When I came to the city of Troas to preach the Good News of Christ, the Lord opened a door of opportunity for me.
2 Corinthians 2:12
The last six weeks brought many new and exciting opportunities for us at Outpost as we welcomed a DTS Outreach team from Kona. They spent their time being the hands and feet of Christ not only at Outpost, but also in a few remote villages, and volunteering alongside other organizations here in Bocas. The Lord used this team in great ways to open new doors of ministry.
The most exciting moment for us was being invited to speak in one of the Mama Tata churches. For those of you who are unaware, Mama Tata is a religion that is specific to the Ngäbe here in Panama. It is a cross between Catholicism and animism with lots of twists. It began sometime in the 1960s. The story of this church begins with a woman who was washing her clothes in a creek outside her village. She received a vision of Jesus on a motorcycle. He proceeded to preach a new creed over the woman, essentially abolishing the church and naming the Ngäbe as the chosen race that will inherit eternal life. She returned to her community and began spreading the teaching. Those who adhere to strict Mama Tata beliefs typically keep to themselves so as to not allow outside influences to affect them. They oftentimes do not register the birth of their children and do not mandate their children to go to school. Because of fear, they do not accept government medical care or other help, and they only speak their native tongue of Ngäbere. They are very superstitious in many of their beliefs.
Knowing all this, it came as a big surprise at how welcoming and engaging they were. It helped that our Ngäbe friend, Simone, introduced us. He has been witnessing to this village for many years while assisting them with access to clean water. He helped us understand that they really needed encouragement to read scripture. They think of themselves as Christians, sing many similar songs, and know some of the stories of the Old Testament that have been orally handed down. However, with a lack of understanding and inability to read the Bible, they have been led astray from sound doctrine and do not live by biblical standards. Our students had the opportunity to share testimonies and teachings on the importance of knowing the Bible and holding firm to the truths God gives us in the scriptures. We also handed out 15 SD cards with an audio bible and the Jesus film. I was brought to tears as we sang “Came to My Rescue” in Spanish. You could see in their faces how much the song ministered to their spirits. Before we left, they asked us to sing the song again. After all was said and done, they were very eager to welcome us back, offering to open their homes to house our teams and feed us delicious freshly caught fish from the ocean. They also asked if we could do more bible teaching and English classes. What an open door!
During the final week of the Kona students’ visit we revisited this village to assist Simone with water catchment tools and ended up helping the community with some of their daily work. It was a neat experience for our students to get a glimpse into the daily lives of the people. The women helped clean up the common areas while the men harvested a GIANT log to make a new bridge through the swampy entrance to their village. The log was a great addition as many of our students and staff succumbed to the swampy wetness after falling off old rotten boards that were originally meant to keep people afloat. Please continue to pray as we plan for some fall ministry days in this village with our upcoming DTS students. Pray that the Lord would open the hearts of those enticed by the Mama Tata church, that they would see God’s truth as we help them understand scripture.
The Kona Students also had the privilege of assisting Coral Restoration, a nonprofit organization here in Bocas that is working to rebuild our reefs. Currently, our reefs have succumbed to the damaging effects of climate and human impact. Because of the loss of reefs, we are seeing a devastating loss in the fisheries. Our Ngäbe neighbors historically are fisherman. This has had a drastic impact on their nutrition and means of earning a sustainable living. Community development is part of the drive behind the passion to help our indigenous neighbors, and bringing back the fish is one way we can help.
We are excited to be working towards building a reef in our bay. With the help of Coral Restoration and our community development DTS schools, we hope to make a noticeable difference and assist our community on improving this fragile ecosystem. Coral Restoration has been working hard at developing new techniques and structures in their nurseries to promote coral growth. In just over a year, they have seen predator fish returning. They have made such progress that the Smithsonian Institute and the government are taking notice. If anyone is interested in giving towards the purchase of supplies for this project, please email us! It takes many hands to make a project like this succeed.
With all of these new ministry opportunities we have been working hard at getting Outpost ready for the influx of students and staff this fall and beyond. We recruited some willing and able-bodied people to assist us over the summer.
The end of July brought a team from one of our supporting churches in Minnesota. Grace Church sent 12 eager volunteers. They assisted us in the daily grind at base, as well as the building of our new solar supports. We could not have done this project without them! We also had the privilege of doing a clothing drive for our neighbors and gave away bags and bags of used clothes. To close out our time, we had a Jesus film viewing with many excited neighbors. We ate popcorn and watched the video together. We were very encouraged by this team and our boys had a blast playing with the kids that came. It was a boost our family needed.
August brought us friends from another season of life. It always amazes me that even as time marches on, bonds of friendship forged long ago remain intact. The Bergeron family came to be the hands and feet of Christ and served us and Outpost in many ways. Dan jumped right into finishing the casita with the guys; Kate helped me organize some rooms on base for our upcoming DTS, as well as write up some fundraising campaigns for the next stages of development at Outpost. The kids hung out together, just like old times, and they helped dig up many trees from around the new building. It was so encouraging to have them here showing us their support of what God is doing, and encouraging us to keep going.
So there you have it. We now have a very small window of rest and preparation for the next round. We are excited to announce that we have 10 new staff joining us this fall to help lead our DTS and assist with base operations! Please pray for us as we meld together this new team and also pray for the students who will be coming. Pray for God’s blessing and anointing as we seek Him together over the next three months.