Intersections. The roads in Panama City are busy places. Our team has been traveling by minibus this week. We have had amazing bus drivers who maneuver our coaster into places and spaces that would both frighten and impress you. Occasionally our teammate Ron Arnott, who always sits at the front of the bus, makes a grunting sound when our bus comes too close for comfort.
Speaking of intersections. We spent a very meaningful day at the intersection of two of Jesus' commands to His followers.
Matthew 25..."When you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me:
Acts 1... "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Today we served at the San Jose Church of the Nazarene. It is just a few mins drive from the one we have been at all week. It seems as if it really is at the "ends of the earth." The bus could only get us so far. The road dead ends at the waterfront. To get the to the church we first had to walk over a swinging suspension bridge. On our left was the ocean, and on the right a river. After we made it over the bouncing bridge, we had to traverse on elevated walkways made of of 2x12 boards through the low lying areas. Then a walk on a sandy path finally led us to a remote village and the San Jose Church.
The quaint structure houses a church and a Nazarene Child Development Center. Through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, children from this unknown area are sponsored - from that sponsorship they receive meals, educational assistance and a place to belong. This is a very impoverished area. As we worked on repairing the walls of the church that had been damaged by salt water and high tides children from this remote community began to appear. They wanted to talk and play. By our cultures standards these sweet kids could be considered the "least of these."
We worked diligently at the San Jose church and will return tomorrow to continue our efforts. On our way back to the city we traveled to one more church. The Playa Chiquita Church of the Nazarene is just as remote, and serves folks all the more needy. This church is located on the edge of a huge dump. Not far from the church is a massive landfill, and there are hundreds of people that live in houses made of tin and around the dump. In the middle of this needy area sits a little Nazarene Church. Children come to the church for food, for education and for hope. Women come to the church to learn job skills, for relationship and for community. A number of the children served at the church are sponsored through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, but many more need to be sponsored.
There we were, all day long, at the intersection of the "ends of the earth" and the "least of these." What does one do with this? How are we to respond now that we know?
I want to encourage you to consider sponsoring a child through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. NCM does great work in some of the most challenging places in the world. You can visit their website at NCM.org. You can search by location and find many children from right here in Panama waiting for a sponsor. We have seen firsthand how your small monthly investment can make a HUGE difference. Sponsor a child today.
PS - In case you were wondering, we did in fact discover the answer to the age old question, "Do you know the way to San Jose?" From the Puerto Camito church you go left, when the road ends hang a right. The ocean will be on your lefthand side. Go until the road ends. There you'll find a swinging suspension bridge - follow the path through the bog and you'll find San Jose.