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The Aftermath

Well, the title of this post makes this post sound bad but really it’s not:-)  We have been home from Panama for over a month.  It was a bit of a world wind when we arrived.  Coming home in December landed us smack in the middle of Christmas season.  As many of you know, we had left our home pre-decorated for Christmas when we left in October!  We just had to decorate the Christmas tree and put up our outdoor decorations.  We did most of our shopping online from Panama and our friends and family were gracious enough to pick up all the packages!

We had a wonderful Christmas together just the four of us in our home.  It was a great time to talk and reflect over our time in Panama.  We all had our moments of doubt while there but we all came to the same conclusion: God is faithful!  We are so blesses to get to spend so much time together as a family.  We have been overwhelmed with the opportunities God has put before us as a family.  We don’t know any other families who get to do what we have the privilege of doing.  We know this is a privilege not a right.  We must always remember that this is not an option for everyone.  God opened the door for us and we never looked back.  We are truly overcome with gratefulness when we consider where we could have been, this life is so much better than anything we could have come up with on our own.

In the new year we are continuing to improve our family.  We have dubbed ourselves Marmion 2.0!  I have launched a new career teaching group exercise classes.  You can visit my website at: www.greatworkfitness.com.  I am having a great time meeting lots of new people in our community.  Health is so important and I am so excited to play this little part.  Rob will continue to work in commercial photography.  He will slow his pace a little but will increase his portfolio throughout the year.  Elijah is working on working through some personal things.  As you remember last year our son was discharged from therapy after nearly 11 years!  He has grown in leaps and bounds and continues to punch his demons in the face.  He is the bravest boy we know.  Alexa is tackling her first attempt at learning to play an instrument.  She has chosen the guitar and is very excited to play.  She started lessons and should be playing songs shortly, according to her instructor.  She is also looking forward to playing spring ball (softball).

2013 is looking great to Marmion 2.0!  Our prayer is that your goal this year is to slow down and take the time to live your life the way you want it.  Don’t let others take your dreams from you.  Set your sights high, you have God on your side and he cares for you.  He wants you to succeed in everything that will benefit you.  Luke 18:27 tells us “what is impossible for people is possible with God”.  Dream big and soar high!  Many blessing in 2013

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Last day

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Today is Monday and it is our last day here in Panama. Like I said in previous posts there are many similarities to the US but there are also many differences. Here are just some random thoughts and musings about our time here.

The school schedule is reversed: School in Panama starts in mid March and ends their school year in mid December. Mid December to mid March is the best weather here so it makes sense that they would have that time to vacation and do some fun things.

There are many taxi drivers. The prices vary by the driver, there are no meters in the taxi’s. It is up to you to negotiate the price with the driver before getting in his taxi. I am pretty sure they just size you up as local or foreigner and decide the price that way. Either way, they do not charge enough to cover their expenses. We were fortunate enough to look Panamanian to be charged the local price almost all the time, especially with my fluency in SpanishJ We also only saw one female taxi driver the entire time we were here.

The food court in the mall never has any prepared meals ready to go. Everything is cooked to order no matter what restaurant you order from. You can also get a tasty steak dinner at the food court. They bring you real dinner ware and silverware. Each restaurant has its own food court attendant who brings you your meal and ensures the plates and silverware get back to its rightful restaurant. The food is delicious and very reasonable.

It was interesting to us how much American influence was left behind here by the Canal workers many years ago. They use many English words but put a “Spanish spin” on themJ In particular, the words mall, burger, bar, mini, and beach all come to mind.

Tipping is not a big deal although we just could not resist and just used our regular system to tip. Most people were very pleasantly surprised when they received their tip.

People become attached to you quickly. You become family after just a few visits togetherJ But then again I am used to that since I am Hispanic, this is common for most Hispanics.

The people don’t smile often but they are very kind and friendly. You would miss this if you just judged them on your initial interaction with the people. Give them the opportunity and they will melt your heart.

We noticed that not very many people smoke in public. It seems to us that in the US every other person you see is smoking. The only people we saw smoking were foreigners. We never saw on Panamanian smoking the whole time we were here! I don’t know what that means but just an observation.

When you ask someone for help out in public they are always more than helpful. They will go out of their way to assist you.

