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Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

As believers many of us know this verse.  In fact we have heard it so many times we almost respond half way through reading this verse with, ya… ya…, I know.  But every day, over the last two weeks this has been the answer I have received when praying through a difficult and complicated problem we are going through here.  God does not say these things lightly, He means them.

We first came to Panama in March, we stayed at a house in Tierra Oscura (Dark Lands) for a little more than a month, God used that time to really throw us into the cultures here.  We learned so much and started friendships that have only grown stronger and stronger since then – praise God.  As we lived in Tierra Oscura we knew we were exactly where God wanted us to be, but we also knew, before going there that God had spoken through His word that we would not find peace there, at that property.  And that was true, we felt a draw to the island, Isla Bastimentos, where we knew God had called us for sure, but we knew He had his timing.

At about the one month mark we traveled to Isla Bastimentos to see our friend Bram’s property, one of the places God miraculously used to speak to us about Panama.  We arrived at the property and with much effort traveled through the mangrove and mud to arrive on dry land.  We hiked one of the many hills of the property and prayed.  With our voices and hands raised we asked God to speak and make our path clear, to order our steps, I asked for lightening, a cloud, or one of the cows to speak!  But we heard nothing, silence, just the peace of the jungle surroundings.  We asked that God would show us where He wanted us and with that we headed out to visit our friends, Kimberly & Dale, at the YWAM base nearby.

We arrived at the YWAM base where we talked, Shirlene & the kids taught during the preschool session with Kathrin, and in the midst of all of that busyness, Dale & I chatted.  He told me that they had decided to sell their place and they would be open to selling it to us.  I was shocked and a little excited too, with the prospect of moving to our place of calling, I said to God, is this your answer to our prayer of where do you want us?  As we spent the day together at the YWAM base we didn’t talk much more about the sale of the place together, but I did pull Shirlene aside to share the news with her, and I could tell, there was a little excitement within her too – was this God working?

That night Shirlene & I processed all that God had said up until that point, it looked like God was calling Kim & Dale back to the states (in 2 weeks I might add) and us into their place.  Shirlene & I prayed, sought counsel from many, and fasted.  During one day of fasting and praying Shirlene prayed, God please speak to us.  She opened her Bible and on the left page the first words she read were “the Lord speaks”.  She called me over to show me, I sat next to her on the bed in our living room and she explained what she had been praying and what she felt God said in that moment.  As she spoke I thought she was going to tell me when she opened her Bible she opened it to a page that had a piece of paper from when she was in YWAM in 1995, affirmations from her fellow YWAMers.  But instead she shared how God spoke to her that He is speaking, “the Lord speaks”.  And in that moment it hit us, God was leading us to the YWAM property and from there we spoke with Kim & Dale to let them know we would like to buy their place.

Less than one week later, we packed up and moved to our new home on Bastimentos.  We were excited!  We were here, the place that God showed us to go, this was going to be our home, the place were God would bring His people together to hear from Him.  We started hearing from people, families, couples, singles and teams who wanted to come, some short-term, some long-term.  God is moving!  There were struggles, problems with workers, a family on the property, financial strains, legal paperwork problems, boat breakdowns, spiritual battles, and relationship turmoil but through all of those things God taught us and used those things for His good, even when we (mostly I) made mistakes.  We have been constructing, repairing and preparing for people coming and for what we know God has called us here to do.

Fast forward to the last two weeks.  Throughout this whole period, the last four months or so that we have lived here we have been working with attorneys to purchase this place.  We started with our first attorneys, a wonderful Godly woman and her husband, after much research she and her husband reluctantly told us they could not help us in the purchase of this place.  They said there are problems and irregularities with the paperwork, they prayed and they felt no peace on us purchasing this place.  I said, but we know God has called us here, can you help us fix the “irregularities”?  They simply did not want to continue and said the risk was very high.  This of course planted a seed of doubt in us but we have been used to battles and felt this must be Satan working against us.  We then interviewed nine other attorneys and after about two weeks we chose Gabriel, a professing Christian, who has really been on top of things and, as of last week, has come to the same conclusion, there are problems with the ownership of this property.  The day Gabriel called to tell us this, it was as if the Holy Spirit within Shirlene & I instantly changed us on our peace and feelings on this property.

