This was recorded after we had been in Panama for 1 year.
Archives for July 2008
Ministry Workshops at Casa De Luz
While in Volcán at the Operation Mobilization Panama Mission Base, I also had the opportunity to do evangelism workshops at a bi-lingual new church development called Iglesia Casa De Luz (Lighthouse Church).
The church has experienced an explosion of adult conversion growth in recent months. I met many people who had become a Christian within the last 6 months. Some as recent as two weeks prior to these workshops.
I attribute this growth to the dedicated prayer of the leaders. Four mornings a week, the leadership team meets for prayer at 4.30am to pray for the church. Those who make that prayer time reported to me what a blessing it was to be awake at that hour doing the work of the church and seeing its fruit. This is in contrast to other 12 churches in the town that are not experiencing such growth.
It’s not the intensity of the prayer, or the hour of their prayer. Rather, it is the disciplined and commitment to prayer that I think has fueled the growth of this church.
First Evening: Small Group in David.
David is a major town about 45 minutes away (down the mountain) from the church. The church has small groups in that area because of the distance that hinders regular large group meetings. Pastor drives out to meet with them on a regular basis.
We met with some of the small group on the back patio of a house. Most of those pictured to the right are new believers in the Lord who have come to faith in recent months. Many had little to no bible knowledge when they came to faith, and are at the stage of faith where they are drinking in all they can get of the teachings about Jesus.
They have a passion for sharing their faith because of the tremendous impact that the Grace of God has had upon their life. I taught on how the Holy Spirit directs evangelism.
After about 90 minutes of teaching time, we moved into a time of prayer ministry. We felt that God was leading us to pray for those who do not know Him, and to rejoice in the fact that God has saved us.
I was surprised once again by the fact that a pre-Christian would come to a workshop on Evangelism.
However, here again, one lady came to the workshop on the invitation of a friend. During the workshop, I had explained the gospel message, had explained how the Holy Spirit prepares our heart.
During the ministry time, she came forward to invite Jesus to come into her life. God had been already working in her heart, creating a spiritual thirst for Him, to bring her to a place where she knew her need and only Jesus could satisfy it.
We continued to minister in prayer to people for various prayer needs, such as a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit, a passion for those who don’t yet know Christ, and some for physical healing.
2nd evening: Small group in Volcán
The second night, we repeated the same workshop on the role of the Holy Spirit in Evangelism. This time, was for the small group in Volcán. A different set of people came from the local area, including an American lady who had retired and moved to Panama from the US with her husband only 4 months ago.
Again, after about 90 minutes of teaching on the work of the Holy Spirit in Evangelism, we moved into another powerful ministry time. I was sick and fighting a cold, so I let the pastor lead the ministry time. We were led to pray for those who do not yet know Christ, for infilling of the Spirit again to be his witnesses, and particularly felt that God was giving prayer burdens for specific people groups.
3rd evening: Whole group in Volcán
The third evening, both groups from the first and second night gathered in Volcán for part two of the workshop series. I had recovered from being ill the day before and was much more sensitive to God’s working.
This evening, the teaching focused on paying attention to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to guide you in your evangelism efforts. It is a variation on the “Fear Free Evangelism” workshop that I offer via www.EvangelismCoach.org to churches in the United States. It uses Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch as a model of listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit to position yourself in the right place at the right time.
Afterwards we moved into another moving and important time of prayer ministry. Four or five more people came forward to ask Christ into their life, including the two children of the woman who invited Christ into her life in David, two nights before. We felt led again to be praying for all sorts of things under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
One lady, who had only been a Christian for two weeks, came forward for prayer.
I felt led to pray for physical healing, and physically felt God was working. I’ve have learned to recognize when God is using me to do a healing work and those signs were present. I initially was praying for healing, not knowing what for. After a while, I asked her specifically what for and she reported having some tumors. As I continued to pray, she reported the physical sensation of her tumors being pulverized, and felt God’s healing upon her. Of course, we’ll wait for medical verification, but we are confident in God’s healing work.
