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LACC

Latin America Resource
and Training Center
 

God Loves the Kuna Indians
By Sherry Boyd

Sherry in a cayucoIt all began at 4:00 AM on a Saturday morning. Rod and I were scheduled to fly out to the island of Playon Chico located in the San Blas Islands of eastern Panama. Rod had been out there several times, but this was my first trip. I was looking forward to it. But I don’t think Satan was because as we were getting ready to go the airport Rod shared with me that he’d had an awful night and wasn’t feeling well. I soon discovered that he was running a fever. We prayed that God would give Rod strength so that we could go and teach as planned. We arrived at the airport at 5:00 AM and were loading into the 8-passenger plane right at 6:00. Rod was still not feeling well—the sweat was pouring off him; the fever had broken.

About 7:00 AM I caught my first glimpse of Playon Chico as the plane come over the mountain and descended to land on the small landing strip on the mainland. We were met by one of the brothers from the church with his canoe. He would be attending classes. We loaded into the canoe and headed to the island. Upon arriving we were met by Pastor Carlos and his wife Verdiana who lead us to their home. There we would wait for the students from the other islands to arrive.

Guardia's homeMy first taste of life Kuna-style started as we stooped down to enter the doorway of their house. You see, their home is made of bamboo sticks and palm branches for a roof. They have dirt floors, no electricity and no indoor plumbing. The kitchen was two small wooden tables, one for a few dishes and canned foods. The other for a two-burner propane stove. Verdiana is very fortunate to have a stove; most Kuna cooked over a campfire. Just inside the door was a wooden table with a couple of wooden benches where we were invited to sit and visit over a cup of tea. A few sheets hung down to divide the hut, to give a bit of privacy. We had brought a hammock with us. Rod, who still was not feeling well, found a place in the corner to rest and I had a chance to explore a little.

Sherry with two Kuna kidsIt didn’t take long for the children to discover there were visitors on the island. As I walked over to the church (also made of bamboo and palm branches)—which sits right on the water—I could see where they had been repairing the thatched roof. There are paths leading to the water on each side of the church and they were continually in use by people going to dump their garbage or going to bathe. The children were enjoying themselves playing by the water—the majority without clothing. My heart was touched as I saw so many needs. I had brought along some coloring books, bookmarks, candy and crayons for the children. As Verdiana and I talked we decided that we would give them out in the morning when they had Sunday school.

There was one little girl that stayed close to me the whole time. Her name is Rosyda. We became friends. She is four years old and lives with her family in the hut across the path from the pastor’s hut. She is from a large family and enjoys going to church. Her father is a fisherman. He leaves each morning at 4:30 AM for fishing in his crudely made canoe and homemade sail. I remember the time exactly because I was awoken by his booming voice used to wake up his fishing partner.

Sherry with group of KunaHis fishing is the only source of income this family has. I found out about the family when we were having lunch with Carlos and Verdiana. Rosyda brought five little fish on a plate and gave them to Verdiana. She said to me "this is a blessing from God" and told me all about that family. It truly was a blessing because that was our dinner that evening. This father doesn’t attend the church, but his wife and children do. They have learned to give what they can. The five fish were their tithe.

Kuna catThe next morning when we walked over to the church to start Sunday school there was Rosyda waiting with 52 other children. She was excited because she knew the missionaries had brought coloring books and other surprises and didn’t want to miss anything. It really wasn’t much, but it meant the world to these children. One interesting thing is that everyone found something to wear to come to church in. As we sang and had a devotional time with the children, Pastor Carlos shared about giving. He said that sometimes we may not have money, but we can give time or food. That afternoon one mother sent over some soup she had made and some "pejibaye" (a fruit from a type of palm). These people have nothing in our eyes, but they are experiencing what it means to give from what you have.

Each time we had class I would sit toward the back of the church. And each time Rosyda would be beside me. Finally I told her that I wanted to take her picture. She immediately ran to her house! Within minutes she returned wearing a dirty, very worn and tattered dress. But that was her best for the picture. Once again, my heart was filled with compassion. Rosyda doesn’t have much. But she does have a desire to learn about Jesus. It was so interesting watching what was happening. Rosyda’s family has a cat. One time I saw him climb into a miniature hammock. Another time the cat pranced along the shoreline as he saw his master (the fisherman) approach. His reward was a small fish. Another time as Rod was teaching a crab made his way from the back of the church to the front.

Those two days taught me so much about the love of God and how much more there is to do for Him. I will never forget my first visit to Playon Chico and pray that there will be many more.