Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Run You Clever Boy, and Rembember...

Five months have gone by, and let me tell you, it has really been one big eye opener. First, it started by getting ready to attend graduation for the first time-- as a teacher. Then, I attended a Christmas concert hosted by two choir groups. I also attended two parties, one for the bishop and the other for the diocese office. I had an opportunity to chaperon prom for my students as well, and then ended it by having mass on Christmas Eve and spending Christmas with Patricia and her family.

Let me start off by saying I commend all teachers and staff that work with a school district. It was a tough job getting all the grades in and knowing that you will have students at the last moment wanting to make up a grade. I know these past five months have been eye opening and I now know how difficult it is being a teacher. On December 17th,  there were two graduations, one for 9th grade and one for 12th grade. I taught 9th grade so I really felt proud seeing these students walk across the stage receiving their diploma. In 9th grade you graduate from primary and figure out what bachelor you want (Science, tourism, or commercials). Below are some pics from that day.

On the 15th of December, Cantus Panama and Coro Musica Viva held a concert benefiting the Cathedral of St. Lucas. It was filled with many Christmas and native songs. I did not take many pictures because my tablet was acting up and I have not bought batteries for my camera.

On the 19th of December I attended a party for the bishop that was hosted in my apartment (I did not know that would be the location at the time). It was just a good time to get to know the staff and just celebrate the bishops birthday. That same night, I went with Rachel to chaperon the 9th grade prom. It was a fun and the kids saw me dance salsa for the first time. On the 23th of December there was a party for the diocese staff.  There was a lot of turkey, ham, ceviche, and music. It was the first time that I really got to meet the staff and it was a fun. All the music and dancing made me realize that you don’t have to be afraid of what you look like or if you can dance, as long as you want to have a good time, you are always welcomed.  

On Christmas Eve, there was a night service at the cathedral. It was strange how much it felt like my church back home, with the whole lighting the candle and singing “Holy Night, blessing of the nativity, and singing “O Come O Come Emanuel for the offertory hymn. On Christmas day I woke up early and headed of to Villa Lucre where Patricia and Rachel live. They said breakfast starts at 9 and it was a 30 min drive so I headed out about 8:30. However, in Panama nothing starts on time, but thinking it was Christmas, I thought it had to start on time. Well I was wrong. We did not eat “breakfast” till about 11 but it was worth the wait. What really got me was that Patricia said that breakfast was only for family and to know that I am part of her family was a true Christmas gift. I also got to meet Rachels mom who gave me a stocking full of candy and Time magazine.

I was truly blessed these holidays, getting to spend it with people that I love and finding a place in my heart was a true blessing from God. I know a new year is coming and I feel the presence of god is stronger than ever and I know that my faith has been guiding me through difficult and good times. I Hope you all have a wonderful new years and a prosperous one. My journey is just beginning and I know what that journey is.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Long November

Wow, it has been a long time since I’ve updated, and I am sorry for that. Many things have happened to me this month -- and it all started off with me going to Costa Rica.  As soon as I got back, my students were preparing for an activity they do every year. I also had to prepare final exams for the ninth grade students because they graduate that year in Panama.

But first, I’ll start off with my little vacation to Costa Rica. In order for me to stay in Panama for a year with my tourist visa, I must leave the country every 90 days. I flew out on Friday November 8th. I was kind of nervous because I did not know who was going to pick me up. As I walked out of the airport, I saw a giant sign that said: JOSEPH YASC. I was hoping the sign was for me, and not for another Joseph. When I first got out of the airport, I looked at all the surroundings and felt a little at ease because I was not in a big city anymore. I arrived at the Costa Rica diocesan center and was greeted warmly. I started to unpack and was told the bishop wanted to see me. I started to talk to him and found out that he just got back for my home diocese in Texas. He talked with Marthe Curry and said that they want to have a partnership with them. I thought that was a true sign that God was there guiding my way. I spent most of my time relaxing and going off downtown and soaked up all the restored building and just wondered off to who knows where. I was only there for the weekend so I did not have time to see the volcanoes, but I am definitely going back. Here are some pictures of my weekend:

When I got back home, I went straight back to teaching science. I am still wrapping my head around the idea of me being a teacher. The one thing I said I would never do was be a teacher -- yet here I am and here is where God has sent me. The students were practicing for an event called Coronación y desfiles de tunas, which is basically a parade in which traditional Panamanian clothing is worn, as well as loads of singing and dancing. Each classroom in the entire school represented a separate region in Panama, and therefore wore the clothing that was traditionally worn in that region. Here are some pictures of what unfolded that day:

This was also a very different Thanksgiving for me. The week was full of being thankful. Rachel asked if I wanted to go to a thanksgiving dinner that she was invited to from her church. It was on a Wednesday night and it had all kinds of side dishes and turkey. I was really glad that I was able to spend a thanksgiving with a bunch of strangers. It helped me realize that god has always been giving me a reason for me to be thankful.
I am truly sorry for not updating enough, but November is probably the most insane month in Panama. I just want to say how grateful I am to continue doing this journey. Sometimes I feel do miss home but that is erased when I remember that I have great people that I am surrounded by in Panama. I hope I can update on a regular not because November is gone and December is going to be quick…I hope. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Long Weekend

It was a weekend that changed my whole perspective. Sunday marked Panama's 110 year of becoming separated from Colombia. The tradition literally started at dawn, from the sound of a firework that makes you feel like a gunshot is going off, to a parade that lasts all day. These are some of the traditions that hold true that Panama is a living spectrum of God's calling.

All the festivities started with the Dia de los Ninos. For half of the day, 12th grade students took over the teachers' classes. The day ended with a teacher versus student volleyball match. I was thrilled at some degree for the students taking over my class but still had a gut feeling that I had to go check up on them. In Mathew 19:14 Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." That is what I saw that day, for these children respected the continuity of what a teacher is and we as teachers put faith in their hands.

Then on Sunday a parade was held that started at 8 a.m. and ended around 10 p.m. All the schools and different organizations came together to show what it meant to be a country. Back in the states, we celebrate independence day by popping fireworks and having town parades, but not by bringing the whole state together. Panama came together and showed what it meant to be a country as a whole.

This made me realize that no matter what religion or affiliation you come or belong to, we all have one thing that brings us together - which is our belief in what we hold strong to. Jesus said to love one another, and what I witnessed in Panama was a true sighting of loving one another. People that did not know any children marching would come up to some child and hand them water or a towel to wipe their sweat. It was a day that changed my perspective in what it meant to be a beautiful human.

Today was flag day, and again there was a parade, but the schools and organizations would only march within their community. Cars and businesses were covered in the Panamanian flag and pride was shown. 110 years of being separated showed that even though there is still need of improvement, there is one thing that is for certain. God can really give you a sign without you realizing that it was right in front of you the whole time. 

Next week, I will travel to Costa Rica for a weekend. It will get my visa renewed, and I will stay at the Diocese of Costa Rica - which I know that I will have a story to tell.

I want to say thank you for giving me all the love back home and also being part of my journey.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I know that I have been absent in updating, but a lot has gone on and more is about to go on. I really wanted to wait till this weekend to give a good blog because it is one of Panama's Independents Day. Well here is an update.

School has been tough because the students just finished their midterms and are getting ready for November 3rd.

I met some great missionaries from the St. Luke's Cathedral. We had dinner and talked about great things in the coming future.

This is a small update, but promise to give you a great blog after this hectic weekend.

I want to thank you for staying with me in my journey. Thank-you and God Bless.

Monday, September 23, 2013

160 years. Convicencia. La Chorrera

Many things have happened in the last two weeks: celebrating 160 years of anglican presence in Panama, convivencia  and traveling with the bishop to two other churches to confirm over thirty children into the episcopal church.

Let's start off with September 15th, which was the Sunday that marked 160 years of Anglican presence in Panama. Bishop Julio Murray was the bishop to bring all 6 provinces together to represent the Diocese of Panama. It started off with all 5 Episcopal schools and all the churches representing the Diocese of Panama getting together to march down the street and into the Auditorio Clarence W. Hayes, where we held Eucharist together. It was an amazing experience to watch all Episcopalians gather in one room. I know that the power of prayer was beaming all over Panama. Below are some pictures that represent an historic day in Panama and for the Episcopal Church.
The banned held by Victor and James 

The Banner for the school that I work with. 

Many people marched in the parade.

The banner of San Mateo. 

I was so shocked on how many people were marching.

Students marched with their instruments 

I keep all my programs for church. 

This was not even half the people. 

Now I'll jump ahead to September 21st. I went back to the school and made my way to camp, where convivencia took place. Convivencia happens once a month with different grades, and usually has a theme. This month was the last one for the year and it happened with grade six. The theme was frendship. So for the whole day most of 6th grade worked together by doing various team building activities and getting to know each other. Below are some pictures to highlight the wonderful day. Also, this experience helped me get closer with some of the teachers, which helped out a lot. The love from this school is so much and you can actually feel God's presence when talking to the teachers and students. 

Itzel Rodriguez giving directions for the group.

Free time for about an hour

some of the students explaining their answer. 

The group acting out their answer. 

Team building at its finest 

It was at the Lions International 

Our view from the camp grounds. 