If you like soda you are in for a rude awakening! You have to buy the cans individually! You know how we get a great deal on a fridge pack? That does not exist here. People open up the boxes and packages and buy one at a time. You can buy a half liter or 1 liter bottle of soda but not as convenient as a can. Incidentally the same goes for canned and bottled beer.

While we celebrate just one Independence Day in the US, Panama has 2 main ones they celebrate. November 3rd is independence from Colombia and November 28th is independence from Spain. It is obvious that the independence from Colombia is most important here. They celebrate it for 4 days while the 28th is celebrated for just a day! There are several other significant events in November so it really is just a month of celebration. Most weekends are 3 days long or even 4 during the month of November.

There are many other things that stick out in my mind but I will have to post a part 2 to this blogJ Like I said in the last post, we have truly enjoyed our time here and we look forward to returning someday. We have met many lovely people and we have had many memorable experiences. We are grateful for the opportunity to get to make this journey. We thank God for every experience, good and bad. I believe our lives will be enhanced because of this opportunity.

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Last day

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Today is Monday and it is our last day here in Panama. Like I said in previous posts there are many similarities to the US but there are also many differences. Here are just some random thoughts and musings about our time here.

The school schedule is reversed: School in Panama starts in mid March and ends their school year in mid December. Mid December to mid March is the best weather here so it makes sense that they would have that time to vacation and do some fun things.

There are many taxi drivers. The prices vary by the driver, there are no meters in the taxi’s. It is up to you to negotiate the price with the driver before getting in his taxi. I am pretty sure they just size you up as local or foreigner and decide the price that way. Either way, they do not charge enough to cover their expenses. We were fortunate enough to look Panamanian to be charged the local price almost all the time, especially with my fluency in SpanishJ We also only saw one female taxi driver the entire time we were here.

The food court in the mall never has any prepared meals ready to go. Everything is cooked to order no matter what restaurant you order from. You can also get a tasty steak dinner at the food court. They bring you real dinner ware and silverware. Each restaurant has its own food court attendant who brings you your meal and ensures the plates and silverware get back to its rightful restaurant. The food is delicious and very reasonable.

It was interesting to us how much American influence was left behind here by the Canal workers many years ago. They use many English words but put a “Spanish spin” on themJ In particular, the words mall, burger, bar, mini, and beach all come to mind.

Tipping is not a big deal although we just could not resist and just used our regular system to tip. Most people were very pleasantly surprised when they received their tip.

People become attached to you quickly. You become family after just a few visits togetherJ But then again I am used to that since I am Hispanic, this is common for most Hispanics.

The people don’t smile often but they are very kind and friendly. You would miss this if you just judged them on your initial interaction with the people. Give them the opportunity and they will melt your heart.

We noticed that not very many people smoke in public. It seems to us that in the US every other person you see is smoking. The only people we saw smoking were foreigners. We never saw on Panamanian smoking the whole time we were here! I don’t know what that means but just an observation.

When you ask someone for help out in public they are always more than helpful. They will go out of their way to assist you.

If you like soda you are in for a rude awakening! You have to buy the cans individually! You know how we get a great deal on a fridge pack? That does not exist here. People open up the boxes and packages and buy one at a time. You can buy a half liter or 1 liter bottle of soda but not as convenient as a can. Incidentally the same goes for canned and bottled beer.

While we celebrate just one Independence Day in the US, Panama has 2 main ones they celebrate. November 3rd is independence from Colombia and November 28th is independence from Spain. It is obvious that the independence from Colombia is most important here. They celebrate it for 4 days while the 28th is celebrated for just a day! There are several other significant events in November so it really is just a month of celebration. Most weekends are 3 days long or even 4 during the month of November.

There are many other things that stick out in my mind but I will have to post a part 2 to this blogJ Like I said in the last post, we have truly enjoyed our time here and we look forward to returning someday. We have met many lovely people and we have had many memorable experiences. We are grateful for the opportunity to get to make this journey. We thank God for every experience, good and bad. I believe our lives will be enhanced because of this opportunity.

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The Final Countdown

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Less than 10 days left in this lovely country. We are conflicted, we don’t know if we should be sad that we are leaving or happy we will be home.

We have had such an amazing time here. An experience of a lifetime for the mini’s. We have seen all the tourist things to see here in Panama City. We have also gotten used to what it would be like to live here.

