Posts tagged #kuna

Jackie's Journey: "Kidnapped and Killed!"

 

“Afflictions are but the shadow of God’s wings.”

George MacDonald

In the tropics the challenges are relentless. I recently read, ”The Darien Gap, a large swath of undeveloped swampland and dense forest with no roads, is dangerous due to incidents of kidnapping, murder and drug-running by Colombian guerillas and paramilitary groups who have crossed the border into Panama.”  

This is the very place where God chose to locate us.

After leaving our field of service, three new families moved into our village and into our homes to continue the work among the Kuna’s.  Those three New Tribe Mission families were put to the ultimate test when their husbands were kidnapped by a Colombian paramilitary group (FARC).The horror of their capture and disappearance into the dense Darien jungle was unthinkable

.“When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below…How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no God like you and there is no God but you…”

Joshua 2:11 and 2 Samuel 7:22

 My heart was lost in the “inconceivable”.   It was my worst imaginings while living interior and it had become reality just a few years after we returned to the U.S.  What would happen now?  Will our Kuna family go on? How would these wives and their children continue?  These three brave missionary women would later learn their husbands had been murdered shortly after their capture!    Lawlessness prevails in the Darien…

“The Lord gets His best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction.”

Charles H. Spurgeon

I did not do a lot of research on Panama, the Darien or any investigation of our area prior to entering our tribe.  It was deep into the jungle by way of a maze of rivers past all civilization.  It was magnificent in beauty and scale, but intimidating with threatening unknowns.  My husband and I were on the adventure of our lives and our zeal to reach these remote people for Christ was indescribable.  They needed the story of God and mankind from the beginning and we were challenged by the opportunity.

The Kunas could not imagine why these foreigners were living among them.  What did we really want?   Our goal was to share the gospel with these tribal people who had no background to understand God’s Word.  Their god, after all, was an Earthmother!

The arduous task of learning a completely foreign language and culture to communicate the Gospel clearly was set before us and we had been prepared well.  Through Boot Camp and Language School we came to understand academically and spiritually the job at hand and we were anxious to get at it.  We did not allow ourselves to entertain the possibility of turning back or what it might cost or the price that we might be called upon to pay!

I am grateful I was unaware of all the potential dangers that lurked in our geographical area.   When the news came to us of the men and their families that followed us, it was shocking.  God’s timing is not ours, His ways are not ours and His ultimate purpose is not always obvious or easily read.  His sovereignty, however, is ours to claim and is the place where we find peace in utter confusion and turmoil.

 I am eternally grateful to those women in different pockets of the world, who stood with us during our time in Panama.  The prayers of the faithful sustained us as they “held the ropes” at home. Those who joined hands with us to reach this remote group of Kunas in the Darien Gap confirmed His calling on us and they were the continual source of encouragement that we needed to “keep on keeping on”. 

The next time you think you are having a “bad” day,

Will you pray with me for those moms who are still in remote areas involved in “reaching the unreached?”

 I know you can do all things (God).

And that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

Job 42:

jackie.s.jpg

~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. 

Jackie's Journey: Jungle Monkeys and Tiaras

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     Princesses Christina and Kim visiting our Kuna neighbors

Princesses Christina and Kim visiting our Kuna neighbors

Village life was becoming normal on our Kuna outpost.  In the early morning, before daybreak and breakfast, the girls would run to the front door to trade packets of oil and sugar for fresh eggs. Ralph would pick up the Bible and begin reading to the girls until it was time for breakfast or the house filled up with people.  These excited little princesses would anticipate the daily trip to the river to swim and help me wash clothes. Moving toward the river we would wave to the small monkeys perched on the bikes on our porch and call out to the parrots shrieking from the mango tree above our heads. Carrying the wash back up the 12’ bank, my two little monkeys would help me hang the clothes on a line that extended from our outhouse to the tin roofline of our home. Later in the morning, Ralph, with all of us in tow, would haul 5-gallon drums of water from the river above the village to drink, wash dishes and brush our teeth.

If there was time before lunch, the girls and I would grab a princess storybook and we would enjoy a few moments of inactivity in the hammock strung across the middle of our living room. 

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     Dr. Ray Nadeau, visiting from Southern California, enjoying our “story-time” hammock!

