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Over the past five years we have made several visits to Panama, but our March trip was the first visit with a church in the town of Penonomé. I met the pastor, Omar Peñaloza, through our earlier visits, and as President of the Panama Baptist Convention, he has a much better insight to the needs across the country. I reached out to Pastor Omar in search of a church that might want to partner with us in an area outside their home church. Our goal is to help plant a church, not just help grow an existing church. Focus on outreach, not in reach.

Pastor Omar proposed three options to explore: 1) Work in a mining town that has had no evangelistic contact. 2) Work with a church plant just outside Penonomé that Omar has been leading. 3) Work with a native pastor with the Ngöbe Buglé, an indigenous tribe in Panama.

We first visited the mining town of Coclecito. It is a very small, rural community with public schools that we could contact about using for VBS or visiting and sharing with the classes. Next, the church plant in La Honda is also located in a small, rural community, and it currently has some 15-20 people participating in Bible study. Finally, we drove another two and half hours north of Penonome to meet the Ngöbe Buglé.

Panama has seven unique indigenous cultures, compared to the more than 750 Native American tribes here in the USA. The territory of the Ngöbe Buglé is just a bit more than 5 hours north of Panama City on the Panamerican Highway, the highway that starts in Alaska and ends down in southern Argentina. After arriving at the turnoff at San Félix, we continued another 15 miles or so to the tribal state of the Ngöbe Buglé. Approaching the border, pastor Omar spoke to the guard, who permitted us entry without the fee typically charged outsiders.

The Ngöbe Buglé that we visited live at poverty level, many in shelters made of sticks, straw, and dirt floors. The Panamanian government has a program in place to provide basic housing for tribal members, but it will take several more years to get each family in their own house. Electricity, water, and plumbing have not arrived to all areas, so many rely on lanterns and candles for light and walk long distances for their water daily. Outhouses are the norm, not the exception.

As we prayed over what the Lord has shown us, we believe that we can make the most impact working with the Ngöbe Buglé, but also team with that church plant from La Honda as they want to serve. Our first trip will be in September, during Panama’s school break, to work in Vacation Bible School (VBS) with the La Honda church plant. In February 2020 we will return and head to Ngöbe Buglé to work alongside the church plant doing VBS. Over time we would like to take a medical team down to help the Ngöbe Buglé, continue with VBS, and if we can get the resources, drill a well to provide clean water to the community. All the while, we will evangelize and share the good news of Jesus Christ to those who have not heard.

                   

So would you pray about joining us?

We need missionaries willing to step out of their comfort zone and help tell others about Jesus. They must be born again believers. They must have a current passport. And, they must complete the Basic Training for Mission class which is held several times a year. The next class will be all day on Saturday, June 1 at the church. To sign up, call the church office at 636-327-8696, or email me at

Posted by Glen Locklear with
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A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to a special pre-screening of the movie “Breakthrough”. It’s a movie that there is great interest around here in our area due to the local nature of the story happening right here in our community. So many movies you see that are based on a true story have no personal connection to you or your area, whereas this one definitely does. Even beyond the story being local, it’s a story of faith and God doing the miraculous.

The story of “Breakthrough” took place in 2015 right here in St. Charles County. The Smith family’s lives were changed on January 19 when their son John and 2 other friends fell through the ice on Lake St. Louise. Lake St. Louise is a smaller lake right next to Lake St. Louis. John and his friends struggled to get out of the icy water. While his friends made it out, John’s body shut down and he sank to the bottom of the lake. He spent at least 15 minutes underwater before a Wentzville fireman, Tommy Shine, amazingly found him at the bottom of the lake. John had no pulse at this point and they rushed him to St. Joseph’s West Hospital where they tried to revive John for quite some time. By the time his mother, Joyce arrived, the doctor’s had all but given up hope. When mom goes in to be with her son, she begins to pray loudly and as she prayed John’s pulse returned. That was the beginning of an incredible story of hope and faith. A story where we saw a mom fight for her son’s life, keeping the faith that God could do the miraculous in an uncharted medical situation. The story follows him to Cardinal Glennon where miracle after miracle takes place ultimately leading to John recovering.

