The wee hour rise to meet the bus, the sleepy ride to Dulles Airport;
the heat and humidity upon disembarking in Panama City;
knowing we were being lifted in prayer by our faith community back home;
shared meals and daily devotions;
showering with unheated cistern water;
brushing teeth with bottled water;
unrecognizable breakfast meat too tough for our plastic knives (or teeth);
the most delicious fresh pineapple and watermelon;
the rugged terrain and bumpy rides as we travelled winding roads to our rural clinic sites;
the generosity of local pastors providing homemade chicken and root vegetable soup to supplement our lunches;
the beauty and humble graciousness of the Panamanian families who bathed and dressed in their finest to walk several miles to our clinics;
and in our final days, swimming in the Pacific Ocean and relaxing under a thatched cabana;
seeing the Panama Canal and the Marketplace in Panama City for the first time….
But most importantly:
the opportunity to converse and spend time with fellow RRCB participants, deepening friendships and enriching acquaintances;
getting to know and work with Virginia Baptists from other congregations;
being blessed by the presence and leadership of our partnering Panamanian health professionals and volunteers who so genuinely live out their Christian faith.
All of these things swirl about in my mind as I think of my week in Panama. But what I will remember most is that despite coming together with differing languages, cultures, politics, theology and personalities, the Holy Spirit somehow suffused it all, smoothing out the rough places and allowing us to use our gifts to do God’s work and experience a transcendent grace. I feel truly privileged to have been a part of it and am grateful to Judy Collins, Joe Teefey, and Norma Hays, of RRCB, and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Missionary Sue Smith for the superb leadership and planning which made it all possible.
Written by Christie Lessels