FLINT TWP. — A church, a plan, a trip — Panama! lacks the lyrical appeal of the well-known palindrome – a man, a plan, a canal, Panama! – but it aptly describes a worthy new endeavor of the Central Church of the Nazarene on Bristol Road.
Pastor Rob Prince was among 23 volunteers who left March 6 for a nine-day mission trip to the Central American country.
They represent all walks of life – doctors, nurses, university professors, laborers, pastors, housewives, elementary, high school and college students, Prince said. Plans during their stay include to hold a couple of vacation Bible schools, work at an orphanage, hold a free medical clinic, conduct a soccer clinic and do a couple of community and church construction projects.
Central Church has formed a collaborative partnership with the Church of the Nazarene in Panama. Through The Panama Partnership, Central Church will work in a variety of ways to support local churches, touch individual lives, and support positive change in Panama.
It is the first of several planned trips. Church volunteers hope to make at least three trips a year for the next three to five years, Prince said.
“We looked at several world areas where we might partner and worked in conjunction with the Church of the Nazarene,” Prince said. “There were several factors that went into the decision of what world area we would partner with. We wanted a location where we would be able to do several different projects: construction, medical missions, works in orphanages, have youth and children’s programming, etc. We wanted a place where there was a great need but also great opportunity to make a difference. We also wanted to partner with a location that was easily accessible and we could go for as little out-of-pocket cost to the volunteers as possible.”
Panama is a great country, Prince said. But while the Panama Canal brings income to the country and Panama City is very modern, the outlying areas are needy and poor. A vision team from the church visited the country last year to “scout out the ministry opportunities.”
Prince added that world outreach is one of Central’s four major churchwide goals:
• Connect with God in worship.
• Connect with Each Other through discipleship.
• Connect to our neighborhood through service. “We want our neighbors to know we are not just “in” the neighborhood, but we are “for” the neighborhood. So programs like our partnership with (Carman-Ainsworth) Dillon Elementary School, upwards sports programming, celebrate recovery and partnerships with other local ministries like Carriage Town Mission and the Eastside Mission; and opportunities like our upcoming MISSION BLITZ day (where we will have 400 people in the community serving on a Saturday morning).
• Connect to our world through Mission. “We are convinced that we are to make a difference not just in Flint but ‘to the ends of the earth.’ Wanting to not just promote a “volun tourism” where there are hit and miss mission trips around the globe, we think it is best to establish relationships with a people in a certain area. That is what we hope to accomplish in Panama. We want to make it a better place.”
One plan is to take a group of orphans out to a restaurant for dinner – a special treat for them. Volunteers also plan to work on a railing at a community park and do some painting and light work on a church building.
“We hope that we make a difference in Panama, but we also feel that it will change us,” Prince said. “As we love and serve and think of others, God changes us. We hope that difference then impacts how we live and serve in Flint.”