The rain was torrential Tuesday as our dug-out canoes puttered over the water, calls from the dense jungle mesmerizing the team. Waterfalls rushed over the black boulders; birds swooped to snatch fish. The canoes scraped the dark pebbles of the bank, and the team slipped and scampered up the embankment to catch our first glimpse of the village Maje (pronounced “muh-hay”). Before us we saw a grassy/muddy field, and mist-covered mountains protruding from the earth on every horizon. The landscape was littered with fruit trees and stilted huts.
The people of Maje are Embera Puru, a beautiful race full of tradition and culture. They welcomed us with warm smiles and hugs, as well as a fresh tilapia dinner. After worshipping with the small local congregation, we went to bed under mosquito net canopies.
Wednesday (yesterday) was a full day of cultural engagement, making relationships with the people of Maje. A few members of the team spent the morning teaching–and learning–in the small school, while others went to a neighboring village or cleaned up around Maje. After lunch, the team organized a soccer clinic. Once darkness fell, the locals from Maje and the neighboring village gathered in the church for a special service. The team sang worship songs in English, and the members of the church sang worship songs in Spanish and Embera. The pastor reminded us that although we speak different languages, we all serve the same great God. With the first two rows of rough, wooden benches full of children, the team performed the last drama of this trip. Pastor Lucciano, a church-planter across Panama and our inspiring guide, encouraged both the locals and the team that God has brought us together for a purpose; it is necessary for us to GO because God always has a purpose (John 4).
The team left Maje this morning after long embraces and kind farewells. They overwhelmed us with their generosity and passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We met as strangers; we left as brothers and sisters.
The team returned to the Casa Blanca today and scrubbed to remove the jungle dirt. But Walker told us to reflect on the past couple days. Following Christ is about getting dirty! John 9 tells of Jesus getting dirty because he cared. Jesus set the example, and we are to drop to our knees in whatever filth God has placed in our path–to care, to “give a spit.”
Panama Rapido is coming to a close, but the journey will continue with each student’s life. Please continue praying for the team, that they will seek to keep their hands dirty.
Steph and Marc