The Bible for the KUNA people of Panama — the 531st complete Bible (Old and New Testament) in the entire world — was dedicated in late September of 2014. My wife, Dallas, and I attended the largest celebration, which was held at a church in Panama City.
It was an awe-inspiring moment when the Bible was brought into the auditorium. The ceremony, designed by KUNA translators, reflected the way God’s people brought him offerings in the Old Testament. First came a man wearing a Jewish rabbi’s scarf blowing on a shofar (a Jewish ram’s horn trumpet). Then came four teenage boys carrying an elaborate box supported by poles balanced on their shoulders. In the box was the newly completed KUNA Bible, which the KUNA were offering to God as a gift, asking him to use it for his glory. The pastor leading the event proclaimed, “The Word of the Lord has arrived in Kuna!” With thunderous applause, the audience of more than 3,000 welcomed the Bible!
At a dinner following the celebration, Wycliffe translators Keith and Wilma Forster and their colleague Bob Gunn (Wycliffe administrator and pastor) gave glory to God for the completion of the Scriptures and reminded those in attendance that they were ALL Bible translators–part of the team! The Scriptures would not have been completed without the prayer, financial and administrative support from the whole team (see photo).
The following morning, Sunday, we attended a much smaller worship event held at Crossroads Bible Church, where Bob is associate pastor and his son Steve is pastor. Crossroads is proud, yet humble, to have had the privilege of supporting the KUNA translation project for 40 years. Bob led the morning service honoring Keith and Wilma and four KUNA translators who did the heavy lifting on the translation of the Old Testament. Outlining the history of the translation program, Bob mentioned that Keith and Wilma – as well as some in the congregation – were tempted on occasion to quit…but they didn’t. They persevered, and the Bible was completed.
Over the years, Crossroads has invested heavily in Bible translation for a number of people groups. As a reminder to the congregation, the church keeps copies of all the Scriptures they’ve helped produce in a glass-covered wooden cabinet. At the conclusion of the Sunday service, in unison, the four KUNA translators got up from their seats on the front row, went to the stand at the front of the church where the KUNA Bible rested, picked it up, carried it over to the cabinet, opened the glass cover, took out the KUNA New Testament that had been there for 18 years, and replaced it with the just-completed whole Bible.
Many of us were in tears by this point. We recognized that we were witnessing something that had never existed before — the Word of God, the full counsel of God, available to the KUNA Church. The work of translation is done; it is now in the hands of the KUNA Church and the Holy Spirit of God…a good place to be.
Today there are about 30 KUNA churches on the San Blas Islands, 18 churches in and around Panama City, and several more churches scattered throughout Panama’s rain forest mainland. God will be faithful to his Word — He always is. It is now firmly planted in the KUNA community and will accomplish all He wants it to accomplish.
It takes a team! This team worked for 40 years to make sure that the translation is finished. Part of God’s plan for eternity! The KUNA will be part of what we’ll witness in Revelation 7:9–we’ll see “a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.” They will be clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands…and the KUNA are there.