March 2013

Partners for Panama,


A few years ago the Lord set me free from my need to strategically plan everything. At a heart level He showed me that: "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but the purpose of the Lord will be established" (Proverbs 19:21). A radical shift has occurred since I started asking: "Jesus, what are you doing, and how do I follow?" Reach Out's first venture into Panama amply illustrates God's superior and creative strategic planning capacity.

Miraculous Turn of Events 


Panama unfolded like this: in Cuba some years ago Lazaro and Ariadna Reisgo resigned their jobs, she from her medical practice and he from teaching, to fully invest in training youth leaders in their denomination. Later they went through Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry training. They were hooked. We became good friends. Enthusiastically they equipped many churches in their denomination to implement JFYM.


In a miraculous turn of highly unlikely events, they left Cuba and entered Panama. Now, amazingly, they teach youth ministry in a Panama City seminary with a vision to train youth leaders across Panama in Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry. So when they invited us to help them get started, we gave an enthusiastic "yes"!


After we decided to go to Panama, I pictured us dipping our toes into the water. We didn't think it wise to dive in, but to take one step, see what the Lord would do, and then, if appropriate, take another step. But when Lazaro and Ariadna greeted us at the airport, I immediately knew we were in for more than "toe dipping". Quickly their laughter reminded me why I enjoy them so much. And from our conversations it became apparent that God had not only led us together at this time, but also for more in the future.


On my best strategic planning day, never would I have envisioned such a miraculous,"only God could have done this," turn of events.

Timely Training for Strong Leaders


With the twenty leaders who attended our training that same sense of God's leading pervaded the relationships. A few examples...At dinner the first night Jose greeted me with an announcement that he would be my translator. In precise English, he told me his story. A frequent visitor to America since age 13, he had graduated from NC State in engineering. Currently he works for the Smithsonian in Panama and pastors a church. At one point he said, "This Forum is very timely for me. In two weeks, I will begin a youth ministry in our church. This is exactly what I need."   


Markos came from a Pentecostal house church. He wanted to know what to do with three gang members who had started coming to the church. One of them had shot and killed a rival gang member, and the other gang has sworn to kill him! We talked intensely about potential scenarios for solving this problem.

Reuben, like most pastors, works full time at a secular job and pastors a church with a $400-a-month salary. Because he already reaches and disciples teenagers, he had great enthusiasm for how the JFYM strategy can structure and multiply his ministry. He left me a note: "Barry, please pray for me. I want to be a full time pastor very much, but I must be led into it by the Holy Spirit. Thank you so much for encouraging me."

Luis grew up in Columbia, learned English in the States, and he now teaches Bible and English at a Christian school with an 80% Chinese, non-believing student body. He received the Jesus-Focused resources that we gave him with real excitement and many ideas on how he will use them.  


An enthusiastic response from such strong leaders--one and all--compels us to continue to invest in what the Lord has started in Panama. Will you pray for Lazaro and Ariadna, and our other leaders as they implement JFYM? And will you receive the deep gratitude Reach Out has for you? Your prayers and gifts provided the resources for this first step into Panama. And we have a high level of anticipation about how the Lord will lead us to the next one!

Jesus is Lord,


Barry                                  Donate Now