Saturday: Youth Group meeting
Saturday night, we participated in a Youth Group meeting, together with OM Mission Extreme Team that I had been training during these days.
We had a program that focused on a call to missions, to get beyond the mediocrity of casual Christianity and into giving yourself fully to God’s service no matter where that may take you. For some, it involves a short term trip in a foreign country. For others, like us, perhaps moving to a foreign country. For still others, it might be in your local neighborhood. The greatest joy in life is accomplishing God’s purposes for your life.
Sunday morning: Worship service
The final day of ministry wrapped up with preaching at Casa de Luz, using a message on Psalm 51. It’s a bi-lingual church so much of the service is translated. As mentioned, many of these people are new believers in Christ and God is doing a wonderful work there.
It was a beautiful morning. The punishing breezes of Volcan had calmed.
The message focused on the punishing burden of sin, and the freedom that is found in Christ’s forgiveness.
It is a message that naturally led into a time of repentance and rededication. The time of prayer ministry after the preaching lasted about 30 minutes and had several highlights.
People came forward for prayer about personal repentance, to give or rededicate their life to the Lord.
Others came forward for prayer as well, and several families spent time seeking forgiveness from each other for the broken ways they had been behaving.
A son sought forgiveness from his father and mom, praying for them as well.
A mom sought forgiveness from her daughter for how she had been behaving.
Brothers and sisters asked to be reconciled to each other.
One family, after being away from the Lord for two years, visited church for the first time and rededicated their life to the Lord.
Others, including one lady from the local indigenous tribe, came forward to give her life to the Lord. She also sought prayer for her sick child.
God is doing amazing work with this church. I am humbled to have been a part of it. I don’t claim any special power, but am simply a vessel in God’s purposes. I may have the gift of evangelism, but am humbled every time God chooses to use me in leading someone to faith in Christ.
I don’t claim to have any special ability. But rather I’m an available tool that God has chosen to use, and one that has been positioned at the right place at the right time.
I wasn’t in Volcán on my own doing, but in the sovereignty of God, the door opened and I was there to participate in a work that God was already doing.
What a privilege to see more souls come into the kingdom, to see people experience the power of God, and to ignite the church in the power of the Holy Spirit for missions.
Teaching Children’s Workers in Arraijan
While I was in Volcán at the Operation Mobilization Panama Mission Base, Brenda and our kids were at a workshop for Children’s Workers in Arraijan Panama.
Arraijan is about 30 minutes west of Panama City and is a booming suburb with new subdivisions springing up. Life is still affordable there of Panamanians, in contrast to the outrageous rental and retail housing prices in the city.
A church planter and his wife have been in Panama for several years and were connected with the church we attend until just recently when they felt called of God to plant a church in Arraijan. They moved their family to the neighborhood and opened the church a few months ago.
During their many years in Panama, they have been involved on a national level in teaching children’s workers. In fact, they organized the Children’s Leadership Conference in January that we taught at. As part of their continued influence and growing the church, they arranged another conference particularly for the churches in this town. Liz VonSeggen of www.daleandliz.com returned to provide training in Puppetry.
Brenda was invited to come and do a workshop on crafts. Using the information gathered at www.mismanualidades.org (Brenda’s website) and some more that will be posted, she gave another presentation to about 70 more workers.
The photo is from a different camp, but shows the idea.
During our road trip in the US, several more people have offered to help Brenda develop that website and contribute to it.
Once again, we saw the tremendous demand and need for Spanish language instructional material. People were asking Brenda if she had written a book to sell that had this stuff in it. Perhaps that will become a future revenue source.
Teaching at OM Panama
By God’s sovereign plan, I had the privilege of teaching Evangelism classes at the Operation Mobilization base in Volcán, Panama. Months before, some missionaries passing through Panama attended a workshop in May and they introduced me to the OM leadership.
