Sunday, April 24, 2011

To Bocas and back!

Oh Semana Santa…you were much too short! Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed my week off from school! It was an awesome to time to sleep, relax, lie in the sun and read something other than curriculum! The two other student teachers, one other teacher at crossroads and me decided to go to Bocas Del Toro for four days of our break. It was awesome!!! Bocas is on the Caribbean side of Panama, and Panama City is on the Pacific. So we had to take a ten hour overnight bus to get there, I was so excited I didn’t even care that it is impossible to sleep on those buses! We stayed in hostel for the time we were there and it was actually really nice! I have never stayed in one before but in my mind they usually seem pretty sketchy…I mean take a bunch of travelling strangers and tell them they all have to sleep in a giant room together? Sounds like a horror movie…actually I think it is. Luckily it was nothing like that and the place was clean (for the most part) and the people very friendly. It was right on the Caribbean so we would read and swim off the dock in the back. So relaxing! I can say without a doubt that Bocas is the most unique place I have ever been. It’s this little Caribbean town made up of several different islands and beaches where backpackers and vacationers are constantly stopping through. The people there are a mix of Latino/Indian/hippy. Ha Very, very eclectic and we got to meet the coolest people from all over the world. The locals were super friendly with a laid back Caribbean “let’s party” kind of attitude. You could usually buy a “Jesus loves you” bracelet AND a pot leaf necklace of at most of their shops. My search is over! ; ) While we were there we were able to spend a day sailing around the different islands on a huge catamaran. It was awesome! We saw dolphins and the owner of the boat took us to this great place where we could snorkel and see beautiful fish and bright purple, orange and green coral. It was gorgeous day and we loved basking in the sun! A little too much however since we all got burnt pretty badly. In our defense we DID put a lot of sunscreen on, but since it was so close to the equator we didn’t realize how intense the sun really was! The rest of our time consisted of walking through the local shops, reading in hammocks, swimming and going to crystal clear beaches. Definitely my idea of a great vacation! Since Bocas is where all the young travelers and backpackers go to have fun, it turned into quite the party town at night! Even our hostel became a bar downstairs by nighttime. This gave us the opportunity to have some pretty interesting and cool conversations, to say the least. I was able to have an awesome, deep, spiritual conversation with a guy who had one too many beers (sounds impossible right?) It was probably one of the most honest and open conversations about God I have ever had with a stranger. He told me exactly what he thought about God, sin, how to live a fulfilling life and why this world has so many problems. I listened and afterward I was able to tell him my thoughts on those same topics. I flat out shared the gospel with him starting with Jesus coming to earth as an infant, dying on the cross, rising again and eventually returning again for His children! It was a great conversation; my only sadness is the knowledge that he probably did not remember having it the next day. However God can do what he wants! He could make a drunk man have an intelligent conversation and remember it if He wanted to! Maybe a seed was planted, maybe not…I may never know. The various conversations I had with people in Bocas, whether meaningful or normal reminded me that people are willingly and ready to talk, and listen! I am often scared to talk to people about salvation or anything spiritual for that matter because I am afraid they won’t really care or want to talk about it. This is not true! People are searching and willing to share their ideas and even listen to others. Everyone has an opinion about God; it may be that they believe there is no God…that is still an opinion. I need to remind myself that I do not need to convince others that my beliefs are the right ones; I just need to share what I am putting my faith in. There is nothing confrontational about that. This trip also helped me to realize how important it is for me and all Christians to step out of our safe Christian bubbles. There were many times when I felt uncomfortable because I am not used to being surrounded by people with morals so totally opposite than my own. The realization I came to was…it’s good to feel uncomfortable sometimes. We are not called to surround ourselves with believers only! What good does this do? Is it not the unsaved who need to hear about the good news of Jesus? Through talking with various people on this trip, I realized the importance of being in touch daily with the lost. Not every conversation needs to be deep and spiritual, but if I do not know the struggles, feelings and opinions of those around me, how can I minister to them? Jesus himself was the first one to befriend those with less than perfect reputations.

“And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."

