A Panamanian Adventure

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Exactly one year ago this week, Stuart and I had a unique opportunity to visit 2 of our very dear friends in Panama. We met Jordan and Sarah about 4 years ago in Fort Collins, Colorado. Jordan and Stuart were both Civil Engineering graduate students who worked for the same professor at Colorado State University. The 4 of us hit it off immediately, and the rest is history. We have shared many adventures including traveling around Colorado, visiting Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, and hosting them in Florida. Our trip to Panama definitely tops the list as the most memorable. Stuart and I wrote the following post for Jordan and Sarah’s blog. This will give you just a snapshot of what we experienced in 5 short days.

At 5:00 am as we drove to the Miami International Airport, the seventeen and half hour journey to the jungle was only exacerbated by our eagerness to see Jordan and Sarah. The trip went relatively smoothly and at last the four of us were together again. We gave a nervous laugh when one of their first comments was on how clean we were. Three days later after an hour hike through the hot, humid, muddy jungle to their community we began to commiserate their initial observation. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

The first part of the journey took us to Boquete, a small mountain town in the western Chiriqui Province. One of the highlights was taking the Kotowa Coffee tour. We learned a brief history of coffee, walked through the plantation, and were educated on the process of how the coffee bean moves from a berry on a tree into the cup we savor every morning. The 3-hour tour concluded with a taste test in which we disregarded the fact that we were sharing the same cup of coffee with 6 people.

During this tour we couldn’t help but think of how God refines our faith in the same manner. 1 Peter 1:7 kept coming to mind: “These trials have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” If the coffee bean remained on the plant it would not reach its full potential. It must be removed from the plant, expelled from the outer shell, washed, dried, milled, tasted, roasted, ground, brewed, and finally enjoyed by the consumer. What if the bean missed even one step of the refining process? That would be a sad day for coffee lovers!

In a similar way God refines us. He washes us. He purifies us. And although it can be painful at times, the trials of life are achieving for us a genuine faith. Jordan and Sarah have endured great trials through their experience in Panama and are being refined by fire. But they are strong. They are genuine. They are more precious than gold.

Secondly, our adventure took us to the current residence of Jordan and Sarah. We were finally experiencing the hike that we had heard about for months! Let us set the stage: 85 degrees, 90% humidity, muddy, 25-lb backpacks, inclines, rivers, and the jungle. Need we go on? And to think this is the journey Jordan and Sarah take just to get in and out of their site! We had a new appreciation for the emails and calls we receive. Even more sobering was the thought that every brick, sack of concrete, or for that matter any item not produced by the jungle was carried in on the backs of the Ngöbe people.

In our short time in their community we were taught how to eat Panamanian “guava” by three adorable neighbor girls, marveled at Jordan’s ingenuity in crafting modern amenities with limited resources, and eat some Sarah’s yummy culinary creations, especially Jordan’s favorite breakfast: oatmeal and coffee.

The trip would not be complete without playing Sarah’s favorites game. In response to “what is your favorite memory from the trip?” Jordan evoked emphatic laughter with “Allyson making the trek to the latrine at least 10 times in the middle of the night.” We will spare you the details, but what she remembers most about feeling sick in the jungle was how she got out. Unfortunately, the only way out was the same way in: an hour hike. This was made possible by Sarah carrying Allyson’s backpack. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” This verse has a new meaning. Jordan and Sarah have always been friends who carried our burdens, our sorrows, and our struggles in a spiritual sense. They were now carrying our burdens in a physical, tangible way. To us, that represented what they have always done for us.

We have had many adventures with Jordan and Sarah, but trekking across Panama may top the list as the most memorable. While one of the main goals of this trip was to encourage our dear friends, there is no doubt that we were the ones who left encouraged, transformed, and inspired to press forward through trials and embrace the joys in this life.

 

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