Pastor Bob Holmes recalls Beryl and his visit to Panama in 1994.
Pastor Bob Holmes is currently the Principal of HIM Ministry Training Centre in Lautoka, Fiji. In August 1994, while a Pastor at Takapuna AG in Auckland, New Zealand, Bob visited Beryl in Panama. Some years later he prepared a report on that visit as part of a study course he was doing. As a result this report probably provides the most comprehensive account of Beryl’s work. Bob graciously provided us with a copy of his report and prefaced it with the following comments.


She was a great lady and I honestly don't think many people realised all she did. She was not one for saying much about herself but she was so well respected and loved by the people of Panama - her 'boys' as she called them although many were grown men with families. She gave her all in serving Christ in the nation of Panama and it was a privilege to have visited her and see her at 'work' - pure joy and it certainly inspired me and still encourages me to do my best for serving God in all He calls me to. My trip to Panama was one of the highlights of my life.

Beryl Green
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Thishas been the testimony of Beryl Green, a New Zealand Assemblies of God missionary to the Chiriqui and Darien provinces of Panama. When Beryl arrived in the town of David (in 1972), the capital of the Chiriqui province, she found a people full of fear and superstition, but also a people ready to embrace God’s Word.

Panama was conquered in the sixteenth century by the Spanish, who not only imposed their rule on the Indian people of the region but also “forced” them to accept the Catholic faith. This lead to many of the Indian people becoming Catholics out of fear. They were afraid of the consequences of what might happen to them if they did not “convert” to this new religion that was being imposed on them. Over the years, because many parts of Panama are cut off from civilisation, the Indians “developed” their own “modifications and additions” to the Catholic faith that was firsts taught to them. The religious make up of the outer provinces of Panama became a mixture of the Catholic teachings, the Indian animistic practices and culture and local flavour of the particular witch doctor. The so-called Christian faith of much of Panama was anything but Christian.

It was into such a land that Beryl Green came - the town of David, in the province of Chiriqui in Panama. Small, primitive, riddled with superstition and fraught with troubles, this town did not even rate a mention in the Encyclopaedia Britannica of the time. It did mention though that Panama was “hot and damp, with thick jungle in the lowlands....large areas uninhabited and almost unexplored...”. Yet this was the place that a brave woman ventured as she obeyed the call of God in her life.

Beryl recalls the first meetings, when with an other missionary, David Godwin of United States, she ventured into David. David Godwin had arrived in Panama just a short while before Beryl and was starting up a series of meetings to bring God’s Word and message to a hungry people. They saw large numbers of people respond to the gospel message and give their lives to Christ as Saviour. The hunger for the truth of God’s Word “amazed us”.

After David Godwin returned to Panama City to continue his missions work there, Beryl and a young Panamanian woman were left in charge of this Christian work in David. Soon Beryl found herself giving two hour-long basic doctrinal classes each day to the recent converts who were eager to learn more about their new found faith.
Panamanian villagers from the surrounding districts would walk many miles to come to the evening services, and often they asked for someone to be sent to their village with the gospel message. Unable to respond to all the requests, Beryl realised that she must find and train some local missionaries and workers.

By now, a tent was serving as a church. Behind this, at a table built by men from the growing congregation, a Bible School was started. “There were no facilities, but there were people with the call of God on their hearts, willing to go out and preach, and God honoured them - even if we taught them their sermon every night before they went out to preach”.

As the church and Bible School grew, it became necessary to rent a building, which served as offices during the day, school at night and church during the weekends. Since that time the Bible School at David has served as the main training facility for Assemblies of God workers in the Chiriqui province in Panama. The work of the Bible School was not without opposition - from the Catholic church, local officials and other religious leaders - but God had placed such a burden in Beryl’s heart that they were unable to dissuade her from the task, “God had raised up this work and He was not going to let His Word being established in the hearts and lives of the new Christians in David”.

