A year or so after moving into the Darien Gap in the jungles of Panama, I was asked to jot down my first impressions by our field leaders. To my surprise I read my notes in our New Tribes Mission Brown Gold Magazine(now called Ethnos 360) months later in May 1973. A few days ago I was going through some photo albums and found that same article.
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!
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!
Hours 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 the 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.
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?
“My grace is sufficient…” flooded my mind as I yielded to His soft voice 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 it had rained and 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 1970-1984
Will you join me this new year?
Will you pray for tribal missionaries?
Will you pray for the many still unreached tribes?
~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.