This past spring, a student team, along with Dr. Eddie Pate, Dr. Alicia Wong, and professor Carola Fernanda, went on a mission trip to Panama. The local IMB missionary team we worked with has been serving there for 15+ years and did an amazing job facilitating our time. During our first day of orientation we learned much about the culture, history, community and people.
We learned Panamanians are highly relational and have open doors for the gospel. Although many have heard about Jesus, their understanding of Him was not fully formed; many don’t understand Him as God the Savior, partially due to the influence of Catholicism. We spent time at a hospital, a church plant, a school, and a university participating in metro ministry, English clubs, Bible studies and ministering among the prostitutes and homeless in the city. I had several opportunities to share the gospel in all these places and had the glorious joy of witnessing many making a decision to follow Jesus!
I met Manuel on the street; though he did not have a home, he was filled with joy when he heard he was not alone, that he was deeply loved by God, and created in His image! During the English club I met Francis, whom I gave a digital Bible and taught how to find passages and verses. I told him how the Lord was inviting him into a redemptive relationship. I met several students in their classrooms and shared about Jesus’ divinity and humanity as a necessary means to pay for our sins and invited them to respond to the gospel.
In these and many other instances, I experienced both the simplicity and power of the gospel as I saw lives transformed. Many people seemed genuinely encouraged to know and to hear that they are deeply loved by our Heavenly Father. I also felt a renewed longing for people to submit to their calling to cross-cultural missions among the nations. According to Joshua Project, there are currently 7,386 unreached people groups that represent 3.4 billon people! Now we can look at these stats and rightly lament but we can also take prayerful steps in response to it. This is what the Go Grant initiative will do; sending students to partake in global missions will hopefully allow them to sense a calling to international service or form them into passionate advocates for the missionary task.
My prayer for myself and other Gateway students is that we will see our God is actively involved in the lives of His people to reach the lost. This is God’s primary plan of taking the gospel to the nations. We have an obligation to reach the unreached; to partake in the Great Commission as a sender or a goer. My encouragement is for every student to lean into the opportunity to go on a Beyond Trip and let God use you to do His will and seriously consider whether you are called to be a missionary.