Nuns, priests, Franciscans and other various groups in the Catholic church joined young adults from around the world on the sidewalks of a city park for seven days for World Youth Day (WYD) in Panama City, Panama.
For one week, more than 500,000 Millennials and Gen Zs from around the world traveled to hear Pope Francis speak and grow their faith in Jesus.
World Youth Day is typically celebrated by the Catholic Church.
Spanish and English filled the air and every once and a while so did an unfamiliar language. A Spanish worship band performed daily behind the large Jesus Film Project tent.
A team of 17 Jesus Film Project Mission Trip members traveled to Panama City to engage with event attendees using the GodTools app and the Jesus Film Project app.
The local outreach team consisted of Cru® staff members from Panama and Venezuela, church staff volunteers, and college students.
The U.S. and Panama teams partnered for four days and saw God work mightily.
As they visited the different event venues and prayed for direction, God brought nearly 145 individuals to a personal relationship with Him. These new believers came from Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Germany, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Poland, Venezuela and other countries.
Darryn*, a young man who attended WYD, approached Jesus Film Project staff member Chuck Gipson, expressing gratitude for the effort staff made in offering the tent and for the hospitality they shared. The conversation ended in a spiritual discussion.
"Mary, the mother of Jesus, is everything," Darryn said. "She is my mother; she is the one who teaches me and leads me."
Chuck shared how Mary was a blessed and honored woman, quoting Luke 1:28, but she was simply blessed to be the mother of the One who we are to love and worship. Her Son should be the One to receive worship.
Referring to Matthew 2:11, Chuck explained, "When the wise men came into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him. … They presented Jesus with wonderful gifts."
Darryn became quiet and then asked, "Would you please pray for me?"
Chuck prayed that God would draw Darryn into a relationship with Him, and that he will tell everyone he knows to do the same.
Often God moves in unplanned places during unexpected times.
One day, while the mission trip team and the Panama team traveled from one outreach location to the next, they decided to break for lunch. The team was tired and hot and wanted to eat somewhere with air conditioning. Bethany*, one of the team members, sat to rest on a curb outside the restaurant. When she saw two local girls smiling at her, she told them that she was with a team showing short films during WYD. She showed them "Delight," a short film about the loving relationship between a father and daughter. The two girls watched eagerly.
"I can’t believe this," one of them said. "We were just talking about my dad. He's in the hospital here and we came to see him."
Bethany shared how the film related to her life, too, and gave a brief gospel presentation before the girls left.
A couple of hours later, Bethany and the team ventured to a beachside park. Since the Pope was further down the park, crowds were scarce, but Bethany and her teammate, Amy, were enthusiastic to share the gospel with whomever was available.
They noticed a girl sitting by herself, facing the ocean. As they walked up, they recognized her as one of the two girls Bethany showed the film to outside the restaurant.
The girl said, "It's really cool you shared that film with us. My friend has a strained relationship with her sick dad. After talking with you, she went to go talk with him."
Then Bethany and Amy showed another short film to the girl and afterward, shared the gospel, emphasizing that each person needs to open "the door of our heart" to let Jesus in.
The girl then prayed to receive Christ. She said she felt confident Jesus was now her Savior!
Bethany and Amy sat with her for around 30 minutes, explaining how to live the Christian life and encouraging her to read the Book of John. Abigail said she had never read the Bible but was excited to start!
Many seeds were planted and watered in the lives of young adults from around the world that week. And for over one hundred of them, they are taking Christ back to their home country and families.
For more about attending a mission trip, read "Turning Short-Term Mission Trips into Long-Term Missions Focus."
*Names changed for security.