Sunday, April 28, 2013

Trip to Panama (April 24-28, 2013)...

Trip to Panama (April 24-28)...

Revolution Tower
This trip to Panama is the second time for us. The first one was approximately 10 years ago.

Panama is known for its famous canal connecting the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. It is a small country but due to this strategic location for the world trade, Panama is well known. USA built this canal, using a lock system moving giant ships from the sea level to the lake level through multiple locks and bringing the ships down to the sea level again after crossing the inland lakes. USA stationed a military unit to protect the canal for 90 years and handed it over to the Panamanian government in 1999.

Hop-on Hop-off Bus
In addition, Panama is a hub for the financial sector and transportation sector. There are many offshore banks and attracts depositors from all over the Latin American countries. Panama has Copa Airlines that connect to almost all major cities in Latin America and to quite a few major cities in the world.

It also has beautiful beaches on both the Pacific shores and Caribbean shores. It has been rain forest and is outside the hurricane belt. Its shores have tripical weather but its highlands offer spring-like weather year round. For this reason, Panama is attracting retirees particularly from North America. Panama offers an excellent retirement program, called Pensionado. Under this program, retires may benefit from significant discounts on a lot of commercial and economic activities.
Panama Canal Lock System

Panama once was ruled by a dictator and drug smuggler, Noriega. USA had to take him down in the middle of 1980's to establish a democratic government and Panama has since been safe and stable. Its currency is US dollar and the cost of living remains fairly low although it has increased quite a bit over the past decade. It has several mega shopping malls that offer all merchandises from all over the world. Panama's tourism is still growing but is getting ready to attract more tourists.
Panama City Bus Diablos Rohos

Panama still has many challenges to overcome. Traffic jam is pretty bad. Services need to improve also. Despite the US influence, English-speaking population remains pretty low. Moreover, tropical weather is hot and humid, so everywhere you need to turn on the A/C.
Panama City View from Casco Viejo

Nonetheless, Panama remains attractive to many people for different reasons.

Our trip to Panama was short, but important. We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. April 25 1983, Kristin and I got married in Seoul Korea. God has been at the center of our marriage and Jesus has been the third strand in our relationship, thus bonding it and holding it up through the high and low seasons. (Ecclesiastes 4:12) At a restaurant called La Mar (Mar means ocean in Spanish.) It was a quiet celebration but we expressed our appreciation for God's guidance and presence in our relationship.

Trump Tower Ocean Club and us
Panama City View
Three decades of marriage... would not have been made possible without God's guidance and protection. We were envisioning the next three decades of life and discussing about how to live out the remaining life on earth before we leave the planet earth. We may leave earlier to be with the Lord, but it is perfectly okay. May the good and faithful Lord continue to hold our hands in our next chapter of life! - Jeffrey

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Trip to Denver Colorado (April 2013)

Trip to Denver, CO (April 18 - 22)

Fur tree covered with snow
From home in Kigali to a friend's home in Littleton Colorado, it was a 31-hour journey. Kigali to Amsterdam to JFK New York and to Denver. It was a long journey. I was concerned about this journey because I had to take another red eye flight after I took one the night before, from Johannesburg to Kigali. Moreover, I had to work the whole day on Wednesday before I left.

Thanks to God's traveling mercy, I was able to sustain myself. I took two 1000 ml vitamin C pills and one B12 pill before the journey began.

Kristin came to pick me up at Denver International Airport. It was great joy to be received. Denver Colorado was still cold. A couple of days earlier, there was snow. Here and there I could spot the snow. My skins get itchy very much when I come to a colder weather. There was no exception. I had to put on heavy dose of moisturizing lotions and anti-itching lotion to all my body.

We had dinner together with Eunice and Chuck Lee and Mike and Hyunjoo Kim at Hoongs, a Chinese restaurant where we used to dine quite often while we lived here. With a half piece of sleeping pill I was able to sleep for good six hours.

Red Rock Amphitheater
Saturday was a day of preparation for the sermon the next day at Logos Central Chapel and the lecture about Business as Mission (BAM) with the LCC congregation members. Kristin went out for walking with Eunice. They walked at Red Rock Amphitheater. It is an amphitheater that has been built with natural red rocks. Without any speaker system, people can talk and sing and can be heard at the top. It is an amazing spot.

We stayed at the Lee's as before. The Lees have allowed us to stay at their home for the past three years. Chuck is a physician and Eunice is a dentist. They are people of God, loving and serving God with all their hearts, minds and strengths. It is a blessing to know them and to fellowship with them. I felt sick with the cold, with frequent coughing 

Driving on a snowy day
On Sunday, despite the coughing, I delivered a sermon, titled "Ambassadors of Christ" based on 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. It was not easy. I had a dry mouth and had to drink water quite often. We all are ambassadors of Christ with the mission for reconciliation. The reconciliation is first between ourselves with God, others, self and the rest of creation. Next, this mission of reconciliation is for others to reconcile with God, themselves, others and the rest of creation also. This mission for others centers around people, but it should also deal with our vocations. Vocations are what we do to live the life of reconciliation. It is not just for a living. If it is for the living, it should be for the life of reconciliation. Our Lord will be pleased when we dedicate our life for the mission of reconciliation.
Abundant side dishes at Korean restaurant

After lunch, I gave a led.

In the evening, Chuck and Eunice, our host, invited a few dozens of members to welcome the new members to the church. It was a big crowd, easily 40-50 people, including children. I was exhausted and still sick, but survived.

Monday was the check-up day: medical and dental. Blood draw, physical check up, dental check up and cleaning. All went well. I was told I was in great shape. Good to go at least for another year. I was grateful for God's grace and protection. In between, I saw Kelvin and Keya. It was good to see them again. It started snowing in the afternoon. The weatherman forecast that it was going to snow 3-5 inches. Well... we were supposed to go to the airport early in the morning on Tuesday and the snow would be a hindrance. After a delicious dinner at a Korean restaurant, we went back to the Lee's and started packing.
Aircraft covered with snow

On Tuesday, early in the morning, it was still snowing and the road was packed with snow. My driving skills on the snow was a little rusty but I had to drive. Thanks to God's guidance and protection, we were able to drive safely to the rental car company and return the rental car. The Delta Airline upgraded our seats to the First Class. What a treatment! We were able to travel comfortably to New York.

Our trip to Denver was short, somewhat struggling but sustainable with much blessing. - Jeffrey