Matthew 9:11-13

So not only was this vacation wonderful and relaxing but God also brought about some awesome opportunities and learning moments for me! And now I am about to start my last week student teaching here! I cannot believe how fast the time has flown and the end of it definitely going to be bittersweet. Thank you for keeping me in your prayers!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

You're never too old to learn fractions

Well this past week and a half has been busy to say the least! Lesson planning and more lesson planning: ) I have been teaching the entire day for awhile now and I really love it! Don’t get me wrong, it is very tiring and frustrating at times but it is also extremely rewarding. This week I also faced one of my biggest fears…fractions. If anyone knows me, they probably know about my complete hatred for anything involving math. It was a struggle as a kid and even into college. When I found out I was teaching in third grade I immediately thought “what do they do in math in third grade? Will I even be able to teach it to them?” As silly as it sounds I worried that I would somehow teach them wrong and make them live a life in constant confusion over how to add 1/4th + 1/4th. When I found out I was indeed going to be teaching on fractions I got busy brainstorming and looking up creative and new ideas on how to make it fun and easy to understand. Do you know what I discovered?? I actually LIKE fractions! (at least third grade fractions) yeah I almost fainted when I came to the realization myself! I had so much fun teaching them how to turn M&Ms, graham crackers and cookies into fractions. (I mean food makes everything fun, right?) It was exciting because they really enjoyed it and even asked if they could learn more the next day. Praise the Lord! I am learning that as a teacher, I often feel as though I learn even more than the kids everyday…even fractions. : ) I also taught them on outer space this week in science. We learned about the planets (and yes I did count Pluto as one of them…I couldn’t bear to leave him out, and it messes up the whole rhyme when you do…) and the sun. Last summer I watched a video series by Louie Giglio called How Great Is Our God , if you haven’t seen it go get right now! This seriously brought me tears at some parts and made me gasp out loud at others. It’s all about how absolutely enormous, complex and intricate our universe is. It shows our sun in comparison to other stars in the Universe such as Arcturus, Betelgeuse, and Antares which makes it look minuscule. As they kids watched each of the stars get bigger and bigger and our sun seem to get smaller and smaller their mouths gaped open and various “WOAH’s” could be heard around the classroom. I asked how they felt after learning how big the universe really is and I got the replies of “small, tiny, unimportant”. We were then able to talk about how even though we are so small, God loves us so much that he knows every hair on our head! He loves us so much that he even collects our tears in a jar! God loves us so much that He sent his only son to die for us! I loved hearing their thoughts and fears and questions and discussing them together. Children have the greatest questions and are so honest. Having meaningful conversations such as this always turns out to be a blessing. It was a wonderful reminder to me of how small I am. I need that reminder often. I am insignificant and the universe does not revolve around me. Yet God loves me with a love I will never be able to comprehend. He cares when I am discouraged or when I am happy or when I am worried about fractions. The universe is bigger than I can comprehend, and God holds the Universe in his hands. There is no where safer than in God’s hands.

Isaiah 40:12-14 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD,
or what man shows him his counsel?
Whom did he consult,
and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?

This next week is Semana Santa or Holy week, so that means NO SCHOOL! I am very excited for this much needed break and we are going to spend it hitting up the beach! The other student teachers and I are going to take an overnight bus to the Caribbean side of Panama and spend a few days soaking up the sun! God allowed us to find a cheap bus ticket and place to stay (even if it is a hostel) and we are super excited! So adios until next time : )

Sunday, April 3, 2011

On to week three

Time is flying! As I knew it would :) This past week of teaching was great! I really felt like I connected better with the kids in my class and got to know them and their backgrounds a little more so that I could relate and teach them in the most effective way possible. I found out that I have students in my class from Panama, the U.S., China, Poland, Netherlands, Mexico, Guatemala, and Russia. A lot of them are tri-lingual with neither English nor Spanish being their first language! From a teacher’s perspective, this seems like a nightmare, I think it’s awesome! However it is difficult to try and reach them where they are. It is interesting to see how their culture affects how they do their homework or what they put importance on. I was talking to the little girl whose family moved here from the Netherlands last year and told her that my family was also from the Netherlands. She was very excited about this and after school she ran up to me with her Mom who started chatting with me in Dutch! I was like, oh I don’t speak Dutch! My grandparents are from there, but I’m pretty much just American. Haha They seemed very confused by this. So your family is from there and you don’t speak Dutch??? Why in the world not???

