Refugee camps in the Darien jungle of Panama

A group of South Asian migrants on their way to a camp in the Darien jungle of Panama.

In the Darien region of eastern Panama along the Colombian border, we have developed a relationship with a ministry that equips indigenous missionaries with practical skills that enhance their ability to make disciples in off-grid settings. Such skills include field sanitation systems, water access and filtration methods, and similar appropriate technologies that enhance the chances of accessing remote communities otherwise closed to outsiders. Our friends in this ministry it has become a fantastic way to build relationships not only in remote tribal communities, but also with Panamanian authorities that owing to its remoteness and location in this restive border region with Colombia, is rife with all manner of violent criminal activity pertaining to the prolific drugs trade and illicit trafficking of just about anything else.

Alan, the director of this ministry, has found himself coordinating with the Panamanian border patrol, SENAFRONT, to install water access and sanitation systems in migrant camps. These camps are all indigenous communities (Embera and Wounaan) literally being invaded by swarms of migrants from around the world. They emerging from the trails of the dreaded Darien Gap separating Panama from Colombia, passing through only long enough to be processed and transferred by bus to the Costa Rica border. This can take days or weeks. Visiting one of these villages turned migrant camp, we encountered Spanish-speaking Cubans and Venezuelans with whom we could converse, as well as others speaking French or other languages indigenous to places like Bangladesh, Somalia and the Middle East. We heard some people speaking English who turned out to be a group from the English-speaking region of the west African country of Cameroon.

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