Dr. Ray Nadeau, visiting from Southern California, enjoying our “story-time” hammock!

Beth Moore, in Living Beyond Yourself, shared “Every little girl has something in them that wants someone to say ‘You are Special!’  It is in me to believe, ‘I am supposed to be special’…could that be eternity set in the hearts of men?  A piece of eternity…something set in the hearts of little ones that says, ‘I am destined for royalty’…A real live King.  A real live Kingdom is coming.  Somehow a little child has that in them to know…little knights and little princesses—for the kingdom belongs to such as these…and children believe in Kingdoms.”  

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.  Ephesians 2:10

Even in the remotest of jungles my little girls knew they were special, with or without a tiara.  God had made them that way.  As Christian parents, we want to encourage the belief that God created our little ones unique with destiny because He has given them the innate belief that they are one of a kind.  This opens the door to present the provision made for each of them to understand their need and become a child of God for eternity.  We encouraged this belief, knowing our girls were created to do God’s will and to find His purpose for their lives. 

As time goes on, little princesses search for other princesses in their world.  Soon they are introduced to the six plus princesses of Disney (that’s the book we had!).  They are swept into a world of romance, fantasy, and magic with the all to predictable evil and scary villain.  Most of us search for an alternative to give our daughters…I did!  I longed for a series of books that introduced my girls to bible-based, character-emphasized princesses that they could aspire to become. It was important that the books spoke to them in terms that they could understand and that targeted eternal values.  So I began to super-impose these principles into every book I picked up!

Christina was three when we arrived in Panama and learned Spanish quickly in the few months we lived in Chepo, a Spanish-speaking community near the New Tribes Mission School about a 40-minute drive outside Panama City.  We had the privilege of living in Chepo while her Daddy made trips into the jungle to prepare our house for us.  We were, also, waiting for Princess Kimberly to be born and had many opportunities to become friends with the Spanish-speaking Panamanians; mostly, thanks to our blond, long-haired princess, Christina, who has never met a stranger!  Our nearest neighbors, Carlon and Angela, adopted us.  I learned to cook rice from Angela, and Carlon became Ralph’s most loyal friend.  Both came to know Christ in our brief time there.   

Shortly after Kim was born we moved into our Kuna village on the river Pucuro.  Christina learned Kuna faster than all of us because the children came daily to play with her toys on the front porch and they chattered like “Loritos”(little birds), continually.  As young as she was, she carried a burden for the hearts of her playmates and often engaged in conversations involving the reason why we had come and the need for knowing the true God.  

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     Our screened-in front porch…the girls’ playroom!

Our screened-in front porch…the girls’ playroom!

While living interior, we home-schooled daily and both girls were reading at four and able to do their required school work, days and weeks ahead of schedule.  It is amazing what can be accomplished when there is no electricity, T.V., cell phones, computers, iPads, instagram, pinterest, etc.  Eventually, the Panamanian government sent a teacher to our village and a small school was built.  Christina could not wait to go with her friends and to be taught in Spanish.  She attended every morning!

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   Home-schooling a delightful and diligent student

Home-schooling a delightful and diligent student

For us, jungle living had become home.  We had won the hearts of the majority of the Kuna community and had established a rhythm with them, their way of life and our family paradigm.  We had been blessed beyond measure…

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     Two little princesses with Tinker, our puppy, taking our daily river trek!

Two little princesses with Tinker, our puppy, taking our daily river trek!

Are you at peace knowing you are where God has called you to be, doing what He has purposed for your life?

What about your children? 

Have you considered asking God for His divine direction in the life of each of your princes and princesses?

 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

Ephesians 2:10

Surreptitious Scorpion!

efore we arrived in Panama, we had seen the handiwork of the Kuna Indians and were amazed at their beautiful Mola creations. They would take the jungle and its inhabitants and meticulously sew them into intricate three layer tapestries.   We would soon discover the secrets of these pieces of art!  

Can you see the arthropods on this one?

A typical Kuna Mola

A typical Kuna Mola

When challenged for tribal missions the unknowns were the most difficult to adjust to…and the unknowns were many and continual.  Honestly, there were more unknowns in our jungle life than I could ever have imagined while stateside…and trust me, I thought my fear had covered everything conceivable in preparation for our missionary service!

