The San Blas Islands are comprised of about 365 islands, which lie off the Caribbean coast of Panama stretching for approximately 150 miles with a population of about 50,000 people. We arrived in Panama and Jesus led us then to arrange the trip out to the islands. We flew out from the domestic airport at Panama City in an airplane that I promise you had to be homemade! It was one of the worst looking, just bolted together planes you could ever imagine. But thank you Jesus we made it there and back! The cross of course was with us and we flew over the Darien Jungle where I had carried the cross back in 1979! It was very moving for me.
We arrived at the airstrip on Playon Chico. There we were met by two Kuna men and taken by dugout canoe to the Kuna Lodge which is located on one small island in the sea. All the staff welcomed us and before we left all had carried the cross! Our room was a bamboo hut, very nice except that Denise had an allergic reaction in her lungs to some of the damp and moldy bamboo. Please pray for her complete healing. I can still see the beautiful scene of Denise laying in her hammock Kuna style beside the sea in the warm breeze.
From our little lodge island we commuted (Ha!) to the surrounding islands and even to the mainland. We traveled with the cross in our dugout canoe to Playon Chico to meet the Chief and greet him, this is a tradition for strangers. When we took the cross off the canoe and walked into the town of about 3,000, we were mobbed by children welcoming us and the cross and excited beyond words
to get Jesus stickers! It was one of the biggest things to hit this island in years!
Through the small narrow winding passageways between their bamboo homes we walked. Slowly, very slowly because of the crowd. The women wear traditional Kuna dress but the men are in regular clothes. Most of the people spoke only Kuna and not even Spanish. At last we arrived at the ‘Congress’ hut, where the leaders meet. The cross was brought into the dark building and put near the chief who was laying in his hammock. They asked me to tell them about the cross and the cross walk. I did in English and it was interpreted into Spanish and then into Kuna. I will never forget, after my presentation and talk I paused for the chief to respond. He said “Do you have any cigarettes for me? I was shocked then almost burst into laughter. What a profound response to my message. Keeps one humble. Ha!
Well, no problem, we were welcome to carry the cross and take free photos! Normally one must pay $1 dollar a photo. Out to the streets we went and the excitement continued. One little boy followed Denise and stayed with her the entire time. He held on to her legs and then held her hands. He was the only one of the children with no clothes. She fell in love with him and we are in the process of helping take care of him there and meeting his needs. We seek to help the needy in any way we can, everywhere we go. But this little fellow sure wrapped himself around Denise’s heart. It was a glorious time in Playon Chico.
Twice, we carried the cross on the mainland of Panama. It is the Kuna side of the Darien Jungle. In 1979 I carried the cross through the Darien on the other side. It was a tough walk as many of you remember through one of the most difficult and almost impenetrable jungles on earth.
The area where we walked was used by some of the Kuna, so the walking was on trails but it was still hot, humid and difficult. This time Denise was with me. What a glorious blessing. We went to a Kuna cemetery where they bury the dead in hammocks, also went through the bush and across streams for several miles to a waterfall.
I just do not know how to explain it but even in the Darien Jungle Denise still looks fresh, beautiful and excited. What a woman! I want to add this. Earlier this year as Denise was struggling to make it up a hill on Robinson Crusoe Island, she was last in the group walking. I will never forget her saying “I am tired of being last.” She enrolled in gym back in Fort Myers and started working out several times a week. Well let me tell you in the Galapagos Islands Denise out walked me! And again in the Darien Jungle! I am simply amazed at the change in her strength, speed and stamina.
We had a fruitful and blessed time among the Kuna people. God bless them all. Again I must say that in the San Blas Islands not one person refused gospel material or refused to let me pray for them.
Pilgrim followers of Jesus,
Arthur and Denise Blessitt