Random numbers, wouldn’t you say?  No, they aren’t plays from a football playbook or an old combination to my high school locker. ;)  God really knows what this little family of five needs and in the past few months we’ve experienced living in community with 7, then 12, then 28 and now 14.  Community living is great.  It’s hard, it’s rewarding, it’s complicated and stretching yet in many ways much more efficient, simple and fun.  God hones and shapes us and gets to the deeper, “meatier” parts of us that aren’t always exposed and are more easily kept hidden.  It isn’t about God trying to expose us in front of others so that we feel shame.  It’s about iron sharpening iron and revelation for ourselves of the ugly parts inside that God still wants to make beautiful.  He is so invested in us and cares so deeply that He gives us opportunities to gently pull back some layers and give us a peek at what still needs His touch.  At least that’s what I feel God is doing for ME through more community living.  The really wonderful thing through it all is that every little quirk, hurt, rough spot, every flaw, insecurity, and shortcoming is already visible to Jesus and already dealt with on the cross.  There isn’t one thing He hasn’t seen or isn’t aware of and still He lavishes His love on us.

About a week and a half after the arrival of our friends, the Thompsons, we had the privilege of hosting a wonderful YWAM outreach team from Belize.  You’ve seen some of the photos from our last blog, so I’ll try to post some new ones.

With permission from Alyssa and Israel, a married couple from the team, I wanted to share a little bit about part of their Panama story.  Alyssa began communicating with me several months ago about the possibility of bringing a team to our area.  It was through that dialogue that I discovered she was pregnant and would be about 5 months along when they arrived.  The team arrived on the 19th of December and it was wonderful to have this fun group here for Christmas.  We enjoyed late night chats, early morning breakfast cooking times, and a slew of things in between.

A few days after Christmas Alyssa was experiencing some symptoms that we weren’t sure warranted a trip to the hospital.  We got the doppler out and listened to Baby’s heartbeat and were happy and excited to hear the little one’s heartbeat for the first time.  We decided it would be safest to have everything checked out so Alyssa and Israel came into town with us on our shopping day and after being checked at the hospital in Bocas, they discovered that her water had broken and she was in labor.  They immediately transferred her to the hospital on the mainland and on December 31st their tiny little baby girl was born prematurely.  With lungs that were not yet developed, little Zoe Deborah only lived about a half an hour before going to be with Jesus.

Alyssa and Israel

This little life touched so many before even coming out of the womb and through her physical death we all experienced much sadness, humility, awareness about the fragility of life, but also of the Hope that awaits us if we trust in Jesus.  All of our hearts broke for the loss this precious couple was experiencing.  I need to share though that through it all Israel and Alyssa leaned on the Rock of Ages and remained not only functional, but healthy and full of faith.  The questions and doubts that they could have allowed to overcome them were quickly dispelled as they peacefully leaned on the Sovereignty of God and His plans.  As a nurse I felt devastated and plagued with all kinds of should have/could have regrets and a slew of if-only’s.  But this couple shared how they felt God had brought them to the perfect place for such a tragedy, as strange as they knew that sounded.  What a beautiful perspective!  Never once did they say they wished they could be home or that it would have been so much easier if they’d been elsewhere with better medical care or easier conditions.  Their attitude in the face of losing their baby girl was truly inspirational!  Here are some photos of a little memorial in honor of Zoe, followed by some captured moments from the past two months.

As I get ready to try to post this blog entry with limited internet, our numbers are 19.  But that’s another story for our next post. ;)  As we approach the year mark for our time in Panama God blesses us with opportunities to host His people and we sure enjoy meeting the faces He brings!  It makes the distance from our family, friends and church community a little more bearable.  Thank you for your thoughts and prayers toward us, for the packages and gifts, the messages and ways that you support us in this crazy adventure with which God is blessing us.  Miss you all!

Shirlene and family


  1. Bonnie
    Mar 12, 2013

    Ahhh, what a wonderful update! Love all the pics. Sas you gave us a perfect little taste of the adventures and people there with you this past couple months. Warms my heart and breaks it at the same time… beautiful moments of joy, sorrow, refinement, growth! Praying with and for you and sending you big hugs! Looking forward to more…
    Love you ox
    Jess sends hello, I miss you guys all so much and love you!

  2. Katie
    Mar 15, 2013

    Thank you for the update and all of the wonderful pictures. You guys all look fabulous! The kids have grown up so much and I can’t get over Ethan’s blonde curls. They are all beautiful and darling! Ellie & Bella are such big girls now.
    I was so sorry to hear about the loss of Alyssa & Israel’s sweet baby. My heart breaks for them, but it sounds like they handled it with so much grace. How fun that you have had so many visitors. I’m sure you’re loving it and I’m sure that everyone who stays with you hates to leave. I continue to pray for your family and it’s so nice to hear your all safe and well. I can’t wait to show Luke & Molly the pictures. Luke will especially love the ones of the baby birds because he is obsessed with birds. How great that the kids got to see that whole process. It really looks like an amazing, adventurous place to live. Hugs to you all!

  3. Alice Mathis
    Mar 15, 2013

    Wow, a whole year! Keep up the good work. I love your humbleness in sharing your struggles. It helps me know how to pray specifically. God is using you greatly! I will be praying.

  4. Mama
    Mar 19, 2013

    It is so good to hear, see, almost smell, the growth in the relationships with the people and the abundance of the grace of God opening doors! Daddy’s eyes fill up with tears when he shairs the content of this blog……
    Besitos! Y los acompañamos desde aquí, con el deseo de poder verlos muy pronto!

  5. Lucy
    Mar 19, 2013

    Awwww!!! Love Love those pictures! Bring me tear and a touch of war, in my heart! God truly doing amazing things in people’s life :) Just from where you guys were a year ago to today!! huge transformation!! Praise God!!

    You guys always in my prayer! Love and miss you always!!

  6. Joshua Barton
    Apr 6, 2013

    What a blessing seeing what our Lord is doing in and through your family. Keep persevering in the faith and know that we are praying. It would be great to visit sometime.

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