There have been several occasions over the years when I’ve sat on a pew in my church in England listening to people talk about the missions work they were doing and the missions work that needed people. I would get excited and yearn to be involved but would never do anything about it. One particular occasion stands out. In 2012 I passed a wall display about missions abroad in my church. There were photos of people that had left to do missionary work and there were photos of the people they were serving – people who had never heard of Jesus. I felt a yearning that I had never felt before; it was so strong that it brought me to tears.
In hindsight I think I cried because I wanted to be part of what was on the display, but I was so afraid back then. I was afraid that I did not know enough about Jesus, that I did not know His word and that I would turn people away rather than draw them to Him.
How could I talk to people about a love that I was just learning about and allowing to change and shape my world?
In May 2014, I left England to study how to teach English as a foreign language in Ecuador. My intention had been to live in Ecuador and work as a TEFL teacher, but my mother had been spending time in Panama that same year and in June suggested I come over to Panama to teach. A few months later I found myself in a church in Panama listening to a husband and wife missionary team who also happened to be the Directors for the Youth With A Mission (YWAM) base in Chiriqui, Panama—what a surprise!
I believe God was calling me to pursue the desire planted in my heart two years ago, to be part of the five-month Discipleship Training School (DTS), to “know God and to make Him known.” I spoke with the Directors, Richard and Debbie Tracy, at the end of the church service and learned that the next DTS was starting in five days! Richard and Debbie encouraged me regarding finances by telling me they had seen God provide miracles for previous students, which had enabled them to pay for their DTS food, board, teaching and travel costs. For the next few days, I sought God on this. I fasted, I prayed, I listened and He spoke. Our gracious Lord encouraged me to have peace about my decision to join YWAM for the next five months.
The three months of training and the two-month “outreach” on the mission field, putting into practice what we had learned in the previous months, was challenging and exciting. My team and I took part in dramas for children using accounts from the Bible and original ideas. We approached people in the cities of Panama and prayed for them. We frequently visited a local boys’ orphanage. We served an indigenous Ngäbe YWAM DTS in the mountainous part of Panama by cooking meals and providing refreshments during their breaks and we also served visiting volunteer church teams who worked on various building projects.
Being on outreach took me out of my comfort zone: from door-to-door evangelism, to speaking at a men’s prison about how my relationship with my father affected how I related to God as a Father and how God pursued me to turn this around, and even giving a short sermon at a Panamanian church regarding the importance of praising God in all circumstances.
Sharing God around the world
We were a small, unique team: there were four of us in total, three students from the United States and me – I was the only student from England. Our small number allowed us to bring our varied knowledge and experience to the group. We were able to travel to different places (Bocas del Toro, Costa Rica and Nicaragua) and be part of larger groups from time to time. For two weeks during our outreach phase of the DTS we were a microcosm of Revelation 7:9 as our group consisted of students from the United States, South Korea, Canada, England, the Wounaan (an indigenous people in Panama), Mexico, Norway, and Germany.
I learned a great deal about God’s love for His people during my time in Panama. I thought I had accepted His love for me and His sovereignty when I became a Christian. However, He broke through walls, habits, and attitudes that I either didn’t want to let go of or hadn’t realized needed changing. Psalm 139 (verses 1 to 18 in particular) became a great truth and comfort during this time. On the day of my graduation ceremony from the DTS I discovered an entry in my journal from January 2013 that I had forgotten about, it simply read:
“I believe God is calling me to be a missionary in Panama.”
After the Discipleship Training School ended I stayed at the Chiriqui base as a staff member. Though I had to return to the UK prematurely due to a death in my family, I believe the when and where for the next part of God’s plan will be found by seeking His will in prayer and just like before, He will guide me, use me, and change me for His purposes and His glory here on earth.
Where is God calling you to go to? Start asking questions here.