Photo by Tony Cece

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Overwhelming Gratitude in Panama

By Dr. Frieda Brinkmann 
Four undergraduate students (Elizabeth Butler, Samantha Pineiro, Victoria Thompson, and Jaquelyn Alvizures), their Resident Assistant, graduate student of Divinity, Yaitza Monge, and, I, traveled to Panama City from May 8 through May 15, 2012.  Our short-term mission trip was organized through Christ for the City International.  This experience gave students the chance to practice their language skills while serving abroad in the Spanish-speaking world. 
We assisted the ministries of Templo Zuriel El Refugio Church in the San Miguelito Community outside of Panama City.  We ran an after school program for children and helped church members deliver meals and minister to the homeless.  We were privileged to participate in several worship services and an evangelistic film night at the church as well.  Students were able to experience first- hand what life and living conditions are like for many in Latin America.  They were immersed in the language, as well as the local culture, as no one spoke English in our host families. 
The disparity between the modern areas of Panama City and the living conditions of the people of San Miguelito are shocking.  However, the simple and uncomfortable conditions we lived in were quickly overshadowed by the kindness and generosity of our host families.  I believe they ministered to us as much as we did to them, possibly even more. 
Our time in Panama also included additional learning opportunities, such as a visit to the Miraflores Locks and the Canal museum, and a boat trip down the Chagres River to visit a village of the Ember√° indigenous people.  After this experience, it is hard not be overwhelmed with gratitude for everything we have that we take for granted and humbled at how “our families,” who seemed to have so little, had so much to give. 
Our experience in Panama exceeded my expectations in its contribution to meeting the goals of the Spanish Residential Language Community Program (Enhanced language competence; enhanced global competence; and a strengthened Christian worldview).  It is a desired outcome of the program that students travel to a destination in the Spanish-speaking world to immerse themselves in the language and culture, as well as to give service.

Dr. Frieda Brinkmann is an Associate Professor of Language and Literature at Regent University. She is also the Director of Regent’s Spanish Residential Language Community. Dr. Brinkmann was the trip leader for the Study Abroad trip to Panama. Are you interested in participating in a study abroad trip? Click here for upcoming trips and additional information.

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