by Jovan Payes
The following series of entries are from a Medical/Evangelistic campaign to a small town/village named Valle de Risco in the Bocas province of Panama. The campaign spanned from July 14 to July 21 and consisted of several teams from the United States from various congregations of churches of Christ under the oversight of the elders of the Forrest Park church of Christ as part of their Latin American Missions program.
These blog entries were originally published on the Latin American Missions – Panama page on Facebook, and are a sample of the various events throughout the week from various perspectives. Unfortunately, one of the entries was lost (Day Three); consequently, I have added an entry added some of my experiences and events of that day.
Before considering the brief blog entries below, consider the fact of the importance of missions and evangelism. The church is the result of missions/evangelism. We must give tremendous emphasis upon this truth:
Without missions there would be no church, for the church is the result of missions. Wherever churches exist, missionaries have overcome immense obstacles to teach unbelievers the Gospel, edify new Christians to live Christ-like lives, work together as a body of Christ, and train preachers and elders for Christian ministry. (Gailyn Van Rheenen and Bob Waldron, 2002, The Status of Missions: A Nationwide Survey of Churches of Christ [Abilene, Tex.: Abilene Christian University Press], 13)
As the result of our labors during this campaign, seven souls were added to the church and four members were restored to faithful service. Dave Huffman, our campaign director, reports that many people visited on the Lord’s Day (22 July 2012). Many contacts and studies were done this week.Keep this congregation and new converts in your prayers.
Day One: Arrival and Preparation
Panama City, Panama
14 July 2012 (Saturday)
Saturday morning we got off to a good start with breakfast at the Riande at 8 am. coordinating with the last of the San Blas team. We spent the day shuttling campaigners to and from the airport and shopping for supplies. The first flight arrived at 10:30 with the Ligons and Megan Green who came in from the Honduras campaign. A quick run to the White House to drop bags and we were off again to Machettazo to buy snacks for the long bus ride to Bocas. Then we lunched at McDonalds and returned to the White House.
Jose Rodriguez chauffeured us in the church van throughout the day. On the road again we returned to the airport to pick up Brandon and Jade Brittan and their two sons taking them to the White House. They came in from Costa Rica/Nicaragua.
We had a 7:30 pm appointment with airport management to arrange meeting folks inside customs and getting our medicines through so we again returned to the airport. The gentlemen from the airport were very impressive with the courtesy and help they give us as they escorted us throughout the evening to receive team members traveling from the US on six different flights. We exchanged our passports for Visitor badges and went through internal security screening. Belts, change, and bags were screened. Happily we did not have to take of our shoes as there was a nifty machine to scan one foot at a time.
Next we were guided to the first gate to wait for our crew. It was a wonderful surprise for team members and us alike to be able to meet at the gates and be processed through immigration and customs so quickly. All of the US flights were delayed by 30 minutes to an hour causing some of the flights to overlap so Dave Huffman and I rotated through the airport getting campaigners and luggage out to our holding area. While folks waited they had the opportunity to go to the airport restaurant to get sandwiches.
Once everyone arrived a commercial bus met us curbside to take us to Bocas. It was after 10:30 pm when we started our chilly 12 hour drive through the night. It was lights out and all 44 were quietly sleeping very soon.
All in all it was a wonderful and safe day!
Day Two: The Long Ride, The Lord’s Day & The Kitchen
Almirante, Bocas, Panama, Central America
15 July 2012 (Sunday)
Hola’ from Panama! It has been a great two days of travel. The NC group flew from Miami to Panama City on Saturday evening and immediately we started using almost every little bit of Spanish we could muster between the five of us. We grabbed some dinner and I hugged and chatted with our Brethren I met during the last trip. It is beautiful how we have our Christian family all over the world!
Our overnight bus ride was an adventure and filled with a morning of tropical forest scenery. We arrived at our hotel and got a chance to brush our teeth and slap some deodorant. We arrived to meet our Bocas Brethren not top long after and again it was hugs and good tidings. For me it was a return to my favorite place, the hub of our mission 🙂 The kitchen. Lunch was served and prep for dinner began.
We served a yummy local meal of chicken and rice with veggies, plantains, and lunch leftovers; so many wanted seconds!!!! A cook ALWAYS appreciates that as a sign that the food was delicious.
Everyone should take the opportunity to do a mission trip at least once in their life. It is life changing!!!
Smooches and Buenos Noches!
Day Three: The Doors are Open, Wonderful Opportunities
16 July 2012 (Monday)
After a good night rest, in a room of six men, we were refreshed and ready for the day. We left the Preferred Hotel in Almirante in minivan and arrived like sardines fifteen minutes later in Valle de Risco. The day begins with breakfast in the cafeteria of the school which served as our base for our meals and the clinic.
Following breakfast we walked across the soccer field – a large muddy stretch of land – to begin the day in morning worship and preparing ourselves for the day ahead full of door knocking and Bible studies. We divided into our seven Evangelism Teams and hit the ground. It was a sight to see, as our team went about, as we would pass one house because they were already engaged in study and coming to another with an open door. One man, Francisco, had said that no church had ever visited him, and we gave him a Bible to which the next day he request a photo be taken with him.
