Life is woven through small stories which in turn form larger stories. In these small and larger stories we can see God working in humanity. My family is part of the Guna nation, an indigenous people in the country of Panama which has existed for hundreds of years in Abya Yala (the American continent). From the Guna people we learned to live in community and we learned about the grace of the Creator through our relationship with the land and the people. Additionally, our narratives tell us of the Guna people’s search for a creator. Each time they celebrate a gathering there’s a time to sing to the Creator and to remind us of the importance of singing to God as an expression of our spirituality.
However, as a Guna community, we have also had our own set of limitations, and one of them was schooling. There was a time in Guna Yala when only primary schools were available and anyone who wanted to study in a Western-style secondary school had to travel to Panama City. My great-grandfather took up some acquaintances on their offer to care for my mom so she could live with them and go to school. During those times when she lived with them and away from her family, she felt very lonely and far from her home. As she tells it, “My best friend during those times was God.”
The years went by and one day she attended a Guna church where she met her husband and had four daughters, of which I am one. My dad and mom decided to serve God from when they were very young. As part of this service, they moved to a Guna community in Panama City called Kuna Nega. At that time, Kuna Nega did not offer basic services such as water, electricity, bathrooms, and transportation. We were one of only four families there. They had received a calling from God to serve him among our people.
When my dad and my mom arrived at the Kuna Nega community, they decided to host a Sunday school, so our first task as their daughters was to invite our friends to our parents’ house to study the Bible, pray, and eat together. The first Sunday meetings were held at our house, for a long time. As time went on, more and more families started living in the Kuna Nega community, and more and more children and youth started to participate and make a commitment to Jesus.
These young people and others, along with my family, held various activities for the community, such as parties on Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Children’s Day, and other special days. We helped the community clean up, build houses, and tend gardens. We also gathered to eat, pray, and study the Bible. I remember how as children, my sisters and I would pray along with our mom and dad, asking God to help us communicate the Good News, to be faithful to His calling, and for our friends to enjoy a relationship with Jesus. This is how God eventually answered the prayers of a nine-year-old girl (my mom) when she felt lonely and acknowledged Jesus as her best friend.
This is also how He answered my dad’s prayer. He came to know Jesus when he was a twenty-one-year-old university student. His faith has never decreased, but has instead intensified through the years. Thus, when he married my mom, they started praying and fasting, asking God for direction as a family so they could hear his voice and recognize where the Lord was inviting them to work. We’ve served in the Kuna Nega community for over thirty years, up until now, in May, when we’ll finish our time as missionaries. My father, who was a pastor for over thirty years, has decided to hand off leadership to a new generation.
Many of the members of this generation were there at the beginning of our ministry and started participating while they were children. I recall that many of the leaders currently serving in the church were like my older siblings, because when I was five years old, they were already adolescents. We shared life and grew up together. Now, as adults, we can thank God because the tapestry of prayer is woven from these small stories that become larger stories in the grand history that is God’s love for humanity. On June 23rd, 2018, a ceremony will be held to honor my family as the founders of this church. Around 500 people now form part of it, of which over 300 are children and youth. What began with prayer carries on with the prayers of many, the prayers of those who have come to believe that Jesus is the Good News to humanity. The tapestry of God’s grace is held together by these strands of prayer, as it creates this grand design of love for all peoples, including the people of Kuna Nega.
Prayer: We thank Jesus for his faithfulness, for calling us to His work. We ask that the Spirit of God will keep granting wisdom, discernment, passion, and love for people. May the Cristo Daniki church keep being a light within the Kuna Nega context.