Summer 2016
Written by Byrne & Lois Foreshew - Panama

Brian and Lois Foreshew and Family

Panama is known as "The Pass between Two Continents and The Pathway between Two Seas". At 8 degrees north of the equator, it's been the meeting place of commerce and culture for centuries, connecting the world from north to south and east to west.

Panama is a rapidly developing country, the fastest growing economy in Central and South America. However we still are not too far removed from "Third World" status when it comes to high corruption in all levels of government and business, poor education, poor health care, the gap between the rich and poor and the dwindling middle class, escalating immorality and violence. In saying this, we see a rapid growth in materialism, trying to obtain at all costs, even to neglecting their children, a lifestyle they see and hear through their television and social media network. The skyline of Panama City would look much like that of any other capital city in the developed world, but don't be fooled by the facade that obscures the reality of spiritual and moral darkness. There is a saying here "Dress so no one knows you're poor," in other words, what you see is not necessarily what is true.

The Panama Canal is one of the largest trade routes in the world, thus the varied cross section of culture, language and religion that exists. Indifference to the gospel because of religious confusion, materialism and social media is on the rise, and many of the young people are addicted to their electronic devices and virtual friends. There is much spiritual confusion and blindness and the word "Christian" is applied very liberally to anyone that would attend any religious organization no matter if they don't believe or teach that Jesus is God or the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. In spite of these hurdles, God is working; souls are being reached with salvation and growing spiritually. The Lord himself said about the strait gate "strive to enter in" and the narrow way "few there be that find it".

April 26, 2016, marked seven years of assembly testimony in Valle Hermoso and December 5, 2015, marked five years since the planting of another assembly in Dolega (La Acequia), Chiriqui. Our fellow workers Marcos and Sara Sequera, commended from Venezuela in 2009, labour in this province of Chiriqui in the far west of the country which borders Costa Rica. Since the beginning of the year the assembly there has been enjoying the accommodations of a newly constructed hall.

Assembly Testimony in Valle Hermoso

The work in Panama started in the small village of Valle Hermoso, about 45 minutes west of Panama City, in November 2005 with a visit by Ross Vanstone from Canada. That visit turned into a two-year stay, but when we arrived permanently in December 2007, Ross moved on to break new ground elsewhere. Over the years, like any new work, there have been many difficulties, heartaches and tears, but as the birthing pains gave way to new life, God was doing an eternal work in the Isthmus of Panama. We still face difficult situations but are seeing fruit and growth and evidence that of a surety the work is of God. We are so dependent on His wisdom, Word and strength to guide us through each new situation that we are faced with.

The small group of believers in Valle Hermoso continue to show signs of growth and commitment. They are first generation believers; most would be the only ones saved in their family. It's not easy for them and each day is a test of their faith as they seek to live a Christian life in the midst of ungodly home environments with many temptations. Most of the adult believers would have attended a variety of churches before being saved, so they come with much religious baggage and confusion that is not easily undone. It takes much time and patience, step by step teaching to feed and help them grow. The teaching isn't just in spiritual and moral things, it includes marriage and family life, how to care for and teach their children, resolving problems in all areas of life (work, school and family), managing finances and learning to form an orderly and respectable lifestyle, using scripture as their guide.

We work with some indigenous people from the Kuna Indian tribe; they are open to the gospel, and a number have been saved and added to the assembly. One family, in particular, has given us much joy, three of the sisters (Hilda, Rode, Anelda) are saved, two are in the assembly. The son and daughter of Rode are in assembly fellowship as well. We just heard recently that two daughters of Anelda have professed salvation as well, so we thank the Lord for this encouragement. In the province of Chiriqui where the Sequera's live, they would labour more amongst the Ngobe Bugle indigenous tribe and have seen blessing in salvation as well. There are numerous indigenous tribes throughout the country, but these two would make up the largest population.

On Thursday evenings we are in an orphanage called Ciudad del Nino (City of the Child) for two bible classes. There are about 140 children, and we would be able to speak to about half of them each week. They are a good group and attentive, but their young minds have been contaminated by what they have experienced at a young age. We just pray that the constant pouring of God's love through His word into their hearts will soften them and turn them to the Saviour. Lois's time practising in the clinic at the orphanage has been limited due to the schooling needs of our children, but she still has an active presence there. Another opportunity to share the gospel at the orphanage is with some young Taiwanese ladies who volunteer in a variety of capacities. They usually come for a two-year term, and we have befriended some them and have had the opportunity to have them in our home and share gospel literature with them in their native tongue. At first, they were reluctant to take the literature, but in a recent conversation with a couple of them, they told us that they now are reading the Bible and attending a Taiwanese Bible study, and they had some questions for us. We are happy to be just links in the chain, channels only, that souls might hear the gospel and be saved.

The Friday evening young people's Bible class has grown smaller as the competition is stronger with five new churches starting up very close to where the hall is located. These groups are very worldly in their means of attracting the young, with very little emphases on salvation or the truth of scripture. It's an evening of worldly entertainment in the name of God! Immorality, violence and disrespect on all levels run rampant amongst the young, and it's destroying these precious lives. We know it's only salvation and obedience to the Word of God that will save, guide and preserve them from the disastrous lifestyle of their parents and peers. They don't need more of the world in the name of the church; they need salvation in the name of Christ!

We have seen so many young people start well but get drawn away by this ungodly world, that we started a special Bible class intended for those that are saved and baptized. The focus is to help them understand the importance of cultivating, enjoying and pursuing with all of their heart the personal relationship with the Lord that is essential to holy Christian living.

Throughout the year we have children's Bible classes at our home. We just finished a one-week series with 15 to 18 children from the area in attendance. We are involved in a variety of other gospel outreaches in the local communities. The annual short missions trip for girls from home (Canada, USA, Scotland) has been an encouragement to the work here, as well as in their personal spiritual development back home.

There is still much work to do, the labourers are few and often weary, but great is the God whose work it is!

A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed...
He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

Summer 2016
Written by Byrne & Lois Foreshew - Panama