In a very humble house in a rural area with neither electric light nor drinkable water, a poor ruined man was sinking into deep depression. The Lord led us to him. We spoke to him and gave him a Romans 5:8 text. His wife had left him due to his alcoholism. By God’s infinite grace, this man is now a faithful believer, and one of the elders of the assembly in La Acequia. His favorite hymn is “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” His marriage was miraculously restored. His wife and three of his children are also faithful believers and are pillars in the church. It was in February, 2010 that we visited La Acequia for the first time.
Along with my wife and three small children, we came to live in this country in September, 2008 commended by assemblies in Venezuela. We joined in the work with our friends Byrnell and Lois Foreshew who had arrived before us in November, 2007.
Ross Vanstone and Tim Woodford first came to Panama in November 2005. In the first gospel meeting they held, Bernabé Chiari confessed Christ as Savior, the firstfruits in this country. Brother Vanstone came for 15 days but ended up staying three years when he realized that there was a movement of the Holy Spirit in Valle Hermoso. During that time helpers came from Canada, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Venezuela, and other places. The gospel was preached and the Lord granted His blessing.
Fourteen believers met for the first time on April 26, 2009 in Valle Hermoso at the Lord’s Supper. Nine were Panamanian, one was a sister from an assembly in Colombia who had moved to Valle Hermoso before the missionaries had arrived, and there were two missionary couples. It was the first assembly that the Lord had established in this republic.
After working in fellowship with the Foreshews for nine months at Valle Hermoso, the Lord led us to the extreme west of the country, to the province of Chiriquí that borders with Costa Rica. In December 2008, we made a visit there together with brother M. Mosquera of Venezuela, exploring the land and looking for some contacts. In August 2009, we moved to Chiriquí, and rented a house in the District of Dolega in a sector called “El Caño.” Dolega is a large district with approximately 20,000 inhabitants. The same month we began a Sunday school, starting with six children. The number has increased to an average of 40 each Sunday.
We began to preach in the same house that we rented, and brethren from Venezuela helped us on that occasion. J. Villarreal shared in the preaching of the gospel and three young men came for five days to give out tracts and invitations. During those meetings two women professed to be saved, but, sadly, they soon proved that they lacked the reality of salvation. Then we continued with three gospel meetings each week, and some neighbors attended regularly. We rejoiced very much with the first convert in Chiriquí on September 18, a little fellow of seven years, our eldest son.
Shortly after, a man of 73 who attended the meetings was saved. He is our esteemed brother Aristídes Pitti. We have preached in his house several times so that his wife and family may listen to the gospel, but none, as yet, have shown an interest in the Word of God. One night in December 2009, our neighbor interrupted the preaching to confess publicly to have entered the strait gate. This sister, Elizabeth Montenegro, has been abandoned and suffered much, but her loyalty to the Lord is precious. Please pray for her.
The Lord opened a door in a rural area of Dolega called La Acequia. At first we were taking people from there to the meetings in El Caño, but due to the interest of several, we started a few meetings there. On March 8, we began a series of tent meetings. Three preachers from Venezuela visited us at different times to help in these meetings: L. Rojas, J. Gómez, and A. Velasco, and we preached for 13 weeks. We saw the grace of God in a real way. A young girl attended and listened with interest. During the first week of the meetings she stayed behind after the meeting and, with tears in her eyes, confessed her faith in Christ. Her conversion moved the heart of her father, Humberto Montero, who began to attend and one week later, invited us to his house to confess that he was leaving the world behind to follow Christ. Others professed faith at this time, both adults and children, although not all show the same fruit. The attendance at each meeting was encouraging.
The rainy season came and we built a hall with wood, stones, and sheets of zinc. We finished the series of meetings in the hall. On Saturday, March 27, the first baptism was held in Chiriquí, when Elizabeth, the firstfruits of Dolega, was baptized in the tent, in a plastic swimming pool. Then in May, July, and August, others were baptized in a small river that swells during the rainy season and passes close to the hall.
After closing this series of gospel meetings we remained in the same place preaching four nights a week and having the Sunday school. K. Hidalgo, a young sister from Venezuela, came for six months to help with the children‘s work and also taught some to read.
We had prayer meetings, gospel meetings, and then ministry meetings, giving teaching regarding the doctrines associated with an assembly. Brethren Tulio Sequera and Alcimides Velasco of Venezuela helped us.
On December 5, 2010 we felt the presence of the Lord in Chiriquí as seven believers (fruit of the work here), and seven believers from the assembly in Valle Hermoso, and my wife and I, met to break bread. Brother Byrne Foreshew helped us that weekend with the teaching of the Word. Also, five brethren from Venezuela who had helped in the work were present. It was a precious time as we sang praises to the Lord and worshipped the Father in gratitude for His Son.
Trials have not been absent. Some turned away and left a bad testimony among the unsaved, but others are proving faithful and are shining with great intensity for the glory of the Lord.