From this original Bible School in David, there are now three more in the Chiriqui province. As a result of Beryl’s tireless and dedicated work for the Lord over the last 30 years, there are now 150 thriving churches in the province of Chiriqui. However, Beryl will tell you that it is “not what Beryl has done - it is what God has done”.

Today, Beryl’s work takes her well beyond David and Chiriqui, into the very under-developed Darien Province, where temperatures are often close to 40 and hardship is a basic way of life (Beryl is now aged 69, has ill health, recently ended in hospital with a blood clot in her lung). On her first trip into this region in 1983, Beryl walked for ten days through dangerous jungle, confident in the knowledge that the Lord was close at hand, “He arranged that we were met by someone from every village before we got there, and we were accompanied into all the villages. In those days, primitive tribes shot poisoned arrows and asked questions later! It is still like that in places - which is the reason for us starting the Bible Schools”. The Indians in these remote areas are more willing to let other Indians into their villages with this “new message” than those from the “outside”.

As she says of Darien, “it is jungle, lots of mud and rivers” (I know I have been there). Added to the practical difficulty in moving around in this region is the recent unease among the local Indians, and hostility to any outside intrusions. Their way of life, dominated by witch doctors, fetishes and the occult is often hard to break into and suspicion of western missionaries is very strong. “There has been a meeting of the tribes to say that no one can preach in Darien except in a local dialect, which means that a local Bible School is vital” (When I was there I preached in English, Beryl translated into Spanish and the local Indian Christian worker translated into the local dialect - made for a long sermon).

Many of the people in the Indian villages and surrounding towns in Darien are very poor and to go to Bible School is a great sacrifice to them and their families. Many live very subsistence types of lives (I know as I have visited these villages and have seen for myself the poorness of the people). In a letter I found from Beryl written a few years ago she wrote, “Please pray God will really encourage the students as they are really sacrificing to be able to study. Few of them are able to buy their books and some not even pens and paper, but what they lack in means they make up for with enthusiasm to learn.

One man, from a place called Monisega where we have a church, walked six hours through jungle to find out about the Bible School, but unfortunately he has no schooling. Perhaps next year I will be able to organise some literacy classes as there are many in this same position”.

Beryl is not forth coming about the hardships she endures. She is neither young or fit, yet she travels through the intense heat of the jungle to carry God’s Word to a need people. She sleeps on mud floors, wades through thick mud, braves hostile Indian tribes so that un-reached people of the world will hear the good news of Jesus Christ. Many years ago God stirred her heart to go to Latin America, so much so that “it came to the point where I knew in my heart if I did not go to Central America, I’d be disobeying the Lord”. Praise God for a heart of obedience, a tenacious spirit and a love for those outside the Christian faith.

As an after though Beryl said to anyone hoping to become a missionary in Panama, “Get as much experience as possible and learn as much as you can about everything before you leave home. For instance, if you have difficulty leading someone to the Lord in New Zealand, it will be very much more difficult in another culture and language. Learn to depend on the Lord and be responsive to His prompting and guidance. Be prepared to work under the national church leadership and consult and use national ministry in preference to your own wherever possible”. This is the advice of one with 30 years missionary experience.

My trip to Panama, to visit Beryl and to see firsthand the work she has been involved in for thirty years was a wonderful, eye-opening and spiritual experience. As I moved around Panama with Beryl, not understanding a word of Spanish, I was impressed with the respect and love the Christians in the provinces of Darien and Chiriqui had for her. She had brought to them the message of Jesus Christ and that had changed their despair and fear into joy and hope - hope in the resurrected Jesus, who was able to forgive their sin and free them from the bondage of the witch doctors and demon worship. There is still much to be done in this land but the work that has begun will carry on because Christ is still calling people “go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”.

Resources
Interviews and discussions with Beryl Green in Panama and New Zealand Letters from Beryl Green to Takapuna Assembly of God Missions Committee Observations from missions trip to Panama