Volcán is a little town in the province of Chiriqui, in western Panama. I had to take the 6 hour red-eye bus ride from the city terminal to the town David, followed by a 90 minute bus ride up the mountain to Volcán. I arrived about 8.30 in the morning on my first day of class at 9am, exhausted from the travel and sleepless night, but nonetheless ready to teach.
The base is located at the end of a road in a residential neighborhood at the foot of a dormant volcano, Baru (pictured below, center rear).
The terrain was mostly rocky, with giant boulders that had been left from lava flows eons ago. Roads were sometimes paved, sometimes littered with potholes, and sometimes not paved at all. A 4×4 would be a good car to have in Volcán
The town of Volcán is about 1500 meters in elevation (about 4900 feet). The weather was a combination of clouds (we were in them some times), rain, and strong winds. At times the wind was biting cold. It often blows with such strength that tree saplings are bent over and grow at an angle. I saw several trees that had a graceful curve to them. The air is pretty cool year round that most houses don’t have either a heating or air conditioning system installed.
Teaching at the OM Panama Base
The missionaries at the school were from 5 different countries: Australia, Switzerland, France, Germany, and Panama. After 10 days of training, they will go on a 2 month outreach, working with local churches in their evangelism programs.
This partnership was a key ingredient in my decision to help them. I wanted to be sure that their outreach efforts were connected with the local church, so that any new believers could be connected. I firmly believe that evangelism includes helping people connect to a local church, not just praying a prayer to receive Christ.
I had been asked to teach on two subjects, evangelism and team work.
I had four sections on evangelism:
- How the Holy Spirit Directs Evangelism
- Fear Free Evangelism
- Cross Cultural Evangelism.
For the two sections on teamwork, I focused a little on factors that make a great team member and did a group exercise looking into what gifts and personalities each person brings to the table.
The missionaries spent other classes looking into matters such as preaching, spiritual warfare, drama, and had time to develop and practice their mimes and dramas that would be used in their open air campaigns.
Open Air Campaign
I even had the chance to join them in one of their open air campaigns with a church in Volcán and at nearly the last minute, given the chance to interpret a drama for the crowd that had gathered.
The mime was called "Too Late."
Two mimes are partying, carrying on, enjoying the so called pleasures of this life. A Christian witness comes in to tell them about Jesus and they reject him, saying they are having too much fun.
Scene shifts to the two mimes working very hard to earn a living. A Christian witness comes in to tell them about Jesus and they reject him, saying they are too busy.
Scene shifts to the two mimes being elderly and barely able to move. A Christian witness comes in to tell them about Jesus and they reject him, saying they are too old.
Scene ends with one of the mimes dying. The "narrator" finishes the mime with a sign that says "Too late."
In our life, many times God will send us somebody who will tell us about Jesus but we find too many excuses to follow him. God pursues us, but gives us liberty to reject it. The characters in the mime rejected all of the occasions that God provided them to receive the Good News. Likewise, each person in the crowd that day had the opportunity to hear of God’s love for them in Jesus Christ, and could choose to respond accordingly.
Today is the day of salvation, not knowing what tomorrow brings, and today was one opportunity where God gives you the offer of salvation.
Together with the other mimes and dramas, we presented the gospel message and invited folks who had freely gathered into further conversation.
For the team, it was good practice for their dramas and open air preaching.
We had a chance to debrief the experience a little and learn ways to improve the drama and improve the presentation for next time. I was able to provide some coaching and guidance to the street preachers and translators based on the experiences that I have had in open air preaching.
Panama Tourism continues to grow
La Prensa reports in July 31 that Panama received 771,376 visitors between January and June 30 2008, as 12.2% increase of the same period the year before.
For the month of June, the number climbed 14% year over year.
- By Air (Tocumen International): growth of 25%
- By Land (Border crossing with Costa Rica), growth of 19.1%
- By Sea (Cruise ships): -18.2%