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God's Word Lights 'The Darkest Jungle'

DEC Pic 8//Special Report Missions

"We've introduced the Gospel to [the people there]," says Jeanne, "and it's changed their society."

Nighttime comes early in Panama's Darien jungle. The triple-canopy rainforest refuses to let twilight cast its shadows on the thick carpet of plants and leaves on the jungle floor. By six o'clock, it's pitch-black. There was a time in the Darien when darkness welcomed the sound of witch doctors' drumbeats. Night after night their hypnotic rhythms resonated throughout what some call "the darkest jungle." "The presence of the devil was so strong then," says Jeanne Cook. "You could just feel him breathing down your back."

For 33 years Dennis and Jeanne Cook, 1980 RBTC USA graduates, have made the Darien their home. Today, it's no longer a haven of witchcraft. "We've introduced the Gospel to [the people there]," says Jeanne, "and it's changed their society."

When the Cooks moved to the Darien in the early '80s with their four children, they lived among the Chocó Indians to learn how to survive. There aren't any grocery stores, so they hunted, fished, and picked fruit from trees for their food. In the early days, Jeanne washed the family's clothes on a rock in the river and cooked in the earth on corncobs.

Dennis didn't immediately begin to evangelize the Chocó Indians. He went from village to village meeting people and building relationships. Only after he gained their trust did he begin sharing the Gospel. Sometimes Dennis spent six months fellowshipping with a chief before asking permission to hold an open-air gospel meeting in his village.

As a result, the Cooks are the only ministry the Chocó Indians allow to come on their reservations without prior permission. However, Dennis always asks. "God teaches us to honor those who deserve honor," he says. "Even if we've gone into a village for 15 years, I always ask if we can come in."

The Jungle Ambulance

Early in their time on the field, Dennis and Jeanne had one of the few four-wheel-drive vehicles in the Darien. They volunteered at the only clinic, and their jeep became the jungle ambulance. For seven years, they transported sick, dying, and seriously hurt people to a hospital in Panama City. The 90-mile trek took 10 hours through mud and rugged terrain.

On more than one occasion, an ailing or injured person wasn't expected to survive the difficult trip. But many people were miraculously rescued from the clutches of death. Over the years, an unbreakable bond was formed between the Indians and the Cooks. Little did Dennis and Jeanne know that God would use this later to save their lives.

Saved From Certain Death

When the U.S. invaded Panama in 1989, Gen. Manuel Noriega,
the military dictator, ordered that all Americans be killed. One night as Dennis, Jeanne, and their children were on their way home from Panama City, a soldier stopped them. He told them to get out of the jeep and step behind a building. Dennis and Jeanne knew immediately they were going to be shot.

While the soldier was talking to the Cooks, another soldier came up.

"What are you doing?"

"I have orders to kill them."

"Don't you know who these people are?"

"I don't care who they are. I have orders."

"They use their jeep to take people to the hospital. My wife had a heart attack and is alive today because of them."

Another soldier came on the scene. When he found out what was happening, he said, "You can't kill them. My son was bitten by a poisonous snake. He's alive today because they took him to Panama City and he was given antivenin."

The two soldiers then aimed their assault rifles at the first soldier. They told him he would have to shoot them first before he killed the Cooks. One of the two soldiers turned to Dennis and said, "Get you and your family in the car. We never saw you tonight."

Over the years Dennis and Jeanne faced death four times. But they have never let anything keep them from bringing God's light and life to the jungle.

Estereo Vida—Life Radio

The Cooks overcame many hardships to start Estereo Vida, the first and only Christian radio station in the Darien jungle. Every day the station reaches approximately 70,000 people throughout the jungle and into parts of Colombia. Programs are broadcast in Spanish and one of the Indian dialects.

One of the programs broadcast on Estereo Vida is a two-year Bible school. National pastors from all denominations throughout the jungle have received Rhema-type training over the radio!

Every year, Estereo Vida holds a special celebration. At one recent gathering, 4,500 people came to the Cooks' compound in Quebrada Honda. They testified about what the

Word of God has meant to them.

On the last night of the celebration, a minister preached on the walls of Jericho falling down. The power of God not only fell on the people in attendance, but it also went out over the airwaves. One 14-year-old boy in the crowd was healed of blindness. His healing set off a chain reaction and miracles started happening everywhere!

Life in the Darien has changed dramatically since the Cooks arrived in 1981. Yes, it still gets dark by six o'clock. But now the jungle is full of churches. And the drums of witchcraft have been replaced by the sweet sound of believers worshipping the living God!


Prayer Focus
» An outpouring of God's Spirit on the youth
» Continued unity among the denominational churches in the jungle
» Faithful laborers, especially those familiar with radio, to work alongside Dennis and Jeanne in Panama
» To live in divine health


Fast Facts
» The Cooks have started seven churches inside the Chocó Indian Reservation.
» Nine people have been raised from the dead under their ministry.
» Dennis and Jeanne helped develop a vaccination program that reduced the death rate among children from 65 percent to less than 10 percent.

TO LEARN MORE about Dennis and Jeanne Cook, go to vidaministries.com.