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All Tatted Up

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The Panama 14-Day team has newly returned from an amazing, God-focused day in the Embera village of Maje. We woke up early this morning and met at the church in Canitas, where our local cooks prepared a delicious breakfast for us consisting of ham, scrambled eggs, cereal, and fruit. We are carrying lots of water with us every day to help make sure the team stays hydrated in the intense Panamanian sun.
After breakfast, we loaded up and rode approximately twenty minutes to the police station by the dock at Lake Bayano, which we had to cross to reach our ministry destination. After receiving permission to cross, we loaded into two longboats powered by outboard motors and made the voyage to the beautiful village of Maje. Lush green foliage and huts made from wooden planks topped with thatched roofs make up this beautiful village. Two church leaders directed us to the hut used as the local church, where they gave us the sad news that the local pastor of this church had been taken to the hospital last night. They were glad to receive us and our prayers for their pastor, however, and invited us to share in their ministry to the village. Pastor Luciano also reminded us of the unique privilege of this visit, which was not originally planned as a part of this trip, and of the irrevocable calling on each of our lives as representatives of Christ.

Next, while Walker shared with the local church leaders the story of taking the cross (signed by the local villagers) to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, the team went out and invited people to our first drama presentation of the day. However, we quickly discovered that most of the villagers and many of the children were away at school on the side of Lake Banyo we had just left!

Because Awe Star is fluid and goes with the flow of the Holy Spirit, we made the decision to eat lunch and then experience the Embera tradition of vegetable-dye tattoos. Every member of the group, including leadership, now sports a tribal tattoo (don’t worry, Mom and Dad, they’re temporary). First, the tribe blessed us with a delicious lunch of freshly-caught tilapia cooked over the fire and our new favorite side dish, fried plantains. Then the beautiful Embera women laughed and smiled as they applied the vegetable dye to our forearms in beautiful designs that show various aspects of God’s creation including rivers, sky, and mountains. While the tattoo-painting was going on, the students enjoyed interacting with the adults, small children, and even a beautiful green pet parakeet.

By the time the entire team was tatted up, enough people had returned to the village that we decided to present “Freedom” after all. But first, we had another important task. One of the students (after parental permission) and one of the Embera leaders had requested baptism in the lake. Walker Moore and Pastor Luciano did the honors, reminding the students that baptism is a symbol of God’s saving work.
After the baptism, the students returned to Maje and did a wonderful job of showing their joy in the Lord to the audience, which consisted largely of local church members. After prayer, smiles, and encouragement, the team returned to the boats and the refreshing boat ride back across Lake Banyo. Within just a few minutes of deboarding, we had the unique privilege of presenting the drama to the residents of a small Guna (formerly known as Guna) village (the Guna are another of Panama’s indigenous people groups) by the side of the lake. A crowd quickly gathered, and after an introduction and student testimonies translated into Spanish, the people seemed surprised and pleased to hear the track for the drama begin in the Guna language, narrated by our own Pastor Luciano, who has been with us every day. They watched attentively and listened to both the narration and the gospel explanation, also shared by Pastor Luciano.

The team has now returned to our home-base church in Cañitas, where we enjoyed a delicious dinner of chicken and rice or spaghetti and canned corn. After a special treat of Gatorade from the local store (keeping those electrolytes replenished), we are waiting to present the drama once more to help open a local pastors’ conference, which is meeting at this church tonight. Please pray with us that this presentation will open doors for future Awe Star ministry. Following this, the team will split into two groups to hear Bible studies from our fearless Team Directors, Trevor and Mya. We look forward to tomorrow, which we know will include more drama ministry and a return bus trip to Panama City and our previous home in Casa de Blanca.

We are grateful to have had more wifi than anticipated, allowing us to post pictures and updates. We hope they are encouraging to you to keep praying as you see how the Father is moving among the team and among the people of Panama. Thank you for blessing us with your love, support, and prayers.

For His Glory,
Panama 14-Day Leaders

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