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San Blas: 2001 Update
By Rod Boyd

It’s been several months since we’ve updated you with what’s happening on the three islands of the San Blas Islands where we had a church. These islands range in population from 1,500 on Rio Tigre to 4,000 on Playon Chico. The island of Nargana has about 3,000. New missionary Larry Beckham, Panamanian pastor and construction coordinator Julio Jaramillo, Panamanian pastor and local presbyter Rogelio Quintero and myself traveled to the three islands last week. Here’s our report…


The Pathfinder group from Tennessee rebuilt the church and pastoral house on the island of Rio Tigre last February. They were a tremendous blessing to the congregation and community. A medical doctor and nurse attended to the physical needs of several hundred. They later sent two wheel chairs to two of the “hut bound” inhabitants.

We were able to see the progress made by the church in the last few months. The inside of the sanctuary has been stuccoed.  They finished the platform with stairs, including two small booths on either side—one for the sound system and one for the secretary. The sound system donated by Pastor Gary Hanson, Trinity Tabernacle in Crossville, TN (who sent the largest delegation of men last February) was installed and is functioning. Several benches were built. Doors were installed on the church and pastoral house.

There is additional work that needs to be done. The majority of the outside of the building needs to be stuccoed and painted. The dividing walls in the pastoral house need to be erected. The congregation and entire are encouraged about the progress of “God’s House” these last several months. This Assembly of God church is the ONLY church, of any kind, meeting on the island. Several members of the Baptist and Church of God churches are meeting with our congregation.


A crisis had just occurred when we returned to Panama over two years ago. A new Christian in the Nargana church burned her family’s idols (dolls). These dolls are used in the spiritist rituals of the community. The Saihla (ruling council) of the island closed the church pending an investigation. The church was opened after more than a year following a special hearing of the combined council of the rulers all of the islands. The church was asked to “respect” the traditions of the Kuna people. In the various meetings that we had with the leaders of the community we told the council members that members of the church, when they come to know Christ as Personal Savior, become the best citizens of the community. This crisis has actually served to strengthen the place of the evangelical churches on the islands. The ruling council has granted the Assemblies of God permission to open new churches in any Kuna village in the San Blas Islands.

The church prospered, even during the time when the church building was closed. Cell groups were launched and the church actually experienced numeric growth. However, the hut that served as the church building fell into disrepair and eventually had to be taken down. The church has been using the Bible School building next door until the sanctuary could be rebuilt.

When the Tennessee Pathfinder group heard about this need last February, they purposed to return to help build this new church. It is a larger project than that of the Rio Tigre church because it is a two-story building. The Bible school and church classrooms will be located on the first floor, with a large sanctuary upstairs. A few months ago team leader Mike King wrote to say that the Tennessee Pathfinders wanted to bring two teams and do the whole building! The first of two 15-member teams arrive the second week of January. The second team will include a medical doctor and dentist.

Larry Beckham and Julio Jaramillo travel to Nargana next Monday to begin the foundation and column work.


The church on Playon Chico used to be the strongest of the three churches. Now it is the weakest. But the church is recovering. God has been moving among the young people and the community is taking notice! A team of Panamanians was arriving this week to hold a crusade for the young people, calling them to commitment. The community leaders now see that the gospel changes people. The church preaches against the drugs that so easily enter this community via the steady Colombian boat traffic.

Our meeting with the church and community leaders was the most important of our various meetings this trip. They needed to hear that we were “with them.” The small hut that serves as the sanctuary is disintegrating. The leaders talked about the embarrassment of having to put “coats” on God’s house. These tarps and pieces of plastic have been strategically placed over the holes. But they are not enough. “Can you help us NOW?” they asked.

I had hoped that this work could wait until another team arrives the first part of 2003. But it can’t wait. We must do something. Together we brainstormed ideas. This church is landlocked. The only way to increase the size of the building is to go up and out. So we will build the sanctuary on the second story and extend it out over the sea. For now, we will build columns and put up temporary trusses to hold a temporary roof.

It’s a great plan! Except there are no funds… no way to purchase the materials. The young congregation can’t do it. They are looking to us. Can you help? We need to do something for this church before the end of this year. If you can help, please send your offering as soon as possible to:
Project MADU (7623)
Assemblies of God World Missions
1445 Boonville Ave.
Springfield, MO 65802

A VISION FOR OUTREACH is growing among our churches. We heard both Pastor Ramiro Morris (Rio Tigre) and Pastor Benigno Gonzalez (Nargana) talk about their plans to evangelize nearby villages and open churches there. Please pray that this vision will increase.

Pastor Cesar Rodriguez, director of the San Blas Bible Institute, returned to this islands this week to hold classes for the students on Nargana and Rio Tigre.

Please pray for these students. Ministerial training is vital to sustaining a vision for outreach.

Please pray for the Tennessee Pathfinder team that will be traveling to Panama in January.

Pray for the church construction in various stages in these three churches.