“God give me humility, give me clarity, and give me confidence in Your word!” That was the prayer I prayed over and over again last week as I served with Reaching and Teaching in Panama.
This was my first trip with Reaching and Teaching and there were many questions that crossed my mind as we began. Are the people following what I am saying? Am I really teaching them anything new? What if I say something culturally inappropriate?
We taught two different groups over the week. The morning group, which met at a church in Capira, was made up of a good mix of about 40 men and women of all ages. There were young men preparing to be church planters as well as older believers longing for more teaching. It was encouraging how eager the participants were to receive the teaching. The questions that were asked throughout our time made it clear that the people were being challenged and really thinking through what they were being taught.
This class was organized by IMB missionary Kenny M. Over and over again he expressed his thanks because of how much this training was needed and really serving the church there. It is encouraging to know that we were able to be a positive in his work there and meet a very real need.
The evening class met at the First Baptist Church of Balboa. This group of about 30 was also quite diverse and, like the morning class, they were eager to learn. As we taught on basic Christian doctrine it was evident that the students were trying to apply what they were learning to every day issues. Their questions during the Q&A time made this clear. The theology we were learning about was not something that was merely challenging them intellectually it was also impacting their hearts. At other times their questions revealed that they weren’t quite sure that what we were teaching was quite right. But, they were thinking it through and searching the Scriptures.
At the end of one teaching session a man who happened to speak some English approached me. His questions ranged from how to deal with youth who were no longer interested in church to women serving as pastors. He mentioned things he had heard on TV or at other churches that were not biblically accurate. I did my very best to give answers based on God’s word, the highest authority. He left seeming satisfied but I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of answers he might have found elsewhere or what he would have taught others had he not been shown biblical truth.
Other questions revealed the ongoing influence the Roman Catholic Church has on believers and pastors in Panama. They truly desire to understand and obey the Scriptures but when what they have been taught contradicts God’s word they struggle. This is a struggle that will continue but these leaders must repeatedly be shown the truth of the Bible and the need to cling to it above all else.
I was privileged to be on this trip with Dr. David Sills. Dr. Sills is clearly passionate about teaching and training church leaders anywhere and everywhere. After one teaching session he was more energized afterwards than when he began! This clearly is his passion and it is contagious.
When I consider the great need that exists for pastors and other leaders to be trained in the Word and that God would use a simple servant like me I am overwhelmed! God is sovereign and he will accomplish his purposes. He will build and train his church. And he will use whomever he chooses. I praise God that he chose to use me in such a way on this trip.
As I reflect on the week it is evident that God answered my prayer over and over again. My fears and questions were laid to rest. My hope was not in my ability to teach but in God’s word. I am confident in the words of God found in Isaiah 55:10-11:
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.