One of the most interesting things has been that at one time or another during our trip we have all been mistaken for Panamanians. That’s hard to imagine since my family has such a wide variety of skin colorsJ In Panama, the skin colors are all over the place, from very fair to very dark. It has been fun!

Everyone has gotten the hang of Spanish a little better than before. We have found ourselves using it more and more. I want to make sure we don’t lose that after we get home.

A couple people have asked how the un schooling has been going. As many of you know this is our first time un schooling. It is actually pretty interesting how easy it is to do in a new culture like this one. The other great thing is that there is there is lots of US history here. We would certainly try it again if possible. For the time being, we will continue to use our current curriculum when we return to the US.

The condo owner has provided us with a cleaning lady once a week while we are here. We have grown to like Anayancy very much. She is very sweet and takes great care of us. When she left last week I reminded her that this week would be her last week to clean for us, she said she would miss us. I thought that was sweet.

We can truly say we have fallen in love with this country and its people. It takes a little bit to get used to but not bad. We will spend our last week here doing our favorite things one more time before we head home.

We all had our favorite moments and our favorite things to do. We also each have something we miss from home. We are fortunate to have had the opportunity to come here to Panama. While here we had time to realize what we have back home also. It’s not that we did not appreciate what we had but more that we needed a break from the normal everyday.

As we return home we would like to deem ourselves Marmion 2.0. We have had much time together as a family and had much time to think about making changes to ourselves and our family as a whole. Truly we are thankful beyond words for what we have learned here. God is good and we give Him all the glory for everything He has done thus far on this journey.

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Two Weeks and Counting

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We have been here about couple weeks now and we are becoming “locals. Well, not really but we feel like it, we picked up a Panamanian cell phone to use while we are here! This week we went to Casco Viejo and Amador Causeway. We also had a nice personal tour from a very helpful taxi driver named Alberto.

He took us through Noriega’s old stomping grounds. Showed us where his headquarters used to be. The vibrant beautiful community that Noriega took over while in Panama has now become the ghetto. During the war, while the American’s were here, they pretty much obliterated the area out of necessity, leaving it as a barren waste land.

Soon after the war as the clean up process began, many of cities poor people had no place to live. They took over the defunct area of town and moved in in droves. They currently live rent free, not having to pay water or electricity to the government. We drove through and could not believe the poverty and sheer sadness in the area.

It was also interesting to see the housing areas where the canal workers lived. The housing was built to withstand bombs. They are still standing and in very good condition. Alberto mentioned the workers were segregated into whites and blacks, although both housing areas looked exactly the same. The old naval school has been turned into the dance district. All the buildings have been converted into dance clubs and bars.

They seem to think of Americans fondly. No one seems bothered by our presence, of course, we speak their language and try to do things their way, I think that helps. It is nice to be in the regular part of town living among the people here. When we visit the tourist areas we are glad for the native experience we are enjoying. To be honest, the tourist areas seem so cheesy, much like most tourist trap areas.

Panamanians are very nice and helpful people. You may not think that at first glance. They seem to be in a trance as they walk around with their eyes downcast or looking off into the distance. If you approach them and ask for directions or whatever, they are more than willing to help.

We have all become accustomed to the way things are done here and have stopped saying things like, “that’s not how we do that”. It has been a great eye opening experience for us all to be here for this extended amount of time. We are looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving here, although it’s just another day hereJ

We are thankful that God provided us this opportunity to make us aware that our way not the only way. We don’t have to live in the same way as those around us. We need to live in such a way that shows others that we are indeed different. My prayer is that as we return to the US in a few weeks our lives will be an example of God’s glory and grace. He provided everything for us to this point. We trust God and we know that although this will not be a permanent move right now his kingdom will be exalted!

Thanks to all who are praying for us and we ask that you continue to pray for us to see this country through the eyes of God.

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First Week in Panama

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We have been in Panama for over a week. We are all settled in and becoming a part of the regular scene. Two of the four of us have been mistaken for PanamaniansJ I’ll let you guess who. Things here are different but oddly the same. I know that does not make sense. Here are our observations from our first week.

Our travel day was long but thankfully uneventful. It was a busy day in the airports as it was also the same day Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast. There were many stranded travelers around us in Atlanta and Ft. Lauderdale. Our only difficulty was the length of our layover in Ft. Lauderdale.

