As we pull up to the the dock on Akwadup, one of many islands in the San Blas Island chain off the coast of Panama, someone in our boat says, “Wow! This is beautiful. It’s like paradise.” And from my perspective they could be right.
This island chain is built from coral reefs with amazing sea life, and boasts beautiful sand beaches and lush tropical island vegetation. It seems to contain everything you could need, with an amazing range of beautiful fish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, conch, lobster, prawns, octopus and just about anything else you can imagine. On the island, banana and coconut trees are plentiful.
Many would consider this paradise.
But for the San Blas Kuna, these islands represent life – not paradise. It’s the way they live, it’s the way they sustain their families, the source and inspiration for their traditions and lifestyle. But it’s certainly not paradise.
The men of the San Blas Kuna are fishermen primarily, as one would imagine, but it’s the handicraft of the women that is most widely known. Known as Mola, the beautiful tapestries are used as clothing, placemats and other things. The women are also distinguished by their red and yellow-orange scarves, beads adorning their ankles and wrists, and often a gold nose ring. For this culture, it’s the ankles, wrists and nose that show a person’s beauty.
The Kuna may have a seemingly idyllic lifestyle, but many Kuna live without true peace. For all of their traditions and knowledge, only a few have knowledge of Babneggi or heaven.
The Kuna New Testament is a relatively new thing, but the Kuna already want more! They’re working passionately alongside Wycliffe translators to finish the work of translating the Old Testament. They’ve seen the value of God’s Word in their own lives as they move from fear to peace, from fighting to happiness. And as Claudina, a Kuna woman, put it, “Now I understand so clearly what it will be like to stand before God!”
The end of the task is near. Let’s finish the task so that more may hear of true paradise – so that more may learn of “Babneggi.”