Partners in Missions worked with the Kunas on the San Blas Islands of Achutupu, El Tigre, Ustupu and Ticantiki from 2000 to 2012. All services are still conducted in the Kuna dialect. The Kuna New Testament was not completed by Wycliffe until 1995, the Old Testament was finished in their language in 2014. Our main ministry consisted of Leadership Development, but we also rebuilt three congregations.
The Kunas were living in what is now Columbia at the time of the Spanish invasion, and only later began to move westwards towards what is now San Blas Islands some 200 years ago. During the first decade of the 20th century, the Panamanian government attempted to suppress many of the traditional customs. This was bitterly resisted, culminating in a short-lived yet successful revolt in 1925 (Tule Revolution). A treaty was signed giving the Kunas some degree of cultural autonomy.
Most of the islands do not have electricity or running water. Drinkable water comes from the rivers on the mainland. The Kunas still use dugout canoes for transportation between the islands and the mainland of Panama.
Leadership Development on the island of El Tigre
February 24 - March 1, 2011
A four-member team from three different countries visited the island to focus on leadership development in the three congregations of the Baptist Church, the Assembly of God and the Church of God. Over 40 students, most under the age of 25 years, attended the six services and six conferences. The pictures below will help you understand our ministry to the Kuna Indians of the San Blas Islands of Panama.
Nicolas Perez (L) and Frank Ortiz (R) preaching with Kuna interpreter Luis Guardia
Leadership training class (L) Worship service (R)
Baptist pastor and wife who attended classes & services (L). Karvin preached in his church on Sunday.
Kuna children (R)
Kuna women's leader who was instrumental in the restart of the El Tigre Church when Karvin met with them in 2003 (L).
Kuna mother and child (R)
Young people in worship service
Faces of innocence
Trip to Achutupu
September 23-29, 2009
Team Members: Luis Guardia (Kuna Director), Gilbert Davila (Pastor/Church of God Radio Speaker for the Spanish speaking people), Nicolas Perez (Pastor/Educator in Chepen, Peru) and Karvin Adams.
Purpose of Our Trip: Seminary classes and worship services for the three churches on the island; the Baptist Church, Assembly of God and the Church of God. The four of us preached in seven services, five in the Church of God, one each in the Baptist and Assembly of God congregations. Gilbert, Nicolas and myself taught eight classes of 1-2 hours each to 47 different students from Thursday night through Sunday night. Most of the students were from two Church of God congregations, Achutupu and Ustupu, which is 40 minutes away by boat. The people were very receptive to our teaching and preaching. An estimated 40-50 people were at the altars during the seven services. This appeared to be our most productive trip to the Kuna Indians. Nicolas and Gilbert enjoyed themselves and were received well by the people. Three persons were baptized on Sunday afternoon.
Pictures of the Trip
Our plane to the island ran off of the runway and got stuck. Ninety minutes later with the help of 30 Indians, we were back in the air (L)
Getting ready to go to the island of Achutupu by boat (R)
Team Members: Gilbert, Luis and Nicolas (L). Nicolas & Gilbert practicing music for a service (R)
Women of the congregation. Ring in nose indicates a woman is married. Woman on right is making the traditional "mola" (Kuna for "clothes")
Worship Service (L), Seminary Class (R). Over 100 were in attendance for each of the evening services
Members of the Ustupu Church (L). Young girls musical drama (R)
I wonder whose preaching put this child to sleep? (L). Technology has come to the islands, ladies climbed on top of their house to get a signal for their cell phone (R). Perhaps the Internet will become a method to train church leaders here in the near future.
Going to the baptismal service of the 3 women on right. Notice albino woman in left photo. The Kunas have the highest percentage of albinos of any people. The Kunas considered them to be special and called them "golden ones".
Leg beads, as a nose ring, indicate that a woman is married
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