This Friday was an in service day for the teachers at CCA. A few weeks ago in church they were talking about a ministry that the church/school has in the heart of Panama City in a place called Curundu. This is like the ghetto of Panama. A very poor section of town where people who don’t want their car stolen stay away from. Because of the great poverty and need there, they started a day care where single Mom’s could take their kids so they could look for work and not worry about their babies. This really took off and they actually turned it into a school. They only have pre-school and Kindergarten right now, but they want to add first grade next year. The problem is, they have no money, no supplies and the teachers don’t really get paid (They receive a small amount but not nearly enough to live on) I asked Mr. Bose if the three of us teacher’s could go down one day and check it out! So this Friday, we went to Curundu and were able to teach Kindergarten for a day! To be honest it is one of the highlights of my trip so far. The kids were adorable and just hung on us the whole time. It really reminded me of my missions’ trips to El Salvador and Honduras. Their teacher Rachel was an inspiration. She is an example of a teacher who is truly in it for God and the kids; it’s definitely not the money…or location… Her impact on their lives is huge! Maybe she can have a small part of breaking the cycle of poverty, brokenness and poor choices by giving them an education, and a godly one at that. I came away excited thinking that maybe one day I could have an impact like that.

This weekend Brittany, Brynna and I went on a boat ride down the Panama Canal! It was amazing! I learned so much and got to see some awesome sights. We were able to pass through the Continental Divide in the only place that there is a gap in it. (To be honest I had to Google continental divide when I got home but I still thought it was cool) We were also able to go through two locks! Before coming to Panama I actually thought that the canal was just a manmade river going from one ocean to another, I was very wrong. Because of the difference in sea level they needed to make locks that take ships up and down. So you pull into this water tight container and they either fill it up with water or let water out so you can pull safely out the other side! It was a great day full of learning and excitement and I am thankful for the opportunity to experience new things. Well I have to go write more lesson plans : ) Adios!

Monday, March 28, 2011

And so begins week two...

My first week of student teaching here is done! This week has flown by, yet has been extremely long at the same time. I am growing to love my third graders more and more every day, they are so loving and affectionate and teaching them is truly a joy (though there are times they test my patience). They are constantly writing little notes and pictures at the bottoms of their quizzes and homework paper which always makes me smile. It is very different teaching here because there are so many different cultures and types of learners. Only two out the 19 students I have are native English speakers. While this can be a little comical at times (I had a little boy run up to me on the playground and asked me to tell the little girl he was playing with to stop “persecuting” him) This can be a big struggle and I have to constantly remind myself that English is not their first language. This really is a hindrance to them in the areas of reading comprehension, grammar and spelling. Pray for me as I try to figure out how to teach them in the most effective way possible. We read a book on the Statue of Liberty and I had them make their own Statue crowns. They really enjoyed it and proudly wore their crowns throughout the day. It’s funny because I am finding that when they enjoy the lesson, I enjoy teaching, when I feel like they don’t understand or do not like the lesson, I get discouraged. This past Friday after school, my co op had a “boys night” with the boys in the class. She had a sleepover with the girls in the fall so it was time to treat the boys to something special. So we took the six third grade boys after school for a night of bowling, pizza, soccer and a movie at their teacher’s house! There’s only six, should be easy…right?? NOT! Take six nine year old boys, fill them full of soda, candy and pizza and have them throw ten pound balls around….better hide behind something. As crazy as they were, it was a really fun night and they cracked me up the whole time. And I can proudly say that I was the bowling winner! (no one has to know who my competition was….or that we were playing with bumpers…)

It has been great getting to know my host family, they truly treat me like their daughter/sister. One of the reasons they wanted to host a student teacher was so that their children could be around an English speaker and improve themselves. Nubia now carries around a little notebook with all the new words and phrases I say in English that she likes. It’s cool to see their desire to learn. The family’s maid, Sabas, does not speak any English however. I have been using this to practice my Spanish skills on her, lucky girl!!! : ) She just started an English class so she will come to me with help on her homework or questions on pronunciation. I guess you could say we are helping each other! Sabas is a truly sweet girl, but she does not have a relationship with Christ. She has recently started going to church with the Olivers and Nubia has been talking to her a lot about spiritual matters. She has been asking a lot of questions and really seems interested these past few weeks! Pray that she would keep asking questions and taking in interest in Christianity!

