Following our 3 day weather delay, we finally commenced with our journey to Panama on Tuesday. We had a long day of travel on Tuesday, including a 7-hour layover in Atlanta, but the day was without incident and we arrived safely in Panama around 10pm.
Following a long day of travel, we took our time getting ready on Wednesday morning. After breakfast at the hotel and a stop at what may be the nicest grocery store we've ever been to, we continued the bus ride to Playa Chiquita (about an hour from the hotel). We received a wonderful greeting from the children of the Child Development Center (CDC) and Pastora Marisol (she is the pastor of the church at Playa Chiquita). Pastora Marisol spoke to us briefly about the church and the community. Multiple times she spoke to us about the vision God granted her mother (who recently died) and her for this place. They dreamed about Playa Chiquita being a place of hope and light and they had big dreams about what that could look like. This dream wasn't just some "pie in the sky" dream; rather, there were specific ways they sought to make this dream a reality. Later in the afternoon we took a brief tour of the community and saw where they have staked out future buildings and rooms that would be a blessing to not just the church, but the whole community. They put a name on each stake. They named their vision. They dreamed big for sure, but they trusted that God would fulfill these dreams that the Lord gave them in due time. It was inspiring, to say the least.
Our work for the afternoon consisted of: (1) filling a space with fill dirt so we could pour a foundation later this week for a new kitchen and dining area at the church, (2) sifting sand, which had a lot of shells in the mixture, (3) prepping some doors to be able to paint later in the week, (4) playing impromptu games of futbol (soccer), (5) and enjoying the smiles and laughter of the children at the CDC. It was hard, hot work, but our team did a great job working together and with the locals who provided a lot of help. Did I mention it was hot?!?
In the evening, after some much needed showers, we walked to a nearby Italian restaurant. I told our host, Eli, that we didn't need him to stick around and that he should go home and give his pregnant wife a massage. That was before I realized we wouldn't be able to read the menu! We did just fine, thank you very much, and we had a delicious meal. The only interesting part was when I tried to order bread for our table, which I thought I conveyed to the server through a series of hand motions and loudly spoken words, and a few minutes later we received 3 bowls of shellfish! Making memories one mistake at a time! I have since learned that bread is called "pan." I won't make that mistake again.
Finally, we closed out our night sharing our "highs" and "lows" around the pool. This part was very meaningful as we heard from our team about their struggles for the day, and also where they saw God at work. God is at work, in the small things but also in the big, bodacious dreams of a pastor who believes God can do the miraculous. Below are some pictures from the day, taken by our photo expert, Chris Gladdue. Til next time, Dios te bendiga!