(Ashley Rowe) The opportunity to go spread the word of God should not be passed; it should be taken and pursued. I’ve wanted to go to Panama mission ever since the first opportunity but I was too young and my heart was not ready. But this year I knew I was ready. I knew that it was not going to be easy but I knew that all the training, meetings and dance practices would all be worth it in the end and it did pay off. I prayed that we would be able to support ourselves financially, physically, and spiritually. That we were going for God and not our selfish reasons, we should not complain because there are always people who have it worse and we saw that in Panama.
When we got to the mountain to go to the village there were people waiting for us to go, they all had smiles and were so happy that we were going with them back to their homes. Most of us got on horses and the people started to lead us. They walked about 4 hours, 4 hours in the sun carrying all of our stuff. Not one complaint from any of them. When we arrived to where the church was everyone was so happy that we were there. All the kids had huge smiles and were so interested by us because to them we are different from what they normally see. Even though we couldn’t communicate well with them they still invited us to their village as if we were family.
When we had the first meeting the church was packed, people were even standing outside looking through the window just to hear the word of God. When we praised everyone stood up and sang along and then even after we finished some people stood standing while the Pastor was preaching. They all listen and took in the word of God. The Pastor told us that not one member misses a Sunday no matter how far away they live. He said that some members live hours away and they still come, the children too. They have so much passion and dedication to God.
We also went up to the school. From the village it took about 30 minutes, it was amazing to see that the kids have to travel so much to get to school. Here we would take a bus or have our parents drive us but they don’t have that option there, they just walk. The principal said that students live hours away and every morning they’re here and they go home each day and come back the next day. It amazed me.
They don’t have sinks or clean water. They have this hose connected to the river and that’s their water supply. Their bathroom is a little shed with a hole in the ground. Their home is made up of logs and leaves. To most families their light source is the sun and a flashlight. We were lucky that at the church they had a generator to power the lights at night.
How they live, it really changed me. They don’t have that much. When I was brushing my teeth the kids they stared at me wondering what I was doing because they don’t that the luxury to brush their teeth. The Pastor said that sometimes the families don’t eat for 3 days maybe even longer but the kids they never complain because they know that they can’t ask their parents for food when the parents don’t have any to give. In a way they are so much more mature than us. The appreciate everything they are given, they are always happy because they know that God is watching over them.
I felt so blessed on this trip, they taught me so much. Even though in Boquete they had more they still wanted to be closer with God. In the Indian Village they open my eyes on how spoiled I am here. That I should appreciate everything I have and am given. That I don’t need everything I have, that God supports me. This experience really changed the way I look at life and I already miss the time I spent there. This trip lit a fire in my heart and I hope that even though we are home that the fire keeps burning for God. I cannot wait for the next opportunity to go and share God’s work and love.
(Grace Ham) Comfort comes in different forms. Your home, your hobbies, your clothes; all of these contribute to our everyday living pleasures. I knew Panama Mission 2012 wasn’t going to be an easy trip when I heard of “5 hour walk in mountain areas”. I thought a challenge would be good for my spiritual health so I was fixed on going. Because of my surgery a few months back and some other reasons; my family was hesitant in letting me go. But finally, it was decided that my dad, brother, and I would go this year. Physical, mental, and spiritual training sessions helped us become ready, and soon July 30 was at our doorstep. Everyone gathered at church with backpacks and other necessities and then we were on our way to the airport. After boarding Spirit Airlines, most of us fell asleep and the next thing we knew, we had arrived in Panama. I didn’t have many expectations because, honestly, I haven’t done anything this intense before.
The real challenge started on Wednesday, the day we left for Guayabal. At first I thought this indigenous village would be uncomfortable because it was new to me, but I was wrong. The long walk, the unfamiliar atmosphere, and the different way of living was actually fun. I made many new friends and met such gracious, generous people, and all my worries left me. The hardworking, warm-hearted individuals had no complaints, even in difficult situations, and only did tasks with willing hearts. This was an amazing sight to see, since it’s not common in America. The children came with bright eyes and open ears from far areas to listen to the sermon. We had such a great time playing with them and handing out prizes and treats, because they loved it. Church was packed and a little bit surprising too. Watching these determined and faithful people walk long distances to become good Christian workers was a real blessing. I feel that we learned as many lessons from the Indians as they did from us. I certainly learned many things that I surely will use in my life. Complaining is not necessary in any circumstances because the things I do can’t be compared with the hardships that others go through. Our strength may be a result from all the muscle training and workouts, but it’s God’s strength that helps us survive the most dangerous activities. Lastly, I learned not to put my comfort in earthly things but put comfort in God, and he’ll guide us to the right place.
The horse ride back home was a bit scary but really entertaining because I didn’t get to ride one to the village. The guides were really friendly even though we didn’t get to communicate as much as I wanted. As our final destination go closer and closer, I felt something drop in my heart. This adventure was finally coming to an end and it felt so short. I miss the people, the talking, and even the outdoor “bathroom”. After we told short testimonies and said our goodbyes, we turned our backs on a great experience that I hope we will come back to.
Boquete seemed a little more quiet and calmer with less people at the church than last year, but the VBS and play time was just as fun and exciting. I felt closer with the jovenes (youth group) as well because we had a get together session which helped a lot. Overall, Guayabal and Boquete was such a blessing and I have no regrets in going. Every single moment in Panama was a gift from God and truly, I’m so glad that my dad, Pastor Kim, Pastor Lee, Miss Lydia, David, Ashley, Daniel, Dillon, Lina, Aidan, and I could be one church, one family of Christ. Thank you to all who prayed for us and Thank You GOD.
1 Chronicles 16:23-24
to the Lord, all the earth;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
24 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.