Posts tagged #panama

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: It's All About the Attitude!

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 mentoring and equipping dedicated young women for life, marriage, motherhood and beyond.  I am a mother of two daughters and the grandmother of three Princesses and four young Knights.

Jackie's Journey: Is It Worth It?

In the Princess Parable Series, Princess Hope is the oldest of the five princesses and carries the responsibility of setting a good example and leading the way for her four younger sisters who are watching and learning from her.  She experiences first-hand what it takes to “count the cost” when she sees her grandmother’s priceless ring in a store window in the village. She has to get it back…but how and at what cost?  

How many of us understand what it means to “count the cost” for someone or something that is so important we cannot not hesitate to boldly step up to the plate?

Before you commit…count the cost!  Luke 11:28

Before leaving for the shores of Panama I was cognizant of the cost it might take to leave the U.S. and live in a foreign country, but it was not until Christina, my first daughter, was born that I became acutely aware of the expanse of what it might actually demand.  I was leaving my homeland with my parent’s first and only two year old grandchild. After arriving in Panama, it would take us two days by three different means of transportation to land on the muddy banks of the river Pucuro.  It would include living in an “off the grid” bark-walled house with no running water, electricity and an outhouse that screamed “unfriendly”. 

Would the cost be too great?

Our jungle house was located in an extremely dense and remote area of the jungle. There was malaria and T.B.; there would be harry eight-legged creatures, not to mention venomous insects and reptiles of every kind the imagination could conjure up and worse!  We would be called to cook, eat and drink unidentifiable “chichas”, mammals, reptiles and even rodents!  We would be on the Colombian border where drug runners passed through our village.  My neighbors would speak a different language and have a strange culture; there would be no privacy; there would be no hospital or urgent care facility, no contact with the outside world, except for an unreliable two way radio …and on that first trek in, I would have our second daughter, a tiny three month old nursing baby on my lap…


Getting the picture?

An aerial view of our house with the tin roof in the foreground Would the cost be worth it?  

An aerial view of our house with the tin roof in the foreground
Would the cost be worth it?  

I would be the first to admit that life brings serious unknowns, struggles, doubts, fears, and temptations from the enemy, even if you have “counted the cost” in all the light you have.
 
On one of the many rainy days in the rainforest I began to share my heart and woes with a seasoned missionary who was listening intently.  To every comment of comfort she gave me I inserted, “BUT you don’t understand; I know God says that but what about…?”

When I paused to catch my breath, she asked me if, “I thought God’s grace was sufficient enough for me for today?”  

Well, what???… I’m a missionary living in the jungle…I could hardly say “No”!  Of course, I answered, “Yes!” 

She followed up with, “Then… would His Grace be sufficient for tomorrow?!” 

She had firmly and graciously admonished me to keep my BUT on the appropriate side of the word GOD!  Not,  “Ok, GOD, BUT…”(we always have a good excuse for not trusting Him); rather, this is my situation, BUT GOD is more than sufficient and faithful.  He has proven Himself over and over again when I keep my BUT on the correct side of God.

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    II Cor. 12:9

II Cor. 12:9

As a mom, is living for God, demonstrating genuine Christianity, being a “cross-bearer”, and claiming Christ as Lord and Master of my life for His glory too much?  I ask myself:


Can I trust Him for today?  Then, I can trust Him for tomorrow!

A wise woman counts the cost… 

Recapturing a stolen ring and moving into a dense jungle do not, on the surface, seem comparable; yet, the point is, what do you treasure enough to pay, even and possibly, the ultimate price to achieve?  What is important enough for you to “count the cost” and plunge into whatever sacrifice it takes to see it accomplished?

There was no call to the jungle; BUT GOD did call us to respond to the need in that jungle…to open up a work among an unreached group of people who had yet to hear His Name spoken even once, nor His wonderful redeeming message.

“The house of the righteous contains great treasure”! Pro. 15:6
Moms, your house is full of eternal treasure…treasure that will spend eternity somewhere.