Shirlene & I up until this point were battling all of the resistance, this felt right, our Spirit confirmed to us we were on the right track, but in that moment all of that peace left us.  As we talked we were in disbelief, was this really God changing our course?  From this point we of course shared transparently with Kim & Dale, and we sought the advice and prayer of many of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  We prayed, we fasted, we listened and we received many confirmations all saying the same thing, we are not to proceed on the purchase of the YWAM property.  But how could this be?  We sought the Lord, we heard His voice, He said to come here and through our being here we have learned so much, learned what it would take to build, who is trustworthy, all about boats, and, very important, we fell in love with a Ngobe family in the neighboring village, Simon, Amalia and their three daughters, who by the way, we saw them off yesterday for their five month adventure in David to participate in an indigenous DTS (Discipleship Training School) – praise God!  If God only brought us to this place for these things, it was more than worth it, all of the time, money and effort… but Kingdom ground was taken for sure!

After receiving confirmations combined with what we believe God is telling us, our prayer was God, Your will be done, and only Your will, please close and seal the door on the YWAM property if it is not Your will and open the door on whatever property, sailboat or tent You wish for us to move to.  Soon after this prayer as we met a gringo (white) family near us and during this conversation we heard this door close.  In speaking to the owners of the Jungle Lodge who have been here for 10 years, a long time for gringos, Henry told me about a problem with the property from Red Frog to past his place.  In the early 1900s there were titles issued for many rich land owners in the area and there was one issued for this large amount of land, but like many of these titles they were lost, but recently this one was “found” and the individuals with the title have hired attorneys to claim this land, this includes the YWAM property.  We are not saying they will be successful, but we no longer can enter into something with known problems, we are here to spend time on God’s work and do not want to get sucked into frivolous lawsuits and legal issues.  Property here in the islands is already very risky even without these known problems, its very much like the wild west but with machetes instead of guns.

Where does that leave us?  With families and teams coming what are we to do God?  Well, as we prayed we now feel that God is calling us to buy Bram’s property and to partner with Gene in order to build there.  Building here is very difficult and almost all of the people here have paid double or triple for the houses they have had built due to corruption and greed, which are major strongholds here.  But as God has joined Gene and us together, my brother in Christ and an awesome builder, God has prepared the way to start fresh and simple.

We know there will be struggles, we know this will be hard, especially in a land where if you want to get anything done bribes need to be paid, which is why having your prayer support is so important.  We NEED your prayers, we cannot stress this enough, what happens in the spiritual directly affects the physical.  As we have lived here we have praised God daily for His calling, a place of beauty but wow, what an amazingly harsh place to live!  The heat, the humidity, sometimes the people and REALLY relying on God alone for all of our needs.  We now know that if the boat breaks, well, this is because God wants us to build relationships with the one who tows us, the mechanic, the guy with parts, etc.  In each “bad” situation God has used for His glory, and has given us favor in the eyes of man – Praise His Holy Name!  Of course its not easy to feel this joy in the midst of helplessly floating at sea or in the midst of draining finances without the assurance of an income.  But I often have to remind myself, God is our provider and this idea that I am the provider for my family is a lie and a warping of God’s Word.  I am inspired by the missionary George Müller who took all of his needs before the Lord without revealing them to men.  What a testimony of God’s provision!  And I agree with him that this is how things should be done, we deny the power of God if we think we need to bring our needs before men in order for our prayers to be answered – but wow, this is such a test of faith for us!

