Anticipation! For me, that means looking forward with excitement toward a coming event. In this case, my anticipation is somewhat mixed with trepidation.
I’ve felt this way before. One specific time I recall was June 1999 when Kelsey, three older friends, and I were headed for Belo Horizonte, Brazil. At the time, none of us had ever been on a Let’s Start Talking trip, and I, of all things, was leading it!
And we made it. We had many complications just in airports, here and in Sao Paulo, before we finally arrived. Then complications with lodging. Our supposed hosts seemed surprised that we were to stay with them and we went elsewhere—three of us in a tiny room with a bunk bed and a cot, sharing a bathroom with a family of four. It worked out great! We were all inspired and came back renewed and refreshed spiritually.
And I expect the same positive results this time. Althea Edwards and I have been friends for 38 years, but we have never traveled together. On Saturday, she and I leave for El Valle de Anton in the province of Cocle in Panama. We will fly Cincinnati/Miami/Panama City and be met by David Carter, an American missionary in El Valle.
In our three weeks there, we will meet with potential readers for an Information Meeting on Sunday evening. The rest of our time we will meet with those who sign up for English lessons—and friends they might bring later. We’ll have 5-7 sessions a day, from ten in the morning till 8 in the evening. Each session will last 45-50 minutes, giving us time between sessions to make notes from that lesson and review what we’ll study with the next person. Our lessons will be from the gospel of Luke or from the Acts of the Apostles.
The church in El Valle is new. Here is the explanation from Lisa Carter, the other American missionary: The church in El Valle is only 3 years old and almost every member has become a Christian during that time. We have members who have come from many backgrounds – Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Jehovah’s Witness, Pentecostal, and many unchurched (even though all of the Panamanians were baptized into the Catholic church as babies.) They are coming to experience the fellowship, to sing like they’ve never sung before, and because they say we are a church that studies the Bible and serves others. David and I have a LOT of teaching to do. We have a lot of discipling and mentoring and training to do. We are slowly but surely identifying and helping develop leaders.
When we started, there was another couple who had graduated from Abilene Christian Univ. and the four of us worked together to teach and minister to the little church. David’s sister and her husband also lived about an hour away and would come up a lot of Sundays. So, for the first 1½ years, David and I had 4 other members of the church here. We all worked like a team and loved seeing the church grow, much as I imagine it did in the first century. Both of those families have returned to the U.S. and we miss having the help, the friendship, and also the wisdom of 6 of us making decisions and teaching together.
So, you see….we really are glad you are coming. You will help us by teaching through LST, but also by just being another Christian example and by being there to worship with us for a few weeks.
What better reputation can a church have than that it teaches the Bible and serves others! The Carters call it their “Cup of Cold Water Ministries.” We want to help give that cold water. As Jesus said, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matthew 10:42)
Her message is exciting. We should be able to encourage as well as help them. Because of the way LST is set up, we will not be a burden to them, for they will have no responsibilities for us. We will be living in a former orphanage, now called the Mission House, which the church purchased recently. The Carters will be moving to a cottage on the grounds. We will have access to the kitchen at the Mission House and will prepare all our own meals, except possibly when we eat lunch in the village.
We will walk to our reading sessions each day, about a 20-minute walk. If you look at images of El Valle, you will see beautiful views with not much development, but we shouldn’t be too dusty by the time we get there since it rains a couple of hours each afternoon.
The economy of El Valle is based on tourism. We will teach in the marketplace pavilion, so people will see us and, we hope, want to have lessons also. Since tourists come there, it will be to the advantage of the artisans to improve their English. Our conversations should help them with both understanding and being understood.
So pray that we will have ample readers and that they will have responsive hearts. As Paul wrote, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)
So we’re going. Nice to know our feet will be beautiful no matter how dusty—or muddy—they are.