When we landed in our beds at the Hotel Riante around 11:30 Sunday night, it was still 82 degrees Fahrenheit in Panama City, Panama. We were thankful for the air-conditioned rooms and the few hours of sleep we could grab before our 5 a.m. breakfast and 6 a.m. shuttle to our next flight. Monday morning we disembarked in David, met our Maranatha host, Carlos, and piled into two 15-passenger vans while the drivers piled all the luggage within the low rails atop the vans.
In spite of the adventurous, hour-long ride, we did arrive at the Paradise Inn with all of our luggage still securely in place. We wasted no time; immediately after unloading, checking into our rooms, and changing from travel clothes to work clothes, we once again boarded the 15-passenger vans and headed to the Seventh-day Adventist Church in San Felix, where we met Pastor Hector Corrales, his wife Naome, and their 5 year-old daughter, Melody. Naome provided our group with a yummy spaghetti lunch before we rode another rough 30 minutes to Tolḗ to put in a half day of work. In a day and a half (Monday afternoon and all day Tuesday) our group managed to paint the entire Maranatha-built church in Tolḗ, inside and out, and construct the frame for a community outreach building at the same site.
Larry Cottrell got to experience care in a local medical clinic as he received four stitches for a laceration obtained while constructing that frame. God provided free and quick medical care for Larry through a young lady who is attending the meetings and whose sister was helping at the work site. A few individuals stayed at the work site through both evenings, arriving late for supper and missing the evening meetings, in order to finish the projects. Because of their overtime and everyone’s hard work, we were able to begin painting the church in San Felix today.
Life is languid here in the rural Panamanian heat. It’s December, and the high today is 97 degrees. Maybe that’s why Latin music calls people to the cool cinder block building down the street at 3:30 in the afternoon. In spite of our diligent water consumption, a couple of people in our group still managed to experience some dehydration. The “facilities” at both worksites are primitive: a small shed houses a bottomless concrete toilet set over a hole in the ground, making some of us thankful to sweat our water out!
When it’s time for the evening meetings, people stroll to the community basketball courts and settle into the bleachers or hang around the sidewalks and playground equipment outside the tall chain-link fences.
Max Hammonds is preaching the meetings in Tolḗ, with his wife, Cari, sharing a 15-20 minute health talk before Max’s sermon. Carlos, our Maranatha host, has been doing a wonderful job interpreting for them. About 12 to 14 adults have attended each evening, with at least five of those being visitors. These visitors are people with whom Enores, the female elder who leads the Tolḗ Adventist Church, has connected. Enores is very actively involved in the lives of her community, and is aware of the special
challenges these visitors face. Eight or more children have also been attending the meetings, so the Tolḗ church members began a separate children’s program on the second night. Max and Cari are excited that the people “are really connecting with the relational messages.” The biggest challenge Max and Cari have faced is transportation; Tolḗ is a 30 minute drive from the hotel, the meetings begin at 7 p.m., and their ride to the meeting site has been picking them up at 6:55 p.m. Please pray for the Hammonds’ transportation needs for these meetings, as well as for the evangelistic calls they will be making.
Pastor Eric is speaking at the San Felix meetings, with DeWayne Butcher giving the health talks. While there has been no music available for the Tolḗ meetings, two teen girls from the San Felix church have provided the welcome and song service at the San Felix location. Danny, an unchurched member of the community translates DeWayne’s health talks, and Ivonne Norris, from our church group translates Pastor Eric’s sermons. Please pray for the evangelistic calls that Pastor Eric will also be making.
Sheri Baker provides Truth for Youth meetings for the children, with Rosa Kirwan translating. Sheri has several helpers, including Eran Bates, who gave the children’s sermon Tuesday night, and Ashley Blake, who will give the sermon for the children tonight. The children range in age from toddlers to teens. Their faces are alight as they listen and sing, but they seem to get the most joy from sharing their memory verses and participating in the crafts. Please pray that these children will develop a lifetime friendship with Jesus.
As you pray, please remember Rosa Kirwan, Bruce Davis, and Cindy Cottrell, who have experienced some health challenges over the past couple of days.
Watch for more updates.