Years after guerrilla kidnapping, Kuna church is strong

By April 13, 2007

Panama (MNN) — January 31, 1993 was a date New Tribes Mission will never forget. That was the day Mark Rich, Dave Mankins and Rick Tenenoff were kidnapped by Colombian guerrillas. The men were taken from a Panamanian Kuna village bordering Colombia. Tragically, the men were killed just a few years later. But what about the work they left behind?

Missionary with New Tribes Mission Joyce McDaniels says it's been amazing to see God work through the national church. "That area there is very remote, and it's still in a very dangerous location. But some of the other Kuna churches have sent workers down there to those villages, just to encourage and strengthen the believers there. And the churches really truly are growing in the Lord and just have an ever-increasing desire to really be digging into God's Word."

Education has been key to that church growth, says McDaniels. "There's an interest in learning to read and write their own language. And having materials in their language preserves the writing and reading of their language, and that's something that God has used to open doors and create a greater hunger for His Word."

With the help of Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Kuna now have the New Testament in their language, and the Old Testament is in process.

As they learn more about Christ, they're learning more about their responsibilities. McDaniels says the Kuna church is doing the work. "They have a vision for reaching all of the unreached villages with the Gospel, and they're doing it. Different Kuna churches are supporting outreaches through gifts, if they have some money. A lot of them are working some extra gardens so that they can send Kuna believers to unreached villages."

They're even beginning to strategize how to do cross-cultural missions with other tribes in the region.

However, McDaniels is asking Christians to pray for safety. "Things have really heated up along the border. There are some forces in and out there that do cause some concern for the security of missionaries in that area, but there's also an amount of danger for the Kunas that live in the area there."

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