Features: Vessel Takes YWAM To Isolated Panamanians

BOCAS DEL TORO PROVINCE, Panama — Outpost Panama staff are pleased with the outcome of their outreach aboard the motor vessel MAKING WAVES this summer. The group sailed to Isla Tigre (Tiger Island) last month to serve the indigenous Ngöbe people with medical care and spiritual encouragement while also researching other practical needs the villagers there might have. They sailed three hours south from the YWAM Ships Kona outpost before arriving to the isolated location. Danielle Pruzaniec, who participated in the ministry trip, said she expects it to result in further and more productive events there in the future.

“We had an excellent outreach and made many good connections with the Ngöbe people and were able to get more information on how we can better serve them,” said Pruzaniec, 28, a physician assistant from the U.S.

The team brought along its panga boat (which is less than 9-meters long) to sail through areas of Isla Tigre too narrow for MAKING WAVES to travel. To reach their village destinations, they often had to walk up rocky hills or through mangroves so muddy they sometimes found themselves almost knee-deep.

The team of 10 people conducted clinics for medical consultations, held primary-health seminars and did Bible teaching during the four-day trip. On average, they ministered to 30 people per day on Isla Tigre, whose population is about 1,000. Holly Schmidt, who co-directs Outpost Panama with her husband, Thomas, said the most important accomplishment of the outreach was establishing trust between YWAM workers and the Ngöbe people.

“The people were kind and spoke to us, but because they hadn’t had anyone come in and assess needs before they were a little apprehensive about us being there,” she said.

During their perusal of villages, they found no latrines and one well.

“While we were settling in for our stay on Isla Tigre, Tom walked to the villages’ only well. He came back crying because the well was uncovered and at the bottom of a hill in a cow pasture,” Holly Schmidt said.

In future visits to Isla Tigre, Outpost Panama workers want to help address the lack of clean-water technology. Many islanders there are vulnerable to parasites because they are forced to drink from unsanitary sources. Many of them also suffer from dehydration and malnutrition. They also want to deliver proper glasses to those with vision impairments because many of them only have basic reading glasses which are not suitable for day-to-day activities.

Thomas Schmidt said he also hopes to continue home visits to the roughly 300 families that live on Isla Tigre, as well as conduct church services to meet the people’s spiritual needs. He said he looks forward to returning to the island with a honed perspective on how best to serve the islanders there.

“The main purpose for this trip was for it to be a learning experience and to establish relationships. We hope this is only the first of many outreaches to these communities in a long-term relationship and community-development effort,” Schmidt said.

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