Our only goal here in Panama is to love our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.  We want to partner with God, for Him to order our steps, flexibility is key and it is not easy feeling out of control.  But, and this is a big but, God is so faithful, God has taken care of us in every way we need, He has protected us completely, and all we need to “do” is love Him and seek only to please Him.  What a simple yet profound life.

Of course here are a ton of photos to fill up your internet connection:   ;)

 Our kiddos love playing with the locals and of course the locals love eating our little bananas called Primetivo.

 Visiting Bram’s property

 The neighboring village to Bram’s property, the Gomez family.

 Gene and Luis are trying to grab a 4′ cayman.

 A frightened turtle.

The cayman.

 Simon and Amalia and two of their three kiddos heading off for five months for discipleship training school.

Please pray for Simon and his family as they learn more about the God we serve.  He has a calling on his life to preach the Gospel to his people and we know we are to partner with him to make this happen.

Our friend Darren came to visit us, we’ll see what the future holds for him and his family.  We’re praying Darren!

 A day at Turtle beach with Darren.

 Ethan loves to dig, mostly filling up the holes that I make.  ;)

 We love our Ethan!

 Bella loves to just relax in the surf – we love our Bella!

A path to the beach we just learned about.

 Ellie loves a plan and a task – how we love our Ellie!

 Darren the sailor loves our minivan / panga.

 Leaf cutter ants doing their amazing work.

 I found about 50 pictures of Coco on the camera, the girls love taking pictures, not sure if Coco likes it but she poses pretty well.

 Ethan taking care of business on a hot day in his normal attire.

 Dueling cameras

 Coco meet Darren.

 Our visit to the Jungle Lodge, a very simple, primitive hotel near us which gave us a ton of ideas for the simple huts we are about to start building.

The shower walls are painted roofing.

 The wood sink.

 The bedroom.

 The bathroom.

 Love the door handle.

Bella loves the netting.

Los Secretos, a local bar / restaurant across the bay from us owned by friends of ours Amy and Donnie.  Ok Bella start the posing sequence.

Clyde a local on the island, I wonder if he’s a Samurai warrior?

 Our new (used) boat on the far left, our old boat that we sold on the far right.  We came over to Los Secretos to eat pizza and met all of our gringo friends from Tierra Oscura.  We have a love for these people.  One of the many unreached cultures in the area.

 Ethan drinking minus the alcohol… this time…  Let’s just say there was a mix up one week and well, we learned something about our kids.

 Ellie the snake charmer.

 

Ethan does make dirt look good.

Went to the fair in Bocas, a big event here.

 This ride, along with all of the rides are very old, many from the 40s, had to be push started by the operator who was mainly on his cell phone texting as children ran in and under the ride as it spun.  I really do love Panama.

 As the merry go round would spin kids would run up the side of it and hop on, hop off, whatever.  This is Panama baby – freedom.  ;)

 I love the cows here and so does Ethan, can’t wait to start milking!

 This is our friend Judy who loves the kids and takes such good care of them, riding all of the rides with them and treating them to ice cream – they love her.

Border run to get our passports stamped.

 This is where I had to pay an $80 “fee” in order to get our passports back otherwise they would not let us out of Costa Rica for three days.  Sigh, the corruption and deception does get wearing but it just reminds us the need for Christ here.

 The barely standing bridge from Panama to Costa Rica.  With large gaps in the path way up in the air above the water – great for kiddos.  ;)

 The guy in the red shirt, “Grande”, seriously runs the border, paying guys off in order to make things happen.  He was trying to “help” us, which led to the $80 “fee” on the Costa Rica side from the agent that had some sort of dispute with Grande that we got caught in the middle of and the agent wouldn’t give me Ethan’s passport unless I paid him right there, right then.  Openly in front of his fellow agents and about five police officers.

 The Panama border office.

We are starting to partner more and more with Pedro’s village, helping with the very poor Ngobe there.  The teacher provided us a list of the student, grades 1-6, and their desperate need for shoes.  We are working with another woman to provide them with shoes and Lord-willing, Robert and a team is coming in March to build a school building there and preach the Gospel.

