By: Joselyn García
It was a normal sunny day, like most days in Panama City. We left our house and walked the long blocks between us and the bus stop. After about 15 minutes on the bus, we walked 3 more blocks before arriving at Carrasquilla, a neighborhood where the houses are crowded together. We had a group of kids from Carrasquilla that we visited every week in order to take them to the homework room. Saturday was everyone’s favorite day because of Kids’ Club.
On this particular day we visited the neighbors of the kids to share some packages of food and essential items with them. We went house to house knocking on the doors to brighten up their day and bless them. That’s how we met Heiby, a young woman from Nicaragua who had lived in Panama for a while now. We hadn’t met her before because she worked a lot. When she came home to rest, she stayed at home. Nevertheless, when we arrived at her house, she opened her door, greeted us with a smile and said, “thanks a lot.” When we gave her the package of supplies, we spoke for a few moments and then left. It caught our attention that we had never seen her before, even though we had been visiting the same neighborhood for months.
A few days passed and we returned to Heiby’s house. We tried to be friendly with her and chat a bit more. I remember we dropped by 2 or 3 different times before we invited her to the park just outside the neighborhood. We sat on a bench together, and that is how we learned her story and how she arrived in Panama. She opened her heart and shared that she was having a difficult time. She felt like she didn’t have a purpose. She often felt depressed and didn’t want to do anything. She never spent time with anyone. She told us that even a psychologist couldn’t help her.
This all happened in the park. We began to share that we knew someone for whom nothing was impossible. We shared a bit of our testimonies and how this person rescued us and helped us carry on. Above all, we shared that now we have a hope, and his name is Jesus. We were sure he could help her. Heiby seemed interested, so we started a study with her based on the book, “A Purpose Driven Life.”
Several months passed, talking regularly with Heiby on the park bench. It had become a meeting place, not only with two missionaries, but also with Jesus. It was not easy. There were questions and doubts, but we knew it was time that God was using. Our role was merely planting the Word in Heiby’s heart.
When our time as missionaries was over, the moment arrived when we had to say goodbye to this beloved place where we had served for two years. God had made it possible to hold services every Sunday to praise and glorify Christ. The people in the community prayed for us; every child and some adults shared words of encouragement, gratefulness and faith.
Just as the whole place fell quiet at the end of a difficult farewell, someone stood up and said she could not stay silent without sharing a few words. It was Heiby. She was there as part of the church now, a smiling woman who radiated peace that was immediately obvious. She looked beautiful but was even more lovely on the inside. Her heart had been transformed by God.
She began to say how grateful she was to God for having the chance to meet two women who introduced her to Jesus. Women who understood her, helped her, and became her friends. She confessed that she had underestimated us because we were younger, but she ended up surprised to find our hearts filled with love. She shared that now she was a different woman, because she had a transformational encounter with Jesus!
If you ask me where Heiby was changed, I would point you to a simple bench in a small park next to the neighborhood. This ordinary place became a sanctuary of extraordinary learning, worship and transformation for Heiby as well as for us.
What is your meeting place right now? What ordinary place does God want to change into a place to encounter the supernatural?