Panda (2014 Edition)

July 31, 2014

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We had three extra teen’s with us this summer. Deb and I see part of our ministry in Moldova as opening up a doorway for young people to experience the mission field and serve. Moldova Missions for us is busy, and we need all the help we can get!

Levi Rodgers, or Panda, joined us this summer for the entire trip. This was Panda’s second year to Moldova. He and his dad (Danny) were with our team for three weeks last summer, and this year Panda felt the Lord tugging on him to serve for the entire summer. Matter of fact, he returned from Moldova last summer and immediately got about the business of saving his money for 2014.

It was a a blessing for us to have Panda on the team, to watch daily as the Lord molded him into a more Christ like young man. The rest of this post is some of the stories and perceptions I remember after reflecting on Panda’s involvement in 2014. NOTE, I don’t write this to pat Panda on the back for his good “deeds”. I write this so we can all rejoice in the Lord’s work in the life of this young man, and praise God together for using Panda in Moldova.

A part of ministry on the missions field is speaking. Each of the team is prepared to share their testimony or story about how Jesus has saved them and changed their lives. As the team leader, I call on people at different times to share, sometimes with advance notice, and other times on the fly. Panda shared his testimony many times this summer, and he became more confident as a speaker each time.The first and last times he shared were huge contrasts. At Emanuel church our first week, he had his notes with him and was tied to them. By the tenth time or so for the summer, at the church in Androsul, he left his paper tucked in his Bible and just stood up, leaned against the pulpit, and shared how Jesus has changed his life. No notes, no stammering or stutters, he just spoke to the people in the church, with Nicolae translating for him. I got to see how Jesus is working to make Panda an even better spokesmen for Him.

At Larga camp, every one on the team has either a morning or evening worship slot to share their testimony with the kids. After considering the schedule, Panda pulled me aside and asked if he could share his testimony on the last night, the day we spoke to the kids about baptism. He said that he had struggled with the need to be baptized, and wanted to share that with the kids. I was happy to oblige him and put him up on the last night.

This leads into the night when Panda spoke at Larga. He stood in front of the camp, sharing his testimony with the kids, and when he spoke about baptism, he began to “preach” it. He explained the significance of baptism, of dying under the water, and rising in Jesus to eternal life as you emerge. Chris Burnette and I did the preaching at Larga, and it was Chris’s turn to speak that night. He and I looked at each other, and agreed that Chris could stand up and say “Yep, what Panda said”, and then sit down. Panda had clearly articulated baptism and preached his first sermon in the process!

Panda grew as a leader this summer. We matched him up with the games station most of the summer, letting him setup the games and then play with the kids in the process. By the final VBS camps in Manda and Androsul, Panda chose the games on his own, organized all the supplies he needed, and all I had to do was point a group of kids to him and he did the rest. This is a huge blessing when running a camp to me as the organizer, to have team members execute their portion with limited oversight. For one game in Androsul, he needed a table and did not have one, since we were outside on a sports field. So, he crouched down and acted as the table.

Panda has a heart to reach the lost with the gospel. He befriended one of the kids at Larga camp named Vlad or “Panda 2”, named after a skit they did together. I encouraged Levi to build the friendship with Vlad, and to be on mission by spending time with him.

Panda and Daniel built a friendship this summer that I pray will last a lifetime. Our team was separated into two separate apartments this summer, which meant that Daniel, Panda, and I had our own apartment. Daniel and Levi were together almost 24/7. You cannot serve alongside some one in this way and not be connected with them. When I meet people that I’ve served with for even a week in Moldova, we have a bond.

I thank the Lord for Panda, and pray that Jesus will continue to mold Panda for His glory!

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