SAM Centennial Celebration, September 21-16, 2015, Panama.
As we arrived, slowly trickling in from various pockets of the world, there was an overwhelming sigh of relief. We made it. SAM’s celebration of a century was about to begin and we were finally there!
Our missionaries gathered with SAM leadership, our board of directors, various family members and supporters, along with many ministry partners to celebrate the glories, triumphs, trials, and history of South America Mission over the past 100 years. The setting could not have been more picturesque as we worshipped within walking distance from a breathtaking shoreline at the cusp of the Pacific Ocean.
It was made clear, however, from the moment of our first official gathering that this week in Panama was not for the sole purpose of reflection. We had gathered to fellowship and rest as we look ahead at what God holds for South America Mission in the next 100 years.
On that first night, our board of directors served us communion, intentionally entering a place of humility and servitude, and ultimately setting the tone for our celebration. We were encouraged by pastor Worth Carson of Granada Presbyterian Church to enter into a place of Biblical “rest” and consider God’s warning in Isaiah 30:15 to those who neglected to rest in the Lord. He continued on throughout the week to expand the topic of physical Sabbath rest into a calling that God has placed on our lives to physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, rest in His promise and sovereignty in all things.
Before each evening session, a hum of excitement whipped through the gathering place as missionaries from all over South America exchanged stories and finally met their fellow workers face to face. Even during the afternoons when we had a break from meetings, if you walked through the resort grounds you would not go far before encountering a new group of missionaries, supporters, or family members finding new stories to tell and new people to encounter.
Each morning and evening there were workshops and teaching sessions to edify, connect, and exhort us. Bob Moffitt, president of the Harvest foundation, exhorted us to remember the Church’s role to not just proclaim the good news but to demonstrate it as we build for the Kingdom in our communities. Captivated and convicted, we continued to discuss the role of discipleship and holistic ministry throughout the week, considering the ways our current ministries can be enhanced in this capacity.
One incredible and crucial element to our week in Panama was hearing from author Philip Yancey across multiple evenings on the topics of grace and prayer. The stories he lavished upon us from his personal travels and personal struggles exemplified his charge that we must continue to expand our capacity for grace in our ministries and pursue a life filled with prayer.
We were amazed to hear stories of how God is working currently in South America. From Lima, Peru, José Raúl Galindo welcomed us into his ministry, Decisiones Con Valor, which ministers to men from the burgeoning middle class of Latin America. SAM missionary Jorge Enciso shared about a house church movement in Bogotá, Colombia, that is reaching the city with the whole gospel through evangelistic and community development initiatives. And finally, SAM missionary Alex Chiang challenged our perspective by giving us a Latin American viewpoint on the role North Americans have in the advancement of the gospel in South America.
For 100 years South America Mission has grown by God’s grace to captivate hearts for the gospel and bring people together in His name. We are redeemed children of God. We work to reproduce authentic disciples of Jesus, to multiply dynamic, beautiful churches that are shaping Godly leaders and transforming their communities.