138 Dirksen Drive, DeBary, FL US 32713
So here we are sitting thinking back to yesterday, Friday, as we write this blog. It was my favorite day of the week, which is saying a lot if you have been following and reading the amazing stories from all the previous days (by the way, thank you for doing so! It has been such a privilege to go to Panama, and we are all so excited and blessed to be able to share this experience with you all!).
One of the main topics of discussion in our team devotions this week has been asking God to “use us” and offering up all of ourselves to Him to be used for His purposes as well as relationships and transparency, etc. I think that we can all agree that the importance of relationships has definitely been a prevalent theme throughout the week, and Friday was the day that everything “came together”. What I mean by that is Friday was the last full day of camp and relationships had been steadily growing stronger throughout the week.
On Thursday during our team devotion time, six team members ended up sharing their testimonies. Even though it was really hard for some people to share, knowing all of our fellow team members on a deeper level really helped us function more effectively and closely as a team Friday, and it was really a blessing to share that moment together. I was able to appreciate each one of them and their efforts more; as well as have a mid-ish week encouragement of how God had already worked/ is working in each of our lives, His power and hand in every situation, and that He is the one with the plan and we have to trust Him because things happen for a reason and He wants the best for us even if it isn’t what we want or when we want it.
Similarly, after the usual morning camp festivities, the kids had the amazing opportunity to go up on the stage in front of the others and say their name, age, and what decision they had made that week (to give their life to Christ). (Leslie told us that this was so that the kids had a chance to practice sharing about God before they went back home to their families and “normal life”). The official count from the counselors was that 131 kids gave their lives to Christ. Each decision showed how God is working here in Panama. Seeing the kids sharing their testimonies and proclaiming the fact they gave their life to Christ was so amazing because that was a main reason we came on the trip, to share the love of Christ. And we didn’t just get a statistic of kids who accepted Christ to “check a box” and say we were successful in our goal, we got to see how God was working through each one of the kids lives and changing them through the people at the Word of Life camp.
I was crying as the girls in my cuarto (room) were on stage talking and many people came up to me asking if I was ok, but it was out of sheer joy. Evidently, the kids were not the only ones who’s lives were impacted and changed. Seeing the kids slowly start to open up to the staff members and us about their life and relationship with Christ was amazing! It was amazing to see the relationships, whether new or old, growing throughout the week. One thing that Glenn said that really stuck with me this week was, “they might not be able to understand you, but they do understand love”. This week was a testiment to that statement. Watching the kids and teens at the pool during the week was cool because on Monday the kids mainly played among theirselves, but by Friday the pool was full of life as team members were in the pool throwing the kids, playing with them, and toting small ones around. This was the same with the people who were assigned to cuartos. It started off kind of awkward for some not knowing what to say or do, but by Friday, the team members, kids, and counselors could be seen laughing, talking, and inseparably walking from activity to activity. For those not with cuartos, similar relationships with workers and staff were formed.
After the kids shared their decisions, Mirko offered up the chance to come up and talk about how happy and blessed to be there/ talk about our time, etc. After a few counselors went up, Mrs. Dixon told the teens to go up and share, and I am so happy she did. As we were walking up to the stage the kids were cheering our names. That was cool in itself, but the counselors and occupantes (teen staff members involved with general maintenance, daily activities, and set ups) reactions to what we shared was even cooler.
Mirko brought several staff members, and fresh pineapple, to our devotional time Friday. It was so cool to hear about what each one of the workers were doing in their ministries and how the Word of Life staff was working all across Panama changing lives every day. (You can go to give.wol.org/03202S to learn about each of them and have an opportunity to support them in their ministries). Seeing their fire and passion for the Lord was truly uplifting and made me think about how I should be reaching people in my daily life and not waiting to have the opportunity on trips or with my youth group, etc. It was very humbling to hear the Panamanian people say over and over how great it was that we came and what a help and encouragement we were to them during the crazy camp season and how blessed they are to have the relationship that they do with the Chapel.
Friday night was also the big end of the week carnival! A fun time was had by all as the kids dressed up in their nicest clothes and went from station to station playing different games and winning prizes, most of which were generously donated by you, our supporters! The girls in my room spent a long time doing eachother’s hair. Also, we were able to give some of the donated dresses to 4 girls in my room who didn’t have a nice outfit to wear! It was so cool to see all the kids come through the stations smiling and showing off their prizes!! It was also a great opportunity for the staff (occupantes and teen team members) to talk to the counselors and kids as they came through their stations. The carnival brought about the final team tally (Salgadon won) and the boy and girl camper of the week award.
After the carnival, everyone was kind of sad knowing that everyone was going to leave camp the next morning, but it was definitely a week that will stay with us forever. Many lives, including my own, were impacted and will never be the same. We know that God has a plan for our lives and we know the importance of touching even one life, which will impact another, which will impact another. So, even if it is not in God’s plan for us to see these people again, we will always cherish these relationships and memories, holding on to the important lessons that God has taught us.
I encourage you to ask someone who went on the trip who their “one life” or relationship was/ how they saw God working. That’s all for now
Chow from Panama!