Here are the latest updates from the team in Panama!  (Scroll down)

The trip dates are July 26 to August 3, 2018.

Thursday, AUGUST 2 & Friday, AUGUST 3

Hola Chicago! On Thursday, August 2nd, we had a very long day. We left at 6 AM and had breakfast in the car on the way to our first school, which was about 2 hours away. Once we arrived, we got out of the van and walked into the gate, but were not allowed to perform because school had been cancelled. So we got back in the van and drove to another school that we were supposed to perform in, but we were not allowed to perform there either because we needed a certain document that we didn't have. It was disappointing, but Traci was not defeated so she called and found a school for us to perform in. Not only did we perform once at the school, but we performed 4 times. We performed twice in the morning, and then we got to go to an orphanage that was 15 minutes away from the school. At the orphanage, the boys and girls split up and provided shoes for all the kids. While with the girls, two girls from our team shared their testimonies, then we got into smaller groups and taught them simple phrases in English, then we played games with them. During all of that, girls were being called outside to do something for which they needed shoes. Around 20 teenage girls were in the room, but only three girls had shoes. So in order to go outside they would have had to receive shoes from another girl. It made me really sad to see that, so I was so happy that we were able to provide shoes for all of them and give them something that they needed. After going to the orphanage, we went back to the school we had presented to earlier to perform twice more. It was fun to give our performance one last hurrah. We got back to camp around 6 and had dinner at 7. Afterwards, we worshiped and did debriefing, and then we celebrated Phil Hintz's birthday! Josiah led worship in English and then Ruben, one of the Panamanian missionaries at the Word of Life camp, led worship in Spanish. After we formed a circle and Josiah started debriefing with reading John 13, in which Jesus washes His disciples' feet. Then Josiah proceeded to ask if he could wash the other leaders feet, then others to the kids and Panamanian missionaries. After each person's feet had been washed, the leader who had washed their feet got to pray for them. It was very interesting to see a leader humble themselves to wash a student's or fellow leader's feet. Finally, to end our night, we had a surprise party for Phil with cake and ice cream! Once we went back to our cabins we packed and went to bed.

It's now Friday, August 3rd, and in the morning we had our last breakfast and last meal at the Word of Life Camp, which was sad. We left at 9 AM to go to a market, where we shopped around for about half an hour. Once we had finished shopping, we ate lunch at the mall and then drove to the airport. We are now waiting for our flight to board, and the Panama Mission Trip 2018 will officially be over!

-Nicole Ulrich

Wednesday, August 1

Hola mis amigos. Today we went to a school to perform for the children, and they loved it. I really enjoy seeing their happiness when we perform. After the performance we taught some English and it is so different to be teaching English when I'm so used to the schools in the States teaching Spanish. The school was so nice to us they made us empanadas and cookies that we got to enjoy afterwards. After our trip their we got to go have some fun at the beach!!! This was the first time many of us had swam in the ocean, including myself. When we arrived back at camp, about 140 kids that had just arrived today got to see our performance as well. We ended the night with worship and Teagon sharing her amazing testimony. Tomorrow is our last full day and though we are all super sad, I'm so glad I got to experience a whole new aspect of God's creation.

During this trip I learned a lot more about myself. First, I am for sure going to learn way more Spanish. My relationship with Christ is much closer than it was before. While we were in a school I got to talk to this girl, who was going through a really rough time in her life. I got to help her through some of it, as well as help her accept Christ into her heart. It made me feel amazing afterwards. I'm super sad to leave but I know for sure I'll be back!!


Tuesday, July 31

Today the team had an early breakfast at 7:00am in order to leave for the two schools we were visiting in Chame and Buenas Aires by 7:45am. Blanca cooked a delicious meal of eggs with sausage and toast while the dancers got their hair and makeup done by Lyly, Arodis, and Genesis. Loading up the vans, we drove about fifteen minutes and arrived at the first school. The puppet team set up the new puppet stage that we brought down for them from Illinois as the children started filing in. Before the performance, Jose spoke with the kids and got them excited for the show! We were having some technological difficulties, however; we are excited and ready to perform. During the dancer's performance the speakers that were playing the music kept going in and out, but the dancers continued to dance and power through the song. Thankfully, we had another speaker that worked much better during the puppet show. Afterwards, Juanpi shared more of the gospel with the students and then the rest of the team was able to talk with the kids. Many of the children were open to hearing the word of Christ and accepted Jesus into their lives. It was a great first performance and many people stepped out of their comfort zones to communicate and share with the students.

