Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Panama Day Four

Monday January 30th
We went as far into the jungle as we could today. We walked (100 yards) until we found an opening in the foliage and there were homes on the other side of the opening.

We checked out of the Allbrook Inn first thing this morning then we went to pick up a few last minute souvenirs. The major thing that friends and family request for me to bring home is coffee, so we made a stop at a local grocery store.

We spent the majority of the day in La Rivera with Pastor Eduardo and we have everything planned out for our trip in March now. His church will be starting 40 Days of Purpose the week we are there and has asked our group to help with a Gospel distribution in the areas surrounding the church.

His church meets in his home which is placed in a growing suburb and the goal of the March trip will be to help start cell groups within that community. The church will also be holding a revival that week and the pastor invited me to preach the revival services. I was really honored and am looking forward to the opportunity.

After we had finished meeting and praying with Pastor Eduardo we went to eat and then checked into a new hotel. Tonight Eric and I are staying at the Riande Hotel which is a serious upgrade from where we have been this week. We met with the hotel manager and negotiated a rate for our group in March. I was pleased with the rate and we got breakfast included as well.

This evening we set around tonight in the hotel restaurant brain storming for Vacation Bible School and beyond.

In all this has been a very productive trip. Everything is set for the mission group in March and Eric and I are anxious to get home to our families. Our flight leaves at 10:25 in the morning and we land in Oklahoma City at 4:00 p.m.

Photos From Panama, Day Four

This is the view from the end of the jungle. Well, at least the end of the 100 yards or so that we walked.

This is me with Pastor Eduardo and one of our volunteers when our group arrives in March Aunna.

This is Pastor Eduardo's house which is also the church he pastors.

This is a photo of some of the ruins of old Panama City.

Ahhh, the ride home. It is just over four hours from Panama City to Houston, TX and then another hour to OKC.

Back at the Will Rogers World Airport in OKC.

My wife and oldest son waiting on me in baggage claim.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Panama, Day 3

Sunday January 29,

Today was a crazy long day! Eric and I left this morning to cross the isthmus from Panama City to Colon. Panama City is located on the Pacific Ocean side (West coast) and Colon is on the Caribbean side (East Coast). The trip across took about and hour and fifteen minutes. Before we left Eric and I took a brief stroll into the jungle… er… rain forest. I would like to go a little further tomorrow morning.

Colon reminds me a lot of the Bahamas. It is quite different from Panama City. There is still a lot of poverty there and the crime rate is high. However, there was a huge difference in our worship experience. We actually met in a church building! This was the first time I have worshipped in Panama in an actual building that was built as a church. All of my previous experiences have been in homes, apartments or abandoned buildings.

This is Eric’s first trip to Panama and my fourth so when we were asked which one of us was going to share in church it was his turn. Speaking through a translator is more difficult than you would think and it is an experience that every volunteer missionary needs to experience.

The service lasted just over two hours and afterwards we took the local pastor out to eat at McDonalds. It’s amazing how in America we even take McDonalds for granted. The pastor was humbled and very appreciative of us taking him out to eat there. I ordered fried chicken there. I have never seen fried chicken on a McDonalds menu in the United States but they have it here. I have a photo to prove it!

After lunch we took a drive around the city of Colon and to the shoreline. There were some massive waves there as well as several ships who were waiting to enter the Panama Canal or who had just come out of the Canal.

When we got back to the Pacific side of Panama we had almost an hour and a half to visit the Panama Canal. This was my fourth visit to the canal and Eric’s first. The Panama Canal is a once in a lifetime attraction. It is an amazing man made piece of work but you really only need to see it once in your life time. It was cool seeing the big ships pass through.

We took the missionaries out to eat dinner tonight to show them our appreciation of their work. They are retiring at the end of the year after serving the Lord for 20 years in the Republic of Panama. I really love the country of Panama and enjoy it every time I come down here but I can’t imagine living here for 20 years. That is a huge sacrifice.

We went out to eat dinner at an open air sea food restaurant on the Bay of Panama. It has an amazing view and some of the best sea food I have ever eaten.

Tomorrow is our last day of work before heading home on Tuesday. Stay tuned!

Today I am thankful for…
• My salvation
• My family
• My ministry
• Grace
• God’s creation

Photos From Panama, Day 3

Here is a photo from our walk in the jungle. It was located on the back side of the Albrook. We didn't go very far, just enough to get the photo.
This is the view from the back of the church in Colon. From here you can see the homes and landscape that surround the church. If you have ever visited the Bahamas this view will look familiar.
This is what the inside of the church in Colon looks like. It was the first time I had been in a church in Panama that was actually built to be a church.
Eric and the kids are all smiles as he passes out bubble gum after church.
Value meal number 8 at McDonalds. Fried chicken, medium fries and a drink.
The pastor of the Colon church and me.
These are the ships coming out of the Panama Canal on the Atlantic side.
This is the view if you turn around from looking at the ships in the bay. It's quite a different view when you turn around.
Here is a ship coming into the Panama Canal on the Pacific side. It takes about 48 hours for a ship to pass completely through the canal.
Here is the same ship from the same view. Notice how much lower it is. In this lock the ships are lowered 25 feet.
These gates open up and allow the ships to pass through to another lock to be lowered another 25 feet.
Even the ship's crew find going through the canal interesting. Notice how close the ship is to the side. There are only two feet of clearance on each side of the ship.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Panama, Day 2

Sorry that I skipped a day in posting but being gone for five days has left me way behind with office stuff. Here are my thoughts from our second day in Panama.

