PANAMA // MEDICAL TEAM // DAY 5

Journal and photo credit: Bruce Edwards

Our team has grown. We left town with thirteen people headed to Panama. It has more than doubled counting the Panamanian members who have thrown themselves into all that we do. It’s a testimony to how God has worked, filling the holes and doubling our capacity to minister to people who live in close proximity to the churches we are serving and who have found their way into churches they may never have visited before. The Lord has enlarged our presence here and in turn his own presence. Even if we could have met the need and served all those who came without the local team members, the days would have been much longer and much more tiresome. Our Panamanian team members have come with not only their gifts but with their love and joy.  The experience has become complete because of them.  I’ve found myself looking at these other team members forgetting that we didn’t leave home with them but have been blessed with them here. We have truly become one team, one church with one God.

This was our last day to serve as a medical team. We has served every person who came to have their medical needs met. That feels good. God has blessed us with the time here and the people we have met. My job has allowed me to say hello to each of the more than 500 patients we have treated. It feels sad to leave them behind.  I love the people here. They are gracious and caring, for each other and for us. I love the relationships we’ve made however brief.  Each of us have found bonds with certain individuals God has placed before us. We’ve made an effort to watch for how God is working in our lives through this trip.  It’s bittersweet to love someone for a moment and walk away.  It’s a blessing you wish would endure.

We packed up the van for the last time.  All those many boxes of medical supplies and eyeglasses will wait for the next team to come. Our bus driver, Juan, has become a member of the team as well, joking with us in Spanish that few of us understand.  It doesn’t matter that his words aren’t understood. There’s love in his eyes.  I know it’s been a special time for him to be with us.  He doesn’t try to hide it. He’s one of the first people we see in the morning and the last to say goodbye.  He sits and eats lunch and dinner with us. He photobombs me as I try to make a photograph of the van being loaded. I’m glad. He will be a fond memory of Panama.

Hasta la vista, Panama. I hope to see you soon.


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PANAMA // MEDICAL TEAM // DAY 4

Journal and photo credit: Bruce Edwards

It’s a little hard to focus on my writing now at the end of the day. The team is laughing too hard. They deserve it.

It’s been a great day. Eliezel Soto forewarned us this church was remote, and small, and probably hot inside. The day began a little overcast but there was a beautiful view of the Panama Canal as we made our way over the bridge spanning this important waterway. We’ve made that crossing on our way to work sites everyday and we don’t get tired of it.

The church is small, but not too small. The pastor, his wife and church members have gathered all of the tables and chairs they could scrounge to facilitate our makeshift medical clinic. In the end, we have all we need including a table made of wood scraps. God is good. The people come. They come along the red dirt foot paths and and red dirt road that winds its way off the pavement a quarter mile away. They come with patient hearts and easy smiles. One hundred and fifty-eight come throughout the day. They come and wait. They have a lot of need but they don’t complain. The kids color with crayons on pages we’ve brought. They get a bit of candy.  They wait inside when they can but the church gets too full and they escape to the breeze outside.

Mid-day, a tropical rain storm blows in. We can hear it coming and it finally hits the tin roof creating a deafening roar that makes us laugh.  It’s so loud that the doctors are having trouble hearing the intricacies of the heartbeat. It lasts long enough that an amplifier and microphone is set up just so the patients can hear their number alerting them their wait is over and they can now see the doctor. But the rain brings a cool breeze that makes us smile for a while.

It was a good day in that we saw a lot of patients in a short while. There was peace in that hot little church and everyone that came was served.

The group has become a team. Everyone is focused. We care about each other and try to help when and where we can.  They’re laughing because of the week’s experience thus far and because we love each other. There’s joy in our days. No one dreads tomorrow, our last day of medical clinics. We look forward to being with each other and with the people of Panama and we love serving our Lord.

PANAMA // MEDICAL TEAM // DAY 3

Journal and photo credit: Bruce Edwards

It was better today. We all felt that way. Yesterday we sweated our way through they day and came back to the hotel dog tired.  Some of us were sick from the experience of the day or just what we brought with us--some potential bronchitis, a sinus infection and laryngitis. Please pray for us that we heal and stay healthy. We were blessed yesterday and had much joy but we needed a better day. The better day was today. It was a great day. God blessed us in a number of ways. We saw 185 or so patients today on this medical missions trip to the Puerto Caimito Church of the Nazarene in Panama. That’s 60 more than yesterday.

God blessed us by providing two Panamanian doctors to work equally with our team plus Panamanians to work triage and in registration. The temperature was more bearable in the church today and our experience and organization made everything much smoother. Our medical director, Dr. Jack Stoker, expected today to be better just from the history of these trips. We knew it would be a good day early in the day.  God’s blessing moved us with joy as we worked. We know you are praying for us and we cherish those prayers and know the power that God has blessed us with because of them.

Tears of joy came again from the optometry team.  They witnessed the people whose faces lit up because they were able to see and read for the first time in a long time and for a couple to be able to see each other more clearly because of the eyeglasses we brought with us. But there were stories from almost everyone because of the way the Lord used us. There’s joy on the faces of first-time team members who are seeing the blessing of serving God in this way and being the hands and feet of Jesus. Megan Cousins will have stories to tell.  The memories of this trip have forever influenced her life.

We go into tomorrow uplifted by today and anxiously anticipating the Lord working in powerful ways.

PANAMA // MEDICAL TEAM // DAY 2

I think we might have sweated enough to fill a collective bucket. The weather forecast continues to be somewhat true in that showers seem to come in the afternoon but we were soaked before the rains ever came. Consider a one room country church and pack it with more people than you would likely see in a month of Sundays. Going to church today meant dragging in a van full of medications, equipment and eyeglasses and getting set up just in time. Perfect time. God’s time. The people came.  Most of them walked across some distance, along roadways and pathways through this tropical landscape. They came to church, some of them, particularly the kids, to see a doctor for maybe the first time. They were welcomed.  They took a number and waited for too long to see a doctor, one hundred twenty-one of them in an eight hour day, but in that time some of them had chronic diseases discovered and treated, some of them learned of urgent medical needs and at least one of them had an eye injury treated that had caused him some agony for a week.

That’s not all they received.  We loved on them just as our guy in Panama, Eliezel Soto said we should and would.  They loved on us too.  They were grateful to see a doctor.  They sat patiently in that hot room and we all sweated together, a sort of self-generated sauna that we all endured. It was 85 degrees and maybe 90 percent humidity outside but warmer inside with all that love of God being shared together.

We gathered at the hotel upon our return to debrief, have a devotion and talk about our day in general. We looked like and probably smelled a bit after the sauna experience with much of it on our feet, but we laughed. A few tears of joy were shed. We felt God’s presence and felt Him at work through the day. He asked us to come to Panama and we responded. What a way to spend the day.

We’ll do it again tomorrow.

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