Our flight arrived in Panama just after 1am, we lost an hour in there somewhere. Getting through customs was not a problem. Our bags were waiting for us as we got through customs. We quickly cleared the customs area with our bags and were met by our taxi driver who much to the kids delight had a sign with our name on itJ

Jorge was a very nice guy who showed us some key places to know on our way to the condo. We arrived at our building and checked in with the night guard. We were a little nervous as always as we opened the door to our condo. You never know if the pictures will match the actual place when you get there. We were excited to see it was even better than expected. Since we arrived at night we could not see our view until the morning when we woke up and pulled up the shades on our windows. We were taken aback by our view. We get to see the entrance to the Panama Canal. Every morning we get up and look to see how long the line of boats is to get through the canal.

Driving here is crazy. I am glad we did not rent a car. It is pretty wild. There is a system of honking that I think I am beginning to understand. There is a honk to let people know they can cut in, there is one to let them know they should not think about cutting in and another to let you know they are unhappy with your unauthorized cut in, the last one also has an angry hand gesture that goes with it. Taxi drivers also have a honk for people on the street to ask if they need a ride.

Grocery shopping is similar but differentJ The produce department is very unlike our in the US. There is an attendant in the produce department to weighs and tags your produce purchases. They don’t have scales at the registers. The bakery is always a fun adventure. The best part about the bakery is that you can pay for our bakery items at the bakery. When you go to pay for your other items you just tell the cashier you paid for the bakery items. It’s on the honor system, very interesting. Since many people, including us, don’t have a car, you can only buy what you can carry. It really helps you decide what you do and do not need!

Everyone is learning the language and what is necessary to get around. They are also learning how to order food. It’s amazing how much you need to know just to move around. This obviously is not a problem for me but my family is getting there. It has been an amazing journey thus far and we are all looking forward to what lies ahead. This trip has long been a dream of ours (Rob and Allie) and we are so humbled to finally have the opportunity to realize it.

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Marmion Move Update

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A few months ago we announced that we were leaving the country (temporarily). We have had to make changes to our original idea. Here is what we are actually going to end up doing and when we will be going.

First, we have changed the location of our trip. There are many reasons for doing so but the main one is health concern for a family member who may not be able to get all the necessary vaccinations. Rob and I prayed about where to go. We both came up with Panama!

Second, we had been trying to support raise and save money at the same time to purchase the airline tickets for the family. The last few months have been financially taxing on our family. One of our AC units went out. The next week the transmission on our car went out. We had to have both fixed as we were in the dead of summer here in Georgia and we only have one car.

We ended up using lots of what we had saved for the trip. We continued to pray as we were sure that God wanted us in Panama. We just knew God had a plan for us to get there. Late one night (or morning, as it was 3:30am) Rob woke me from my deep slumber to inform me that an airline company was offering FREE airline tickets to Panama during the dates we had planned to go. As you might imagine, this got my attention. I dug up our passports and we quickly got the tickets, with the required taxes, we used up every last dollar we had left for the trip. We are excited to announce that we leave for Panama City, Panama on October 29th and we will return the first week of December.

We are still accepting donations (which are tax deductible) for this trip. We plan to spend our time there learning another culture and for the remaining members of my family, language learning. We will take this opportunity to unschool the kids. What an amazing experience it will be for us all as we learn on the go. There is also a great community center where we can volunteer to help kids learn computer skills, do crafts and play sports.

We are all very excited to have this amazing endeavor come to fruition. God is good and we know He always has a plan for us, not just any old plan but a plan to bring us hope and His goodness. We just want to give God all the glory for the journey thus far. We would also like to give thanks to all our friends and family who pray for us and support us.

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Unraveled

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Have you ever felt like you had so much going wrong in your life that you might unravel?  Have you unraveled or did you just hold it in for the benefit of those around you?  Do you know that God is OK with us unraveling?  God does not want us to be unhealthy.  God loved us so much that he sent his only son to die for our sins, he loves us that much!  When we keep it all in we make ourselves sick.  We can unravel in a Godly fashion.  How exactly do you unravel in a Godly fashion?

In 2003 I received news that my oldest sister had passed away.  We were close, as in we spoke on the phone nearly every night.  When she died unexpectedly I tried to hold it together for the benefit of my parents, my sisters and my family.  That was a bad idea.  I started to have horrible headaches and stomach cramps.  I didn’t know what was making feel so sick.  After reading Romans 8:37-39 and I was awakened to what was happening in my body.  I cried and I screamed and I waved my fist to the heavens in anger.  I was mad, how was I more than a conqueror?  God had just taken my 35 year old sister from this earth and I was unraveling.