Saturday January 28

I have pretty much decided that this is not the hotel that our group will be staying in when we come in March. It’s not because for some strange reason the television came on at 4:00 in the morning or because the construction workers were busy just outside our door at 6:00 this morning. Actually this hotel isn’t that bad. It has comfortable beds and a hot shower. What more could you ask for?

The reason why we will not be staying here is because there is one that is closer to the area where we will be working when we come in March. I have stayed there before and I know first hand that it is a nice hotel. Eric and I will stay there Monday night because it is close to the airport as well.

We started the day by going to grab a cup of coffee (hot chocolate for me) with the missionary. Then we went and surveyed the area where we will be working in March. It is a middle class suburb by the airport called El Rivera. There are around 500 homes there and only one evangelical church. We met the pastor’s wife today and were able to pray with her and do some strategic planning for our trip. We will be walking the neighborhoods surrounding the church, that meet’s in the pastor’s home, distributing copies of the Gospel of John and searching for people who would be interested in starting a bible study group in their homes. Our goal is to go to 100 homes each day for 5 days.

This area is so much different than the areas of Panama City where I have worked before. This is my fourth trip to Panama and for the first three we worked in the El Chorrilo area of Panama City. El Chorillo is a very poor and run down part of the city. There are a lot of drugs there as well as gangs. There is a great need for ministry there but it is hard to keep established ministries going due to lack of funding and volunteers.

After meeting with the pastor’s wife (the pastor is away on a trip) we left El Rivera and headed to Chorillo where Eric and I were able to help with a woman’s ministry meeting that was promoting an Ann Graham (Billy’s sister) crusade in Panama City later on this spring.

After leaving there we went to the missionaries’ home to fill out the official request form for our trip in March. It took about an hour to complete. Now I have to go home and reply to the request I helped make.

Next, it was time for dinner. We went to the bus station/mall where there is a food court. We spent an hour eating and shopping before heading back to the hotel for the evening.

On a side note let me just say this. I’m a cold weather kind of person. I love the winter time. I love the snow and the bitter cold. IT’S STINKING HOT DOWN HERE! The heat and the humidity take a lot out of you. I’ve been here several times before, yet I’m always caught off guard by the tropical heat.

Things I’m thankful for today…
• My Salvation
• My family
• E-Mail (so I can keep in touch with my family)
• People who have so little and yet give so much
• Missonaries

Photos From Panama, Day 2

Here are some photos from places we visited on our second day in Panama. You can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

This is the Bay of Panama. The buildings across the bay are the high rise apartment buildings of El Chorillo where I have worked in past trips. It is an area of extreme poverty. Eric and I went there today to help with an information meeting on an upcoming Ann Graham crusade.

The next few photos are taken from the La Rivera community where we will be working in during our trip in March.

Most homes are two bedroom homes and made out of concrete with a metal roof. There is no air-conditioning and the temperatures are very warm.

Some people in the area can afford an automobile and others keep their lawns neat.

There is a sense of pride among the home owners in La Rivera. The people who live here are the working middle class.

The structure in the middle is the remains of an old convent dating back at least to the 1700’s. We passed this on the way from La Rivera to El Chorillo.

This is the information meeting for the Ann Graham crusade. It was held at El Chorillo Baptist Church. Compare the photos of this church to the churches I'm going to post in the next few days.

This is an upclose photo of the El Chorillo area. As you can see it is a far cry from La Rivera.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Panama Journal, Day 1

I had the opportunity to visit the country of Panama last week to make preparations for a mission trip in March. It was a great experience and we got a lot accomplished. I sat down every evening to journal a few thoughts. I will share a journal entry and photos each day for the next five days.

Friday January 27, 2006

The entire day today was spent traveling. My kids were all sick so none of them went to school. My wife’s parents came over early this morning to stay with them while she took me to the airport. I didn’t have to be there until 9:30 but they arrived early enough for us to leave and get breakfast before she dropped me off.

We flew first from Oklahoma City to Houston, Texas. It was only an hour flight which was a good thing because it was a tiny airplane. After an hour and a half layover in Houston we were off for the four hour flight to Panama City, Panama.

The in-flight movie was Charlie and the Chocolate factory. If you haven’t seen it good for you, it means you didn’t shell out any money to see it at the box office. If you saw the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory then it would be worth a rental to see the contrast between the two movies. It’s definitely not worth $6.00 a person at the theater.

We landed in Panama City around 6:45 p.m. and hooked up with our missionary friends. We went to eat dinner at a Mongolian BBQ place. Imagine the irony here, a Spanish speaking wait staff cooking and serving Mongolian BBQ, in Panama. It was a really good dinner!

Accompanying me on this trip is our church family pastor, Eric. It is his first time to travel to Panama. Our goal is to lay the ground work for a mission trip that members from Mayfair Baptist Church will be attending in March. That also means checking out hotels! For tonight, and for most of the week, we are staying at the Albrook Inn. It is a hotel that is located on the old US Air Force Base in Panama City. It’s not bad but there is another hotel that I want to check into that is located closer to the area where we will be working.

Tomorrow we are going to the community in which we will be working in March and see both the community and the job tasks first hand. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Today I think God for…
• My family whom I already miss very much.
• Safe travel to Panama City.
• Missionaries who serve here in Panama and across the world.
• My salvation
• My calling to serve Christ and advance the Gospel to all the world.

Photos from Panama, Day 1

You can click on the photos to enlarge them.

Eric enjoys his Mongolian BBQ. This was our first meal in Panama City Friday night. Good stuff!

This is the Albrook Inn where we would stay most of the week. It was the visiting officers quarters at the old US Air Force base. This is one of two hotels that were in consideration for our group to stay in when we come in March.

This building was the officers club at the Old Air Force base. It is located across the parking lot from the Albrook Inn.