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Gigi and I began our journey here at Juntos Podemos in Curundu, Panama in October of 2013. It has been a treasured experience, serving the Lord in such a special place, where the impact of the mission has blessed so many. Our ministry has a primary school, with 150 students, and an afternoon secondary school, with roughly 70 students. We provide after school-Saturday sports programs, a marching band, a weekly women’s bible study, and a monthly men’s prayer breakfast. Additionally, there are a multitude of different groups who minister to the community with short term visits. These groups provide Bible studies and evangelism, medical/dental care, food donations, school supplies, construction services, and spaying-neutering of animals in the area.
The neighborhood we serve is a part of the Curundu district of Panama known as “Proyecto Curundu” (The Curundu Project), which has a population of approximately 5,000. Going back to as recent as 2010, the area known as Proyecto Curundu consisted almost entirely of a sprawling, illegally built shantytown. It was in this shantytown that these residents lived without basic services and safety, in an area rife with hunger, criminal gangs, drugs, prostitution, child abuse and witchcraft. It was a fairly hopeless situation for so many.
However, starting in 2011, the Panamanian government went into this place of desperation, and constructed permanent, quality housing for these residents, to replace the shantytown. Additionally, a restructuring and strengthening of the police presence in the community gave the residents a much needed feeling of security on almost every corner.
The residents of Curundu were given a second chance! That being said, many other problems proved to be much trickier to fix. Many of the social woes continue to take their toll, leaving a great need for strong schools and ministries such as Juntos Podemos.
In our years serving here, we have worked in many different capacities. Gigi has served as the first and second grade English, Bible, math and science teacher; as well as fundraising planner, chairperson for the discipline committee, and tutorial program director. Myself, I have been privileged to serve as the school physical education coach for all levels, as well as the English teacher for preschool through the fifth grades. Our additional duties have included community outreach via sports programs, coordinating activities with visiting missionaries, and school security. We wear a lot of different hats here!
Every one of us on staff at Juntos Podemos works extremely hard, and it’s such a blessing to be a part of it all, seeing the Lord touching lives in a profound manner. As with anything worth it, some bad days are had, and there are times when we feel as though things are not moving the way we planned. With these trying moments, we are reminded that working in missions is about waiting patiently on the Lord, while serving without holding back. This has built character in both of us, and strengthened our resolve more than ever before.
Now, with the addition of our son Andrew to the team, we are extremely excited about him sharing this wonderful experience with us. With the guidance of the Lord, we pray we are able to have many years more, fighting the noble fight, in Curundu!
As with life, changes do happen, and adjustments are made. When we arrived at Juntos Podemos, we were allowed to use the director’s apartment on campus, due to the fact that we had no sitting school director at the time. This was a great blessing, due to the high cost of renting our buying real estate in the city. However, we did eventually have to leave and acquire a place of our own, owing much gratitude to Juntos Podemos for the generous loaning of the apartment for the time that we were there. Currently, we have been blessed with an apartment not far from the school, but we now have a whole new set of expenses that we did not foresee when we came down in 2013.
Additionally, with the arrival of our baby boy Andrew, the day to day costs are formidable. As missionaries we still have real life expenses the same as everyone else, but with a much lower income to cover everything. Truth be told, living in Central America is as expensive as the States by many measures, which is contrary to what many are told. By partnering with us as sponsors, you would be helping our family with our day-to-day expenses, enabling us to keep our ministry going strong at Juntos Podemos. – Jason –