It will be worth it all…!

When all is said and done and we have reached the end of this life…what will be said of us?  Did we choose the most important?  Did we succeed in our calling?  Did we “count the cost” for what was on His heart in His perfect will for us or did we do our own thing and hope for the best?  

How does the fruit of your commitment look so far?  
We only pass this way once!

~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: Cruel Companion

After major emergency surgery in Panama my recovery was slow.  While my husband returned to our village in the jungle, I was taken in by dear friends who cared for me and our two daughters until his return and a doctor’s release to re-enter jungle work.  Christina attended the mission school during those months and I attempted to care for a very active three year old, Kim.  To say that she was lively would be an understatement.  Her boundless energy was an extreme contrast to my very slow and weak frame and keeping up with her was daunting.

Kim, to this day, can walk into a room and the whole room lights up, full of energy.  Her middle name is Joy and she certainly brings that into our lives!  Her willful defiance to correction in those early days brought me to an impasse…we would continually lock horns or I would just count my blessings and give in! 

Ever been there?

I have one of those faces that can’t hide anything.  I wear my emotions on my face, not my sleeve.  I consider myself to be a fairly even-tempered woman with a clear understanding of what it means to be angry.   I know the functional definition of anger, the peace I have to sacrifice to give into it, the guilt that results, and the pain required to resolve it. 

 One day at our friend’s home, Kim’s “lively activity” drew attention for some needed help. I was asked how I was going to respond to her. I answered the question with a silent non-verbal, …“what...what do you mean…?”  My face must have spoken loudly because I was then asked, “Are you angry, Jackie?”  I responded, “Of course not!”  They replied,  “Jackie, look at your expression in the mirror” (there was a mirror on the wall where I stood).  

I looked…and there was no denying the fact that my face said what my mind clearly denied…I was angry!  Sometimes I pause and glaze over while processing, but this was different!  I slithered off into my temporary bedroom and made an attempt to rationalize my situation!  Don’t they realize how fragile I am?  This can’t be fair…I just had a Laparotomy, forty-four stitches inside and forty-four stitches to close…I was in bad shape…don’t I get a smidge of extra consideration???  My self-pity consumed me…why… I thought I was a victim (the biggest lie from the pit!), well…wasn’t I?? 

Sound familiar?

Anger is a cruel companion.  The emptier the pot the quicker it boils!  Anger does everything to undermine truth and defeat us!  It is nothing more than “someone finding a right that I have not yet yielded to God.”  By that definition no one can make me angry!  I choose it all by myself…I can’t blame anybody!  It is my fault!

"When God wants to bring more power into our lives, He brings more pressure."  (A.B. Simpson)

There was no verbal argument and no laboring the point…just my humbly acknowledging …my guilt!

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.” Prov.21: 19   The last thing I wanted to be was that angry woman!  My children deserved a godly example, not an excuse!  My husband, bless his heart, deserved a wife free from anger to humbly love him unconditionally.  Anger and humility cannot dwell together…one has to go.

Henry Drummond, in The Greatest Thing in the World, wrote:

 “It is the intermittent fever which bespeaks unintermittent disease within; the occasional bubble escaping to the surface which betrays some rottenness underneath; a sample of the most hidden products of the soul dropped involuntarily when off one’s guard; in a word, the lightning form of a hundred hideous and unchristian sins.  For a want of patience, a want of kindness, a want of generosity, a want of courtesy, a want of unselfishness, are all instantaneously symbolized in one flash of…TEMPER.” 

 We call TEMPER by many socially acceptable names in an attempt to excuse it: impatience, frustration, wrong response, irritation, and annoyance…    We find clever ways to rationalize our anger.  We protect it, guard it, defend it, and yet its ugly head rears up and betrays us.

I am grateful and forever indebted to the family who forced me that day in Panama to face my anger and its subtle and insidious hold on me!  That new light to recognize anger and its deceptions, to call it by name, to ask forgiveness and to walk in the promised victory keeps my Christian life liberated daily, as I continue to learn…

Are you an angry woman?