This weekend was really fun! Brittany, Brynna (The other student teachers from BBC) and I went out with three of the CCA teachers to a place called Central and Casco Viejo. Central is a market full of locals and little shops. You can find Kuna people walking around selling various items. The Kuna’s are the indigenous people who live in Panama in villages a little ways from the city. Casco Viejo is an old section of Panama that was built by the French when they owned the canal. It was amazing! The architecture and buildings were so cool. It was like a mix of Latin America and Europe. This section is also the place that the Panamanians took their gold to hide it when the pirates attacked. So there were real “pirate gold” jewelry stores and souvenirs. Jack Sparrow would have been in his glory. It is also the place where a Survivor finale took place and being the survivor fan I am…I was in my glory as well. It was one of the sights I really wanted to see when I knew I was coming to Panama so I was really glad we were able to go. I am loving getting to experience this new culture and people!

A few things you can be praying for…

1) I would keep improving in my teaching and strategies so I can grow and teach these students to the best of my abilities.

2) That the unsaved students in my class would be able to see Christ through my life and in the ministry of the school and church. Also that I am able to communicate clearly during Bible class and that they would truly understand.

3) Saba’s salvation and wisdom for Nubia as she is the one who gets to talk with her the most.

Thanks for your prayers and for reading! Hasta Luego!

Monday, March 21, 2011

These past few days have been a whirlwind of emotions, from excitement to feeling overwhelmed! We are getting thrown into teaching faster than usual because of our short time here, this can feel very overwhelming especially right at the beginning. I’m trying to take it a day at a time so that I can enjoy each moment. I have been spending sometime writing lesson plans in the backyard hammock so I really can’t complain too much. : ) Although I find that I am easily distracted by looking for monkeys or sloths in the trees surrounding me. Friday night we went to a music festival in a local park. There were hundreds of people there and it was so awesome to get a taste of Panamanian culture. There was singing and dancing and a lot of music! So much fun! The moon was exceptionally bright and I kept thinking how perfect the night was. The next night Manuel and Nubia (my host parents) and Diana(their 11 year old daughter) and I went out to dinner for Panamanian food. The food was great and the conversation even better! We sat around and talked the whole time about everything from the education system, how to improve the education system (My profs would be so proud), different cultures and countries we have been to, church planting (My dad would be so proud), Christian education and its pro’s and con’s and how our worldview as Christians should effect everything we do. I love fellowshipping with fellow believers, especially when they live around the world. It reminded me how strong the bond of brothers and sisters in Christ is. We live thousands of miles apart, yet we have the same goal of spreading the word of God and encouraging one another. Poor Diana may have been bored out of her mind but it was encouraging for me! On Sunday we went to church at Crossroads (Where I teach) and again I was amazed to see the various cultures and nationalities that surrounded me, all praising and worshipping the same God! That afternoon we went to the causeway, which is a road that connects three islands off the coast. The road was made with the dirt that came from the Panama Canal when it was being built. You can ride your bike, rollerblade and walk on this road. That day was a kite festival going which was so much fun! There were hundreds of Kites filling the sky and I almost filled my memory card trying to capture every moment. We were able to walk down to the entrance of the canal and watch ships come in and out. These are the moments that excite me, when I realize that I just experienced something that I may never experience again.

