Panama Survey Trip Results

Greenville Oaks is a church dedicated to serving the world. In the past few years, our foreign mission work has primarily been focused on the people of Grenada and Canada. This summer, we're again sending a group to Regina, Canada to work with the local Christian college reaching out to its community.

The Engage 1:8 team has been praying and searching for other opportunities where God might lead us. Among the many places considered, Panama was chosen as potential location. A survey team was sent to evaluate the opportunities and challenges that might exist.

The team, composed of Galon Jones, Vivian & Stan Gamblian, and Tammy & Mark Maxey, spent March 6-12 2010 meeting Christians throughout central Panama. Mark and Miriam Upton, who live in Panama, served as our guides and facilitators. We met many people and saw how God can work in Christians of very different cultural backgrounds.

Panama is a unique country. Panama City is an multinational metropolitan city much like Dallas or Houston. It has sky scrapers, booming construction, TGI Friday's, and, of course, the Panama Canal. Though named, few of its streets are marked. To get around, you follow the highway signs and frequently stop for directions.

Outside the city, Panama becomes much like any other third world country. The larger towns have some industry, but people in the "pueblitos" live on very little. One man we met in Santa Marta earns $4 a day to feed his 11 kids. Another we met in Rio Grande was having chronic headaches, but couldn't get an appointment for an MRI until August.

Whether rich or poor, God's kingdom thrives. We worshiped with the Metro church in Panama City and met with the eldership in Chorrera and Torti. Both were larger churches with nearly 100 members. Some of the richer blessings we received came by talking with many 10-20 member churches and house churches composed primary of two or three families.

We prayed with those we met. They encouraged us and we encouraged them. Many valuable contacts were made that can be used by us and the local churches alike.

Since then, Aaron & Janet Chowning moved to El Valle, Panama and the Uptons moved nearby. El Valle is a small community where many internationals come to live. It is west of Panama City in a region where few churches exist. Those that do are small and distant from each other.

The Engage 1:8 saw this as an opportunity to learn about how God works in foreign cultures. It is also a great opportunity to practice what we learn here in Allen. Because of this and more, the Engage 1:8 team recommened to the elders that we undertake a mission to El Valle in June. The details of this trip are still being worked out, but planned activities include ESL, health education, children's activities, and service projects.

If you have any interest in going on the trip, please contact the Maxeys or Gamblians. Everyone is invited - no special language skills are required. The same people that go to Canada can come to Panama. We will have translators on the spot to add to the number of Panamanians that already speak English.

Please pray for us so that we can join God's work in progress in Panama!

Mark Maxey