Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Forced Re-entry

It is amazing how quickly time passes when we're busy. It's almost been a month since I last posted, but it sure doesn't seem like it's been that long. Last week, we had to leave for Panama again. Every three months, we are required to leave for a minimum of three days to renew our tourist visas. Several months before we moved down, we applied for residency and were told in no uncertain terms that we would be approved within just a few months. Three years later,

our residency application along with all the paperwork, have been "lost" by the immigration office for the second time. We can't even find out the status of our application at the moment.

Anyway, until we have residency status, we are living and working here under a tourist visa which must be renewed every three months.

The closest place for us to stay are the islands of Bocas del Toro in Panama. This time we stayed on the island of Basitmentos which at the moment, has no roads and only one small town of rickety houses built on the water and up the side of a hill. The place we stayed was owned by a self-described former East-German anarchist. Breakfast and dinner are cooked and eaten family style with the owners, their helpers and anyone else that may be staying at the "hotel" which is really a small house with four rooms and one private bath. The owner was quite a character and refers to himself as Tio Tom (Uncle Tom). We had an interesting discussion about our choice of careers (read "calling") and he was quite proud to tell us that he beat up the last missionary he ran in to. I guess the guy got really pushy and was also extremely defensive about his way of thinking to the point of being insulting. Rather than walking away and difusing the situation, this missionary escalated it to the point of a fist-fight on a bridge linking Costa Rica and Panama, all in front of the border guards and a crowd of spectators. Anyway, we had an good conversation and he was interested in what we do. He especially liked our work with the youth.

My point is never know who you will meet and what their experiences with Christians have been. One thing I know... in every conversation and every "chance" meeting, we're either building bridges or building walls. This is true even during a required visit to Panama to renew visas. Let's make sure we're sharing Christ, not defending ourselves. Let's build bridges instead of fighting on them.

Here's a picture of Maili getting a little R&R on the dock in front of Tio Tom's.

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