The next day on September 22nd, the Bishop took me to two different churches in La Chorrera, which is about 20 minutes outside of Panama City. The first church was the Episcopal Church of San Jose. The Bishop was going to confirm about 31 kids for the episcopal church. It was an amazing experience to watch the Bishop speak about the parable of the shrewd manager. The Bishop was very charismatic and I enjoyed watching how he engaged the congregation. The church was so packed that people - including myself - were standing outside of the church to see the glorious work of God, which included the confirmation of 31 of his children to the church. After Eucharist, I was introduced as one of two missionaries that will be helping in Panama. A generous amount of rejoice was received when I was introduce. I felt the love from the community and warm welcoming. We then had a big feast to celebrate this marvelous occasion.

Bishop Julio Murray giving his sermon. 

Blessing individuals.

The alter of San Jose
The outside of San Jose. 
Later that day, I headed off to a smaller church that had about 30 people, as well as one confirmation. The difference was so breathtaking. In the bigger church there was more people but less interaction by singing, even when there was a choir . In the smaller church, I saw that church bring down the house without music, a choir, and with no music. 

The program was used at both churches.

The Church outside.
The churches alter. 

These two past weeks have been really eye opening. I ended off with a home cooked meal from the bishop's wife, which made me miss home-cooked meals. I was so pleased to learn that my spiritual guidance has not ended and that I have found a person to talk to about my faith. I also want to say thank you for everyone who has been following me in this life changing event.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 9, 2013


Can you believe that it is going to be a month since I first arrived in Panama? I can't even imagine how fast the year will go by. The last time I updated, I informed you that I would be a science teacher at one of the Episcopal Schools. By that time, the school was already having exams and getting out for a week from the 2nd trimester. Last week was a break from school and I did a little bit of exploring on a beach and helped paint a mural at my church. Which led to a weekend getaway to the camp grounds of the Episcopal Church in Panama.  

I started off quoting Mark 12:31 from the NIV "The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these." Love your neighbor as yourself is a really strong message. Most of the human race might think they do this on a daily basis, but in reality it is probably the hardest thing to do. The reason I quoted Mark was because, during Monday and Tuesday of last week, which was September 2nd and 3rd, I gathered some of the youth from St. Mathews to paint a mural. Below are some of the pictures that show a working progress of the mural.

The boys getting the hands painted 

Rev. Glenda putting on the last hand

Rachel trying to reach the M. 

Shevell fixing the letters

After we were finished with the mural, Glenda and I took the youth to the Amador Causeway or the Calzada de Amador. This is a causeway that stretches from the south side of the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean. In length it is about three kilometers. There is a sidewalk to ride bikes on the causeway. We took two bikes that held four people and started biking. Below are some pictures of the cause way.

This is the route going back to the city.

There is a storm coming. 

We rested and I love how I captured this picture.

Just riding by.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Rachel and I had an experience that led us to the beach which is called Playa Coronado. It is about an hour away from the city and you can by a bus ticket for about 2 dollars. This was a relaxing time because there was hardly anyone on the beach and it took away from all the craziness from the city. I would like to note that I ate Mexican food at the beach, and it felt like home.

Salt and Pepper sand. Black sand is due to a volcano that erupted.  

Like I said, hardly anyone on the beach.

My love for Mexican food. I really love my Hispanic culture. 

On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday the Episcopal Church of Panama had a camp called Expresate. It was a camp dedicated to the youth on knowing how to express their love to God. Whether through theater, dancing, singing, or playing an instrument, the children were told that expressing your love to God is something that can never be expressed too much. This camp was in Santa Clara which is about an hour and a half away from the city. Below are some pictures of what was a awesome time before I started teaching for the semester.

We have crazy laughs. They tell me that I have a Panama laugh.

Participants in doing Theater.

Participants playing musical instruments. 

Participants singing.

More acting.


The camp was near the beach and they let the youth go.

Took this photo because of the Island in the back

Part of the chapel 

Dedicated to Bishop Shirley back in 1989.

The front view of  St. Clare's Chapel 

The view of the alter.

I would like to end on this note: Expresate is something that I just did right now. I expressed my whole adventure through pictures and capturing the moment. I titled this post Expresate because this week showed me that I need to embrace my Hispanic culture. As most of you know, I did not truly embrace my culture when I was back in the states. I had my heart opened up over this past weekend and finally understood why it is important to express yourself.

We had Eucharist on Sunday, and all the Spanish hymns were eye-opening to me. It made me feel like Panama was "home," and now I can truly be proud of being Mexican and not hide from it. It is something that I have struggled with for a long time back in the states, and even tried to run from it. I know that God has been showing me that when I embrace myself to my full potential, I feel more connected to God. Expressing myself is something that I work on everyday and knowing that God loves me when I express myself to my full potential is an amazing experience inside and out.