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When Church Collides with Culture
Update on Kuna Church Closure on Nargana
By Rod Boyd

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." --Genesis 50:20

Rod, Luis and BenignoAbout the time we arrived to Panama we received word that the Kuna church on the island of Nargana was closed by the community council.  A woman was saved in our church. After one of the services, she began to feel convicted about having the family idols in her home. She returned with the "dolls" to the church and set them on fire! This attracted a crowd. Soon word traveled to the "saihla" (chief) and the rest of the community council.

This story was on the front page of one of our daily papers in the city. In spite of the best efforts of the pastor and the presbyter of the area to explain that the woman was not instructed to "burn" the idols, the council made the decision to close the "church" and restrict meetings of its members. Not only does this impact the church itself, but also has serious repercussions for our Bible school that is located next door! We certainly wouldn't be able to hold classes on Nargana.

Kuna ladyBenigno Gonzales, pastor of the Nargana church, was in town recently for a meeting of Kuna pastors and leaders, organized by the presbyter. The presbyter reminded all the leaders of the importance of working within the Kuna culture so as not to alienate the Kuna we are trying to reach. We are always walking this fine line. We know that Christianity will clash with culture, especially against ungodly practices and traditions. But we also recognize Paul's commitment: "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some" (1 Corinthians 9:22).

The presbyter told everyone of the "church" closure on Nargana. I gently reminded everyone that it was the "building" that was closed, not the church. Benigno reinforced this reporting that the chief was allowing the church to meet in homes. He said they now have 11 small groups that average 8 each. He reported that the church is growing, "It's better than before! Now I have 11 churches instead of one." Benigno and I had lunch a few days later to discuss the situation and discuss what we would do with the Bible school. It will go on. We will be having the next class in a couple of weeks on the island of Rio Tigre. As we met I was reminded of Joseph's words: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

The Nargana community council will be meeting in November to reconsider the closure of the church. Would you please join me in praying that God would intervene so that the "building" would re-open, so the "church" can come together once again. Also, continue to pray for our Bible school and the training of future pastors. Pray specifically that men and women will be open to God's call upon their lives to go to new villages to evangelize and open new churches.