One thing we heard a lot of while in Panama with the Church of Eleven22 team is how inspiring Andrew and I are. Now anyone who knows me at all knows I definitely don’t take myself too seriously. I hardly consider Andrew and I inspiring. Don’t get me wrong, we are overwhelmed by the compliments and kind words. But realistically, we are truly just ordinary people being given the opportunity by God to take part in extraordinary things. What I kept thinking about over and over when people would hear our story and call us inspiring is the fact that we are all called to something. God calls each and every one of us to do something. Maybe leaving everything behind and moving to a foreign country is different than your calling, but you still have one that is equally important. I got to know so many amazing people this last week in Panama. I loved the boldness and passion that every single person seemed to have. Every time I was doing a task, whether it be with one other person or half a dozen others, the same question kept coming up… what’s your story? And I am 100% truthful when I say this, I love hearing peoples’ stories. I mean love. It just gives you that connection with someone, not to mention it can make for great conversation. It became abundantly clear to me that when so many people on this trip would tell me their story and about their life, they too were doing just what God had called them to do. The thing is, I don’t think half of them realized it. I get this odd feeling that people think being a full time missionary is like the trump card to everyone else’s calling and lives. It’s totally not. And maybe I am wrong in that, but it’s what I felt like people were thinking at times when talking about how different our lives were.
Nonetheless, there were a number of things that truly inspired me this past week. One thing I can never wrap my mind around is how perfectly God arranges things. He arranges talents and skills and people in such a way that I will just never comprehend, and that’s OK with me. I like seeing it all happen around me and am content in knowing He is the only one capable of such things. There was such a wide variety of things that needed to be done this week at the mission aside from the monthly feeding program taking place. I love a good to-do list. What I love more is knocking out that to-do list. I have no idea how it came to be, but there is a school bus at the mission in Panama. Apparently when the team arrived, the bus was not working. For me, that’s enough to say OK, let’s leave that be. I cannot even slightly fathom how to fix such a thing. I wouldn’t have even put that on the to-do list honestly. Somehow, someway, Lars was able to get that thing running. We ended up taking the school bus on its inaugural run to the river to do the baptisms one evening. Talk about a bunch of fearless people. Just a couple of days prior, that thing wasn’t functioning and yet we all just jumped in and said let’s go!
One day, somebody went to town to buy a couple of ceiling fans and a few of us are staring at the boxes sitting in the floor. I have technically put up a ceiling fan before but it’s not my favorite thing to do. Just then, John Pickett walks up and says “I can do that.” Thank God. And he was so perfectly content to be the person who took the old ceiling fan down and put the new one up. I am not going to lie, I may have been seriously tempted to complain my way through that task. But in the very same sense, one day my task was to totally clean and organize the main building to prepare it for the inspectors to come the next day. Most people don’t view cleaning and organizing as exciting and enjoyable things to do… but I do. The outdoor storage and laundry area looks absolutely phenomenal and I’m glad I got to do that.
Another example of God pairing things so perfectly is the chicken coop project. One of the guys who started the chicken coop was the same guy who put up the ceiling fan. At some point, the original duo kind of hit a stand still. That is when Andrew and Mark took over the building of the coop. That is the moment I became a little worried for the future chickens of said chicken coop. These guys have never done such a thing but they just started knocking it out. In a few short days, you could legitimately see what they were doing and it seemed to make sense. By the final day, they had built the whole thing and only needed to wrap the wire enclosing the sides. One night as the team was talking about wins and giving praise to fellow team members for various things that they saw during the day, John (ceiling fan guy) talked about being so grateful that Mark and Andrew had taken over the chicken coop project or else they would have been there another three months trying to figure it out. Now it hardly matters who started it or who finished it, but isn’t it something that it got done in the exact way God had planned for it to?
Each night, we had amazing worship with the team. It was totally refreshing to be a part of something so like our church at home. Moments where you are definitely feeling the presence of God right there with you are also inspiring to me. One night, we had a bonfire outside and did worship in the gazebo. All you could hear were the insects and birds of nature surrounding us as we sang. During the song Holy Spirit, a light rain began to fall. As we sang the chorus, it seemed to be a moment that could only be constructed by God. “Holy Spirit, You are welcome here. Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for. To be overcome by Your presence Lord.” On that same night, I heard one of the simplest things said by the person speaking. The worship leader, John Warren, was giving the message and sharing a bit of his story and his calling. At one point, he said “John Warren is getting out of the way.” At first I laughed because I think it’s so funny when people talk in third person and I have no idea why. But when I started to think about what he meant by it a few seconds later, I thought to myself “Ashley Davis is getting out of the way.” I’m going to get out of the way and let God do whatever He wants to do. There were a variety of areas that came to mind for me… in my life, in the place that I serve, in the ways that I think things should be done. I’m getting out of the way.
This week also left me feeling so excited and filled with great anticipation for the orphanage to be officially open and accepting children. There were several kids up at the mission one afternoon playing soccer in a tiny stretch of land with a couple people from the team. As I walked by them, I heard nothing but laughter and joy fill the air. I stopped and watched for a few minutes. Once I realized I was just awkwardly standing there smiling by myself, I kept moving along. But I loved getting that glimpse of what it will be like when I return to Panama and there are kids running around, laughing and playing games, and calling that place their home. It’s going to be fantastic. We got to take part in a bit of planning for the next few casitas to be built. Everyone prayed over the land and the future it holds for babies and children who would otherwise have no place to go. They’re going to have a place to go now, they are going to have a family in the tias and people who come there to love them, they’re going to have good food cooked up for them and someone to help them with their homework, and they’re going to learn about Jesus. I am excited for the missionaries and staff onsite there who are ready to get this thing going. I joked that I would be on the next un-airconditioned bus back there the moment the kids arrived. Of course I was only half joking…
I think that’s all for now from me on the week in Panama. Be inspired… not by me, but by whatever God has in store for all of us!