By Jennifer Mullins, Baptist Collegiate Minister, Radford University
Allelu! Allelu! Allelu! Alleluia! Gloria a Dios! (Praise ye the Lord!)
This familiar children’s ministry song was taught and sung almost every day while on our recent mission journey to Panama – and its simple lyrics reflect my thanks to God for the beautiful experience that I and my team had while serving Christ with the people of the Panama Oeste Association.
From June 7- June 16, I led a strong Kairos collegiate and young adult team of 12 to Arraijan, Panama for a ten day mission trip sharing with various pastors and churches in ministry. We took part in worship at Shahah church with Pastor Moises, our driver, care-giver, and guide for the week.
Each day, we were up between 5:30-7:00am to get ready to go and work with children in various schools in and around El Chorrera. We would be with children between 8:00am and the early afternoon and we loved every second.
During our time, we taught and led songs, presented dramatic skits, shared the gospel through making and giving salvation bracelets, gave testimonies and led in sports and recreation. We used everything from sidewalk chalk to bubbles (borbugas) to softball, soccer and football to build relationships and share God’s love.
We worked with children ages 5 to 15 every day. We were given the opportunity to work with children in the school within First Baptist of El Chorrera; another school of a church; and a very rural public school deep in the Panama forests. So we experienced different cultures within this area in Panama and it was very special.
After dinner and any special event each evening, we would go back and assemble salvation bracelets, practice dramas, prepare for the next day and have a team devotion/prayer time before bed around 11 or 12.
We also spent a lot of time with Pastor Antonio at the schools and when we worshipped at his church “Luz del Mundo” at the end of our week. We also participated in two special evenings with him at Primer Iglesia Bautisto.
On Thursday night, we were invited to a special worship and testimony night and it was a wonderful evening.
On Saturday night, we participated in a special associational youth night. Youth and pastors from churches throughout the association were invited to this “reunion” event. Youth and young adults shared in music, testimonies and dramas. We were asked to lead a significant portion of this service.
Seven of our team gave testimonies; we presented two dramas and a few worship songs; and we presented “cardboard testimonies” which was received particularly well. We had written our cardboard testimonies in Spanish – thanks to the help of one of our translators – and it was rather profound.
Afterwards, we led the whole group in a few fun games and had so much fun! We had the joy of meeting Pastor Abel on this night also! It was wonderful to talk with him!
Another special ministry opportunity was serving at Ciudad de Niños – a Catholic-run orphanage for boys. During the morning – we were asked to do a lot of cleaning which was a rather heart-breaking experience because the conditions were not good.
One example was finding mold inside the cribs – which we worked hard to clean. After we cleaned, we visited two orphan houses where we shared the love of Christ with boys ages 5-9.
Again, we used music, games and even balloon animals. This was quite an emotional day. Here is a wonderful praise that resulted from our work there.The pastors had been looking for ways to bring Christianity into that orphanage. One of the young adults from the church who is a doctor who had gone with us that day; he is now the point person to build future ministry opportunities in that place.
Two special moments happened while we were there. Pastor Ulisses, another wonderful brother in Christ, lost his father early in the week. He personally invited our team to his dad’s funeral which we attended between school programs on Tuesday of the week.It was a special experience to support Pastor Ulisses and to attend a Panamanian funeral.
Also, Pastor Moises invited us to a school parade in his community where his son, Aaron, was participating as a drummer. So we went and cheered on his son and were immersed in the culture of this celebrative event. These two family events only underscored the way our team developed close relationships with the people with whom we worked.
We enjoyed every meal, conversation, and experience we had. The love and presence of God seemed to permeate every day. We also enjoyed the times when Pastor Moises took us to see the Panama Canal and the beach at their Baptist Conference Center – allowing us to see beautiful things in this amazing country.
I was also asked to give a speak at their Panama Oeste Associational meeting which was such an honor for me and my husband was asked to preach on Father’s Day and four people accepted Christ that morning.
Outside of getting used to crazy life-shaking driving (haha!); almost stepping on a poisonous snake; and having no water at the seminary except one back shower with a small stream of water that we all shared (and came to love)— the week went well with no injuries, incidents or negativity. These items listed were even handled well – with laughter and positive attitudes.
We developed great relationships with Pastor Moises and Pastor Antonio (and their wives and children); Pastor Ulisses and our many helpful young adult translators, Ivelice, David, Elias, Jussy and Xavi. We became so close that they are trying to form a team to come to see us in Radford. The week was beautiful and we are thankful to God! Alleluia! Gloria a Dios!
I wish to say one final thing about my team. This team has been amazing from day one. As missions is a huge part of my heart and my life, and because I am a planner, we have been praying and preparing for this trip for a year.
Originally we thought we were going to Brazil, but when things changed and we were invited to go to Panama, the team responded well and trusted God’s hand in it all. This team was a true Kairos team.
Kairos is the expanded ministry network created by the Baptist Collegiate Ministry staff of the VBMB to grow collegiate and young adult ministry across our state through campus based BCM’s, church young adult groups, associational college/young adult groups and anyone effectively trying to reach young adults.
Kairos encourage making disciples of Christ, developing Christian leaders, building community and serving on mission among young adults ages 18-25 (and actually – in my context – I reach young adults from 18-28).
This Panama mission team was made up of young adults ages 19-27. 5 of them are current RU BCM’ers; 2 are RU BCM grads from this year; 3 were former BCM students – out of college in churches – in their mid-twenties. (then there was me, my husband and my son who is a high school junior.)
It was an excellent representation of Kairos as we had college students in BCM; and some in the professional world too. Even having an older teen on the team was a great bridge builder getting him excited about serving in missions on through his young adult years – especially serving with these young adults.
This team worked beautifully together and showed amazing flexibility, compassion, creativity, hard work and love! I believe advanced planning and preparing really helped this team to come together as they did.
I, and our RU BCM, and this Panama team are already praying about what the next mission opportunity may be. Thank you for the chance to go and serve Christ in this way.