A week ago my boys had the day off of school because there was no electricity. This is equal to a “snow day” for them here in Panama and of course they were not too bummed about it. We don’t live far from the ocean now so for fun we took them to a place where Rio Chame and the Pacific come together to explore (Pic. Above). It’s an unusual spot with lots of sandbars, dunes and pools of fish. While we were hiking we came upon something strange.
Lying high on one sandbar was a dead white goat with no head. The body had not been there more than a day and it was clear that no animals had yet touched it. Stranger still however, was that there were no marks at all on this goat. In fact in addition to no head, there was no blood anywhere around it and no footprints either. We hurried the boys passed to continue exploring but I couldn’t get that curious sight out of my head. What was a goat doing on the beach? Where was its head? Why were there no other marks at all around? I knew we were new here in Panama but something didn’t add up.
After researching at home, I came up with a theory. Evidently, similar headless goat scenes (and other animals) have been found before, South Florida is one example. Many times these have had a connection to the religious group known as “Santería” where goats, chickens and other animals are used as sacrifices for purification or spells. I had never heard of them before so I started looking into it. From what I’ve read, Santería is probably best described as a form of Voodoo, cloaked in the terminology and worship of the Catholic Saints. It’s a syncretistic religion with roots to Africa. The history of which can be traced through the slaves that were brought to the Caribbean from Africa years ago but since that time has merged in a way with the Roman Catholicism. I learned it’s not only present here in Panama but it is likely growing! I believe the combination of worshipping the Saints and the widespread Biblical illiteracy here in Panama make this country fertile soil for Santería and cults like it to take root and grow. Just like Hosea 4:6 says, “…my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge”.
My concrete confirmation came two nights ago when a man named Felix came to our gate at 11PM asking for shoes. We’re usually careful about handouts from our house but this seemed different. I ended up giving him shoes and also a Bible and we talked for a long time about Christ. As we talked he told me that he had been part of the Santería cult though he no longer was. He was grateful for the Bible. He had never had his own before and asked me where to start reading. I told him John and I believe we will meet again. Please pray for the chance to minister further to Felix but even more pray for the Lord to push back the darkness of false religion with the light of His Word here in Panama. Please pray for our boldness with the Gospel and the fortifying of Christ’s Church to really make disciples for Christ here in this country. And may we all find the darkness and take the light to it!