Thursday, April 8, 2010

Panama 2010

(February 19-27,2010)
I cannot believe how much time has passed since the Panama Missions trip. It seems like yesterday I was packing and unpacking my suitcase a gazillion times trying to make sure I had everything I needed and then wondering if I had packed over my weight limit.

When I first got back from Panama, so many people came up to me asking me how my trip was. Did I have fun? Every time I hesitated to answer, no matter how many times I had been asked before. I always asked myself, “How do I tell them, fun is not the term I would use, but it was still the most incredible experience of a lifetime.” The last impression I wanted to give my people back at home was that this was some vacation with a group of friends.

Some have heard me mention Panama was not my first missions trip. I had the privilege of going to Argentina, South America 10 years ago. So, Panama was not really a HUGE cultural shock for me. More of a huge reminder to that wake up call I received 10 years ago. However in Argentina, I came back to a hotel with a shower each evening. Not to mention, running water everyday! I am embarrassed to admit, that after going to Argentina, and experiencing such a life changing ordeal… being compelled to change my life and not take for granted the things that I have and still do…I did slowly forget and fall back into my surreal mind set of how I live my life. Panama was a firm refreshment and brought my mind back to reality again.

The first few days of our trip was somewhat special for me. I got to experience something I least would have expected. Especially on this missions trip. Thanksgiving was when I told my kids that I wanted to go to Panama. They wanted to know why I wanted to go. So I told them about the Guaymi Indians. Their little minds were learning about the pilgrims and indians at they were THRILLED their mother was going to meet and help the pilgrims, HA! Around Christmas time, it was final that I was going to Panama. I was super excited and sharing with my mother’s side of the family my plans. My grandma Stimach, to my surprise shared with me that I had a third cousin who was a missionary in Panama. I knew right away she was talking about Ms. Judy because I had met her at the last 3 family reunions we had in Estes Park and South Dakota. But I didn’t know what type of missionary or where…..I guess I just don’t automatically connect Christian with missionary. A lot of good people do amazing work that don’t know the Lord. Anyhow, I immediately connected with Judy on facebook in pure excitement, to tell her I was coming to Panama and I wanted to know more about where she was at. She did live in Panama City and not too far from where our group would be staying at Ancon Hill. So we made plans to meet Saturday the 20th for a mini family reunion. Wahoo! What is even more crazy, is that Judy has been a long time friend of Pastor Kirk and Yvonne Jones. (Who are long time friends of Pastor Roy) I mean, seriously what are the chances of this. Well, it gets even crazier. Judy’s brother Bob, who would also be my third cousin, is the pastor of Crossroads Bible Church…the church where we went Sunday the day before we left for San Felix. Both Judy and Bob are the niece and nephew of my precious Great Grandma Schneider. Bob’s son, Steve gave the message Sunday morning. That would make him my fourth cousin, I believe. And of course his young kids would be my fifth cousin relatives. I have decided to just call Judy “Aunt Judy” …because as you can see, it just gets so complicated explaining our family tree. She’s ok with that. I think, lol. Who gets to meet that many generations of family. Maybe I am crazy, but I found it awesome!!! I was more blessed by the fact that I got to share it with my group of friends from church. This was an incredible way to spend my 28th birthday!

(Judy and I at the Panama Canal)

As for the rest of the week…it was my first camping experience. So I got a small wake up call with how much I should appreciate a warm shower, running water, and most of all a flushing toilet. Going without is what I needed and think we all need from time to time. I just don’t appreciate what I have until it is taken away. And to be honest…even in Panama, I didn’t go without as much as I could have. I still had shoes on my feet and an air mattress to sleep on. I say this with amazement...but I watched a mother lay her baby in the midst of the rocks next to the river while she bathed and did her laundry. It looked so uncomfortable, but that baby was completely out! Everywhere you walked, there were kids sprawled out on the gravely ground napping. Lol! And I complain about my bed being uncomforable, Lol!

