Applications for summer trips are flowing in! Click here to apply now!

Panama Rapido

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.

With gratitude,

Steph and Marc

Hello, everyone!!

The team is back at the White House–happy, healthy, safe, and a bit stinky. We look forward to an afternoon of engaging the culture at the market and mall. 

We’ll post a more detailed account of our time in Maje and pictures tonight.

Steph and Marc

Country Coordinators

The team returned to San Miguelito today to perform the drama in a school.

For the first drama, a group of about fifty elementary students toddled, skipped, and giggled into the large room full of chairs where we waited with smiles and dancing. They loved to spin and be lifted high in the air. When we asked them to move closer and fill every chair before starting the drama, a group of girls came to the front row, twiddling the edges of their uniform skirts and shyly grinning at us gringos. The dragon made them squeal, but the teenage girls who came a few hours later shrieked louder! The next crowd of students was from the middle grades, and a much smaller group. They looked at us somewhat distrustfully, but by the time they left, we had made several new friends. The team was able to see several of these students make decisions for Christ.

Finally the oldest students filed in, some waving sweetly and others scowling in distaste. Most of these students have bad family situations and are involved with dangerous lifestyles, but our Jesus is bigger than these things. The wiping of tears and hiding of faces was visible all over the room as the People of the Land crucified the Good Prince. After the drama, the teachers of the school organized the hundred or so students into six discussion circles, into which our students dispersed themselves. Using interpreters, the students were able to share the Gospel and their own testimonies. The team told the students about how there is forgiveness and love that can cover any offense. Many of these students chose to let God change their lives today.

Please pray for those in the school at San Miguelito–for the safety and spiritual development of the students and teachers.

The team heads to the jungle tomorrow and will come back to the Casa Blanca (and Internet) Thursday! Please keep us in your prayers, and we look forward to updating you upon our return!

With bug spray in hand and praise on our lips,

Steph and Marc

Country Coordinators

 

 

Happy Father’s Day, dads! 

The team spent today celebrating the Heavenly Father at La Comunidad Bible Church in Panama City where we learned the importance of wisdom, love, and sacrifice in fatherhood through the example of Solomon (1 Kings 3). La Comunidad has been so kind as to welcome us back year after year, and we are privileged to be partners in their ministry. After fellowshipping with those in the congregation and eating lunch, the team boarded the bus en route to San Miguelito.

For half an hour the team bumped along the road away from Panama City, the terrain growing increasingly hilly and lush. The bus with its tattered, gold upholstery and sweaty occupants chugged up and over steep hills, our Little Engine That Could. The afternoon was already advanced when we reached San Miguelito and the Embera Puru people living there. The pastor of a church in that area welcomed the team and led us (huffing and puffing) up a hill to a dirt soccer field. The team performed the drama to an audience of church members and unchurched villagers. 

Most of the crowd were children and young adults, and the team was able to engage most of them in conversation about salvation through belief in Jesus. Students held the attention of groups of kids squatting in the dust against the concrete wall to tell them about the Gospel. Two students shared their individual testimonies with a young man who was searching, just as many of us have, with questions about the implications of trusting God with our lives. “What will my family think? My friends?” The young man did not want to give up his way of life today, but we pray the Spirit will continue to work on his heart.

Before heading back to the Casa Blanca in the city, the team played soccer (futbol) and danced with the kids, kicking up dirt and laughter. The team filled the bus with songs of praise while laboring once again over the hills. 

Everyday and every ministry site has been a lesson in identity: Who is God? Who are we? The answer lies in the cross. God is an unfathomable being of infinite mercy and justice who sent his son to atone for the sins of the world. We are recipients of undeserved grace who have inexplicably received life. 

And so we carry the light of Christ within us, image bearers of the Father and ambassadors of the Son.

Please continue to pray as tomorrow we will do Jesus Ministry at a school.

