10/19/12

A Universal Community: WorldTeach Panama

It is easy to grow spiritually in Panama.”  With these words, WorldTeach volunteer Michaela Forge begins to tell of her inspiring experience with faith in Panama. Throughout her journey, she has come to learn not only about herself, but also about the amazing solidarity of the people she lives and works with everyday. Thanks for sharing, Michaela!

It is easy to grow spiritually in Panama. Though we face trials as volunteers with our limited luxuries, it is hard not to see the workings of the Spirit through the beautiful imagery and kindness of the Panamanian people. Having so little, they still teach me so much.

The beautiful church in San Francisco de Veraguas.

This church is in San Francisco de Veraguas, a neighboring town to Santiago. It is very rural, but all visitors are encouraged to take a peek in the San Francisco de la Montaña church. The church was built in 1727 (estimated) and the entire structure was handmade by local carpenters. The altars in the church are made from hundreds of carved pieces and make up some of the oldest on the continent. Some of the carvings are covered with gold leaf and others are hand painted to depict scenes from scripture and display the combination of Spanish influence mixed with indigenous history. Churches, such as this one, serve as symbols of the strong faith connected to Latin culture, but the Panamanian people demonstrate further the workings of fellowship.

In my home in Atalaya, I have been welcomed into the local church (also beautiful) and was even able to have a Mass dedicated to my grandmother who passed away during my service here. Without hesitation, they lit a candle in her honor and planned a service where they offered the passing blessing and petitions for my family back home. They taught me their beliefs on the loss of others, and their kindness was much-needed during the difficult days I had being unable to go home for the services.  The word ‘catholic’ translates into ‘universal’ or ‘on the whole.’  I have experienced this though I am distant from my spiritual community back home.  Though I have traveled and lived in other countries, this still amazes me that the connection is clear.  Universally, we are all connected by something similar in our beliefs.  Further, we are connected in the Spirit. However, it is not simply the Church that strengthens the spiritual connections and reflections I have experienced in my months here. It is seeing the workings of the Spirit in others, and that is ever-present in the Panamanians I have encountered.

If you are interested in growing and learning in Panama like Michaela, visit our website at www.worldteach.org! If you have any additional questions, feel free to email us at info@worldteach.org or give us a call at 857.259.6466.

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