PANAMA CITY, Panama (EP) – Deposed Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who faces drug charges after a U.S. invasion toppled his military rule, was raised a Catholic, but converted to Buddhism in the mid-1970s. U.S. troops searching his residence found large quantities of cocaine and pornography. Soldiers storming a Noriega guest house narrowly missed capturing four Brazilian voodoo witches who performed rituals for Noriega’s protection. The “witch house” contained 50 pounds of cocaine, a bucket of blood, and various voodoo artifacts.
Hope for Revival Growing in Panama
PANAMA CITY, Panama (EP) – With ousted Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega in U.S. custody and U.S. troops beginning to withdraw, a spirit of new beginnings is emerging in Panama.
“It’s just so different now,” said Southern Baptist missionary James Gilbert, who lives in Panama City. “We feel a security we did not have before. More people are going to work, cleaning up, and getting ready to build again. There’s a different spirit among the people.”
Now that the fighting is over, Panamanian Christians, missionaries, and relief organizations in the U.S. are providing hunger relief. Because church members take food directly to families, the project provides personal contact with people in need. “More than just giving them a bag of food, volunteers can hear them and they can share with them,” explained Gilbert.
In addition to relief efforts, missionaries have found opportunities to meet spiritual needs. On New Year’s Day, Gilbert and a Panamanian deacon visited a group of U.S. soldiers at a camp in Panama City. Later, Gilbert shared the gospel with a U.S. soldier who had experienced a close call during the invasion. The soldier’s parachute snagged on a tree, and he was left hanging. “He finally cut himself down, but he had a real soul-searching experience,” said Gilbert. “He was wide open to listen to the gospel.”
Gilbert urges for prayer for “spiritual awakening” in Panama. There’s a vacuum in our people,” he concluded. “We need to fill that something that’s positive. You can’t rebuild a nation just by building buildings.”