Busy Tropical Life

It has been many months since our last blog post.  Life here on the island has been quite busy and it’s been hard to make time to recap and write blog posts.  Although, the great thing about writing an update is the fact it causes us to reflect on our lives and see where we’re going, where we’ve been and all of the amazing things God has done in our lives.  So here it goes…

Arrived home from the US, here on the island in early August.  We had an AWESOME time visiting friends and family back in Washington.  Sometimes we forget how much easier life is in the US.  Grocery stores with stocked shelves, good internet, shipping to your door, roads and ice cream – mmmmmm.  But best of all, our wonderful friends, family and church – what a wonderful time we had re-bonding.

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Upon arriving back, we spent one last day with our friends, Chris and Ashley, who did an awesome job taking care of the place and really reaching out and developing relationships with our new neighbors.

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Our first two weeks back we worked hard to finish our house on the property and move out of the temporary, unfinished guest house that was quite brutal to live in due to the constant stream of visitors, mainly bugs.  We moved into our new house towards the end of August and quickly started finishing the guest house we were staying in, to get ready for the dear Lambert family and a team of 8 YWAMers.  We finished the guest house a few hours before the Lamberts arrived, a day before the group.  We were pooped.

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September has been a month of focusing on quite a few things.  We have been working to finish the multi-purpose building.  This building will have a large kitchen for feeding large groups and a much larger dining / meeting area.  Our goals are to use this building for Bible education, English classes, health education, farming education, medical clinic days, faith building movie nights and just an all around hang out area out of the blazing sun or Biblical scale rainfall.  We are REALLY looking forward to finishing this building.  Currently we have a temporary kitchen set up under our house, dirt floors, chickens, dogs and other hungry animals make this kitchen feel more like camping, which in many ways is fun – especially the fact that there is no need to sweep the floor.   But in other ways it makes for a lot more work to protect things from the elements and nightly visitors.

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We’ve also been working on water systems and electrical, getting things working right.  We had issues with our water tanks during an incredible, Biblical scale downpour that caused the tanks to actually crack from the pressure of the water flowing into them from the gutters.  We have now worked out an over-sized overflow system and repaired the tanks with fiberglass.  We’re ready (we think) for the rainy season, coming up soon.

September has also been the start of our planting.  This part is super exciting.  Seth (Lambert) has been a HUGE help on this one.  We are now in our test planting stage, over 200 starts, and now most of those we have moved to test planting areas to see how they do.  This is a tough place to grow.  On one hand, the temperature and humidity are perfect for growing plants.  But on the other hand the leaf cutters, bugs and blight also love this climate and they love what we plant, plus there’s a lot of clay and not a lot of organic material.  Our goal at this point is to identify our top 5 most nutritious, hardy and easy to plant plants to share and teach to our Ngobe neighbors.  We have our favorites already but we’ll just have to see which plants make the cut.  There is a great need for nutrition in the Ngobe diet which pretty much consists of rice and some type of starch, yuca, dasheen, bread fruit or plantain.  They suffer from malnutrition which affects babies greatly with a high mortality rate and adults with diabetes.  We have also learned that if it’s not easy to do, the locals won’t do it.  So even if we were to identify an incredible plant, that could cure all ills, if it were complex or difficult to grow in any way, they won’t grow it.  Even the easy stuff to grow, maybe half will make the attempt – but half would be quite an impact.  We’re praying for pre-fall conditions / a Garden of Eden (before the eating of the forbidden fruit thing of course).

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October has been more of a tough month.  I (Bobby) have been working, which has been great, but it’s also been a challenge.  There is such a stronghold of dishonesty here which has made it difficult to know who to work for and with.  I want to be a witness for the Lord but I also need to know when to say no (especially if there is a track record of non-payment).  Hands down, I just need to know where God wants me work-wise and that’s where I want to be.  God is really teaching Truth around the fact that He is our provider and for me not to buy into the lie that as the man, I am the provider of my family – He is, period.

Another difficulty this month has been around an impressive lightning storm we had in the middle of the night.  It was incredible, lightning, thunder, wind, rain, etc.  Shirlene and I scrambled to move things in the house from getting wet only to find no where was safe in our little house.  The wind would carry the rain through the windows in the front of the house all the way to the back of the house. At one point during the storm there was a loud crash, lightning either stuck our house or the hill behind us, my whole body filled with adrenaline and I hoped our solar system was ok.  Everything seemed to work fine and in the morning everything checked out ok.  I left for work in Bocas and at about 11am Ellie called and said there was no power.  When I returned home later that day my fears were confirmed, the inverter (the part that converts our battery / solar power to house power) was dead.  So for a week I scrambled to find parts for it and get them here, we’re still waiting for the parts but they’re on the way – praise God!  As a side note, I know and love the survival rule of ‘one is none and two is one’, so everywhere throughout our property / houses / water system / solar system we have all things duplicated, except this one part, mainly due to the cost of the inverter.  Needless to say I’m in the market for a 48V 3000W inverter.  Oh and at this point we have been getting power from our generator, running 24/7, in case you were wondering.