The word hope in the Bible is a term of certainty.  The Greek word translated “hope” in the New Testament is elpizo, which means,  “to anticipate with confident expectation.”  Uncertainty and the unknown are bedfellows!  They helped develop my capacity to be a woman of hope and not despair.

Arriving in the last frontier of Panama…the Darien Gap, I stepped over the threshold of our new home.  The Darien Gap is said to be one of the last wild frontiers in the world!

Had I not heard this before arriving??

It was dark and wet.  The mud-packed floor was cold!  Ralph had poured one cement floor in the house, but then realized it was not a viable option to do more considering the amount of weighty bags of cement that would have to be carried two days from Panama City by banana boat and, then, another day upriver by dugout to reach the shoreline of our village.

Kim, our youngest daughter, was a nursing baby when we first arrived. As the months rapidly slipped away from us, we knew she would soon be crawling.  Anticipating his daughter’s first attempts, her Dad found woodcutters from Colombia to carve a wood floor from the jungle.

He also brought in cats from Panama City to discourage the creepy crawlers, skittering mice, and flying bats in the house at night!  Kim loved the cats!  Right on cue, before the floor was finished, Kim began crawling and she was fast! She chased the cats and disappeared out of sight every chance she got!

 

Kim's friends

Kim's friends

One morning her little friends were circling our bed in a very agitated manner.  Kim was as excited as the cats and crawling right behind them!  Swiftly snatching her up into my arms, I caught a glimpse of something large moving under the bed!  I was hoping it was a bird that had lost its way…

Not certain what had entered the house unaware, I instinctively picked up the biggest and heaviest object I had close at hand…Ralph’s size 14 combat boot!  With one fell swoop I smashed the largest scorpion I had ever seen.  Its crushed tail extended beyond the end of the boot!

 

Alertness is learning to foresee dangers and fully understand the consequences!  No problem here…I was on alert!

This, of course, includes creepy crawlers but also being alert to the dangers of our words, actions, attitudes, and thoughts!  My thoughts could never have visualized all the variables that became my almost daily occurrences.  Being alert to what was taking place around me was a practice that became inherent in our jungle life. 

Being watchful and prompt to meet danger or an emergency is the definition of alertness.  Learning to pay attention to the lessons God was teaching me through the experiences He was bringing my way were invaluable to my spiritual growth.  My anxiety, resistance and need to be “in control” often hindered His growing me up!

How alert are you?

Have those under your care experienced problems that should have been detected and corrected? 

Are you aware of opportunities God gives you to witness and encourage others to grow spiritually? 

What is the last problem you could have avoided by being alert to danger?

Jackie's Journey: First Impressions

A year or so after moving into the Darien Gap in the jungles of Panama, I was asked by our field leaders to jot down my first impressions. To my surprise I read my notes in our New Tribes Mission Brown Gold Magazine months later in May 1973.  A few days ago I was going through some photo albums and found the same article I had written.

The purpose of the writing was to call attention to the desperate need to reach these unreached people tucked into little corners all over the world.  H.A. Roberts said, “The toughest challenges lead to the greatest triumph’s”.  The call is as imperative now, as it ever was then.  Here is that quoted article reproduced:

“HERE WE ARE!  Address: El Rio Pucuro, Nowhereland!

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   Our village carved out of dense jungle.  My house has a tin roof in the foreground.

Our village carved out of dense jungle.  My house has a tin roof in the foreground.

Only 26 days ago we flew into El Real in an eight-passenger plane and were picked up in the same dilapidated jeep that had met us 6 months before.  We headed to the waterfront, a short ride on a dusty, bumpy road that I viewed between my feet through the holes in the floorboard! 

We got as close as the jeep could go and then hobbled ¼ mile with 3 month-old Kim in my arms, 3 year-old Christina hanging on to my dress, three suit-cases, an infant seat to use in the floor of the dugout, and boiled water!

We traveled an hour to Yavisa for the night.  Next morning, at 5:00 a.m., we loaded the piraguas (dugout canoe) for Pucuro.  We ate fish and rice for breakfast and began our 11-hour trip upriver.

The winding river Pucuro!

