I (Chris) have begun teaching a new 3 week course (9 hours) with about 30 students in the The missions academy, “Panamanian Institute for Transcultural Studies.” The acronym in Spanish is IPET.
It’s in the city of Colon, about 45 miles north of where we live, over on the Atlantic coast.
The teaching environment
Colon is not a safe place.
The tourist book reads “If you have no business over there, do not go. If you go, expect to be mugged.” Last night, when I asked to walk down the street (about 6 houses) to get a soda, I was taken by car, not allowed to walk by myself. While I do not fear for my personal safety, the locals know that I’m a prime target and they keep me safe.
It’s tropical, humid, and the church I’m teaching in is not using air conditioning. Open windows permit the occasional breeze to come through.
The sanctuary lighting is intentionally set low so that the data projector can cast the slides up on the wall. The combination of heat, humidity, and low light after the end of a long work day means that my teaching has to fight fatigue and sleepiness.
IPET is the schooling arm of a Latin American sending agency who’s goal is to raise up missionaries from Latin America to other parts of the world. The academy runs in multiple sites in Panama, currently over 10 are running in various areas of the county.
Students in this course are paying monthly for 18 months of study, 3 class hours a week plus short term mission outreaches in partnership with local churches. Many are in training specifically to reach other people groups, so it’s more than personal evangelism.
I’m teaching 3 weeks (9 hours) on personal evangelism:
- Motivations for Evangelism
- The Role of the Holy Spirit in Evangelism
- The example of Phillip.
This is the foundational teaching on evangelism for all my courses on personal evangelism and is the foundational material for PRMI’s evangelism Dunamis. One of my students last week said:
I tell you, I believe that God gives tools to the church. Chris is a tool that our church needs to use. I had 9 hours of his teaching and benefited so much from it that my approach to evangelism has been transformed. We need to learn from him.
I’m honored by his statement.
Teaching with the Lizards
The classroom has open windows to allow the occasional breeze to stir the air.
One can hear the noises in the street, the chirping and callings of night insects.
But the open windows allow these little green lizards to get in. They are common in Panama — we’ve seen them in our house on a regular basis. (Imagine grabbing a shampoo bottle only to see a lizard staring at you).
Last night was the first night that I saw these lizards visiting the class. I found humor as they chased each other on the walls while I’m teaching on the love of God and how to share it with others.
One or two would occasionally run across my teaching images being projected on the cement wall behind me.
I find them funny and distracting, but the class doesn’t seem to notice — a worldview issue.
The fruit of teaching
It is clear that the doors to teaching here are beginning to open. During the drive home with the director, it was clear that he has more in store for me in IPET and in the missions organization itself.
We came with a dream of tapping into a network of trainers, and it is appearing to unfold in a different way that we expected. The level of our teaching events is going to increase considerably over the next few months and that is an answer to prayer.
Students in these classes come from a multitude of churches. Already the director is beginning to field phone calls from pastors whose members were in my class. Pastors are beginning to take note and as the Lord permits, we’ll be able to respond.
We’ll need your partnership in prayer and support to help us reach these churches and members with a passion to share the good news.
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