Panama STM Vignettes

Our missionary friend helping us to purchase sim card and data plan. He claims he has no language gift, but before he left for the field he enrolled in Spanish classes in four different schools to acquire survival language skills. He continued after arrival and forced himself to communicate with the local people. Now he has a working knowledge of Spanish for daily living. Our hats off to his persistence.

Temperatures are high in Panama throughout the year, ranging from a low of mid 20s Celsius in early morning to low 30s in the afternoon. Humidity is high between 80-90%. There are only two seasons, dry and rainy (Apr to Dec), and when it rains, it pours. Streets are flooded within minutes but the water also subsides fast due to extra-large drains.

One of the challenges for Chinese churches here is to get Christians to attend worship. The culture is such that people value earning money above worshipping God. It’s not hard to invite people to receive Jesus as Savior, but following them up to become disciples present major difficulties. Here the STM team is teaching the local Christians a new song in their weekly fellowship.

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Why You Should be a Missionary

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Our missionary friend in Taiwan shared J. Trotters’ “Ten Reasons You Should be a Missionary” on her Facebook. We came back from several mission trips this year and found his points spot on, so I’m commenting on a couple of items from our recent experience.

Take number 8 for instance. Unlike traffic in Canada where cars are supposed to pass and merge in from the driver’s side, cars in Panama cut in from both the left and the right. And they usually cut it real close. It’s like playing “bluff” to see who “chickens out” and brake first to yield to the other driver to avoid a fender bender. In Taiwan, the challenge is scooters. They are as numerous as locusts, and weave in and out of tight spaces between cars. If a car driver is not alert, he could send a scooter flying into the air! Even some experienced drivers from N. America are scared of driving in developing countries. If you are accident-free in the third world, you can drive anywhere in the world.

Or take number 6. Police in Russia often do random checks on Asian pedestrians and ask for identification. Aliens who do not have proper IDs are fined or even detained. Even if your documents are in order, they usually manage to find problems where none actually exists. In exchange for not getting a ticket, you can pay a fee directly to the officer. One time our missionary friend in Panama made a left turn where he was not supposed to, despite the fact that there are no road signs telling him this was not allowed. He was stopped by a traffic cop who asked what’s his “offer”. Since he does not pay bribes as a matter of principle, an interesting negotiation followed. This would be especially interesting when neither side know the other’s mother tongue.

But at the top of the list every missionary can identify with is of course number one. Leading someone to Christ in your own language, culture and vicinity is exhilarating enough; doing so when you have to cross barriers in some or all of the above is pure joy that is often indescribable, not to mention the fact that God had seen fit to use you to serve Him. I hope you will take at least one mission trip as part of your bucket list. It will do wonders to widen your heart and mind to fulfill the Great Commission. Some have even changed careers as a result.