Kuna Indian Extension Course for AG Bible Institute ~ November 1997

San Blas Archipelago, PANAMA
Comarca Kunayala
Narganá Island

Iím sitting down to pour out my thougths and impressions after my teaching trip last Saturday-Monday.

* The flight out:  It was a Britten Norman Islander (for you pilots who might be interested) with seating for 8, plus luggage. When they ask your weight, you donít want to lie! Coming out of one set of clouds we saw another "puddle jumper" off to the left, crossing closer and closer in front of us as we were approaching the next cloud. I saw the pilot flip to different radio frecuency and talk on his head-set, but no change in direction for either plane. We got right up behind it so close that if it would have been a car, I could have read the license plate! Thatís not evangelastically speaking either! I pulled out my camera and was going to take a picture to prove it, but decided if the flash spooked the pilot, there wouldnít be any story to tell. All of us were looking for it coming out of the next cloud bank, and there it was, way down to the right.

* The flight back : we used every inch of one airstrip--there must have been reeds in the landing gear from the waterís edge. I was sitting in the co-pilotís seat, so I could see really well, but the yoke had been removed, so I couldnít fly it at all (rats!).

* Ministry : I was there to teach the Christian Home course from ICI (Intíl Correspondence Institute of the AG) entitled "Solution of Problems." The students are preparing themselves in a once a month class to become pastors, evangelists, teachers, professors, and even perhaps missionaries. I was pleasantly surprised by the reading proficiency of the students. In particular, one Baptist student, Euclides, who is an Albino (very common among the Kuna) and has permanently crossed eyes was quite studious and read very well.

One of the most popular topics was "Depression." I didnít expect that because the Kuna men, and even more so the women, can be extremely stoic. They shared their problems with insomnia, and struggles over making ends meet and properly disciplining their children. For all the external differences between "people groups," we are all very much alike deep down inside.

* My island tour : On Sunday afternoon, after the class was over, and before evening church, I decided to walk the island. There wasnít any water to "shower" with--itís actually a bucket dousing. And you donít want to swim near the island because everyone builds their out-houses on stilts over the waterís edge.

I saw four children with a picture in the dirt that could have been titled "My House." The differences from my background caught my attention: --no doorknobs; --no chimney (well, duh!) Itís only 100 o most of the time; --sloped hut roof; --2 hammocks out front.

These four little artists became my tour guides. They all showed up for the service later too! Their names are: Ódeler (artist) & Odilis (children of Clemencio, IBAD student), Asán, Sariana and Alexeira.

[Quick pronunciation guide for Spanish: vowels are always the same. a=ah as in hop; e=ay as in hay; i=ee as in tea; o=oh as in tow; u=oo as in two.]

The three girls grabbed my hands and led away. The boys followed close behind. I heard various titterings, in Kuna so I couldnít understand, but I think we made quite a scene. The children were fascinated by the hair on my arms. Needless to say the Kuna donít have much facial or body hair on their short, stocky frames.

* The First Baseball Game : After walking the island (took about 15 minutes--and get this: about 2000 people live there) the tour ended at the weekly baseball game. It was fast-pitch softball. The Kuna are serious about baseball: they had 4 umps; replacement balls shuffling in; a band of leather-skinned old men keeping score--runs, hits & errors; and both teams had uniforms, of sorts. Now, not everybody had shoes. I did notice that both pitchers seemed to have the best pair of shoes.

The children were very proud to point out the Pastor, Benigno Gonzalez. I found out later that there are 6 teams in this league. Perhaps some come from nearby islands, but that is still an incredibly high participation rate. I also found out after the service that Pastorís team lost by one point because one of their good players got drunk during the game and missed an easy fly ball. Alcoholism and drug abuse is chronic. After the service one sister poured out her heart asking for advice for her "weak" husband, who just couldnít say "no" to the cocaine that is all too easy to get.

* The Second Baseball Game : After the church service, Pastor Benigno and Clemencio and I went in search of the coldest sodas we could find. The electric generator for the island is only turned on from 5pm - midnight (although they did leave it on till 1am on Saturday night so that the dance music could keep me awake just a little bit longer ;-)). Then we saw a television turned on, and the World Series was playing--the seventh game, no less.

The Kuna knew their players, especially those from Latin American countries. There were players from Cuba, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Ecuador, and, of course, the hero from Columbia, Reteria. After the game went into extra innings, it was approaching midnight, when the lights go out. So after the bottom of the 10th, all the men started leaving. I hesitated, because weíve lived in Latin America enough to know that thereís always a way bend the rules. So I asked if somebody knew the person in charge of the power plant and we could ask him kindly to leave it on a little longer. Nope. No can do, I was told. I was surprised by the resignation of these diehard fans, giving up without even a fight.

So I went to my room and put on my Walkman and scanned for a radio station with the game. I found Radio Caracol ("Snail Radio") in Columbia. What ecstasy for those broadcasters to be able to announce "their boy" as the game winner.

* Thanks : for praying for safety (it was needed!); for supporting us to be able to go out and do this; and for your interest in seeing all peoples come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

It was a great trip.

Kirk Antonio Jones