David's Reflectons from the Field

There is a wonderful scripture that speaks volumes to me and leads me to faith in the Gospel. It is taken from I Corinthians 2:2-5 that says this: “For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling. My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. So that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (NEV).

It seems that the world’s obsession with power is based on might, strength, and manipulative deception. Real power comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that we cannot imagine or conjure up. Paul, a devout Jew early on in his life, became a missionary to the very people he grew up to despise, the gentile. To become an effective missionary, Paul learned to set aside every tool of the trade he had been trained with as they were rendered completely useless among his target group. What a challenge! What a total make-over! Nothing of this world can do that except the Gospel’s transformation power.

Short-term as well as long-term missions seems to place each of us the same position. Going to do ministry in a cross-cultural setting where the norms may be different from our own, language differences which may seem as barriers really are bridges. The way things are done are strange at times and can sometimes make no sense to us whatsoever. Yet, we are challenged to cross that bridge and connect with the global body of Christ.

Last week we encountered a situation in a small remote village of Panama located in Veraguas fringing on the borders of what is called the “Comarca” or the border of Gnobe indian territory. The landscape was dense jungle and a road that was winding along the mountainside that showed no mercy on my driving skills. On our way back from our visit to that village, we encountered along the road a young Gnobe couple who was apparently suffering from extreme abdominal pain. They were out in the middle of nowhere and had to make a journey to the next larger town (not very large at that) to get to a clinic. The walk would have killed her, the wait for a bus would have been all afternoon.

Cindy immediately laid her down and examined her as best as she could. Seeing the emergency nature of this, we lowered the seats of our car and loaded her and her husband in the back. Barefooted, in pain, vomiting, and almost unconscious, we began our trek back up the mountainside to take her to the nearest clinic. On the way, we noticed along the mountainside what looked like several figures coming down the road out of the jungle side. What we saw amazed us. It was a mother carrying a young girl who had both legs in a cast braced together. They had been walking like this for an hour trying to get to the village that we just came from to try to catch a bus to Santiago, a good 2 hours away.

We loaded them up and threw them wherever they could fit in our car. It was a full house, legs, arms, heads poking out of every window, nook and cranny. I wish I could have photographed it but I didn’t. We backtracked to the village we had come from and dropped them off at the waiting spot for a bus. Then proceeded back to take the Gnobe lady to a clinic. It was a long, slow, methodical trip having to make several stops for her to vomit, go to the bathroom in the jungle side and find drinking water for her.

The point of all of this is this: there were obvious severe cultural differences for us as well as the Gnobe indians that we encountered (even within Panama itself there is cultural diversity). There was also language bridges that existed that each of us tried to cross. All my trained skilled sets were basically useless at this point. The common language we all understood was the ministry of compassion, love, and benevolence. When we arrived to the clinic, the young man sought somehow to express his gratitude by offering me his lunch which as a banana. Of course I declined it but both he and I understood the gesture of compassion and love. The global body of Christ hurts and moans for this unity in human bonding through the love of Christ which of course “compels us!”