepared for this time

My time here in Panama has had it's challenges.  Being away from Gavin has been the hardest part by far.  I am learning a lot about perspective and trusting God.  I have been encouraged by the truth that God has prepared me for this very day here in Panama.  He has filled my life with peaks and trials up until this point.  He has shaped and molded me for the difficult things I am facing, as well as the joys I am experiencing.  2 Corinthians 5:5 has been a verse I have had to put in my mind daily.  "Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge."  God, the one who loves me more than any other and who gives me my very life, has prepared me for this.
I also find myself partially at fault for the struggles I've been having... I prayed that God would teach me and grow me a lot while I was down here.  =)  I know that He is answering this prayer because I know that through struggles and fighting in my soul comes relief and peace in God.  It is Him that I am working on clinging to, and He is the one that is daily filling me with peace and strength even when I do not feel I have it.
I am very thankful for this opportunity and I'm thankful that God loves me enough to teach me.  I am learning both about my God and how to teach while I am here.  I have had sweet experiences with the students and this past weekend was able to spend some time with Bethany seeing around Panama.

Sweet Students
As roudy as my class is during this placement, they are just the sweetest kids one-on-one!  These are some cute conversations I had with some of them my first week here in Panama:

- I talked with one little girl on the first day, asking her what some of her favorite places are to see in Panama.  I was expecting some kind of neat Panamanian place, but instead the girl told me all about her favorite malls.  She was very concerned with my safety though and made sure to tell me with wide eyes, "Don't be lost though!"

- One little boy on the first day of school came up to me in the classroom and whispered to me, "They call me the origami master!"  He then proceeded to hand me a paper swan and heart.

- In the first family I stayed with they had triplet girls.  One night I was home with one of the girls and we were talking about how I was going to get married.  She asked me what my name was going to change to.  I told her, "Gromacki".  She responded, "Sandy Gromacki... yes that sounds good.   Not like Sandy Bilbau or something..."  Where that came from I don't know but I thought it was so funny!

- A little boy was answering a question about what we were talking about in Bible class.  We had been talking about the resurrection.  This little boy preferred to call it, "When Jesus got revived."

Ah, the sweet hearts of children. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Time to Trust

Week one in Panama

After struggling again with getting signed into my blog I finally figured it out so I could write about my first week here in Panama City, Panama!  I have been here now one week and one day.  The time has gone by fast already!  Bethany and I left last Saturday night and flew to Georgia and connected from there to Panama.  We got in late.  It is an hour earlier here so we were tired by the time we had arrived.  When we first got into NY to leave for GA, I got to be the lucky one selected for a screening!  I thought it was gonna be a whole long process then, but all they did was pull me to the side and wipe my hands with a wet napkin thing. 

And we were off.  Bet and I had some interesting people on the plane with us.  It was nice that we could sit together for both flights.  On our second flight there were some roudy people in the back of the plane with us.  One man laughed suuuuper loud the entire flight.  It just made me laugh every time.  There was also missions group on the same flight.  One man in front of us started witnessing to a Catholic lady as we were landing.  It was neat to hear their conversation.  While we didn't get to participate in the conversation, we were able to pray for the man as he shared with the lady.

We got in to Panama around 9:30/10.  It felt like 11 to us, so we were tired.  We probably could have napped on the plane, but I just read The Hunger Games the whole time.  I read about 90% of it on the trip down and finished it my first week here.  I have the second one to read too, but I'm saving it for our week off coming up!

My first couple of days transitioning to Panama were interesting.  My birthday was on Sunday - the first full day we were there.  I was with my host family the whole day and we went to breakfast in the morning.  They ordered for me really because I hardly know any Spanish.  I remember some things as we go because of the high school classes I took, but I don't know it conversationally.  They ordered me eggs with tomatoes they said.  It ended up being fried eggs with tomato sauce lathered allllll over it!  It was interesting and I liked it enough to eat it all, but I don't know that I'd order it again.  =)

After brunch we made our way to the mall.  The family owns a little gift shop in the mall.  We then went to the club they attend.  We went swimming, had lunch and I played with the girls a lot.  This family has triplet girls.  They are so sweet and funny.  It was a nice birthday, but very different.  I was a little homesick through it and because my student teaching ended in my first placement on Friday and I was starting in a new country on Monday I had a hard time with that quick transition period.

School during the week helped me though.  The students are so wonderful.  Granted my class is high on energy and quite... boisterous, I still enjoyed being with them.  The students are affectionate right away.  I got hugs the second they saw me.  They were the encouragement I needed to get me through the beginning of the week.  Now, don't get me wrong... I am so excited about this opportunity and so thankful for it!  I was just having a harder time transitioning right away.  I had internet issues at my host family home which was hard for me because that was my link home, as well as my way of finding tools and things for lessons to teach.  It took the whole week to work out the internet issue, as well as sort out other things.  I am going to be staying at a new home soon and will have the internet to use there.  

In spite of me missing home, struggling through the transitioning and finding my feet here in Panama, God already began teaching me, growing me and stretching me.  I am using a journal devotional book called Jesus Calling that a great friend of mine gave me.  The first day I was at the school, I read "Choose to trust me daily".  I have known for a long time that I rely on and am often around people too much.  I know that having friends and family who I can rely on is a great blessing that I am so thankful for.  However, the beginning of this semester I was around people 24-7 and had become burnt out from it.  I needed this trip.  I have found that being away from the comfortable things, having to cling only to my God, and seeing more and more my need for Him has already strengthened my faith.  If nothing else I am thankful that being here has grown me and will continue to grow me in that way.

I have such a great need for God.  He has given me immense peace in times when I have felt the most out of place.  He has answered prayers in the little things as well as the big since I have been here.  He has given me comfort and strength in my weakness.  He is ALL I need, and being here, He is often all I have.  I am grateful to be able to have this time with Him.  The pace here is also slower and I've had a lot more time on my own and alone with God, which was much needed in the craziness of my life schedule back home.

I pray as I continue the next 5 weeks here that God will continue to place challenges in my life that draw me tighter and tighter to Himself.  I pray that He gives me a way to impact the people here, students, parents and staff at the school.  I pray that He blesses the people I miss at home, and am so thankful to Him that He has allowed me to be here in a new world!