Originally published in the 2017 Spring Quarterly Explorer

For six years, River Road Church and some neighboring churches have sent a team to the country of Panama to serve medical and dental needs of the people in rural communities there. After an official five-year partnership between the Virginia Baptist and Panama Baptist Conventions concluded in 2016, the Virginia Team was asked to serve again due to the relationships developed with the Fundación Christiana Medico Social (Medical Social Christian Foundation) and its founders, the Cooper family. This partnership had grown into friendships that led to multiple medical/dental mission trips to underserved communities, especially in indigenous areas in Panama. Because of the deep and abiding relationships built, the teams have continued to organize and provide care together, for the last two years after the partnership “officially” ended.

This year, a team of U.S. volunteers from Virginia (and two from North Carolina) served with volunteers (mostly medical and dental students) from the Medical Social Christian Foundation to provide healthcare to Gnobe Indians at an elementary school in Cerro Pelado, which served neighboring communities such as Chibirital, a small, primitive village in a remote area in the Veraguas Province, where a small church plant is located.

The team was a partnership of six churches and 13 people led by co-team leaders Judy Collins and Joe Teefey, and Sue Smith, DMin/SW (former missionary in Costa Rica and current CBF missionary). The team members from RRCB included Judy and Joe, Libby Grammer, Norma Hays, Steve Larson, and Bonnie Livick. Our church commissioned the team during worship on Sunday, January 22, 2017.

In addition to providing medical and dental care with doctors, nurses, dentists, and medical/dental students, the team was joined by a mission evangelism group from a church in Santiago, which has partnered with a small church in Chibirital to reach the Gnobe Indians with the message of Jesus Christ. Those who lead the Santiago church and the church in Chibirital took some of the group to a mountain top to pray for the land and its people one day during the trip. The joy and enthusiasm of the people for sharing their faith was palpable, and their commitment to love and care for people, both spiritually and physically, was deeply meaningful.

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