(It was hard complaining about my feet hurting...I had shoes)

(I couldn't quite get myself to bathe in that river...So, Lucy kept me busy)

San Felix

When we finally reached San Felix, approaching that crazy steep hill, this camp was flooded with Guaymi everywhere. Their eyes were glued to our vehicles, glaring at us
through the windows. As if we were the most amazing creatures they ever set their eyes on. Their faces were firmly solace and didn’t change expression much….but if you looked at them and smiled refusing to change your expression, eventually they would crack a smile….and it was a glorious smile at that. If there is anything I will remember on this trip…it is their smiles. While driving back to our camp site, getting my first visual of my future home for the next 5 days … the overwhelming thought hit me. “What in the world am I doing here?” Look at all of these people. Look at all of these kids and babies. I don’t think it was the atmosphere that gave me all of these emotions. Like I said….I have been around this type of atmosphere before….but I have never been surrounded by "so many" people. The thoughts about giving to the poor….feeding the hungry….not turning the other way from them….how in the world am I to give to all of these people. I have 300$ in my pocket and some Oreo cookies. How do I give to a few and look at the rest watching me give, with not enough to give to them. I have to admit, I questioned God’s calling me to Panama at that moment. I don’t know how to help all these people here. I can feed a few of these hungry bellies in front of me, but they will be hungry again later after I leave. The group can give them the appropriate shelter to whoever we can….but what good is food and shelter to those who go away without knowing Jesus. While thinking of all of this I remembered the story in the book of Acts. The lame beggar at the city gates. Peter approaches him, and the beggar asks for money. Peter had no money to give and his response is something I held onto during this whole missions trip. Peter said “Silver and gold I have not, but what I do have, I give you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, RISE UP AND WALK.” My anxiety about not being able to fulfill this mission came to an ease, and I knew God equipped me and the entire group to feed these people not only physical food for nourishment…but give them the bread and water of life. I had a huge and mighty God to share with these people. That was the mission God sent me on. I was here to love them …and that took no effort at all.

(I couldn't resist grabbing me one of those babies)

(Corina stole my heart right away. We couldn't speak to each other, so we just gave a lot of hugs and cuddled)

Another defining moment came for me during worship services. Oh man, guys….you do not know church until you worship with the Guaymi‘s. They make us look boring when it comes to being excited to worship. WOW! I had no idea what the words were that they were worshiping to. The music was a little different than what I would call “my taste” …BUT IT WAS FUN!!!! For the first time ever, I realized I didn’t need words to worship or be ministered to by the Holy Spirit. The scripture verse in the Bible that talks about how when we cannot find the words to pray, the Holy spirit prays on our behalf….I didn’t know the words or have my preferred style music to worship with these people. But the Holy Spirit ministered to me thru His spirit and worshipped on my behalf. I can tell you that was an experience I do not want to let go of! An incredible feeling to know the Holy Spirit is my ever present helper and companion. Worshipping on my behalf when the world’s language barriers and distractions take my mind else where and bring doubt .

(I think these girls were enjoying themselves. They probably danced 45 minutes straight!)

It was hard for me, watching the Guaymi’s admire us as much as they did. I still don’t understand what it is they see. Here they live in the conditions they do, completely grateful and content. Living on faith and trusting God for their next meal. They contain more faith than I ever have in my entire life wrapped up. I admire them more than anything. If there was anything I wanted to leave behind in Panama, it was letting those I met get a glimpse of their worth and value in God’s eyes. They are truly amazing people.

(The Guaymi do not have mirrors and rarely see a glimpse of themselves. Our group set up a spot and took family photos for a few days. I can't tell you how many pictures we took. This young man is seeing his photo and a glimpse of himself for the first time in awhile...or maybe even ever.)

(The girls get a glimpse of their reflection as well)

After a couple nights of bagging beans and corn, we had a food distribution. I cannot remember the number of families we distributed to, but I know it was over 1,000. They distributed clothes and shoes as well. The line went back...and I mean WAY back to the river.

Our group took a 2 hour drive from San Felix to visit a school that was being built in Soloy. Pastor Juilo and Kirk are pictured here explaining how God has used this ministry to further God's kingdom.

(We had the privilidge of praying for the school director/teachers of Soloy. These people dedicate their lives to the Indians educating them and sharing the love of God with them.)

I wish everyone had the chance to go on a missions trip to a different culture. Our minds just cannot grasp it through television. Seeing it, smelling it, and touching a different part of life is just the only way it can sink down deep. I know it sounds clique’ hearing every missionary say “it will change your life”. I will still stress that statement….because it is true. I hope the pictures I posted gave you somewhat of glimpse and touched your heart in some way. It won’t move you like it did me, it just can’t….Not without you being there. But, I want you to come close to feeling what our group did.

Saying goodbye to Corina. She liked my diamond cross I gave it to her to remember all our time together and hugs.