Oh Semana Santa…you were much too short! Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed my week off from school! It was an awesome to time to sleep, relax, lie in the sun and read something other than curriculum! The two other student teachers, one other teacher at crossroads and me decided to go to Bocas Del Toro for four days of our break. It was awesome!!! Bocas is on the Caribbean side of Panama, and Panama City is on the Pacific. So we had to take a ten hour overnight bus to get there, I was so excited I didn’t even care that it is impossible to sleep on those buses! We stayed in hostel for the time we were there and it was actually really nice! I have never stayed in one before but in my mind they usually seem pretty sketchy…I mean take a bunch of travelling strangers and tell them they all have to sleep in a giant room together? Sounds like a horror movie…actually I think it is. Luckily it was nothing like that and the place was clean (for the most part) and the people very friendly. It was right on the Caribbean so we would read and swim off the dock in the back. So relaxing! I can say without a doubt that Bocas is the most unique place I have ever been. It’s this little Caribbean town made up of several different islands and beaches where backpackers and vacationers are constantly stopping through. The people there are a mix of Latino/Indian/hippy. Ha Very, very eclectic and we got to meet the coolest people from all over the world. The locals were super friendly with a laid back Caribbean “let’s party” kind of attitude. You could usually buy a “Jesus loves you” bracelet AND a pot leaf necklace of at most of their shops. My search is over! ; ) While we were there we were able to spend a day sailing around the different islands on a huge catamaran. It was awesome! We saw dolphins and the owner of the boat took us to this great place where we could snorkel and see beautiful fish and bright purple, orange and green coral. It was gorgeous day and we loved basking in the sun! A little too much however since we all got burnt pretty badly. In our defense we DID put a lot of sunscreen on, but since it was so close to the equator we didn’t realize how intense the sun really was! The rest of our time consisted of walking through the local shops, reading in hammocks, swimming and going to crystal clear beaches. Definitely my idea of a great vacation! Since Bocas is where all the young travelers and backpackers go to have fun, it turned into quite the party town at night! Even our hostel became a bar downstairs by nighttime. This gave us the opportunity to have some pretty interesting and cool conversations, to say the least. I was able to have an awesome, deep, spiritual conversation with a guy who had one too many beers (sounds impossible right?) It was probably one of the most honest and open conversations about God I have ever had with a stranger. He told me exactly what he thought about God, sin, how to live a fulfilling life and why this world has so many problems. I listened and afterward I was able to tell him my thoughts on those same topics. I flat out shared the gospel with him starting with Jesus coming to earth as an infant, dying on the cross, rising again and eventually returning again for His children! It was a great conversation; my only sadness is the knowledge that he probably did not remember having it the next day. However God can do what he wants! He could make a drunk man have an intelligent conversation and remember it if He wanted to! Maybe a seed was planted, maybe not…I may never know. The various conversations I had with people in Bocas, whether meaningful or normal reminded me that people are willingly and ready to talk, and listen! I am often scared to talk to people about salvation or anything spiritual for that matter because I am afraid they won’t really care or want to talk about it. This is not true! People are searching and willing to share their ideas and even listen to others. Everyone has an opinion about God; it may be that they believe there is no God…that is still an opinion. I need to remind myself that I do not need to convince others that my beliefs are the right ones; I just need to share what I am putting my faith in. There is nothing confrontational about that. This trip also helped me to realize how important it is for me and all Christians to step out of our safe Christian bubbles. There were many times when I felt uncomfortable because I am not used to being surrounded by people with morals so totally opposite than my own. The realization I came to was…it’s good to feel uncomfortable sometimes. We are not called to surround ourselves with believers only! What good does this do? Is it not the unsaved who need to hear about the good news of Jesus? Through talking with various people on this trip, I realized the importance of being in touch daily with the lost. Not every conversation needs to be deep and spiritual, but if I do not know the struggles, feelings and opinions of those around me, how can I minister to them? Jesus himself was the first one to befriend those with less than perfect reputations.
“And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."
So not only was this vacation wonderful and relaxing but God also brought about some awesome opportunities and learning moments for me! And now I am about to start my last week student teaching here! I cannot believe how fast the time has flown and the end of it definitely going to be bittersweet. Thank you for keeping me in your prayers!