En el nombre de Jesus (In the name of Jesus),

Steph and Marc

 

Just inside a store on Cinco de Mayo, patrons and employees crammed between clothing racks to see what was happening in the street. The store’s loudspeakers blared “Go, go!” At the front of the pack, the store owner gripped his microphone chanting in Spanish to the rhythm of the drama’s sword fight.

Each time the drama is performed it is personalized by the people in the audience, and today proved no exception. A bicyclist became a prop in the People of the Land’s fight scene, the dragon changed direction to stir up a section of kids, and an eager little boy wandered into the middle to get closer to the action.

These unexpected additions simply enhance the picture of  humankind presented in the drama, making it even more relatable to those of every background. Opportunities for sharing the Gospel arise from this relatability.

A Muslim woman peered through her veil to watch the drama from the back of the crowd, clutching her son to her chest. She drifted away from the crowd just as the drama was closing, but a female student and translator caught her just in time (God’s time, that is). The woman said she enjoyed the drama! The student shared the story of the Gospel for ten minutes, and although no decision was made, a seed was planted. 

Another student struck up a conversation with a elderly woman whose past was marked by grief and trouble. She gave her life to the Lord today, and the light in her eyes and excitement in her voice were testimony to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. 

The end of the day was gushing with stories, both rejections and acceptances. When the excitement abated, Marc directed us to the greatest story of all. So tonight, after discussing the perfect plan of redemption through Jesus Christ, the story of God’s great love for us will still be ringing in our ears as our heads hit the pillow.

Thank you, prayer warriors! Please lift up:

  • Continued health and safety
  • Energy for these long days
  • Passion within the team for the lost
  • Hunger for truth in the people we come across

With excitement for what God will do tomorrow,

Steph and Marc

 

(Evening of June 14, 2013)

Hola, Todos!

After a restful night, the team was eager to get back to Cinco de Mayo. With bellies full of a true Panamanian breakfast–tortillas de maiz y salchichas (corn tortillas and sausages)–and hearts overflowing from morning worship, the group filed between vendors into the street to “set the stage”for the drama. The students enjoyed the drizzling rain, and several in the audience came to understand the cleansing love of Christ. We had lunch on the run after the second drama of the day. The clouds looked heavy, as it does most days in Panama’s rainy season, but the rain held off until mid-afternoon.

As the deluge broke through the sky, the power of the Spirit of God settled amongst us. The team performed the next two dramas with brilliant energy, soaked to the skin, while onlookers huddled under the shops’ awnings. The last drama before returning to the Casa Blanca competed with a segment of Dancing with the Stars being filmed a hundred feet away.

By God’s infinite grace, the team saw many hearts affected by the Gospel today, from Muslim shop keepers to armed guards.

The teaching tonight addressed faith, willingness to “step out of the boat,”a lesson from Matthew 14. This week will certainly test the team and challenge them to expand their faith to break down the barriers in their hearts and step out of their comfort zones.

As you continue to pray for the Spirit’s work in Panama, please consider:

  • Unity, Focus, and Strength within the team
  • Divine encounters
  • Students will get their personal stories of how God worked through them here

Please bear with us as we struggle without internet connection. We will upload as the internet winds are with us.

With thanksgiving,

Steph and Marc

Country Coordinators

Greetings from the Casa Blanca (White House)! 

The team left Dallas at 2:45 this morning and arrived safe in Panama at 1pm.

On the plane, the group had the blessing of meeting an Embera pastor from the Darien region of Panama. Pastor Ricardo was spending time in the US translating the Bible into his native language for those in the dense jungle. (Many of these areas in the Darien are nearly impossible for foreigners to reach without machetes and guides.) God called him at age 17 to lay down his machete work in the jungle to start translating the Bible for his people, and now 33 years later his translation is in the printing stages of publication. He urged the team to recognize the passion God has placed in our hearts and to hold fast to it. 

