Written by: Jon Gildner
Day 5 was completion day at the worksite. This would be our final opportunity to work on those tasks we began on Monday. That meant we continued painting the wrought-iron grates that are now hung in the window frames; that meant we saw the tile work in the soon-to-be dining area near completion; and that meant we put on a second coat of paint on the front of the church. These were our tasks, and they got mostly finished.
But here's the thing about mission trips. The work goes on. Pastora Candelaria prayed with us as our time together wrapped up, and she mentioned a verse the Lord gave her the night before. That verse was from Nehemiah 2. She talked about how it was time to start rebuilding. It was time to get to work. As Mel Allen used to say on This Week in Baseball, "How about that?!" Nehemiah. Our church just studied that for the last three months. We learned during that time that the construction work on the church, or the walls, is not the end of the story. The work must go on. God has work to do through us, the Body of Christ, to join in God's redemptive work in this world. We will go home and do the work God has for us there. The churches here in Panama have work to do. Churches across the world have work to do. And at the end of each day we can all rest assured that God will bring this work to completion someday.
Highlights from our last day:
- Visiting a young woman near the La Pesa church who is bound to a wheelchair. This young girl, age 20, has a remarkable gift for drawing. She wants to be an architect someday. We were able to deliver a bag full of drawing supplies, along with a walker, and exercises for the walker.
- One of the members of the La Pesa church lacks water access at her home. There are water pipes near her home, but not to her home. For $15 the problem can be remedied. Without hesitation, Debbie from our team responded to the need. Need expressed, need met.
- We visited another community, Espave, where one of our team members, Stephen, was able to meet the child he sponsors through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. For $30 a month, your gift can go a long way in the life of one of these beautiful children.
- During our brief tour of Espave, I witnessed two little girls find a new friend in Michelle. We were walking toward the area where the townspeople make charcoal, and these two little girls reached out and grabbed Michelle's hands without an invitation. I think they sensed Michelle was a willing participant :)
- Ashley was a joy to have on our trip. She worked hard all week long but took moments to play with the kids and they responded to her! Ashley's Spanish skills were a real blessing to our team and she is now considering adding Spanish as a second major when going to college next year. That made Pastor Tyler pretty proud.
- Ashley's dad, Big Mike (affectionately called by some on our trip), was a beast on the welding this week. He was a quiet leader who gave his all to make that part of the construction the best it could be. That part of the church will be supported by Mike's work. I think that's fitting for Big Mike.
- I (Pastor Jon) was able to start the day seeing the beautiful faces of two little girls I met on our last trip. Marjorie (age 11) and Jael (age 8) were at the worksite in the morning and we were blessed by their presence all day long. I was also able to reunite with a college friend I hadn't seen in 15 years. His home was 10 minutes away from our worksite. He and his family are doing wonderful work for the kingdom here in Panama.
- My daughter, Addison, was a trooper all week long. She dug in and did whatever was needed and what she felt led to do. She gave her testimony this morning as we gathered around the pool. We followed that up by gathering around her and praying for God's continued direction in her life. Made this dad awfully proud.
- We were blessed by a prayer from Pastora Candelaria. She brought it. Gary Cousins shared this morning how touched he was by this prayer time, as was I. We were both brought to tears as the Spirit moved among us. I'm sure others in the group felt the same.
- I watched our senior statesman, Al, make new friends through games. If you know Al this isn't a surprise. He's a big kid, and the niños y niñas got that pretty quickly. Al and the kiddos had a ball playing with the parachute. Kids of all ages and languages can speak the language of play.
- I watched Pastor Tyler use his gift of photography to bless the families of the community. His work will continue to leave a wake in the community.
- I watched Tyler's mom, Carol, use her gift of hospitality to lovingly decorate frames for all of the photo recipients.
- Elli, our Work & Witness leader here in Panama, graciously served us all week long. Taking us to and fro, making special connections for us, taking time away from his family, and so much more. He loves the Lord and serves the church with all he has.
- I watched a group of 11, who, prior to this trip, didn't really know each other--I watched them work together in worship and service to God. It was truly a beautiful thing. For those of you reading this and may be considering going on one of our future trips, I encourage you to do so. This was a mission trip of rookies who left the comfort of home to do whatever it was that God would ask. Are you willing to do that? I pray you would.
Dios le bendiga!