Anytime I see a “Christian” movie or at least one intentionally based on Christian themes, one of my greatest concerns is the level of cheesiness, especially when it comes to the acting. It’s not out of the ordinary for us to joke about some of the acting or actors involved in Christian movies. When I went to see “Breakthrough”, I had similar fears despite what appears to have been strong casting. As the movie began and they were trying to establish some of the characters at the beginning, my cheesiness meter was rising. Thankfully, once the story got going the acting and storyline picked up and produced a high quality movie experience. You’ll recognize some of the main actors like Chrissy Metz from “This Is Us”, Josh Lucas, Dennis Haysbert and Topher Grace. For you Christian music fans, I’m pretty sure you’ll spot Lecrae and Phil Wickham in the movie as well. Don’t write the movie off in the first ten minutes, keep watching as you’ll be rewarded with the acting of a great cast!

One of the other concerns when you see a movie with Christian themes and are trying to decide whether to recommend it or not is how well does it portray biblical concepts, the gospel, and denominational distinctives. The other aspect I consider is does it feel forced when they do try to interject the gospel or some biblical agenda. Let me first say that I never felt like they were forcing anything extra into the story, it never felt like there was this side plot going on with some religious agenda trying to run parallel to the actual story. At the same time as I say that, there is no doubt that the biblical concepts of faith, hope, and prayer are very evident. Those themes were just part of the story, not a subplot, not an extra forced interaction…just beautifully interwoven into the movie. There were times when they could have easily gone down a path of some forced interaction that could have easily taken away from the story, but never once did I feel that was the case. This isn’t a movie you’re going to go see and hear a clear gospel presentation. Actually if you’re looking for a movie about Jesus and what He does, then you’re going to be disappointed. What this movie will do for your lost friends is show them that through a relationship with God, there is hope in the worst of times and that God can do all things. It’s a great springboard for a conversation over a cup of coffee or dinner where you can take it a step further to talk about the gospel.

There are a few things to consider as you prepare to go see the movie or invite someone else. In some of the character development, it felt like they were trying to establish both the pastor and John Smith as punks to an extent as they use some phrases that are unfortunate at the very least. While they are present, it wasn’t necessary for the movie to use a “Hell no” or a “Hell yea” in the movie. That was unfortunate, but to a far greater extent, I was disappointed by the use of “Oh My God”. I know culturally its very common, even among some Christians, but it’s still using God’s name in vain. I could only count a handful of phrases or words I wish they had not included, so it’s not like the whole movie and story is ruined by any stretch, but I’d be remiss to not at least mention it. Secondly, if you go expecting to see all the local places represented in the original story, you will be disappointed. It’s actually filmed somewhere else, but you will see familiar touches like the SSM logo, Wentzville Fire on the firetrucks, etc. It won’t look familiar totally, but it was neat to see the places we know represented with familiar graphics/clothing/logos on buildings etc. The last thing, they warned us before it started to grab our tissues. I’m not much of a go to the movies and cry person…but I cried during this one. The themes of faith, family, and watching a child go through something so traumatic and hopeless definitely plays with your emotions. If you’re looking for a lighthearted and fun movie to go see…just be warned. If you enjoy that sort of emotional movie…take your tissues and enjoy!

Breakthrough will be in theaters starting tomorrow, April 17. Overall it’s a quality movie with some strong themes portraying faith and hope! Given the wide array of disgusting content portrayed in movies today that we could spend our money on, this is one worth spending your money on. Consider it a great opportunity to have a conversation with friends and neighbors talking about the hope that is found in faith in Christ using a story that’s anchored in our local community.

Posted by Jeremy Shirley with

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