The winding river Pucuro!

ours passed and I couldn’t believe the beauty I was beholding.  The jungle is plush, full and spattered with green and yellow blankets of butterflies all along the way.  The first six hours were quick and, other than cramped arms and legs from protecting Kim from the beating sun and being sandwiched between our household belongings, we all fared well.  The last six hours were a real battle against our dry river and a swift current!  No less than twenty times Ralph and the others jumped into the shallow water to push us over rocks, etc. that worked like a barricade to delay our long awaited entrance into the land of the Kuna people.

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   Dry season means shallow waters!

Dry season means shallow waters!

Just before dark I looked up and saw brown bodies silhouetted along the sandy break in the jungle.  My heart began to pound as I realized I was about to face a people that had consumed our hearts and minds for over three years!

Would they accept us?

Would they grab my baby and run into the dark?

What should I expect?

The verse “My grace is sufficient…” flooded my mind as I yielded to His wooing and relaxed!

As we pulled into shore at 6:30 p.m. the people swarmed all over us.  Somebody took Kim out of my arms and stepped away into the dark.  In the confusion Christina lost her shoe and I felt Ralph tug on my arm to head up the bank to our house.  I called in the dark for Kimi and somebody laid her in my arms while the others laughed.

As we meandered up a narrow, overgrown path to glimpse our jungle house, all I could hear was little Christina in her Daddy’s arms asking for her lost shoe!   

Oh, for the simple trust of a child! 

In a few moments we stepped into our new home.  The dirt floor was cold, mainly because I was wet from our trip in, but too, it was dark and the river had filled the air with moisture.  The following morning I opened my eyes to what looked like a storehouse with boxes, tanks, mosquito netting, etc.  Soon we were busy greeting people, finding suitcases with dry clothes, and hunting through canned goods and paper sacks for food to eat.

Now, 26 days later, I’m looking back to the first “Congreso” where I drank my first Indian “chicha” from communal cups, the first days of helping women sweep the village where I obtained my four blisters on one hand, the initial jolt of a hairy tarantula spider on my laundered sheet, the adjustment to the intense curiosity of the people, the initiation of washing clothes in the river, the perpetual problem of children urinating in our house, and the mixed emotions of a protective mother.

This evening, less than a month interior, we find ourselves with tape recorder in hand and a house full of Indians, struggling again to communicate the precious Gospel of Jesus with these still in heathen darkness.

 

New Tribes Missionaries 1971-1984

New Tribes Missionaries 1971-1984

Will you pray for tribal missionaries?

Will you pray for the many still unreached tribes?

Jackie's Journey: Final Farewell??

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   Kim, my companion, in those last days!

Kim, my companion, in those last days!

“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.  Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”

Psalm 63: 6,7,8. 

The Darien is an earthy, steamy environment of thick rainforest.  The humidity was thick enough to slice and the heat was barely bearable.  With our return to Pucuro after my surgery came the responsibilities that we had left three months prior.  Our partners, Jay and Sue Gunsteens and their family, had gone on furlough and returned to the States. My strength had not returned and I tired very easily.  I started resting in the afternoon and within a few months I was having difficulty getting up. 

Ralph had fastened a battery tape recorder to the wall above the bed so I could listen to the Book of Psalms.  They brought me great comfort as I listened to David in his distress and God’s continual deliverance.  God became my refuge and consolation in ways I had never experienced before.  The isolation from civilization, the absence of medical convenience and the sense I was dying was exchanged for finding Him more than enough to meet all my apprehension.

How does God meet you in a tight spot?

 The daily opening of the clinic, delivering of babies in the night, homeschooling Christina, the care of Kimberly, the linguistic work and the daily opportunity to share Christ… all brought profound joy.  In spite of my physical state, my circumstances brought life-lessons I would never have recognized, experienced or understood apart from this plan God had for me.

“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?  If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?

Jeremiah 12: 5; Proverbs 24:10

We kept thinking if we could just persevere a few more months we would see our Kuna family in a spiritual place where we were comfortable leaving for an extended furlough and seek medical help.  We did not want both missionary families among our tribe to be on furlough at the same time.

The people would come and sit with me as I lay in bed.  Nangel, the village midwife, grandma, and precious new Christian, came daily and I looked forward to her visit.  One day she kept saying to the other women in our bedroom, “Purkwis tani!”.  Usually, that phrase is reserved for those who are dying.  It is translated, “Death comes!”  I remember thinking…it had been over a year since the surgery and I must look bad!  As a young mother, death seemed illusive, an impossibility…until my health failed and God began to speak to me gently, resolutely and unmistakably through His Word…

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   Did Nangel see something I couldn’t? 

