Greetings from El Valle, Panama, day 3!
Today started with a wonderful breakfast at a new shop across the street from the hotel. We were served some out-of-this-world pineapple juice and a plate with eggs and large sopapillas. We then met into small groups to discuss the workbooks given to us at the beginning of the trip and todays chapter spoke about living a Missional lifestyle, which will be discussed later the post. After meeting in the small groups, we all gathered in the market and split into our project groups for the morning, however we all ended up in the construction/painting crew in one way or another. This morning's construction project was to paint 4 handicap ramps, 1 handicap parking space, put up "no fume" (no smoking) signs and build a bulletin board for announcements and offers in the market place. All of this went fantastically, and the people were quite impressed and got involved in a lot of ways! Some helped block off sections of sidewalk, some helped push a completely grounded van out of a ditch, some helped paint and sweep, and some children decided to put their handprints in the drying paint on a handicap ramp. In addition to this, Vivian and Gail, our two nurses, Teresa, Tammy, Galon, David & Lisa, and Nico went to the police station to deliver some first aid kits. The police said that this was a huge blessing, and showed a very small medicine cabinet where they had their entire supply. Quite an adventurous day and exhausting day but rewarding nonetheless.
Our work continued later that afternoon from 2-6pm. One group worked a VBS off to the side of the market and another did a presentation for the adults on health and addictions under the pavilion. Only a few parents and children arrived at first, but as the evening progressed, so did attendance. By the end of 4 exhausting hours, we had about 6 kids for VBS and around 20 adults for the presentation. Everything went very smoothly and toward the end of the VBS we had two women who showed great interest in the churches work and a man who approached the table of crafts asking for a few activities for his grandchildren who couldn't attend but would've loved to come. Slowly, I feel the church growing and sparking interest in those in the surrounding community, which illustrates great hope for what's to come in Panama.
Our night concluded with a delicious batch of chicken fried rice for dinner and a perfect balcony view of a parade celebrating La Compania 50th anniversary. And what a celebration it was! Dancing and performing base drummers, students carrying lit lanterns and tiki torches, and fireworks shot right off the pavement. After watching the performance, we ended the night with a discussion about a missional life and what it means to be missional.
Missional, in the workbook's definition, simply means "sent into a person's life" . And our discussion lead us into the four types of immersions: culture, community, God, and tension. Each immersion either draws or repels us to go and serve in the places and lives that were are called. Within the categories, a topic emerged and really hit home for me and really speaks to how we can and SHOULD be missional at home at Greenville Oaks. We discussed the topic of tension in regards to comfortability and service. To be missional we need to embrace the tension of not being comfortable. We have to leave the comfort zone of our routine lives just as Abraham packed up his things and followed God without hesitation. We have to make ourselves fully available to the will of God, even if we aren't comfortable with the situation presented. An example that David shared last night was his list of reasons why and why not to travel to Nigeria. In his mind, his reasons for not going we're all valid and reasonable, including "I don't want to go." He then said, how am I going to justify and argue these reasons for not going to God who has the entire world's plan in his hands. Now this isn't to say we all need to just drop our possessions and go to distant continents and become missionaries, but in reality we do need to take a step back and realize what we can do at home right now that can make a positive change for the future. To be missional isn't to go out to a different country and make a drastic change in ten minutes. To go to a different country to be a missionary in general just isn't for everyone. But what is an open door for everyone are the relationships that can be made with both believers and non-believers. To strengthen those relationships, grow in personal and spiritual understandings of one another and then slowly make that transition to making disciples of the entire world. As an instant-gratification seeking society, this process may seem grueling and unobtainable, but if we Christians don't take the chance and make ourselves available to lead missional lives for Christ, than who will? It only takes one small gesture to get a movement in progress, and that is what this church in Panama is experiencing, and we at home should take advantage of the lessons learned here and apply it, so that we all may experience the wondrous plan of God.