by Dr. Paul Berg
Dateline Santa Catalina—Our team of 5 nurses, 3 translators, 2 physicians, 2 missionaries, 1 PA, 1 pharmacist, 1 graphic designer, 1 pastor and 1 software engineer saw over 380 patients and dispensed over 1400 prescriptions in 4 days. We did 2 days of clinic in Hicaco and 2 days in El Tigre. The numbers are impressive and represent our efforts to be present, to be in relationship, to assess/act and to say yes Lord to our brothers and sisters in Panama.
The medical director in Hicaco asked “why do they do this- why do they come here?” The answers are as varied as our team members: “to be the hands and feet of God”- “to those who much are given, much is expected”- “to do all the good you can in all the places you can, for as many as you can, as long as you can”– “our humble response to grace and forgiveness is service.”
But here is my experience. For me, Mission Panama is Christmas in August. It is our chance to remove the layers of our overstuffed, creature comfort, crazy busy lives and serve. We know that it is better to give than to receive and that we are to give freely with a joyful heart. Here, we strip away all the layers and serve in the purest form. No expectation of return or reward -and in the doing we see the face of God in our patients. So, thanks for your prayers and support. Prayerfully consider joining us in 2018.
We were somehow able to get 12 people to Austin Bergstrom airport, check all their personal luggage plus another 12 bag loaded with almost 600 pounds of supplies before the sun came up and some people had their first cup of coffee. I’ll call that God sighting number one.
Travel days, especially the first day of a mission trip can be chaotic, so I was taking this a good sign to start us off.
The flights to Panama City were fairly uneventful. We did have one member that had to check a carryon bag due to storage limits on the first leg of our journey, but it showed up Panama City with the rest of our luggage. I’ll call that God sighting number two.
Now that we arrived with all that luggage in Panama City, we had to go through Immigrations and Customs with our personal affects and the 12 extra suitcases of supplies. We did have a small delay with customs, but we arrived with everything we left with. Now to meet our driver and load up the bus for the long trip to Santiago.
Our driver this year is Carlos. Carlos is the brother of our driver from last year, Chalyno. Carlos had some big shoes to fill. And right off the bat he started to fill them. He jumped right in to help us load the bus, get a group picture and begin for our drive to Santiago.
Our plans were to drive about an hour outside of Panama City to a popular burger restaurant. We visited that restaurant the first year we traveled to Panama, but it seems like the traffic getting out of Panama City gets busier and busier each year. Austin traffic has nothing on Panama City traffic. So when we were about 90 minutes on the road and still about another 45 minutes from the restaurant, we decided to stop instead at a popular Panamanian fast food place – McDonalds! I’ll just leave it at that!!
The bus ride was filled with conversation, singing, some sleeping, and stories told from past Mission Panama adventures. The activities seemed to make the drive go by quicker and by sometime around 6:30pm we arrived at our hotel in Santiago.
We were met at the hotel by Missionary Rev. David Ceballos who welcomed us and gave us a rundown on our schedule for the week, then we unload just our personal bag from the bus (as our stay in Santiago is only for the night), and checked into our rooms.
All of us are tired and ready for a good night of rest. We will try to keep you up to date with our trip adventures, but we’ve been informed that the wifi coverage where we will be for the next four days is ‘limited’. So here’s hoping that cell phone coverage is adequate.
Sunday morning update…as you all make your way to worship in Round Rock, our team prepares for worship this morning in Santiago at our sister church in the Panama Village. We are thrilled to return this morning for worship to Punta Delgadita Iglesias Metodista!