Did Nangel see something I couldn’t? 

A few weeks later a couple on the field committee, Don and Pat Barger, came in by plane for a day visit. The look on their faces when they entered our home told me that what Nangel had said might be true!  They immediately encouraged us to leave the village with them and to take an early furlough and get medical help in the States.  I had one small round mirror interior, and I had watched my face become thin and gaunt over the months, but I did not realize how tiny I was all over!

 

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  Waiting in Panama City for our flight to the States

Waiting in Panama City for our flight to the States

I will forever be grateful for their divine intervention in our lives that day.  After a few days and friendly persuasion, we packed a few things, said our good-byes and headed to Scripps Diagnostic Hospital in the States.

As the plane lifted into the sky, I caught a glimpse of the entire village waving to us in what could have been our final farewell

Do you hear His voice daily speaking to you through Scripture?

Gently?  Resolutely?  Unmistakably? 

Are you listening?

Jackie's Journey: Scarred for Life

In the early days among the Kuna Indians in the rain forest of Panama, we found ourselves sitting in the weekly meetings of the “Congreso”.  It was here the Kuna leaders decided the village life and activities.  Occasionally, the Colombian woodcutters would join the group and then disappear down the Tuira River back into the jungle.

One afternoon we heard an outboard motor coming up the winding river toward our village.  I could hear the Kunas running to the shoreline and in a few minutes they were screaming for help.  The woodcutter had taken the motor covering off to replace a pin and had not covered the motor again.  He had ducked to miss a low hanging branch, forgetting the blade was still open!  The sharp edge of the blade had sliced into his face and the gash was long and deep, the cheekbone exposed. 

As he cleared the 12’ river embankment toward our house, I could see he was leaning on the men assisting him and there was blood everywhere!  Within minutes the entire village was in our front room, whispering excitedly, each seeking the sordid details.

There was no exaggeration here!  His cheekbone was protruding through the skin and the skin had slipped back toward his ear, leaving a huge gap.  He had taken the only available cloth in the dugout, which was loose cotton, and packed it tightly in the wound to stop the bleeding.

He was now seated on the bench directly in front of me.  He sat silently, calm and trusting.   Looking up, his eyes inaudibly pleaded for help and my heart stopped for a second while I contemplated my next move.  We headed for the rushing clear waters of the river to thoroughly cleanse the wound and remove the cotton. 

My adrenals were now on steroids as I mutely cried out to God for leading and direction!  It had to be sutured from the inside out or it would not hold together…I had sutured fingers, arms, legs (usually machete accidents), but never a face!  Once the gash was cleared of debris, it looked even more intimidating than before!  After a close examination and gathering up the necessary tools to begin this procedure, I laid everything on a cloth…and froze!

In that moment God spoke quietly to my heart, ““I have chosen you, Jackie…so do not fear, for I am with you; be not dismayed.” (Isaiah 41: 10)

I picked up the tweezers and began to remove the last of the stained pieces of cotton before scrubbing the wound and suturing the interior.  Just pulling the two skin flaps together was challenging, but the truth of the matter was…the scar was going to be massive and it was on a very handsome face!

It seemed like forever before I finally dressed the wound and gave him an antibiotic shot.  He never flinched or spoke a single word through the entire procedure!  My husband was sharing with him the entire time.  We prayed for his healing and he stood and left. 

He was not one of the regular woodcutters that lived outside our village, so I thought I would never see him again.

Months later we heard an outboard motor coming up the river and to my astonishment, God brought that young man through our front door!  We were thrilled that he had healed with no infection and the scar that was left was beautiful! 

He was grinning from ear to ear, and he laughed at my little faith!

I am often reminded of the day God “chose me” and told me not to fear, that He was with me and would do what He had called me to do.  Since I am a person whose battleground often involves fear, God’s words to me are profoundly meaningful!

What would you say is your battleground? 

Where are you struggling today?

 Have you identified a pattern in your life that pokes its head up regularly? Maybe it’s anger or bitterness.

Can you hear God’s voice?

when He speaks to you with

promise, rebuke, or instruction regarding your battleground?

John 9:31