The girls love learning about the jungle in their homeschooling class.  Today they are learning about a giant grasshopper they found without a head.

 Ethan loves to pet, kill and clean up bugs – this is good and bad at the same time.  Some bugs here sting or bite, some don’t, he doesn’t know the difference yet but God has protected him.  It’s not uncommon to here running little feet yelling “bug!”, grabbing the fly swatter, then running feet, then swat, swat, swat, running feet while yelling “basura!” (trash in Spanish) where he puts the freshly killed bug.

 Ellie’s perfectly organized desk.

 We are so blessed to teach our kids God’s Word.

The end… for today.  ;)

10 Comments

  1. Mom - Nancy Wood
    Sep 29, 2012

    I love seeing new blogs!!! Everyone looks great! Love & miss you all too much. O X O X OOOOOOOOOOOOOO

  2. Mom - Nancy Wood
    Sep 29, 2012

    Praying praying praying and more praying

  3. Merri Trifiro
    Sep 29, 2012

    Hello Bobby! Thanks for your update! I will be continuing to stand in the gap in prayer for you all! You and your beautiful family are such a powerful testimony of unfailing faithfulness, commitment and perseverance, as you attend to the voice of the Lord! I pray that you will be continually strengthened as you flow with the move of the Holy Spirit! I am confident that in your humble and obedient service and sacrifice in the face of each trial and tribulation, you will emerge victorious, reaping the full measure of blessing He holds in His beautiful and mighty hands just for YOU! May you obtain all wisdom, discernment and understanding in your testimony of THE GOSPEL at work, in and through you all! In Christ, Merri T (Church of Life Orlando)

  4. Isaac and Jennifer
    Sep 30, 2012

    Ooooo…we get so excited when there is a new post by you guys! Even the kids get excited now. They love all the pictures you post. It is so fun to see how much your kids are growing and changing. AND handling ginormous insects.
    The new property looks amazing! Minus the four foot cayman. We are so excited for what God has in store! We love how open you are to sharing your heart with all of us. Thank you for including us in what the Father is doing in and through you!

  5. cousin' JeSsIcA KaRbEn
    Oct 8, 2012

    I love and miss you guys praying praying praying for you

    LoVe

    JeSsIcA

    • cousin' JeSsIcA kArBeN
      Oct 8, 2012

      Love you Ellie I will email you. O X O X O X O X O X O X O o equals kisses X equals hugs for you !!!!!!!!!!! :) ;) :( :’( :o :P :$ :S. Llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooovvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeweeweee. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!jess you made me laugh to ¦ ~} )

  6. Ramona
    Oct 9, 2012

    It must’ve been longer than I thought since I looked at your blog! Wow, you’ve been through a lot! I will be praying for your continued protection; and also, direction for your future plans! I love you guys and miss you so much!

  7. Nate and Katie
    Oct 9, 2012

    Excited for you and praying peace and provision for this season. Loved all the pictures, and seeing what you’re new hut may look like! And, that is one wicked grasshopper =0

  8. Bonnie
    Oct 10, 2012

    Oh how Im loving the photos of you all…Thank you for your update! Oh how you made me laugh and cry and thank Jesus for His continued faithfulness and gentle whisperings to guide you through the unknowns. We are praying for you and will continue to believe with you that He has prepared the way and will take care of the details relating to new property purchase and building! You are so very loved and missed! Thankful for your courage, perseverence,and willing obedient hearts to walk and live the adventure with His joy! :) Love the new photos, Ethan’s grown so much! Miss skyping with you especially the girls.Jess finds herself lost with out her Ellie and our Bella Boo we miss too, sending you a Hi 5, Blowing you Kisses for you to catch ;) Love you … ALL 5! Praying for you…Sending abrazos GRANDES to each of you!

  9. Alice Mathis
    Oct 10, 2012

    I love hearing all about you guys. Keep seeking God. You are in my prayers.

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