Back in 1993(ish), we met a missionary to Panama named Rev. Merrill Wetzstein. His son and I were in Seminary together and we happened to be playing a gig together (we’re both musicians) when I met him.
His parents were on furlough at the time and while we were waiting for the gig to start, Merrill and I started talking about his missionary work in Panama. After talking awhile, Merrill says to me: “Do you think you’d be interested in coming down? We’re going to be asking the Seminary to send us a Vicar. But it would be a two year experience because of the language.” Humm…well….we’ll talk about it. So we did and that began one of those “Touchstone” moments that changes your life.
Side Note: You never know when a “random” conversation will change someone’s life!
So that began a two year experience. Having never lived outside the US before and knowing ZERO Spanish, we began with language school in Guatemala. For four months, we studied Spanish in the amazing city of Antigua! Wow…what a place! We also spent a great deal of time traveling the country soaking up the culture and trying to improve our skills and adjusting to living in Latin America.
After this we moved to Panama City, Panama! I won’t get too specific here, but we lived and worked in and around Panama City. I spent a lot of time with the student pastors, teaching, working with them in their communities and in their churches and villages.
We also worked with an English Congregation in the area called “Balboa”. Balboa is in the “Zone” and was basically the US…until 2000. At the time we were there, the “draw down” was in full swing and things seemed a bit uncertain about the future of Panama. What would happen after the US left? Would the Canal continue to operate smoothly? What would happen to the economy? And for us…what would happen to the churches and the friends we’d made?
So now, 20 years after we left, we’re going back to find out! As I write this, I’m sitting in the airport in Atlanta, waiting to meet up with Rev. Miguel Torineir of C.A.L.M.S (Central American Lutheran Mission’s Society). Miguel is Brazilian by birth. His second language is Spanish and his third is English! He’ll be our guide and contact while we’re in Panama. PS: Pastor Miguel…is…awesome! He is a modern day St. Paul! LOVES the Church…and desires to see it grow and do amazing things!
So why are we here?
Well, we (personally) hope to re-establish contact with some of those we worked with long ago. We hope to explore ways we might work with the Panamanian Lutheran Church in the future, AND we hope to be able to show our daughter where she was born and introduce the beauty and amazing culture of Central America to both of them!
Follow along…I’ll try and keep this up to date!