The people have not hesitated to hear about God and his Word. We studies with six homes and about 18 individuals in all, as they studies went quite well. We established commitments for follow up for the next day and it was a wonderful sight to see them in the evening services at 7PM.
I followed a lead of a potential to teach in the Public school with the “Director” of the school, and we successfully coordinated with the Professor of Religion for classes to be taught on the Bible to the 7th to 9th graders on Tuesday. The receptiveness and the opportunities is staggering. May God be praised and glorified!
Jovan Payes (Livingston, CA)
Day Four: On the Ground Studying & Inviting
17 July 2012 (Tuesday)
Hello. I am Jackie Perkins from South Green St. Church of Christ in Glasgow, KY.
What a glorious day to be working for the Lord! Today was packed with all of the mission teams going out and talking to the locals. I was fortunate enough to be a part of one group this afternoon that had 3 great bible studies. The first one resulted in a commitment to come to the services this evening. The second one resulted in a request for an additional bible study. The third one resulted in another commitment to attend services. All three of these had previously attended an Evangelical church in the past.
One of the other teams met with a gentleman named Charlie, who is the founder of the community. What a great statement for the group that they were invited into the home of the community founder!
The children’s bible study had a class this morning and 24 children attended. The ages ranged from 9 months to 12 yrs old. This afternoon, there was a VBS for the kids in the same age groups.
For the medical part of the group, here are some of the numbers of patients:
- Doctor – saw over 300 patients
- Pharmacy – filled over 1600 prescriptions
- Optometrist – saw over 130 patients
The cooks continue to do a super job preparing wonderful meals for the group. Kudos to those folks!
Our services this evening were so encouraging. We began with a few songs in English and then the rest of the service was in Spanish. There were 4 responses to the sermon, all asking for prayers.
Please continue to pray for the the Church here as well as the mission team as we work to bring others to Christ.
Day Five: Sowing and Watering, God Gives the Increase!
18 July 2012 (Wednesday)
Greetings from Almirante, Panama! It has been a great week here in Valle de Risco! I believe that both the medical and evangelism teams are thoroughly enjoying seeing the benefits of their labors.
This evening after the Spanish services, we saw six responses to the Lords invitation! We thought we were in for a treat seeing four of the six baptized… When we got to the creek (after a few falls and some mud covered feet & legs!), we witnessed six souls become our new brothers and sisters in Christ!
Some of the studies this week included a young boy from the school whose facilities we are utilizing for this campaign. Jovan Payes from the congregation in Livingston, CA taught Bible class one day at the school and a 15 year old boy came to him at services that evening with questions. He was very interested and inquisitive, asking questions and commenting that he ‘wanted to know Gods plan for him’.
Some news from the medical side of things: The clinic had patients who walked as long as three days to be seen for treatment! The people here are SO appreciative of the work being done and are eager for more! Our campaign was advertised on the radio here as well as in the newspaper.
I had the opportunity to go out with two different evangelism teams today. Upon walking in to the last house of the day, one of the family members commented that they ‘were hungry and we showed up’. Upon leaving that same home, the same family member remarked that they were starving but we had fed them and they wouldn’t be hungry but would be energized for learning more. What an attitude to have!
I have been tremendously blessed the last few days to be in the company of such eager, servant-minded Christians both from the United States and in the brethren here at the congregation at Valle De Risco! I’m thankful for their examples as well as the Panamanians who are so eager to learn, so excited about the Bible and its truth, just all around kind & generous people!
It will be time to go home soon and I am ready to be home, however, it has been a wonderful trip and I am already looking forward to the next one!
Nikki Hatcher (Livingston, CA)
Thursday morning we concluded our stay in Almirante, Bocas, Panama, with a breakfast with all the preachers that came from various provinces to work with us in Valle de Risco. It was a bitter sweet morning, and as we departed to Panama City we felt a sense of accomplishment because we had worked hard for the Lord and together in unity.
The day went, being spent mostly in a long – and I mean long – day of driving (13 hours at least) on bus. This drive was full of complications as our A/C malfunctioned and we experience tremendous heat. Fortunately, the matter was resolved but it was a full day of traveling. We arrived at our hotel only to eat dinner and sleep.
On Friday we went to the Children’s home near Panama City, as well as the preacher’s school. The visit was quite impressive as they have so much opportunity serving these young displaced children. Furthermore, meeting the instructors and the students at the school was also an encouraging experience to hear that many are from other parts of Latin America.
Before our day ended, we had the opportunity to see the Panama Canal. It was a sight to see. The blessings were tremendous, the work was hard, but the reward is eternal. All our sweat and discomfort is worth it all. Many returned home sick and are recuperating. We have all been impressed with how rich we are in this country and how much responsibility is upon us to be willing to give to others.
May we realize that Christian ministry is both physical and spiritual, with the ultimate goal the spiritual rebirth of a lost humanity. As Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”(Acts 3:6 ESV). May God be glorified by our service in His behalf in Valle de Risco, Panama.