Is humility your signature attribute?

~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: Earthquakes!

The day started like any other day.  The stark silence of the night was broken by clamoring voices on the path outside our bedroom window that led into the dense jungle floor.  Moms with babies were arriving at our front door to trade eggs for sugar and oil.  The happy and animated chatter of two little girls jumping up and down, hungry for those fresh eggs, motivated me to move into high gear!

It was only daybreak but life was already on a steady fast track.  As moms, we long for stability and a safe place for our children to grow up.   Sometimes we look for it in the comfortable and familiar…our best laid plans.  Dressing was next and it was easy…I owned two Kuna dresses and wore flip-flops…no closet required!  Hot coffee, fresh eggs with rice and beans were on the breakfast menu and then off to the river to wash clothes.

Humming and comfortable that the day was programmed from start to finish and clipping along as planned…I proceeded back up the bank to hang the clean clothes, get started on homeschool, then some language study before lunch.  I love it when a good plan comes together….

The house was full of Kunas when we returned from the river.  My husband, Ralph, was seated…Bible open.  The hammock was stretched across the center of the room welcoming us… but no time!  It was almost 11:00 a.m.  It really was a day just like every other day… until the unthinkable happened…

“Suddenly, in an instant, the Lord Almighty came with thunder and earthquake and great noise…” Isa.29: 6 

The ground began to shake; an abrupt jerk, a rumbling sound and then a LONG roll.  Our lantern, hanging from the 10’ ceiling, began to swing 2’ in each direction.  The floorboards began to buckle and the entire house began to sway!  I looked down and Kim’s high chair was rocking from side to side.  I grabbed her and reached for Christina who was already moving toward me.  She wrapped her arms around my leg. Stumbling toward Ralph, I was having difficulty standing; I was bobbing like a boat in a storm!

When everything is moving, what does one grab for safety?  Ralph, immediately on his feet, saw my dilemma and reached for us across the room.  With one hand he grasped Kim and me and set us securely in the swinging hammock in the middle of the room.  With his other hand he lifted Christina up into his arms and tucked her in against us. 

Turning to look outside, we all watched the ground heave and fall in surges.  The dogs were struggling to stay on their feet.  Every house in the village was moving.  The bark walls and thatch roofs were unstable and the tremors were continual.  We lived on a riverbank and the river was turbulent and threatening.  I am a California girl and I have experienced my share of earthquakes, but this one was in a class all its own!   It was longer, stronger and more forceful than any I had ever known.

This, definitely, was NOT a day like any other day!

In the jungle interruptions are expected.  The Darien is full of them…creepy crawlers…poisonous spiders, frogs, snakes, ants and caterpillars… Drug runners or sick or injured Indians from other villages from Colombia passing through… These were predictable and probable challenges, but an 8.3 epicenter earthquake?  NO…NOT!!

I was reminded that God honors us most when He puts us where we will trust Him most.

Safety was NOT in our house in the Darien jungle!

I was excited when weeks later someone offered us a third story apartment in Panama City for a few days to renew our visas.  Secretly, my hope was that half a country away in the city the tremors would not be felt!   Our arrival was after dark so we settled in and headed for bed.  As my head hit the pillow, to my utter astonishment, the earth began to shake and the entire three-story building began to sway!  Again, I was reminded that our true character is what we are in the dark!  

Safety was NOT in Panama City!

In those first few moments in the Darien with everything rattling around us, the Kunas in our house stood up totteringly and began to sing and pray!  We had found our safety in those first few moments…found only in a Sovereign and Almighty God who gives direction to the elements on earth.  For the weeks that followed the initial earthquake we had tremors of varying degrees every hour on the hour!  

Safety isn’t in a place or our best laid plans…
Safety IS in the Lord!

“…Then you will go on your way in safety and your foot will not stumble.”  Proverbs 3:23

~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