Being on the mission field has meant saying hello and goodbye to many different people along the way. Some were only acquaintances, while others turned into really good friends. One thing was consistently true: our time together was all too brief.
We have found ourselves and our children grieving the losses over and over, but continually trusting God’s hand. Here in Bocas, it is really difficult to make friends. Not only are we very isolated geographically, it’s also a community that is very transient. From the tourists and expats living abroad, to the sailing community and beyond, many people come and go. It can get pretty lonely here, but it’s funny how God knows this and provides friendships in unexpected ways.
We live between two small indigenous villages. The people come to our base often, for various reasons. We do a lot of minor healthcare, provide rides to town, and many other things. It takes a long time for this group of indigenous people to trust outsiders, so when a friendship started to develop with my neighbor, it was a delightful surprise.
This woman came over on a daily basis, sometimes three times a day for various reasons, but mostly just to talk. I really enjoyed our time together, but would quickly bec
I never knew the greeting “Buenas” (Good day) could cause my nerves to jump. I grumbled under my breath frequently, but God always gave me the strength to be gracious. I would sit on the front porch, in my jammies most days, and Nathan would bring me my first cup of coffee. He would lean in and whisper in my ear: “Ministry does not make appointments,” a phrase his mother said to us often when she was alive.
I know this. But man, sometimes I just wish they would. So I would offer up a little prayer for a gracious attitude and sit, sometimes for hours chatting with her and playing with her kids and the baby birds she happened to bring that day. After I got over the initial frustration, I began to enjoy our time together. It became less of a chore and, instead, part of the daily routine.
As our friendship began to emerge, the conversations shifted from talking about our families, the rain, and often just sitting in awkward silence, to deepening chats about faith, hopes, and dreams. She started asking me lots of questions regarding baptism and some of the basics of faith. I felt prompted to start a Bible study with her.
I had a Spanish study about the fundamentals of the faith that we used with the church in Espavé. I was nervous, because my Spanish is still not stellar, but God continued to prompt me so I obeyed. She was very interested and we enjoyed reading through scripture together.
One day she came to me and very anxiously described a dream she had. She didn’t quite understand the meaning and was asking me about it. Dreams are very significant to their culture. She shared with me that her deceased grandfather came to her in a dream and gave her a cross necklace and told her to follow it.
I have not had much experience with dreams, but I explained to her that it sounded like God was telling her to follow Christ. She smiled and said, “I thought so.” Her countenance changed that day; she seemed to walk a little taller.
The next morning she came to me, looking very disheveled, and asked for a ride to town. It was unusual for her to do this. We were not going into town that day, so she asked if we could take her to the public dock nearby where she could catch a taxi. I agreed. She went home to gather her children and came running back to our dock with a suitcase in hand. Her mother-in-law chasing her asking, “Why!?!”
Confused, I did what I’d agreed to and dropped her off at the dock. As she got out of the boat, a feeling of dread hit me in the pit of my stomach; I didn’t know if I would ever see her again. I turned to her and told her that if she was not coming back, to please, somehow send word that she was ok. I gave her a hug, prayed for her, and told her I loved her. She responded back with “Te quiero,” which means “I love you.” I hugged her little kids, who had come to call me “Abuelita” (little grandma), and off she went.
To this day I do not know what caused her to leave. I can look back at our interactions and see that there was something off, which was why she was over several times a day in the last few months. I am so grateful that I died to myself and didn’t allow the “interruptions” to ruin this friendship.
I know now that she went to her mother’s village, which is about four hours away by boat. It’s in a location that is only safe to access during the calm months of September and October. This is one of the locations outside of the archipelago that we pray we can visit. There is no access by roads, only water. Their village is just off a river that runs into the ocean off the Mosquito coast.
In hindsight, I can recall a time when she showed us where her mother lived on a map. I’m so thankful my husband is a map fanatic because he pinned the location. I remember her telling me that her family there lives in very poor conditions and often there is not much to eat. They also have no access to clean water and other resources, and there is no church there. This raised an eyebrow for me when I consider how she currently lives as she too lacks many resources.
Her last request as she left was that I would pray for her. Since then, the Lord has put her on my heart and I constantly lay her needs before the throne, hoping she is doing well. I pray that someday soon our boat will be up and ready to sail out to the opening of the river where she now lives. I do not think our time together was an accident. I hope and pray the Lord continues to move in her heart as she learns to walk with him.
I also pray this will serve as a reminder for me, when the demands are ever increasing, to allow God to schedule out my day, and that sometimes those mundane and frustrating moments have great impact. Please pray with me for this friend and her kids, and pray we can visit her soon.
YWAM Ships Outpost Panama