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Into Our Hands...

In April of 1958 a small group of Christian men traveled to Panama to seek opportunities to bring the Gospel of Christ to that country.  At that time there were no full-time Gospel preachers there.  The Canal Zone was bustling with Americans and Panamanians and this is where the work of the Church began in Panama.  The first church building was purchased in the area of Cristobal where the church met for many years, having separate services in English and Spanish.  The Seed was sown in the following years in different areas of the Canal Zone.

Cristobal Church Building
Cristobal Church Building

Evangelistic campaigns began to take place throughout Panama; and people responded to the Message.  The church was growing.  As the work progressed, our eyes were opened.  The people were hungry for the Gospel, but they also experienced physical hunger.  They were spiritually sick, as well as suffered physical illnesses.  They desired a spiritual home, but they did not enjoy a suitable earthly one.  Our hearts went out to the people because of the physical discomforts and struggles they were suffering.  We could not simply present the Gospel to them, without putting it into practice.  So, the need was realized that we must treat the body, to reach the soul.  Just as Jesus had compassion on the people, we should strive to follow the example of the Great Physician.  Medical campaigns began as a demonstration of Christian love put into action.

Balboa Church Building
Balboa Church Building
Birthplace of the Bible School of the Americas

As campaigns expanded, so did the vision of the Lord’s work for the future.  Brethren became interested in a plan in which young men could be trained to teach the Gospel to a lost part of the world (at that time Panama).  Thus, the Pan American Bible Institute was established.  Men from all parts of Panama came to be taught how to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2). 

The "Chicken Coop" Church
The "Chicken Coop" Church
and Pan American Bible School Building

What began as an effort to reach the lost in Panama, spread over a small bridge in the community of Sixaola to the fields of Costa Rica, then into Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.  Soon we were reaping God’s harvest throughout Central America.  It was then we heard the cries from Peru and later Colombia and Argentina.

Rio Bajo on Via Espana Church
Rio Bajo on Via Espana Church
and School Building

Men and their families came from all of these countries begging for the story of the cross and eager to take it back to share with others.  In these years we learned to be beggars for our brothers in Latin America; we learned that we could be their voices in the United States, while they became God’s voice in Latin America.  We have always felt a need to continue our efforts to assist these young preachers after they finished school with small salaries, Bibles, song books, tracts, teaching materials and, in some locations, buildings.  We have made frequent visits to give moral support, been in their homes, eaten at their tables and played with their children.

Through the years, we have experienced much growth and many changes.  Political changes: from war zone to peace time in Nicaragua and El Salvador; from dictatorship to democracy in Panama.  Physical changes: church buildings and houses built; wells dug; the Bible School of the Americas expanded from one small classroom to four campuses; the Children of the Americas brought many, many children to the Children’s Home where they have grown and matured; additional workers have been added to the Latin American Missions staff.  Spiritual changes: from no full-time preachers in Panama to more than 80; maturing from young, untrained men to fine Gospel preachers; children learning God’s Word from Christian parents and grandparents; those who were lost, are now saved; there is a greater hope for eternal salvation for everyone in Latin America.

The years have also brought changes in all who are involved in the work.  We have grown spiritually.  We have seen the shortness of life.  We have felt the sense of urgency of the Gospel.  We have had opportunities to study the Bible and bring someone to Christ.  We have built life-long relationships with brothers and sisters from all over the United States and Latin America.  We have made wonderful memories from challenging campaigns.  We have witnessed hunger, sickness, and poverty.  We have learned to pray fervently.  We have felt heartaches when someone we love and have taught chose not to obey.  We have experienced sadness when leaving friends and “family” behind, knowing we may not see them again until we arrive to our Heavenly Home.  We learned there is always more to do.  We have realized that we can make a difference.

Our hearts have been changed from what they once were.  A gift was placed in our hands and it changed our hearts and lives, as well as the hearts and lives of those we have met, and those we may never meet.

Into our hands, the Gospel is given…