The second school we travelled to had a slightly older group of kids, however; Traci said that some of the students had never even seen puppets before! The presentation ran smoothly and while it became increasingly hot throughout the day, the team continued to selflessly serve the Lord through the teachings of the Bible. Similarly to the first school, we handed out bracelets and prayed with the students who wanted to accept Christ into their life. After the presentation, half of the team headed back to camp while the rest of the team stayed at the school and taught English to two classes. Once both groups were back at camp, we received a delicious Chili lunch from Blanca and her team in the kitchen. Around 2:30pm we began cleaning the camp for the arrival of a large group of children tomorrow morning for an overnight stay! Having some down time in the late afternoon, many of us took the opportunity to swim in the pool which overlooked a beautiful mountain. It was a refreshing way to cool off after a long day of hard work. Before dinner the student worship team practiced music while others played card games and hung out with the Panamanian missionaries. For dinner, we had rice with beef, plantains and coleslaw. To end the night, we had a nice time of worship led by the student worship team and Rueben. We also had time to debrief about the exciting day and listen to Cassidy and Wigun share their testimonies.

Today was the first day we were able to go into schools and present our dance and puppet performance that we have been working on for a while now. It was so exciting to see all the students enjoying the performances and listening to the word of Christ that we had the privilege of sharing with them. It is such a special opportunity to be able to go into schools and share the Bible because back in the United States you are not always given that opportunity. During the times in which we were able to interact with the children, I attempted to use my Spanish skills which was a very important moment for me as I was nervous about how well I was going to be able to communicate with them. I have been praying to God all week, asking him to give me the confidence and knowledge to speak to the children in Spanish and today I was shown again how powerful and present God is in our lives. Throughout this week I have seen God working through so many of my teammates and I am so grateful for the chance to come back to Panama this summer and experience so many amazing things.

-Emma Schatz

Monday, July 30

Today we visited the Indian Village! We were picked up by the Indians in three big canoes and had a very relaxing, fun ride to their village. As we arrived, we were greeted by a four person band and several small children ran up to us and hugged us. They were so happy that we were there. We were then taken to a small hut where they gave us a presentation about their village, danced for us and with us, and then served us a delicious lunch of plantains and talapia. After lunch we shopped at their market where several people purchased soveniors which is the Indians primary source of income. We were also able to see their church and their houses. We even saw a pet monkey! One of the highlights for the Indian girls were the dresses that we brought for them. They were very happy to get new dresses! We ended our visit by swimming with the Indians in the river. The river was relatively high and had a good current which made for a fun time! While we were swimming, Tracy, one of the missionaries, shared the gospel with a group of children and two of them accepted Christ!! 

I am so grateful that I am able to see God using us and the missionaries to share Christ with the Indians. This Indian Village had no Christians when Word of LIfe Camp first started to develop a relationship with them. It all started with one missionary that took action and responded to God's call over ten years ago. Now, 75% of the Indians are believers! God does amazing things when we surrender to his calling.

Laura Main

Sunday, July 29

Hey, GCC! While you all listened to Pastor Chris preach, we had the opportunity to go to the Fowlers' church, La Iglesia de Refugio de Gracia (The Church of the Refuge of Grace) and hear John Fowler preach in Spanish. I found this especially cool and amazing because I was able to understand everything he said and learned a lot. We also sang in Spanish and were able to meet lots of the members of the Fowlers' church. There we also met Brodie who is here seeing Panama for the first time and is going to be a missionary in about a year, and she then joined us for the rest of the afternoon.

