Life had become routine in the Darien jungles of Panama. The sounds of Howler monkeys, the screeching of magnificent multicolored parrots and the beauty of the bright colored Toucan had become commonplace. One morning we woke up to find two little spider monkeys on the front porch crawling on the girls bikes!
I still could not reconcile with: the colossal spiders, the over-sized scorpions, the copious species of snakes, the blood-sucking vampire bats or the jungle army ants! Nor would I ever find harmony with the dripping humidity and the ever-present roaches, chiggers and mosquitos! However, I did learn to appreciate the large Iguanas for their tasty eggs.
Daily, the Kunas would greet us, early, looking for sugar or oil and a morning visit. We had become part of the community and they had begun to accept us. We had brought healing medicine, oil, and sugar after all!
The Indians had, somewhere along the line, become part of our family and we had become attached to them and their way of life. We had learned so much from them and were amazed at their physical strength compared to their small stature. Their ability to take one bullet and return with a deer or two bullets and return with two deer was uncanny. We, also, learned much from their survival skills in the dense jungle. But their openness to listen to the truth of God’s Word after a year and a half of total mistrust and resistance was the most astounding of all!
Watching the young mothers with their babies and the respect and trust these women had for the older women in the village was heartening. We had grown to love these very special people and had developed a mutually fulfilling relationship. As they came to know Christ, our hearts were full of gratitude for the privilege of serving the King in such a rugged border region.
The women swept the village once a week during dry season and it was an opportunity for Sue Gunsteens, my partner, and I to listen to the women chatter and hear the community gossip. You didn’t want to miss the sweeping because you would then become the object of their conversation that day!
However, I was consistently on guard because of something my Uncle, an orthopedic surgeon, had told me while he was visiting us at Language School. He spoke quietly: “Jackie, you carry the TB germ from birth; it lays dormant now but could activate in the right environment or as you get older”. I was 25 at the time, so I only had to focus on the environmental issue, I thought to myself! Then, a year or so later, during a Congreso meeting, we knew we had reached a level of tribal acceptance when they offered us a gourd filled with “Chicha” and everyonedrank from that one rustic cup! Needless to say, I did not want to offend by NOTdrinking from it!
But for me the sweeping and the common drinking gourd became an act of faith because the sweeping stirred up the tuberculosis germs and of course, the tubercular women would contaminate that communal cup!
The Lord had given me a promise while we were in missionary training.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and future”. Jer.29: 11
The Lord used these powerful words of promise to banish my fear and sustain me as we swept the village, drank the “sugar cane-sweetened platano (cooking banana) drink” and treated the TB patients in their homes and the clinic.
He knew my future and had it planned. There was, therefore, no reason to be troubled. My focus was not on my fear but the need to keep in harmony with Him, His assignment and His will.
Are you ever preoccupied with the future and what it holds for your life?
In a world full of uncertainties it is easy to “roll into” the pattern of helping God design your future, rather than simply submitting to Himand His plan
that comes with assurance and hope
~Jackie Johnson - I am a former tribal missionary to the Kuna Indians on the Colombian border in Central America. Fluent in several languages, my husband and I currently pastor a Spanish-speaking church in Southern California. My passion is discipling and equipping dedicated young women for life, marriage, motherhood, and beyond. I am the mother of two daughters and the grandmother of three Princesses and four young Knights.