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This was my first mission trip and also my first time outside the United States.  The experience could not have been better.  Panama was breathtaking and amazing, but what really makes Panama such a special place is its people.  For example, Pastor Cecilio and his family in Chitre seem to live only for God and nothing else.  They put on Vacation Bible school and sports camps to reach children, the future of Panama, for Christ.  Such events have brought opportunities for members of our church to partner with the First Baptist Church of Chitre in the form of mission trips.  The church in Chitre is also very active in spreading Jesus’ name to all people in the area.  They see the need for Jesus in their community and take it upon themselves to bring Jesus with all they have and all they are.

One thing the church in Chitre has to battle is a lack of interest from the male population.  In Chitre, church activities seem to be perceived as women’s activities.  Very few men take part in church activities but the ones who do participate share the Gospel with all those around them and are incredibly bold and courageous in every aspect of their lives.  Andres, Pastor Cecilio’s son, is a shining example of Christ to me in our dark world.  He taught me much about having a servant spirit.  He has had challenges after being in an automobile accident that cost him memories (due to a brain injury) and years of rehabilitation.  He had to re-learn everything from walking to talking.  Now, he has recovered and lives to serve Christ and others.  One day, as we were out witnessing to townspeople, I set down my backpack while I grabbed a towel to wipe my brow.  Andres picked up my backpack and insisted on carrying it the rest of the evening.  Though I imagine he has little money from his position, he insisted on paying for snacks and interesting treats for us as he showed us around the are

The people of Chitre I encountered are incredibly caring and giving.  It brings me to tears to think about all the things they did for us and gave us when they have very little to give.  When my good friend and fellow-missionary Dawn complimented a girl just a little older than I am about her bracelet, the girl took it off without hesitation and insisted Dawn take it.  The girl had made it herself and though Dawn struggled to make her take it back, she insisted she could make another one.

Between working with others who did not speak my language, witnessing in the community, getting up to give my testimony in front of approximately forty-five kids at the sports camp, and eating interesting new foods including squid with rice, I can tell you wholeheartedly I stayed primarily outside my comfort zone and I could not have enjoyed my time more.  It was a week of hard work and fun and I loved every second.  This mission trip gave me a new perspective on what is really important in life.  If you have vacation or free-time available, consider going on a mission trip.  It may completely change who you are as a person and for the better. 

We know that, as Christians, we are called to the mission field whether it is overseas or in our own neighborhood, but Jesus did say to go into all the nations and share the Gospel.  Jesus said to feed His sheep.  We know we are called to be servants of Christ and to take up our crosses and follow Him.  Do not be afraid to go on a mission trip.  I thought I would be terrified but God gave me grace and I was not afraid.  God gave me the courage to stand and work and I never once was tired of any of it.  At the end of the week, I really did not want to leave to come back home.  I felt there was so much more to do there. 

I would like to thank the First Baptist Church of Wentzville for making this mission trip possible.  Thank you, Glen Locklear, for planning the trip down to the minute and keeping us safe the entire time.  Also, special thanks to mission team members Jason Meinershagen and Dawn Thornhill, Pastor Cecilio, his wife Clara, his son Andres, our interpreters Nili and Allison, and our driver Oniel for the greatest first trip outside the United States.  You guys are truly lifelong friends.  Lord willing, I hope to see those in Panama again very soon.  I know we get to spend eternity together in Heaven, but I hope to see you again before then!

Posted by Joshua Greening with
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WAS a good way to take your mind off of school and all of the mounting stresses that every college student experiences to some degree or another while living away from home!  While living in Tahlequah, Oklahoma I had floated the river several times with friends from the dorm and I was surprised how peaceful and comforting it was...that was until one day, after a rainfall of several days had occurred, I ventured out on the river with a couple of guys and the river was up...and it was moving fast...and I couldn’t seem to row fast enough to keep control of my canoe and take a safe path through the turbulent waters.  I finally made it to my final location and realized the “peaceful ride” was anything but peaceful.

In fact, I didn’t really want to “float” anymore.  But my experienced canoer friend was quick to get me back out on the river as soon as possible and help me to learn how to handle raging rapids.  He demonstrated the secret of being able to “take a break” in the middle of raging waters.  He showed me that there were quiet eddies behind some of the big rocks in the rapids and it was behind those big rocks that you could take a little rest as you travelled through some very challenging white waters.  There you could plot your path and have the confidence you needed to complete your journey.

He showed me how, I tried it, it worked, and the big rock actually became my very best friend on more than one occasion.  It’s good to know where to go when the current on the river begins to quicken to the point of being overwhelming.

 With the constant drumbeat of the daily news and the never ceasing challenges of daily living you may find that the current on your river has picked up the pace quite a bit lately.  Or perhaps your world has been turned upside down by turbulent waters you just didn’t see coming.  You find yourself in overwhelming rapids and the stress and unknown turns of the rapids have been a little bit more than your used to handling and it’s beginning to take a toll on you.  You need to find a quiet and safe place to renew, refresh, and prepare for the rest of the journey.  It’s no mistake that one of the pictures recorded in the Scriptures describes our God as the “rock of our salvation” .  You can find the rest you need and make preparation for the journey of life with confidence and peace as you find your rest and direction behind the “Big Rock”.

 For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. 2  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.  6  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.                                Psalm 62:1-2, 6 (ESV)

The Rock that the writer of this passage, King David,  finds in the rapids of his life...is not a therapist or anyone on earth...the only place where a turbulent heart can find peace and direction is in a personal relationship with an unshakeable God.  All of the stuff beyond our control can easily be handled by Him.

You can find peace and refreshment to carry on with the journey and successfully and meaningfully navigate through life.  And like the friend who shared with me how to navigate the turbulent waters, you can give help and comfort to others as you share with them where you have found your peace and safety.

According to the Scripture, peace is a Person.  You will find that peace when you find Jesus and rest in His shelter of personal love, unlimited power, and guidance available for the journey we face.

 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 (ESV)

If you’re not experiencing peace in the raging rapids, it might be the case that you’ve let the strong current pull you away from your rock of refuge.  The pull and the pressure may have caused you to neglect your time near the Rock.  Or, it could be you’ve never taken shelter in Him at all.

Stubbornly we try to navigate through this life on our own.  How’s that working for you?  Pretty stressful.  Takes away your energy doesn’t it?  Not an easy ride...and it eventually ends up with cascading over the unforeseen waterfall into even greater trouble.

No need for that.  It’s time to rest behind Jesus the Rock.  You can trust in Him because He died for you.  You can find the peace you need and discover the direction you need to navigate through this life with success and peace. 

The Rock brings you peace and preparation on the River for sure.  And Jesus, our Rock brings us the peace and preparation we need for daily living.

When the river rises and the current becomes overwhelming find your rest behind the Big Rock, the Lord Jesus.  Let the struggle end and ask for His help and you will enjoy the peace that “surpasses understanding”.

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)

Receive the peace you need...today...from Him.

Posted by Ralph Sawyer with

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