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What does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8

Happy Spring to you Bethany! Well, I think it’s spring. It’s just a bit chilly outside. And quite an adjustment from the hot, humid weather of Panama. I swear I lost the kiss of sunshine from Panama immediately when the Midwest air hit my face early Monday morning.

My ventures during my sabbatical have been transformative and grounding. My favorite trip was participating in Mission Save a Smile in Achutupu, Panama. The focus for me on this trip was Serve Our Neighbor from our generosity initiative Expand the Table. This trip put an exclamation mark on my servant’s heart, and I am reminded how much Bethany has one too.

It was a pleasure and honor to get to know the servant’s heart of Chris and Patty Burseth. They are members of our congregation and the ones who established Mission Save a Smile. As they tell the story of forming this mission, I see God’s hand bringing people together to care for our global siblings. On a rainforest tour in Panama, Chris without telling the guide what he did for a living, asked, “What are the greatest needs of the people in the San Blas Islands?”

The guide said dentistry. Chris is a dentist! A seed was planted, and a mission was created. Chris and Patty have been doing this mission for 17 years. I am blown away by how this mission has grown, the talent and passion of Chris and Patty, and the new connections that are being made each year to expand this mission. Their goal is to build a permanent dentistry building in Achuputu and bring dental care to the community more than once a year.

The group that I attended the trip with was made up of liaisons from Panama; Panamanian dental students, dentists, dental assistants, and an intern; from the United States an oral surgeon, a dentist, a dental assistant, a dental student, and others like me with skills other than dentistry. In many ways, this was an eclectic group that in most cases was imperfectly matched but worked perfectly together. I felt God’s presence among us through conversations and sharing daily tasks.

This gathered group on this remote island in Panama reminded me of the church, and how when we raise up and value the gifts of each member of the church, we can do great things. Last Wednesday I did a short devotional with the group and noted the different God-given gifts of the group and how they meshed naturally, with each person contributing in some way. Together we are better!

Bethany, I am ready to be back home with you. I have missed you and look forward to seeing how God will continue bringing us together to care for each other and our neighbors as life endures among us.

Peace and love to you! See you soon!!

Pastor Cathy