A pink-streaked Panamanian sky greeted us today as, after morning quiet times, your Panama 14-day team met for breakfast on the patio of our hostel. We began our meal with delicious fresh pineapple and watermelon, supplemented with cereal, sausage, and croissants.
After breakfast, we quickly prepared to leave for the streets of Panama City. Although this is only our second day in-country, the team has the process of loading the bus down—no small tasks when that load includes 23 people, their backpacks, drama props, med kit, “Barney” (sound system), lunch bag, and huge jugs of water. Almost before we knew it, we had arrived at Cinco de Mayo, a well-known street in the heart of Panama City that provides many opportunities for ministry.
We began our work in a park at one end of the street. The beautiful setting with a central pavilion and a church to one side contrasted with the obvious need in the lives of some of the people we saw there. We spent a few minutes inviting them to our “Freedom” drama and then performed it. Although none of those we spoke with wanted to receive Christ, we did have encouragement from more than one believer there.
One ministry team also experienced the heartbreak of two women telling them they were not ready to give up their sins and so did not want to begin a relationship with Christ. “We want it to be real when we do,” they said. Please join us in praying for these women that this moment will come soon and that Jesus make Himself real in their lives.
We continued down Cinco de Mayo and performed the drama at two different sites. Picture a bustling street with Saturday shoppers of all ages and modes of attire (including tribal), add Latin music blaring from speakers in various stores and frequent loudspeaker announcement urging people to buy this or check out that, and you have a small picture of what we experienced.
Today, you would also have to add torrential rain to that picture. We are so proud of our students. At the third drama site, it rained before and during our presentation, but the team kept going with no complaints or problems. The scene in which the Good Prince is thrown to the ground before he is whipped and beaten is much more powerful when the ground (pavement) is wet and muddy. As the story drew to a close, God stopped the rain and sent the sun, adding His shining blessing to the celebration of resurrection and new life.
We had another unexpected blessing during our PB&J lunch, which we ate in one of the covered areas just off Cinco de Mayo. Here, a young woman approached some of our students and shared that she had seen our drama as a little girl. Although she hadn’t understood much of it at the time, she always remembered that the Gentle Ruler told her she was a princesa, a special child of the King. She is active in church today and has learned many Bible verses through the years. It encouraged our team to hear how much difference our ministry can make even in the life of a young child.
One of our leaders had similar encouragement, but from someone she had ministered to in 2014. That summer, a man from Nicaragua came to know Christ through the presentation of “Freedom.” He and his family had fled for their lives when they left Nicaragua but, since they had entered Panama illegally, he was unable to work. He feared being deported to Nicaragua, where he expected to be killed. That year’s team took up a love offering to enable him to get his green card and remain in Panama legally.
Fast forward four years, and when he saw our team, he remembered our leader and her testimony right away, telling her how much her words had touched him back then. He has his green card, and he and his family no longer live in fear. We want to remember these stories on the days when we don’t have such obvious evidence that our work makes a difference. Whether we see the results now or in eternity, we know God is using us in ways both seen and unseen.
After lunch, we traveled by bus to a bayside park near the downtown area. Although rain still threatened, we saw lots of soccer players and other people ready for fun in this expansive area. The students went out to engage with the people by playing soccer and talking with them, inviting to the drama that would soon take place.
Just before we began the drama, the rain also began—not a warm rain as we have already come to expect here, but a cold downpour. Once again, the students showed genuine selflessness, continuing to pour out their all even when the rain increased. Most of the small audience left, but three people remained, standing in the cold rain and watching the drama with great interest. Afterward, when the students went to speak with them, all three prayed to receive Christ. As one of our students told us, these were truly seeking souls, drawn (and kept) by the Holy Spirit to hear the Good News at just the right time.
We stood under a roof and dried off for a short time before performing the day’s final drama at another site in the park. This time, the rain was not as heavy and had stopped by the time the drama finished. We saw several people come to know Jesus at this site, including one of the ice cream vendors whose cart was set up near where we performed.
A delicious dinner of spaghetti and salad awaited us back at the hostel, and we enjoyed a time of worship and true fellowship—talking about the things of God—afterward. The students are doing the “Man Up” and “Reign On” studies now, led by their team directors. These Bible studies are designed to help them continue their rite of passage journey and equip them as men and women of God.
Soon, we will retire for another night of rest. We will worship at a local church in the morning and continue our ministry here before heading to the islands on Monday. Thank you for your faithful prayers and support. You are truly a vital part of our Jesus ministry here in Panama!
Your Servant Leaders,
Mike and Sarah
Isaac and Mya