The AYC Trip of a Lifetime
The Republic of Panama is a Central American country of 3.3 million people that is bordered by Costa Rica in the North and Columbia in the South. Little did those who participated in the recent AYC trip there realize that a visit to this small Latin American country would have such a big impact on their lives.
It all started as six chaperones and twenty-two students began a long day of travel to Miami International Airport from locations across the United States and Canada. Throughout the day they began to gradually convene at the rally point, Gate 30. It was easy to recognize fellow members of the trip by their cool, light blue AYC t-shirts. After the 28th member reached the gate, we settled in for the three-hour flight to Tocumen International Airport in Panama City to begin the journey of a life time.
The first segment of the trip began in the port city of Colon, on the Atlantic side of Panama. Missionary Wayne Monday introduced us to the pastor of the church, and we subsequently began outreach to the inhabitants of this humid locale. The people of Colon were warmly receptive to the regional crusade invitations we distributed during our initial weekend in the country.
We were honored to be participants in the Derribando Gigantes Regional Crusade, as it was the first ever held in the city of Colon. Over 200 people gathered in the Irving Saladino Gymnasium with great anticipation for this inaugural event. During the crusade, God poured out His Spirit in an epic way. The highlights of the weekend were witnessing people being filled with the Holy Ghost, being baptized in Jesus name within the confines of a child’s plastic pool, and the passionate worship of the Panamanian church.
When we were not evangelizing or participating in the regional crusade, our schedule included sight-seeing and recreation. One of the unique places we visited was Portobello. Here we embarked on a short boat ride to visit an eighteenth-century Spanish fort that once provided protection to the Panamanian coastline from pirates.
Our recreational activities also included spending time with the Panamanian—both on the soccer field and in their homes. After the final regional crusade service, the young men in our group and male chaperones played soccer and basketball with the young men from surrounding churches. Then the night before our group left Colon, we experienced authentic Panamanian cuisine in the home of one of the local church families.
From Colon, we made the hour and a half journey to the national capital, Panama City, where we would spend the remainder of the trip.
In Panama City we visited the Albrook Mall, which rivaled many North American shopping centers in its offerings. After visiting Albrook, we checked in to our hotel and quickly prepared for our first ministry opportunity in the capital city at Nueva Dimension church.
Our journey to Nueva Dimension was interesting in that we navigated through Panamanian rush hour traffic. The trip that should have taken twenty minutes actually lasted an hour and a half. However, the service that night was definitely worth the effort to get there. Again, God’s power was manifested in a stellar way as we witnessed people being filled with the Holy Ghost and healed of diseases.
The next day was more of the same at Nueva Esperanza. We were privileged to minister to the people of this area. Their hunger for God was evident through their worship and response during the altar call.
We then spent a day of recreation by visiting one of the marvels of modern engineering, the Panama Canal. This 50-mile-long waterway, that provides a shorter route for international maritime commerce, is truly a wonder to observe. A large car transport ship was making the journey through the Miraflores locks during our visit. In addition to watching the colossal ships traversing this water way, we also spent time browsing a museum dedicated to the construction and operation of the Canal.
From the Canal, the more adventurous members of our group hiked to the peak of Ancon Hill, while the others visited Casco Viejoto to view artifacts and shop for souvenirs. Traversing Ancon Hill gave us a small sense of what the Panamanian jungle is like. At the pinnacle of the hill flew a colossal Panamanian flag visible from the entire city, and we enjoyed beautiful views of the downtown skyscrapers and the Canal.
The final weekend of our AYC Panama trip began with a service in a home missions work in Tocumen near the airport. This night featured a special painting by one of the students, Jessica Long, while our group sang Revelation Song in English and Spanish. It was also a special night for Jessica as she met family members, who were native Panamanians from Tocumen, for the first time.
Unfortunately, my wife and I had to return to the United States the next morning and missed the final two services of the trip. One service took place in Arraijan and the other at the headquarters church in Panama City. However, we were excited to hear the reports that, during our AYC trip, sixty people were filled with the Holy Ghost, three were baptized, and fifteen claimed divine healing!
We thank the Lord for His goodness and providence in making this trip a success. In addition, Missionary Wayne Monday played a key role in operating as a guide for this trip. Detric and Keonna Porter (Youth President of South Carolina) did an awesome job leading the group. Brocc and Randi Chavis (Youth President of North Carolina) also made a fantastic contribution assisting them throughout our stay in Panama.
The sixteen young ladies and six young men from across the United States and Canada were invaluable to this AYC trip, too. They testified, sang, interpreted, evangelized, and worked in the altars. It truly was a privilege to minister alongside this special group of students. Not only did they allow God to use them in an incredible way; they also did it with a good spirit. I was truly impressed with the attitude and passion for the work of God that these students displayed during our excursion into Panama.
As I reflect on this journey, I am very grateful that there were the immediate results of people receiving the Holy Ghost, being baptized in Jesus name, and experiencing the healing power of God. However, there were some long term results as well. Numerous students told me how much they loved being on the trip and how this visit to Panama served as a catalyst to motivate their involvement in the AIM program. These statements truly illustrate how our journey was a trip of a lifetime. Only time will tell how this ten-day venture into Central America enhanced the destinies of the students involved. It could be very possible that some of the students on this expedition will be hosting AYC trips as resident missionaries sometime in the near future.