After church we went to a mall to eat lunch (I went to Taco Bell and got what they call a Socio Pack) and were able to walk through the mall (which was like a Spanish Gurnee Mills on steroids). We were able to interact with lots of people in Spanish and see lots of differences and similarities between here and malls in America. We then headed over to the Panama Canal and saw several barges and a yacht go through. We were also able to see a movie about it and walk through their museum, but we weren't able to get to the gift shop before it closed (sorry Mom).

After that we headed back to the camp, which was the best part of the day after the church. The reason I enjoyed it so much was because the van that about half of us were riding in had a Panamanian family (who help at the camp) and we were able to talk with them. Their names are Freddy, Claudia and their almost two-year old daughter Sami (only Claudia could talk some English). They taught us this custom where at about 5 pm (when the men return from work) they all share this tea like beverage called mate and let us try some. Claudia then taught us how to play a Spanish word game that we all played. We also played with Sami and taught her some English words.

Today was especially interesting/fun because of all the opportunities we had to speak in Spanish. We are also all safe, sound and alive.


Saturday, July 28

Hola Gurnee Community Church! On our third day in Panama, we learned the dance and puppet routines that will be used to share the word of God to the schools of Panama later in the week. The power in camp was out last night and we were worried about it coming back on to practice our routines, but God restored the power in time and also gave us the power to break the language barriers by learning these routines. Today, we also visited a Bible Club in Chame run by the Word of Life Ministry we are working with. The Bible Club is similar to our Student Ministries and our fellowships on Sunday nights in the States. At the Bible Club, students on our team were given the opportunities to give our testimonies, and Micah and I used that opportunity to share ours. Throughout our time at the Bible Club, we were able to worship together in Spanish and English. Some of the best parts of the night was our unity as children of God and playing games together.

- Andrea Hintz


Good evening from Panama! We had a very eventful day today that was started off with yet another amazing meal prepared by the wonderful staff here at the Word of Life camp. We are incredibly thankful for all that they are doing for us. After our breakfast, we headed off to Panama City, where we spent a large portion of the morning and the afternoon at a high school. This is something fairly new for the Word of Life camp, and this first day would have usually been spent in preparation, so this was something that everyone had to adjust to. The school was very welcoming of us; the teacher was even nice enough to buy us all pizza for lunch. Even better than our lunch, however, were all of the connections we were able to make.

We were able to connect with two groups of high school students in various ways. We started off the two groups with different games as icebreakers for the students, and then we moved on to helping them learn the song 'Break Every Chain' in English. Something about seeing more and more students join in as the song progressed was just amazing to me, as simple as it was, and the band, comprised of several of our mission group members, did an amazing job, especially for performing in a new environment and with not much preparation. After that, we got into small groups with the Panamanian students and worked on simple English phrases with them, which progressed into questions directed to us, and thus follow-up questions to the students. It was a great opportunity to connect with them. The pizza that we were given gave us the opportunity to give our lunches to the students, and it was awesome to see God use something that was given to us to help us give to others. Finally, Brian gave a presentation (with Tracy translating) about Jesus bridging the gap that is our sin separating us from God, and afterwards many students gave their lives up to Christ. It was very impactful and just incredible to think how much their lives have changed thanks to the glory of God.

We then returned to the Word of Life camp. Many of our group tried out the pool, which was very refreshing, and Josiah unleashed his competitive spirit in a game of 500. Later, we had another great meal courtesy of the Word of Life staff, and after that, a wonderful night of worship, during which the power went out. We sung songs together to the sound of crickets chirping and gave our testimonies under the starry sky.

Looking forward for a wonderful rest of our stay in Panama! Gloria a Dios!


FRIDAY, July 27

Gracious blessings to you all back home. Our team made it down to Panama yesterday safe and sound and we were at our camp by about 6:00 pm after stoping along our way in pouring rain at a Panamanian McDonald’s.

As we were coming into camp yesterday, a team from Pittsburgh was spending their last day at camp. We shared supper together with their team and then had a great time sharing a time of worship with both our teams and our friends from Panama, hand in hand!

Today we will be headed out to a school to teach English to about 250 students. Please pray for our time and team to be used for His glory and that we could be a blessing to others as “We are for our Neighbors”, even our neighbors in the neighboring country of Panama!