A Wounaan Wedding Celebration

Below is a Story of Transformation from Curtis Bergen, a member of FGCC who was recently married to Eliana in Colombia in April and who now lives in Panama, serving in ministry with Einer and Girlesa Zuluaga.


My Transformation Story

It was May 20, 2017. I’m sitting in a Wounaan hut in the jungles of the Darien, Panama.  I have indigenous markings on my arms and legs and I am sitting next to my wife who is covered in the same paintings and artesian jewelry. The hut is decorated with plants from the jungle and long, colorful Wounaan skirts called, parumas, hung from the ceiling. This is a celebration.  With pouring water and prayer, the Wounaan Pastor Ricardo is blessing us in front of our Panamanian family. This is our wedding celebration.

How did this happen?

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:11-13

God is Good. For the past four years, He has been transforming my life in ways that I never could have expected. His plans have been sometimes mysterious, but always perfect. It has been a journey of actually listening, and deciding to say YES to the opportunities that God has been presenting to me. With every decision to put myself out of my comfort zone, by grace, my life continued to change.  I owe everything to Jesus. Nothing good has ever come on my own strength.

The Pouring of Water – Wounaan Tradition

I am blessed to have grown up in a Christian home with a loving family on a farm near Waldheim, SK. I was involved in a Mennonite church, but looking back, I can’t say I was too involved with Jesus.  I was content with my quiet faith, and I figured that being a good person and going to church was enough. That changed four years ago.

I was studying Agribusiness at the U of S with an idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I was always anxious and stressed. But this was it. I finally had a plan. While attending university, I got a job as custodian/landscaper at Forest Grove Community Church to help pay for my classes and rent. I was unaware that this decision would soon change everything.

My eyes were opened, and it became a priority to have a real relationship with Christ. After mentorship with the staff and pastors at FGCC, I got involved serving in the new Young Adults ministry with Mike Morson, and later children’s ministry.  This was unusual for me as I had spent my entire life avoiding social gatherings and meeting new people alone.  But I was shook. Thursday’s became my favourite day of the week, and I couldn’t leave without being the last one of out the church, with plans for the rest of the evening and the weekend.  God awakened passions and gifts that I did not know I had. Hosting potlucks, bonfires, movie nights, Bible studies and building community together became something I no longer wanted to live without.

This new chapter in Forest Grove also led to getting involved in the partnership with the missionaries and Wounaan church in Panama. My heart was impacted greatly after my first trip with FGCC to Panama in 2014.  After graduating from university, the opportunity was presented to return to Panama with my friend, Curtis Strauss, for six months on the TREK program with MB Mission. I figured that I could put my career plans on hold for a year, but I was shook again.

While serving in Panama, God taught me of his peace, knowing that he has total control of my life and everything depends on Him. With this, I surrendered everything to His will.  Knowing the most incredible girl in the world and being so sure that she would be my wife was one of the ways God was working in my life.

Eliana arrived in Panama a year earlier to serve in the ministry.  We were from different countries, with different languages and cultures. I was so convinced that I was going to marry her that I didn’t care about any of the differences.  God’s presence was in the center of this life changing decision.

I have no other response other than to say that God has been working in the center of everything and He has been leading us along this journey.  It has been a series of putting myself outside of my comfort zone and allowing the Holy Spirit to change me.

Obdulio, Alina, Curtis, Eliana, Girlesa, and Einer

Eliana Zuluaga and I had our church wedding in Cali, Colombia, on April 8, 2017. Since then, we have returned to Panama to continue to serve in the ministry with Einer and Girlesa Zuluaga.  We celebrated our wedding again here in Panama with the Wounaan, which was an incredible experience for us both. Only a few of the Wounaan had ever witnessed a traditional Wounaan wedding, as it is a tradition which has been lost over the years, along with it’s importance and significance.  We hope that God will use us to be a testimony to the Wounaan people, as well as the other’s that God places in our path.

We both continue to be transformed everyday.  We know very few details of what will come next, but when those opportunities arise, we want to say YES!