Thursday, January 28, 2010
As you may remember, the very first step in my voyage away from home as I was graduating from High School was my mission trip to Panama with Global Expeditions, which many of you probably remember receiving a letter from me about requesting your support financially. I was extremely blessed in just about every way possible concerning my trip. I’ll give you a little bit of a summary of what we did while we were there, and then I’ll elaborate on some of the most impacting things that happened to me while we were there.
During my trip to Panama, I was put into a team of 24 students under the direction of two of the best team leaders IN THE WORLD as far as I’m concerned. Their names were Waikiki and Ana. Within this group of 24 students, I served as a ‘Missionary Advisor’ and was in charge of two awesome men of God named Martin and Colton. Our team also decided on a name for ourselves during one of our first meetings as a team, this name was “Team Contact”. We chose the name based on our desire to be able to make contact with the natives in a positive way and also make an amazing impact on their lives regarding the subject of Jesus Christ.
As Team Contact, we traveled to Panama to begin making an impact in these peoples’ lives. This unreached people group that we had our hearts and our prayers set on reaching was a tribe of people called the Kuna Indians. While the children of the areas stole our hearts, God broke our hearts for the Kuna people during all of the preparations we had made, but what God had in store for them, and us, was completely above and beyond anything that we could ever imagine.
We had the privilege of going to two extremely different environments of Panama, but despite the differences there were also many cultural and traditional obstacles that we would have to overcome as we fought for the souls of these people.
The first village trip that we took was to our island of Soledad Mandinga.
After a grueling boat ride that lasted for HOURS on the choppy waters in the Caribbean off of the east coast of Panama, we arrived upon an extremely small island. As our motor boats drew near to the cement dock, we all readied ourselves to start making our first impressions on the natives and began praying over everything that we would be doing over the next week. We hadn’t even been on the island for five minutes when we got our first assignment. Waikiki had talked to our translator & come upon some information that said that the Kuna people on the island were in the middle of a project in which their main objective was to haul sand from one side of the island to the opposite end in buckets to make their volleyball court more comfortable and fun to play on. After a couple hours of moving all of this sand in the grueling Central American summer heat, we finally got a chance to rest & get to know the natives a little bit. This place was an amazingly beautiful island in the middle of the ocean off of the east coast of panama, but the primitive conditions made it more brutal than a trip to the beach haha. We quickly learned how to take ‘bucket showers’ and use a ‘squatty’ when we needed to use the bathroom. Unfortunately the presence of the squatty made it impossible for us to swim in the ocean, if you know what I mean.
One of the biggest things that God worked on me the most towards the end of our first village trip and through the rest of the whole trip to Panama was the use of Idols that the Kuna people still worked with. For me, at first it was difficult to understand the whole concept of idol worship, especially in terms of modern times. They used the idols to guard them from the demons that the gods would send to attack them in various ways . They would also perform interesting pagan healing techniques and stuff that for us would be difficult to understand. I really struggled with this in particular, just because I didn’t understand why they would still cling to their old traditions even though they had seen the glory and magnificence of our God during the time that we were there. God worked on me a lot though, consequently leading me to start casting away idols that were present in my life. He gave me an understanding that just because I hadn’t had any carved images that I worshipped, I still had some of my same old idols that would take up all of my time and my focus, and that I needed to get rid of those. God definitely weeded those out of my life when I was in Panama and when I entered the Honor Academy.