Cadets reach out in Colon, Panama
by JONATHAN HARVEY –
Cadets lead children’s activities.
Charged with the responsibility of leading a variety of programs and activities at the Colon Corps, our team, under the leadership of Major Charlene Bradley and Major Mario Reyes, arrived in Panama ready to take on whatever was needed. We had come prepared with devotional lessons, Bible studies, women’s activities and evangelistic sermons, yet none of our team was fully prepared for the slum-like conditions we would encounter when we arrived at the corps. The Colon Corps’ building is meagerly furnished, clean and orderly, yet surrounded by trash, rundown buildings and raw sewage streaming through the gutters.
As cadets, we are trained to be prepared and to plan programs and activities meticulously, yet the flexibility of our team was clear as we began to realize that nothing we had prepared would be executed as we had thought. Between scraping off layers of old paint from the exterior of the corps building and replacing it with a fresh and vibrant new look, we led a range of programs and preached the gospel to anyone who would listen, and even a few who wouldn’t.
As the week progressed, more and more children attended our daily Bible school program in the playground behind the corps. Numbers peaked one afternoon at over 250 as children and adults from the neighborhood gathered to listen to the gospel. Each child learned about the fruit of the Spirit, focusing on joy, self-control, patience and love through puppet presentations, devotional messages and other activities under the leadership of Cadet Vickie Harvey. Every child left the playground at the end of the afternoon with a memory verse and a few candies, the flavor of which corresponded with the fruit for the day.
A significant moment came as Cadet Maria Ramirez preached a gripping sermon in the middle of a busy neighborhood. People leaned out of windows and sat on benches surrounding the playground listening intently to the gospel. At the conclusion of her sermon, a group gathered around her and prayed the sinner’s prayer, giving their hearts to the Lord for the first time.
On Sunday, the last day of our visit, the team decided to enter the neighborhood behind the corps, where so much of our ministry in Colon had taken place, to gather children and lead them to the corps. Words cannot describe the excitement that filled the air as more than 100 children marched down the street towards the corps to attend Sunday school, clapping their hands and singing in Spanish, “We are marching in the light of God.”
We praise God for the ministry opportunities he provided us in Colon. We will not quickly forget all we learned and experienced in Colon. We pray that the people of Colon will never forget the message of hope they heard during our visit!