Just to my left, on the wall above a bookcase hangs a painting that a man made for us some time ago. The painting is of a beach with the waves rolling in; an empty fishing boat is pulled up on the sand. The name on the boat is Simon. There are footprints in the sand leaving the boat. The verse printed on the bottom corner of the painting is, “And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed Him” (Luke 5:11). As this dear believer handed us the painting he said teary eyed, “Thank you for leaving your country, your family, and your careers to bring us the gospel. We are so grateful to the Lord.” When you think of the value of a soul that Christ loves and died for, it’s worth it isn’t it? I’m reminded of the last stanza of the poem The Touch of the Master’s Hand, (Myra Brooks Welch, 1841-1923) which says,
But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the touch of the Master’s hand.
This man and his wife were both saved on our first visit in 2006 and are laborers together in the gospel and committed to the local assembly. They have two teenage daughters, one is saved and baptized while the other, still not saved, attends the meetings and is respectful of the gospel and God’s Word.
Since arriving permanently in December 2007 we have seen changes; many of these changes have been in our own hearts and lives. We can look back over the few years we’ve been here and can say that the road hasn’t been easy, oftentimes difficult and uncertain, but God has always remained good and faithful. He cannot change! Changes that we have seen in the country since we arrived include more violence, increasing indifference to the gospel, and an unprecedented level of immorality.
This year on April 26th we looked back on four years of assembly testimony in the area of Valle Hermoso and thank the Lord for what He has done; it is truly His work of amazing grace! We also can rejoice that in the far west province of Chiriqui, another assembly was planted in December 2010. Marcos and Sara Sequera were commended from Venezuela in 2009 and have been working in this province. The group of believers first met in an area called La Acequia , but recently moved a few minutes down the road to a more central location in the village of Dolega. There are outreach works in surrounding villages, including one in a comarca (tribal reservation) of the native tribe Ngobe Bugle. Some of the believers in the assembly in Dolega have family from this comarca.
There are also natives of the Kuna tribe from the comarca of Kuna Yala, located on the Atlantic coast which is on the northeast side of Panama, who are part of the assembly in Valle Hermoso. On Thursday evenings we have a children’s Bible class as well as a teen Bible class on the patio of the home of a Kuna family, of which the son and daughter are saved and baptized.
As part of the work in the gospel, Lois (my wife), being a medical doctor, has had the opportunity to volunteer in a local children’s home called Ciudad del Niño, meaning City of Children. This home is independently run, with very little government funding, caring for as many as 200 children. They had a medical clinic but no doctor, so when we approached them a couple of years ago about helping out, they welcomed us with open arms. This was just the beginning of a much bigger blessing, as we prayed that a door would open in order to have Bible classes with these children. The assistant director attended the community Christmas dinner the assembly held this past December and she informed us that the director had given the okay for us to have weekly Bible classes with the children. What an answer to prayer! We now have three classes a week with 175 children in attendance, ranging from 5 to 17 years of age.
The young are the future of any work, so we find ourselves involved personally in the lives of the young believers. We try to support and encourage them to continue their education on into university. We are happy they are seeing the importance of furthering their education in order to find decent employment to be able to rise out of the rut of the lifestyle that is so common here; a lifestyle that is filled with sin, poverty, crime, sadness, and no hope. These young believers have an uphill battle, because what they are seeking to achieve and enjoy in a Christian life is totally against their culture and what they have seen in their own families. We seek to consistently teach, guide, support, and encourage them so they can see the benefits of living for God and that those that honor Him, He will honor. We have weekly Bible classes with these young believers, as well as others who are not saved, to show them, not just a better way, but the only way – true liberty by faith in Christ.
We find ourselves extended in many directions with youth work, medical work, gospel preaching, Scripture teaching, distribution of gospel literature, and the constant care of the new believers and the young assembly. We have seen many changes, some because of blessing and some because of discouragement, but there are some things that never change, like the value of a soul, the love of God for sinners, the work of salvation, and the faithfulness of God.
Your laboring with us in prayer is deeply valued in the work our Lord is doing in Panama.