A mission of joy: Church members deliver presents in Central America
METETI, Panama — In 90-degree temperatures, visitors from the United…
Retired missionaries Ken and Pat Beckloff were walking to market in El Valle, Panama, one morning when a man with a British accent approached them.
“Do you speak English?” he asked.
“We thought he must be a tourist wanting directions,” Ken Beckloff told The Christian Chronicle. “He then told us he was traveling from Alaska to Argentina without money, just depending on the kindness of people.
“He asked if he could spend the night on our couch, and we told him we could do better than that as we had a guest room.”
Suddenly, a camera crew appeared from behind the shrubbery, Beckloff said, and after signing a release form, he and his wife were part of a Netflix series, “The Kindness Diaries.”
Because of the encounter, a leader of the El Valle Church of Christ, where the couple worships, received a huge blessing.
The show follows Leon Logothetis, a former London stockbroker who, in spite of the wealth he acquired, found himself “uninspired and chronically depressed,” he says in his website bio. Inspired by the film “The Motorcycle Diaries,” he quit his job and became a “global adventurer, motivational speaker and philanthropist.”
In “The Kindness Diaries,” Logothetis travels on a shoestring budget, relying on strangers who offer him places to stay. He rewards their acts of charity with his own acts of benevolence.
The Beckloffs appear in Season 2, Episode 6, “The Gift of Shelter.”
Logothetis met the Beckloffs after spending the previous night in his yellow Volkswagen near the Costa Rica/Panama border. The encounter happened in April 2018, but the Beckloffs promised not to speak of it until the second season was released on Netflix this month.
In the episode, Logothetis told the Beckloffs, “I sense there is a deep love and a deep kindness in both of your hearts.”
Ken Beckloff responded, “Well, that’s kind of what we spent our lives doing.”
The couple, married for 52 years, spent more than a decade evangelizing and church planting in Mombasa, Kenya, before moving to Oklahoma City to serve in international ministry with the Memorial Road Church of Christ. In 2015 they retired to Panama and began working with the El Valle Church of Christ.
From an early age, Pat Beckloff told Logothetis, she realized that the blessings she’s received — blessings of comfort and relative affluence compared to the rest of the world — require her to give back and “not to live as affluently as I could live.”
Logothetis gave the couple the option to receive a life-changing gift — or to help him find someone to receive it instead.
They immediately chose the latter.
“This is so exciting. I just can’t get my mind around it,” Pat Beckloff said. “But it’s also a really big responsibility because we all know that if you give it to the wrong person, it can cause more harm than good.”
After discussing and praying about the decision, the couple led Logothetis to the home of Cleo Perez, a leader of the El Valle Church of Christ and manager of Butterfly Haven, a tourist attraction in the town. Perez welcomed the couple when they moved to Panama, Ken Beckloff said, and his rented home constantly was “full of people who needed a place to stay.”
When the episode was filmed, Perez was living on a rocky mountainside in a tiny home with his wife, Chanet, their son, Kaliler, and their daughter, Anaydili. The family had to share one bed.
Logothetis told Cleo Perez, who speaks English, of his plans to pay for the completion and expansion of their house. Fighting back tears, the church leader translated the news into Spanish for his wife.
In the months that followed, Logothetis wired money to the family, who sent him photos and construction updates, Ken Beckloff said.
The episode ends with pictures of the Perezes preparing for their first meal in their newly refurbished home — along with the Beckloffs and other guests.
“They really spent a lot of time with us,” Ken Beckloff said of Logothetis and the show’s crew. “It was interesting to see what they included and had to leave out. They did an excellent job getting the heart of the conversations.”
His wife added, “The whole experience was pretty incredible. Truly, God works in mysterious ways.”
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