Today is January 29th and currently it is early in the morning. Our bags are packed and we are about to head over to the airport here in Panama for our return home. This is the fourteenth time I have faced this departure morning and I feel once again the unsettling duality in my emotions. There is a part of me that can’t wait to get home to my wife, children, and church family. But there is also a very real sadness that always accompanies this departure. I know that I speak for the whole team when I say that every year we leave a little more of our hearts here in Panama.
Every year we learn more about the people that God has blessed us to know here. This year was a huge step in that direction for me as it was the first year that I could really communicate with many of them without the help of an interpreter. I spent most of this past year studying Spanish at a nearby community college and practicing with Spanish speaking friends in my church and via Skype. This ability to finally communicate has given me a much greater understanding of the Ngobo people as well as my Panamanian friends. While that is a wonderful reality, that familiarity heightens my sadness at leaving them.
I have attempted through these Panama blogs to give you some sense of what it’s like to be here and the things that the team has been experiencing but there is so much that can’t be communicated. There are Holy Spirit moments of connection and revelation that always accompany this trip for me that I just don’t have words to communicate them. There are people and faces and places that have deeply affected who and what I am and every time we depart it’s hard.
Before I sound as if despair is overcoming me, which it can’t, there is also a deep sense of both gratitude and awe at God’s direction and guidance. Last night, I was thinking about all of the intersections that God orchestrated to bring me to Panama. From the first time I met Kenton Moody on a flight to Amsterdam, to my friendships with Kirk & Yvonne Jones and Julio Valdez, God has been steering me deeper and deeper into this work. My life has been greatly enriched by these days every year here and already I’m making plans for next year’s trip.
In the meantime, there are an abundance of the unsaved in the river bend. We have a goal of baptizing a thousand new converts this year at our two campuses! There is more Spanish to learn, people to disciple, staff to develop, classes to teach, and buildings to build. The 350 days or so until we come again will fly by and soon we’ll be on our way back. Next year, I’m excited to bring my ten year old son for the first time so that this can start to get in his blood as well.
Until then… Te amo Panama. Voy a regresar en el tiempo de Dios.
Hey if I learned it, so can you! Look it up.