Today was my first day teaching at Crossroads, it went better than I thought it would! This class is bigger than my last placement and love to talk! They are very sweet and were so excited for me to start teaching. They kept asking on Friday “What are you going to teach us?? When are you going to talk??” I have a feeling they will get tired of me talking pretty quickly, even I get tired of hearing myself talk all day! I taught Bible and spelling and both went well. Some exciting news is that a little girl in my class accepted Jesus as her Savior in class Friday! This truly makes me excited to be here at Crossroads. Many of the students do not come from Christian homes. Parents here so badly want their children to fluently speak English that sending them to this school is very appealing. It does not matter if it is a Christian school and they are Catholic (which most of them are). This means that Crossroads has a huge mission field, which they are taking full advantage of! Pray that more students will come to understand what is being taught here and know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. Great things are happening and I am so excited to be a small part of it!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hola from Panama : )

Well I’m here!! Can’t believe I am already in Panama, I am so excited! My flight and trip went very smoothly yesterday. The view coming into Panama was gorgeous as we circled around the skyscrapers of Panama City. Customs and Immigration was what I was nervous for and that couldn’t have gone better! (easy cheesy lemon squeezy, as they say in my new third grade class). As I exited customs, I walked into a crowd of people all yelling and holding signs for various people they were trying to pick up. I looked around for my name or a sign for crossroads for about ten minutes before I started getting worried. A very nice Spanish taxi driver began helping me search. It didn’t help that my phone wasn’t working what-so-ever either…Finally the man and I have never been happier to see my own name! Apparently they picked up a French doctor woman name Danielle as well, I guess she assumed that no one else named Danielle would ever be in that airport at the same time…haha I guess there was enough questions for them to realize that this was not the right Danielle and they turned around, thank God. Besides this event, everything went wonderful! My host family, The Olivers is so great! Their house is gorgeous, I could not ask for a nicer arrangement. Their house back up to the jungle…literally…. they told me that often times you will see monkeys climbing from tree to tree, way too cool. They have three kids Diana, Diego and Luciana who all attend CCA. They made me welcome home signs for when I walked into the house. Mauel and Nubia (Mom and Dad) are so sweet and helpful. The whole family is fluent in English and actually the Dad speaks Spanish, English and Russian. Mom speaks Spanish, English and French. Their family has lived all over the world including Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, France and Spain. They are an AWESOME family. I am so blessed! Today is my first day at school and I already love it! The third graders are adorable and are already hugging me and saying I love you, so cute! They are a very diverse class, with students from France, China, the U.S. and several Latin American countries. I know this is going to be an awesome opportunity for me and definitely a growing experience. I will be very busy these next few weeks and am already a little overwhelmed with everything, but I will try to keep you updated as best I can! Thanks again for all you prayer and support. I love you all!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wednesday is almost here!!

I cannot believe it is almost time for me to start my student teaching experience in Panama!!! I am so excited and a little bit nervous! I have seen God provide so incredibly for this trip, like He always does. This experience started out a little rocky and I have to admit I wasn't sure it would ever happen. My placement was changed several times which pushed back the time allowed for me to raise the support needed. I should have remembered that God knows no time constraints. I raised the money faster and easier than any missions trip I have ever been on, and it was also more than I have ever needed. I am very thankful for his provisions, He knows what I need and has never failed to provide for me. I want to thank everyone who has supported me regarding this trip so far, whether financially or in prayer. I could have never done it without you, thank you for being willing to be used by God in my life. There are some things I am asking prayer for as I start this trip....
1. Time management and wisdom as I student teach: Student teaching has proven to be very time consuming and overwhelming at times. Please be praying that I find the time and organization skills to do my very best, even with the distraction of being in a completely new culture!
2. Transportation: One of the difficulties we are having is finding rides to and from the school and my host families house. There may be times when I need to get a taxi or ride the bus. This makes me nervous since I am not fluent in Spanish. Please pray that all those little details would work themselves out with no major problems!
3. My host family: I am going to be living with a Panamanian family during my stay. I don't know if this family speaks English or really anything about them. Pray that I will connect with them and that I will be an encouragement and blessing in their lives while I am staying with them.
4. My time at Crossroads: Please be praying that I will be an encouragement to the missionary teachers that I will be working with at Crossroads Christian Academy. I know that missions work can be very stressful at times and I want to be a blessing while I am there. Also be praying for direction in my life. If missions work is something God wants for my life, pray that I will be open to his calling.

I will try to blog often so keep posted on more news!