Right now we are blessed to have another family with us, our good friends the Lamberts.  Seth, Janelle and their 3 boys, Thad, Hannes and Nathaniel have been such an encouragement, such a boost, and really confirms in our family the need to be in community, Godly community.  Our time with the Lamberts is soon coming to a close and they will head back to the states to start another ministry, surgery – go Seth!  We continue to pray that God will bring other Godly people here, short or long term.

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We have been so encouraged with our new friendships, Ngobe, white, black, Chinese, etc.  God has opened the doors into many people’s lives here for one end of the spectrum to the other, and we love it.  Our Ngobe neighbors visit us multiple times per day, sometimes just to chat, other times for medical help, sometimes they happen to show up at meal times (some of them consistently – I’m sure it’s a coincidence) for some great meals prepared by Shirlene or Janelle.  Either way, they seem to be very open, happy and transparent about their lives and on our end, I have personally found that it’s less like work and more like friendship – to put it bluntly.

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Janelle, Shirlene & Ellie have started an English class every Monday evening, teaching the basics, singing songs, greeting each other and tons and tons of laughing.  Ellie is such a natural in the socializing department, she’s a teacher, she’s a deep thinker and she’s good at keeping the big picture in the forefront of her mind.  Always praying for and talking with the locals about where they’re at with Christ.  And of course Janelle the teacher does an awesome job with the class along with the class model, Shirlene, a good looking woman who stands in front of the class and simply, looks good.  Well, she also speaks Spanish, which probably helps too.

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We’ve also been having faith-building movies every Friday night.  These have been a hit and we’ll have anywhere from 15-40 people come.  We’ll discuss the movie afterwards to see what they thought, many times we’re surprised at how well they can pull out the main message of the movie which seemed maybe a little cryptic, but no, they got it.

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We have also seen quite a demand for Bibles.  Spanish Bibles and audible Ngobe Bibles.  We were blessed recently by YWAM Panama who dropped off a box of Spanish Bibles.  We give them out to those asking for them and many have come by our house just to ask for a Bible.  We’re in need of more Spanish Bibles, we’re trying to find a source in Panama but surprisingly they are difficult to get.

On that same thought.  We had a neighbor of ours, Orlando, come over and ask for a Bible for his wife, Jamulet.  We passed one to Orlando and a few days later we headed over to the village with Simon and Amalia (our beloved Ngobe friends with a tremendous heart for God) to support Simon as he shared a message God laid on his heart for Jamulet.  We hiked the grassy hill around the cows, chickens and dogs, the mud, and through a maze of wood stacked on the roots of mangrove trees where we arrived at a hut.  They invited us in and as Simon shared more and more of the village starting showing up.  As we sat on the floor in this hut surrounded by kids jumping around, babies asleep in hammocks and women breastfeeding.  We realized, in that moment, this was exactly what God has called us to do.  As Simon shared from his heart, many ears listened, and later that day came a flood to our house wanting Bibles.  We also heard later that day Jamulet, confessed Jesus as Lord and was baptized.  She has a fire for the Lord that is evident!  Praise God He is so faithful to us.

Well if you’ve made it this far and haven’t fallen asleep, wow, we’re impressed.  Good job!  To wrap it up, we are encouraged by what God is doing, we are also tired, sometimes weary.  Please continue to pray for us, that we listen to the Holy Spirit without ceasing, that we follow His leading far and above our own and we have no fear as to where our ‘ daily bread’ will come from.  Also please pray specifically for those around us, locals, expats, you name em’ – that God would soften their hearts and He would use us to share the hope we have within us, Christ Jesus.

Love you all,
Bobby, Shirlene, Ellie, Bella, Ethan, Coco, Lulu & Bella-dog Wood

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3 Comments

  1. Merri Trifiro
    Oct 15, 2013

    Thanks so much for the update!…and most importantly, for your faithfulness in continuing to be obedient, and about your Father’s business, according to your call in Christ!
    We have never met, but ever since our (Church of Life Orlando, Fl) visit to the “old place” 2 years ago, Panama, Bocas and the Ngobe people and all , have been in my consistant prayers. Ever since your family had arrived there, I have followed you and kept you all covered faithfully! I send along such prayer for your every provision, protection and prosperity , body and spirit, as delivered from His Hand to each and all. I know you will continue to bear much good fruit for the Kingdom ! Warm thoughts and encouragement from Orlando!
    Every abundant blessing to you all!

  2. Carrie
    Oct 17, 2013

    Oh, I loved your post! It is so good to hear about all that you have done and all that God has done! I am praying that God will provide for all of your needs: community, the converter, money, and encouragement!

  3. Lyn
    Oct 17, 2013

    I loved reading every single word! You are so precious to us and we so wish we could just hop over for a visit! So proud of you all! Love Lyn
    P.S. We are doing a rep Intensive in Portland this whole next week!

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