I wrote this blog several weeks ago but never quite got around to finishing and posting it, so I am posting it now, with a few more current revisions.
The heart of me
It’s been well over a month since I returned to Panama. How was the trip, you ask?
It was excellent. It was difficult. It was wonderful. It was challenging. It opened my heart. It intrigued my soul. It brought things to surface that have been long buried. Insecurities I’d thought dealt with long ago, longings my heart has long known, dreams I’ve been waiting to see come to pass, love as I’ve yet to k now. The Lord did so, so much in Panama.
On our island, Soledad Mandinga, my team and I arrived to find no church and only a handful of young believers. I didn’t get to spend the whole week on the island due to an injury that necessitated me escorting a missionary to another island on which the clinic was located (the island of Carti Sugdup, where another of our teams was based). But by the end of the week on Soledad Mandinga, the people decided to plant a church, and they allowed us to be a part of its founding. Our project director, Ed, and our team leader, Waikiki, were able to baptize a dozen or so young people in the salty sea that ringed our island. That night, we held the first service of the new church on that island. Praise God!
The trip to the clinic island was an adventure and a miracle in itself. You see, we did not know that one of our teams was stationed on that island, Carti Sugdup. The contact on our island told us that no one on the island even spoke English! Since I had to escort the young man and I don’t speak Spanish, I was terrified. As we climbed in the little boat and headed away from our island, my prayer was, “Lord, please, please, please, let there be someone there on that island who speaks enough English to communicate! Someone who’s fluent would be even better!” I was so, so scared in that moment, so worried about what was going to happen, but as we boated over the open water in this little canoe-like boat, the Lord spoke to my heart. He reminded me, “Beth! I am with you wherever you go!” So I said, “Okay, Lord. I’m still scared, but we got this!” As I looked out over the vast expanse of water, I was overwhelmed by the realization of His love for me, for us, for the world. With every drop of water that covers the earth, He loves us. With every grain of sand that makes up the ground we walk upon, He loves us. With every drop of blood that fell from His broken, beaten body, He loves us.
Then we arrived at the island. As we drifted up to the dock, I gathered my courage and said another prayer, and climbed out of the boat and headed for the clinic nearby—and who did I see walking towards me but Andres, one of the team leaders for the team on this island! Just having another team on this island would be miracle enough, but you see, Andres is from Costa Rica, Panama’s neighbor, and therefore is a native Spanish speaker—and his wife, Katie (who was the other team leader on this island) is a nurse! Having the two of them there to take care of us was such a blessing, and hanging out with their team was a great experience.
One of the coolest moments from the trip was the last full day on the islands—the day of the baptism—when Waikiki (the team leader) asked David (one of the other country assistants) and me to go with two Kuna men to get fresh water for bathing. We got into a boat and went across to the mainland—maybe 10-15 minutes—and boated up a river a little ways. This river was in the jungle, and there were trees with viney-root things hanging down into the water, and all kinds of vegetation. It was a little surreal, like entering a whole other world—but it was SO COOL!!! When we got to where the water was fresh the Kunas stopped the boat and handed us five-gallon buckets to fill the big plastic barrels with. I, of course, managed to fill the bucket too full on the first dip into the river, and I couldn’t lift it! One of the Kunas came from the back of the boat, took the bucket from me, dumped the water into the barrel, and proceeded to the front of the barrel—taking my bucket with him. So I sat there feeling a little silly and embarrassed since I wasn’t helping at all but laughing because it was pretty funny.
Being in the jungle was a more challenging experience—the village we were in, Embera Puru, was an Embera Indian village, and they apparently did not know we were coming! The first questions asked by the locals when we arrived were, “What did you come to give us for free? What did you bring to give us?” That week was challenging mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, though I did love the children. I was with Katie and Andres’ team that week, and we had some very interesting logistical problems to solve—like how to hang our hammocks with high ceilings, barred windows and rope. We also dealt with some freak-accident injuries the first couple days, until we took authority over that and prayed against it and they stopped. It was a hard week, but a good one overall, and we were blessed to have two wonderful translators, Daniel and Jonathan, as well. We were able to encourage the Christians who were there and share the gospel with a number of people, and a few wanted to give their lives over to the living God. Thank you, Father!
What about now, you ask? How am I now that I am back in my home state and in my final year of college?
I have been well, but a month ago today, the Lord called me deeper, deeper, deeper in a way He never has, and the time since then...has been a fight. I am tired and weary, school is extremely challenging for me, and I am longing for fellowship. I went back to Teen Mania this weekend for alumni weekend, and though I enjoyed myself, I did not have the chance for fellowship with many of those with whom I'd hoped to have it, and that was disappointing. Living in Wilson has been a lonely experience, for lack of opportunity to fellowship and to talk about my favorite subject-the Lord. So I am trying to push through the discouragement and the loneliness and the weariness but sometimes, I just need a little encouragement, a little support, a little help holding my hands up. Being tried in the fire is a hard place to be.
May His name be glorified in all I say and do.