I spent several days unraveling and My Heavenly Father waited for me patiently.  He waited like a parent waiting out the tantrum of a 2 year old!  The truth of those verses sunk into my heart and I picked up the pieces and carried on with my life. The headaches were gone and so were the severe stomach aches.  I had unraveled in a godly fashion and the Lord walked with me and comforted me.   A day does not go by that I do not miss my sister but I carry on each day knowing that she is dancing with joy on the streets of heaven and I rejoice that she gets a head start on eternal life!  I thank God for encouraging me to unravel and for holding me up when I could not hold myself up anymore.

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Your Questions Answered

We are so blessed to have so many wonderful friends. The response to our plans to do some work overseas has been overwhelmingly positive. Many of you asked questions, so we wanted to address all of them at once.

You asked if we plan to sell our home. The answer is not right now. This is a temporary move for now. It is a better financial choice to keep it and rent it while we are gone. We need someone who can care for it and keep things in good shape while we are away.

Many were intrigued by my comment about home schooling the kids legally. I said this in this manner because home schooling is not legal everywhere. Home schooling is legal in Ecuador but is not legal in Spain. We will however navigate around that problem by only staying in the country for 3 months. Anything time we spend beyond that would require us to get a special kind of visa that would require us to put he kids in traditional schools. Should God call us to this country we will deal with the school issue accordingly and legally:-)

We were overwhelmed by your response to pray for us and some even want to support us financially. We have made that simple for you. You can either click on the “support us” tab at the top of this page or you can click here. Your donation will be tax deductible.

Please keep the questions and comments coming, we love to hear from all of you. God is good and is walking with us through this process. Our prayer is that whatever we do will only bring glory to God.

 

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Marmions Move to Ecuador

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A year ago our family embarked on an experiment that would lead us to abandon our ideas of the American dream and to join God in accomplishing His dream. Rob and I read Radical by David Platt and decided to encourage our whole family to participate in The Radical Experiment. We have throughly enjoyed reading the Word of God, giving up money for God’s purposes, serving those around us and praying for the world.

This experiment has now lead us to spend time in another context. We have been called to minister to the Hispanic community in some fashion. We will spend time learning Spanish and submerging ourselves in the culture. Here is what the next 18 months will look like: we will spend the next 6 months preparing then about 6 months in Ecuador, we will come home for a short time and then head to Spain for 3 months. We will continue to home school Elijah and Alexa legally during this time.

We have been reading and learning from Jim Elliott’s journals and Ecuador was just laid on our hearts. We will spend our time there learning the language with our live in tutor, Allie:-) We will also spend time getting to know those around us and seeing how God wants us to be involved.

Spain is a country we have all spent time in and have come to love the people. We will spend about 3 months there learning more about the spiritual needs of the people in the area. We feel very close to this country as we were in Madrid in March of 2003 the day of a terrorist attack and were involved in many prayer opportunities during that time.

When we return from Spain early next year we will spend time in prayer as a family. We will seek God’s face as we decide if and when we will return to either country to serve long term. We will have many needs as we prepare to embark on this journey.

We are going to need financial support to get us there and keep us there for the allotted times. We will continue to work our commercial photography business but we will also need to raise support. Our monthly budget will be $3,000 and our outgoing expenses including airfare and visas will be $10,000. This money will be used for living expenses and any ministry needs we may have. Including the money we expect to earn while abroad and funds we have already raised we are currently at 64% of our monthly need and have $1,100 a month to go. To see more about our support needs please visit the Support Us page.

We also have a great interest in raising a group of people who will pray for us every step of the way. Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” This is what we will need, a group of people who will devote themselves to pray for us.

As American Christians it’s easy to forget how Jesus wants us to live. He wants us to leave behind security, money, convenience and even family. We will be doing all of those things. The gospel is the most important thing to us and we will take up our cross and go with God. The journey will be good and bad but we are prepared to stay at the feet of Jesus and serve Him in any way possible. We want to thank you in advance for praying for us, supporting us and cheering for us. We will continue to blog about the days before, during and after to keep you informed.

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