This is part two of my Panama reflection series. A few weeks ago, I was in Panama on a mission trip with a group of pastors from Virginia. This series of articles is my effort to share some of my experiences while also debriefing from my trip. Enjoy.
In preparation for my mission trip to Panama last month, my group and I were told we were going to preach revival services in various churches throughout the week. We would each be assigned to work with a particular church for the week and that would be the church we would preach at in the evenings. Or so we thought…
We were also reminded to be flexible and fluid and “go with the flow” but my reflection on that will come in a later article titled “Blessed Are the Flexible”.
Finally, we were reminded that we are not taking God to the people of Panama. God is there already and He is certainly at work. We were going on this trip to aid fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and display unity and friendship. On Saturday night, we had a joint service with five of the six Panamanian churches. I had the opportunity to preach the message that night, and I settled on a message about “Unity”. The basic idea came from Galatians 3:26-28:
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
This passage was perfect because there were six pastors from six different churches in Virginia travelling to Panama (another country with another language) to work with six different churches in Panama. We all worshiped and praised God together and they taught us more about what being a Christian looks like than we taught them. Their kindness, hospitality, unity, and community truly were amazing.
This experience reminded me that God is truly an “international” God. He is not limited to one people group or one geographic location. He is not absent from certain parts of the world and involved in other locations. God is the creator of this entire world which means He is active and involved everywhere at all times. We did not bring God to the Panamanians but rather we saw what God is doing in Panama and joined in the work there.
In the passage above, we are told that it is because of our faith in Christ Jesus that we find unity that transcends borders, culture, and language. In Christ, there is no USA or Panama. There is no English or Spanish. We are one in Christ. In Jesus’ eyes there are no passports from different countries to identify us. Our identity is found in Jesus.
While in Panama, we did not always need to speak Spanish to know they loved us and were glad we were there. They did not have to speak English to know we loved them and were glad we came. Too many times, we assume that our relationship with God is to be kept private, but clearly, we are to go and tell the good news of Jesus Christ to everyone we meet. But this command to go and share does not mean God is not at work elsewhere. It means that we are invited into the work and our stories and experiences with God can be utilized to encourage, enlighten, or even to help transform another person’s life. God is at work all over the world and with people all over the world. We do not have some secret code to God just because we live in the United States of America. God is an international God and He transcends all languages and borders. We are privileged to be part of His kingdom which transcends all man-made barriers and divisions. God is God and He is everywhere! Anyway, I was just thinking…