Today was the day that we had been waiting for. No, not the day we go head back to the United States to see family and friends, but the day we worshipped and fellowshipped with the people we had been building a church for. After eating breakfast and having Sabbath School at the hotel with our own group, we boarded the bus and headed to the newly built San Jose Las Lomas Seventh-day Adventist Church. Needless to say, it was a full house on the very first Sabbath. Conference officials from Panama City were on hand; there was a quartet that did a special music as well as our very own WA students. The girls’ trio, consisting of Keturah Wilkinson (’14), Michaela Wilson (’14) and Madeline Miranda (’14) sang “Wonderful, Merciful Savior” and several members from Choralaires sang “The Stone That The Builders Rejected.” The local pastor introduced the members of the local church and had everyone come up front. It was truly amazing to see all of the people that have sacrificed and prayed so diligently for this very special day. Because of the local international festival that takes place in David every year, we were not able to achieve the attendance at the evangelistic series that we were hoping for. And some nights, some of us wondered if there would even be enough people to fill the church. So imagine our surprise when we enjoyed seeing a full house! The service was a blessing, and the topic “Is Heaven Real?” was a perfect opening message for the new congregation, as Elder Alan Carlson preached, while our in-country coordinator from Maranatha, did the translating.
Following the church service, many hugs and handshakes of gratitude were shared amongst all present. A group photo in front of the church with the mission project team, local church members and Conference officials was taken from atop of a ladder. While taking the group photos, the smells of potluck wafted through the air as some people were expressing the fact that they were extremely hungry. The fellowship lunch was held in the Sabbath School division, and provided the perfect place for all of us to fellowship. As was expected, leaving after the potluck was a very difficult task as the group was bombarded by hugs, handshakes, and blessings. To be honest, the people here in Panama have been amazing, and it has been such a blessing to broaden our horizons and meet our brothers and sisters in Christ, and share this experience with them. The connections we have made and the blessings we have received will not be soon forgotten!
The group was able to continue enjoying the Sabbath at La Playa La Barqueta, a beautiful beach on the southern side of Panama. The beach offered the perfect atmosphere for the team to enjoy God’s creation. From walking on the beach and collecting shells, to dodging the surf, the team enjoyed the laid back pace after a very hectic week of service for the cause of the advancement of Christ’s kingdom. While at the beach, the team met a group from Palisade Academy in Washington State that had just started working on another church not far from us. It was fun sharing our experiences with them and what they have to look forward to. Following supper on the beach, the group enjoyed a sunset worship, and then headed into town to enjoy some treats at Dairy Queen. Tomorrow marks our last day in David, and we start the long journey back home as we head to Panama City to check out the Panama Canal on Monday as well as Old Panama City before flying back to Chicago. We are so excited about reflecting on how God has led throughout the entire process of this entire project, and we praise His name for allowing us to be humble servants to help the people in need. Until later…
~By Chaplain Jimmy Carter