This past week has without a doubt been one of my favorites since I’ve been in Panama. For one, my aquaponics project is finally completely ready to go, and all that remains is to put it all together, which will be cake compared to all the time and effort that went into planning and creating the design. I’ve been in San Miguel this week and will most likely remain there for the rest of the summer (my project will be installed there), which is great. I love the Valley, but San Miguel beats it by a hair in my book. I think it’s the community: the Kalu Yalans who live there are awesome people, the locals like our watchman and amigo Jorge are super friendly, and there always seems to be a positive atmosphere here, which doesn’t surprise me. There is a lot of good going on here, from teaching English and many other subjects in school, holding soccer practices for the local boys and girls, starting a fundraiser to help a mother and her family of five purchase a much needed new roof for her home, and just simply building relationships and friendships with this community, ‘Casa Llena’ is simply an encouraging place to be.
And yet more encouraging still was Sarah’s and my day on Sunday. We met with our Panamanian brother in Christ Franco at 8am, hopped in the car, and drove a little ways to another christian’s home in the city. She cooked us a delicious breakfast of hojaldras, jamon, and salchichas (a typical Panamanian breakfast) and soon another christian arrived there. His name was Junior, and to our delight he spoke some English and could act as our ‘traductor’ (translator) in a pinch. With a full car now we drove to the supermarket and loaded up on rice, juice, cookies, and other treats to be used later that day.
Our next stop was a family’s home where nearby christians gather for services in their house church. The father was one half of a pair of twins and they married a set of sisters, and their children, who were close to Sarah’s and my age, spoke fairly good English. We spent a little time there, and after having a conversation with the son about sports and where we lived (me talking in Spanish and he in English), it was time to move on again.
Our last stop and final destination for the day was all the way in Colon, about an hour from Panama City. We parked the car and had to walk a little ways to get to the house, and we greeted locals all along the way. The house there was another house church, and we all gathered on the porch to sing songs and hear a lesson from the other twin brother.
The most interesting part of the lesson was reading the passage James 5:13-20: there were a few women with us that had ailing family members, and in light of that we decided to take those words to heart. We gathered together around the three women to pray with them as the preacher stood in front of them and anointed them with oil as we prayed for their families’ health. It was a symbolic gesture, the oil clearly has no powers or magic, but much like the bread and wine we partake in every Sunday morning at church it represents something greater than itself, and it helps us to truly take to heart what it being done. In biblical times oil was prized for its healing qualities and was always taken along for journeys, and many cultures in the East still maintain oil in high regard. It was believed to have to power to cure some sicknesses (some of which have been proven) and olive oil is a great natural salve for wounds and bruises. Oil thus became associated with the power of healing, which is why we see it here in these verses and many others like it throughout the bible.
Afterwards we ate a delicious meal of typical Panamanian food (ie rice and beans and meat) and handed out gifts for the impoverished families. Franco and some others had bought and wrapped clothes to give out along with a typed note written by Junior’s wife containing the scriptures Deuteronomy 6:5-9 and Proverbs 4:1. Sarah and I passed them all out to the families, talked some more, and finally had to bid farewell.
It was just another amazing experience in Panama, one of too many to count. It’s a totally different culture here: on the bus on Sunday morning we will often here someone preaching the gospel as they head to church of work, cab drivers who must work are listening to worship music or recordings of sermons on their radios, families sit out on their front porch to read the bible together, and so much more. Americans could learn a lot from these people, I sure know Sarah and I am. If I’ve gotten anything from my time in Panama this summer it’s that seeing people follow their God from all across the world and in all languages is an amazing thing, and I’ll do my best to be salt for the earth, a light for the world, and a healing oil.
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