After the team settled into the White House and ate the first PB&J lunch of the week, they donned costumes and set out to Cinco de Mayo, the market street just around the corner. The smells of garbage and fresh fruit greeted us as we turned onto Cinco de Mayo, where throngs of people were mingling, shopping, and staring at the troop of oddly dressed Americans. In just a few moments, the team had gathered a crowd of about a hundred people before starting the drama. By the crucifixion scene, more than 250 Panamanians, tourists, Kuna, and others circled the team, entranced. The students went out to engage the people in groups after the drama was over, and God moved many hearts, young and old. We collected 13 response cards that local churches will use to stay in contact with those who made decisions for Christ.

With excitement the team returned to the White House, telling stories about the great things God did today and lifting one another up in admiration. The love of Christ compelled the team (2 Corinthians 5:14) to reach out to the people on Cinco de Mayo, and the effect was greater love for one another. 

We ask that you pray for:

  • True heart changes
  • A good night’s sleep after a long day
  • The opening of doors to new opportunities for the Gospel
  • Fearlessness in witnessing

In Christ,

Steph and Marc

Country Coordinators

 

 

Hey all!

First off, we would like to report that the team is safe, healthy, and happy! We just finished up our final day of drama training, and the team looks fantastic! Pictures are up from the past three days so go check them out!

Tomorrow morning we will be waking up dark and early at 3 AM, departing from Dallas at to San Antonio, then to our final destination of Panama. When settled into where we’re staying in Panama City, we will make our way to Cinco de Mayo Plaza to kick off our first day of ministry. It’s going to be a long day but we anticipate the Lord doing great things!

2 Corinthians 12:9, God tells Paul that His grace is sufficient for him and His power is perfected in weakness. We pray that this is true for our team and all of you readers. In everything we do, let us walk in reliance upon the grace of God because it is enough for us. In the power of the Spirit we are made strong even though we are very weak.

Please pray for:

  • Strength and energy
  • Safety
  • Focus as we make our way through the airports and to our final destination
  • People of peace who will work with us checking in bags and going through security
  • Divine encounters and soft hearts to hear the gospel as we travel and as we perform the drama tomorrow afternoon

We will let you all know how the day went tomorrow night!

By God’s grace,

Marc Mansfield and Stephanie Taylor

Country Coordinators

Hello, everyone! 

First off, we would like to thank you all for your prayers and support!

Yesterday, the team came together along with the other Awe Star teams here in Dallas! We had a great time getting to know each other last night, and today kicked off drama training. The students have been assigned their roles and will be counting “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8” in their sleep tonight. Everyone is happy and healthy, and the food here is great!

This year’s emphasis is “above all, love,” from 1 Peter 4:8. Jesus said,”By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). The team has started taking these things to heart, and it is evident that we are already growing in unity!

Tomorrow we will continue training for the drama. 

Please pray for:

  • Continued health 
  • Strength and stamina during training
  • Growing love and unity between the students and leaders
  • Softened hearts of those to whom we will come into contact in Panama

We’re excited to see the great things God is going to do in and through our team.

To God be all the glory!

Marc Mansfield and Stephanie Taylor

Country Coordinators

Dear Parent, Family, or Friend,

Hello, my name is Chad Thompson. I am the new Vice President of International Operations at Awe Star. I am so excited and ready to experience all that God has planned. Thank you so much for listening to the call of God and sending, supporting, and/or praying for the missionaries as they do the ministry of Jesus. We are praying for growth and divine encounters as they trust in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the weeks to come, you will be able to follow this group as they take the gospel to the lost. Please take every opportunity to get before God and lift up each missionary and team.

Updates Information:

1. Updates are posted MOST days. Some days, due to Internet issues and availability, we’re unable to post updates. Please do not assume something is wrong. We’ll do our best to keep you updated when we possibly can. Pictures take longer to upload, but we’ll  do our best to post as many pictures as we can.

2. You can post comments on pictures and updates. This is a great way to interact with the team.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me anytime.

Excited to hear all of the God Stories,

Chad Thompson

1-800-293-7827

chad@awestar.org

 chad-2