"Resurrection" Continued...

Issue: "The waiting game," March 22, 2008

The conspirators waited until Noriega began his speech. Then Muse pressed "transmit." And instead of the dictator, the people of Panama heard this:

We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a message of hope from the free and democratic people of Panama. . . . One day we will finally have an opportunity to cast our vote against the tyranny of General Noriega's dictatorship. . . . We beseech you to be brave, to persevere. . . . Together we can bury General Noriega's dictatorship under a mountain of ballots. . . . The free and democratic people of Panama now return this radio station to its broadcast of oppression.

"I was sure the next thing we would hear was PDF helicopters coming over the horizon to kill us all," Muse remembers. "We were terrified."

The men immediately shut down the transmitter, ran down the steps to their cars, and sped away.

Over the next 18 months, La Voz's radio insurrection grew. In addition to harassing the PDF and breaking into Noriega's speeches, the group broadcast messages of faith, liberty, and free elections on a local FM station three times a day. The confederates gained the cooperation of Roderick Esquivel, Panama's rightful vice president.

One day in 1988, a U.S. intelligence agent approached Muse and Mouynes offering logistical support for La Voz. By then, Noriega had become increasingly brazen and erratic. U.S. officials were looking for ways to hedge their bets. Muse's response to the agent was suspicion at first, then a fresh surge of revolutionary will based on their newfound resources.

Mouynes, however, looked upward.

"'Look how God has provided for us here,' Tito told me. He always tried to remind me of the providence behind things," Muse remembers. "He always let me know we were being guided. I did not accept that. I was in charge. I was in control. I did not accept that anybody, including God, was giving any sort of guidance. Tito, of course, believed the Lord was guiding everything."

But even Mouynes had moments of doubt, at one point confiding in Muse that he wasn't sure their rebellion was right in the eyes of God. Talking it over, the friends remembered a story they'd heard of a World War II chaplain whose ship had fallen under enemy attack. The conflicted cleric struggled to think of a prayer that fit the circumstances. Finally, he simply walked among the naval gunners shouting, "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!"

Muse and Mouynes took from the story that when Christians become embroiled in a just war, they should fight.

After that, every time the duo prepared to override a Noriega speech, Mouynes would say, "Praise the Lord!"

Then Muse would hand him the tape and say, "Pass the ammunition!"

On April 5, 1989, Mouynes and Muse flew into Torrijos Airport, separating immediately upon arrival to avoid being linked. When Muse presented his papers at customs, his heart nearly stopped: Scotch-taped to the plexiglass was a piece of paper reading:

Kurt Muse
American citizen
Arrest him

Now, in custody at the DENI office, with the colonel's gun muzzle pressed to his head, Muse thought of his wife, Annie, and his children, and prepared himself to die. Minutes spun out. Then the colonel cursed, shoved Muse's head forward with the muzzle, and stormed from the room.

"I was emotionally and spiritually crushed," Muse said. "I knew I was going to come apart at the seams."

He had been clinging to the hope that his U.S. citizenship might save him and his family. Now, though, that hope slipped away like dry sand through clasping fingers.

The other PDF also left the room and Muse found himself with a rare moment alone. Mouynes' face surfaced in his mind.

"I remembered that Tito always told me that in our lives, we will stumble, fall, and will not be able to recover on our own," Muse said. "He told me, 'Those are the times that if you don't get in the habit of letting God be in control, there will come a time when you have to let God be in control.'"

Now his friend's counsel burned in Muse's mind. At last, he closed his eyes and said aloud, "Lord, I'm defeated. I can't do this anymore. I've reached the bottom and I'm not going to make it."

Then, Muse says, "the most incredible thing happened."

The hair on the back of his neck stood up. A "beautiful presence" filled the room and was so palpable that he glanced around wildly, expecting to see its source. And then, almost as if someone were speaking to him, came three words: Don't be afraid.


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