The Augusta team has headed home, but they will not return the same as when they left.
At the start of the week the team did ministry in the heart of Panama City and in some of its surrounding communities, but at the end of the week the team rode several hours away to a world quite different from life in the city. Calabazo is just one of a collection of modest communities of mountain farmers; the crops grow in rows on the lush edifices of the mountains.
As the mountains grew increasingly steep, some members of the team lightened the bus by moving to a truck modified for transporting people over the mountains. We arrived at the church compound in Calabazo where we would be staying. The one-room church stands next to the pastor’s home, which juts out over a gurgling waterfall. Some of the team slept under the house in what will one day be a bakery, the rest of the team in the church. After setting up the tents, the team divided into three groups to serve the community. One team collected garbage from along the main road; another cleaned up the school house; the third group began digging a toilet behind a neighbor’s house. As light rain began to fall, the groups slowly returned to the church where they prepared for the night’s service. Members of the congregation trickled in while the team prayed for the Spirit’s work in Calabazo. Two team members gave their testimonies in front of the community before the lights were dimmed and the movie Courageous flickered onto the wall. Just as the tension in the movie had us on the edge of our seats, the generator went out and the movie was postponed until the next night.
The morning of our one full day in Calabazo, the team loaded into two trucks and bounced along muddy, rocky, and watery roads. We disembarked on the lawn of a small elementary school where we slurped on mangos and oranges until the students, staff, and some village families seated themselves for the drama presentation. The team moved quickly after the drama to speak with everyone in the audience. They all sat staring in awe, the spectacle stirring their hearts. The team boarded the trucks once more and headed over hills and through a rocky stream to another school where the mountains shrouded in cloud-cover peered over the grass, sunlight streaming through in a wash of warm light. These two communities, La Mina and Camatillo, had never heard the name of Jesus or the story of the Gospel until Thursday. What an incredible privilege the Lord gave to this team! As hearts were turned for Christ and seeds were planted, the team praised God for his faithfulness.
Upon returning to Calabazo, the team ate and rested before returning to work, one group finishing the toilet and another lugging stones from the river bed. As the sun tucked itself behind the ring of mountains, the team and the community gathered once more to watch Courageous. With mixed giggles and sniffles, the gathering watched the film with only three generator-induced interruptions.
Early the next morning, the team prayed with the pastor and his wife and left Calabazo’s beauty for the White House, truly a bittersweet departure. Back in Panama City, the team cleaned up and visited a market filled with local indigenous products at one end of Cinco de Mayo before exploring Albrook Mall. The team spent time worshipping through song and prayer at the White House, thanking God for this week. The 35-day team joined us later to continue in worship, all voices and hands raised shamelessly for the glory of our King. The Augusta team circled around the 35-day team to lay hands on them and pray over them; then the teams switched. As the trips near their close, all implored God to continue his work in our hearts.
For the Augusta team, this week has been a time of experienced just a bit of the power of God, a time when each member of the team personally saw God work in their lives and in the lives of others. What happened in Panama this week should not be considered a rarity, though, as we should all be striving daily to seek the lost and to bring glory to God. The team has been encouraged to think of this week as training for how we should live everyday in whatever place God has us.
With the joy of our Savior and love for those God has called from our hometown,
Steph and Daniel