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Jungle Adventure in Gatún

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We’re back on the grid!

What an amazing adventure these past few days have been. We cannot wait to tell you all that the Lord did during our time with the Embera people. Everyone made it back healthy and happy with farmers tans and Embera tattoos. This morning as we departed from the village, we were sad to say goodbye to the incredible people we met. Let us recount for you all that has happened over the past few days. . .

Our jungle adventure began early Tuesday morning. After a nutritious breakfast of cereal, we began to load the bus in preparation for our journey to the village of Embera Quera. The village is about half an hour up Rio Gatun (Gatun River), a large river that runs outside of the city of Colon where we visited a few weeks ago. Rio Gatun flows into Lake Gatun, a massive body of water that is part of the journey for boats passing through the Panama Canal. Once we were all packed up, we said goodbye to Casa Blanca and the hustle and bustle of Panama City for an hour and a half journey to Gatun. When we had almost arrived at our destination, the bus took a big turn down a steep dirt road off of the highway. We were covered by trees overhead and bobbing up and down in the bus as we pulled up to the river. All of a sudden, four men in traditional Embera tribal clothing came into our view. They were waiting there to greet us with smiles on their faces as they stood beside their long wooden canoes.

We all loaded up onto the canoes, they cranked up the little motors on the back, and we made our way up the river. After a thirty-minute scenic adventure weaving up river surrounded by exotic trees and the songs of jungle birds and insects, we found ourselves in front of a large island filled with tall trees and large round huts . We pulled ashore on the river bank, where a long dock extended out from the village of Embera Quera. As we all made our way down the dock, two adorable little children came running forward to welcome us. When we made our way past the dock, we were greeted again by the village band playing flutes and turtle shell drums! It was quite the sight, and the village was very beautiful.

In the afternoon, after getting settled in to our team’s hut and getting acquainted with the people, we had the opportunity to perform our first drama for the village in their main meeting hut, which was about 90 feet diameter and 50 feet high. We had a small crowd at the start, but toward the end of the drama, many more people began to show up after hearing the music. So, we took the opportunity to perform it a second time for those who hadn’t seen it. The students had a great time going to talk to people afterward, some of whom decided right there to give their lives to Christ. It was a great start to our time in the village. We celebrated our arrival and first evening with lots of hot dogs and Lay’s potato chips for dinner. Our lodging for the night was on a raised platform that had a roof made of dried palm leaves that came to a point like a hat. With the rain that fell this afternoon, a cool breeze swept through our hut, making this jungle experience all the more perfect.

That night, the CCs met with Pastor Luciano and the village leaders to learn more about Embera Quera and how we could serve their village the next few days. We learned that the people of Embera Quera make most of their living through tourism. The village has only been around for about nine years, and most of the people their came from other distant Embera villages. As a new village, they have yet to establish a church, which is something we hoped to help facilitate by being there. There were a handful of Christians in the village, but many of them hadn’t been to a church service in a months.

So after our first night in the jungle, we awoke to rooster cows and the sounds of Embera people walking by as they started their day. With our stomachs filled with a breakfast of eggs and pancakes, we prepared for our first assignment for the day, clearing a large hill that would soon be a helicopter landing pad. We all worked together to pull up weeds and large tree roots to clear the area for the landing pad. We also cleared a path for the people to build a staircase up to the top of the hill. The Embera people joined us about halfway through to help and we got to work side by side with them to construct the helicopter landing. After a well-deserved lunch break, the students broke up into groups of three and went house to house to meet people, get to know them, and share the gospel with them. One of the groups got to talk to two young men who asked a lot of questions about God and religion. The group was able to share the gospel with them and they decided to give their lives to Christ right there! We ended that second evening in the jungle watching the Jesus Film with the people of the village, which is a movie that goes through the life of Jesus. So, all throughout the day, the Lord gave us many different opportunities to share the love of Christ with the people of Embera Quera.

On our second full day of ministry, we started the day with an adventure up Rio Gatun. As we made our way into Lake Gatun, we stopped at an island to explore and walk around in the water. Pastor Luciano gave us a powerful message about God’s faithfulness to provide everything we need when we’re doing His ministry. When we made our way back from the river, we were able to go out again to visit various families throughout the village with whom we didn’t get a chance to speak the day before. Much fruit came from those conversations. Later, we got to spend time with the people getting tattoos and souvenirs to take home. In the evening, we had one last gathering with the village. They shared some of their traditional dances with us, a very special, and then they brought us all up to dance with them! It was a very special moment. In return, we performed one last drama for them. It was a sweet evening of fellowship with the people. Later in the evening we had another opportunity for adventure. One of the men of the tribe asked us if we would like to go hunt for crocodiles! We said yes, and all of the men and some of the women piled into one of the canoes and headed out with the village crocodile hunter. We managed to catch a crocodile after about half an hour of searching and got it on our first attempt. The team was thrilled and could not believe we actually caught a crocodile.

On our final morning in the jungle, we had cereal breakfast along with fried crocodile tail from the crocodile we caught he night before. We packed up, said our goodbyes, and headed back to the city. Overall, our team had a great impact on the village, sharing the gospel and our lives with them, and seeing many come to faith in Christ and many encouraged to continue to grow in their faith. Pastor Luciano will work with the village in the future to continue to help them establish a church. Much follow-up ministry goes on in the places we visit that the students may never see, but it is encouraging to see how God uniquely uses us to draw people unto Himself. So please pray that the Lord would continue to work in mighty ways in Embera Quera.

Tomorrow begins our final stretch of ministry in Panama City. We will spend the next three days going around to different areas around the city from schools to plazas and parks. We want to finish strong and unified. The Lord has done so many incredible things so far, and we pray that we would be able to maximize our time these next three days to see many come to Christ. We are so thankful for all your prayers and we look forward to all that’s in store for the remainder of this trip.

Your CCs,

Marc & Rebecca

 

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