What I'm Doing on My Summer Vacation: Panama Missions Trip

June 17, 2013

Esther with her husband Eric.
This week we are highlighting a dear friend, Esther Aspling, who is leaving her husband and six children at home this summer to go on a missions trip to Panama City, Panama to reach out to girls and young women who she believes she has much in common with. Here's her story in her own words:

What are you doing?

This July I will be going with a group of people (mostly women) to help put on a girls conference in Panama. The rate of abuse is high, and the availability of help is low. The conference will encourage, equip and empower the girls of Panama City on their faith journey to be all that our Creator created them to be! It will give the girls the tools that will help them succeed in every area of their lives and to overcome the difficulties that they face.

I will be going with the organization Bridging the Gap who are partnering with missionaries Garritt and Tara Kenyon. The main sessions will include Panamanian and international speakers that will hit topics such as; sexuality, physical and emotional abuse, self-esteem, body-image, education and more.

Who or what does the trip benefit? 

This trip will benefit girls and young women in Panama who have or are currently in abusive situations. One of the most exciting aspects of this conference will be presenting the new center, El Refuge, that Gerritt and Tara Kenyon are preparing that will serve as a refuge and place of encouragement for young people during difficult seasons of life.

How did your involvement in this missions trip come about? 

I’ve spent the majority of my life stuck in a rut. Call it fear of failure, the six excuses I’ve given birth too, or the sometimes paralyzing introvert in me.

But this year is different. I decided that this year I would start moving forward from the stationary spot I’ve held for years.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve been running for years, it’s just that I have been running in place. I’ve filled my time with church ministries, home schooling and the occasional help out at a women’s conference.

I think many of us know what God wants us to do, but we shove it to the side and often retitle our calling an out of reach “dream.” I think many of us even think that not only is the dream out of reach, but a vain pursuit! But the reality is, the only thing keeping us from achieving that dream is us!

So what is that dream?

Well, it’s not what I thought it would be. To be honest I was hoping my walk forward would be a casual stroll down the lane. You know, a “happy” ministry, something like baking, organizing (yes, that is happy to me) or throwing baby showers. What I ended up with was more like traversing unknown rocky territory!

You see what struck me about Panama was the high rate of sexual abuse amongst children. While that is jarring to most, it is particularly head turning to me because I have experienced sexual abuse both as a child and a teenager. As a child I had been abused by a neighbor child and was unable to tell anyone until I was an adult. And then as a teenager I was raped by my boyfriend which led to me having my first child at 16.

When I heard that their goal was to spread the redeeming power of Christ to the girls of Panama, His all encompassing love, the value they can find in Him, I knew I had to go. These were all the truths I wish I had heard when I was younger.

I know what it was like to feel shame and embarrassment. I know what it is like to feel forgotten and unloved. I know what it is like to feel dirty and unworthy. I know from experience that voicing your pain to an uncaring world gives you nothing in return.

I couldn’t let another day go by without sharing what I know!

Letting them know that there is a community around them that want them to feel not only loved, but worth loving and that we have the love of a Heavenly Father to draw on.

That we have the redeeming power of Christ to renew us. We don’t have to stay broken and lost to our pain, but that we can be lifted up to be new creations!

That no matter our current situation, whether we have people around us to pour into our lives, or even if you are still living with your abuser we are never alone, we are never forgotten and our lives are not a waste.

I’d want them to have hope for their future, to know that God had a plan for me, and He has a plan for them too.

Whether or not any of this is shared in words is not important. What is important is that I follow the calling placed on me and that I keep going no matter how difficult the terrain. Because if my life has taught me anything it’s that standing still, alone in your pain, hiding from your past, is worse than any blisters you get from taken the rugged path that sharing your story leads you.

What can we do?

You can pray for Esther and the rest of the team (Kendra will be going as well) while they are gone. If you’d like more information about the trip click here.

You can help Esther by supporting her financially. Each donation is tax deductible and can be done easily online through her razoo account.

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