A Long, Long-overdo Post part 1

Well, I confess that it’s been so long since we’ve written a blog update, I had to go back and re-read what we’d already written to even know where to begin!  I will attempt to set aside my predisposition for giving way too much detail and summarize the past few months as briefly as I can.

At the end of October, our beloved friends who are more like family, Seth, Janelle and their three kids returned to the States to relocate to a new surgical position in the NW.  Our kids felt the pain of saying goodbye to these precious friends…and of course, so did Bobby and I!  I can’t overstate the fact that when you are in community with “soul” brothers and sisters, it’s beautiful.  It’s whets my appetite for deeper, meaningful relationships with Believers!  It makes my heart happy and it is life giving.  Here we are on our way to the airport when they arrived:

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And here we are saying goodbye and sending them off, faking the smiles:

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November brought continued work on final construction, and with that, unfortunately, big relational problems with our two main carpenters.  I won’t go further into detail now, except to say that we attempted to resolve the issues with some success, but ultimately were left to finish the work ourselves.  We are grateful for all of the help and craftsmanship these men brought, but ultimately it worked out for the best as we have become quite weary in dealing with constant issues with dishonesty, and drama.

Here is Orlando cutting our wooden counter tops with a chainsaw:

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Thanksgiving Day was extremely stormy but we were invited to celebrate with some American friends, Chris and Pam, and we didn’t want to miss it!  Thankfully they don’t live far away and though we looked like drowned rats when we arrived at their place, God protected us on the very rough seas (and Bobby has become a great boat captain!).  Our feast included wonderful, traditional favorites like mashed potatoes, rolls, sweet potato casserole…and of course turkey with all of the trimmings and desserts like pumpkin pie.  Truly, our lives feel sweeter with friends like these who make the time away from family during meaningful holidays, a lot more enjoyable.

In the next month, we made the final pushes to complete our kitchen/multi-purpose building and it was finally mostly completed just in time for the arrival of our Christmas gifts…Garridan, Camille, David and Christine!  It was very hard to keep it a secret from our kids, but what a fun way to experience the very answer to their prayers.  I heard on several occasions, “The only thing I want for Christmas is family!” and having family here for Christmas (and beyond) was truly the best gift we could’ve gotten!  Here are some photos of the one beach fun day we had with them before Garridan left.

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We promptly put them all to work putting the finishing touches on the kitchen and grounds in preparation for Christmas.  Thanks to so many of you, we were blessed to host a big Christmas Eve celebration to really break in the new kitchen/multipurpose building!  Beginning in November I rallied a crew of indigenous neighbor kids to begin meeting weekly for our Christmas play practice.  I took a Spanish Children’s Bible and adapted portions of the stories of Jesus’ birth with some passages in the gospels and voila!  A Christmas play. :)  I came to look forward to our weekly practices with these fun, lively kids.  I don’t know the first thing about directing a play but they sure had a good time laughing at my attempts to demonstrate how to dramatize the story.  Here are some photos of our weekly practice.

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What a turn out we had on Christmas Eve!  We invited people from a few different villages nearby, expecting 50-100 people at the very most.  In the end, we saw at least 140 men, women and children come through for an evening of food, a Nativity play, teaching by Simon, pinata, and a goodie bag for each of the kids.  What a night!  It was special to see the mix of 3 or 4 villages, all together to celebrate the birth of our Savior.  Many of these have long-standing little (and big) rivalries amongst them, but as we gathered together in one place, I was struck by the awesome sight.  Some are Believers, most have likely even heard the Gospel, but many still refuse to set aside their carnal tendencies and fully receive the gift of salvation.  I firmly believe in my heart though that the Spirit of God is stirring, speaking, calling, and making Himself known here in this place, with these people at this time.  And I know His plans for them exceed our expectations.  And I anxiously await seeing and hearing of more good reports of hearts being turned to Him.  May God be glorified on Bastimentos!  Here are some snapshots of the evening.

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Berta and her sister Elizabet did the bulk of the cooking…what a help!!




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Ethan at the end of the night:




We finished cleaning up from the party around midnight and then I couldn’t resist the urge to call my family in Washington who were all gathered for Christmas.   After talking with them for an hour or two, I dragged my body to bed to get ready for Christmas Day.  We celebrated as a family on Christmas morning, a bit tired from the night before, but THRILLED to be celebrating with the best gift anyone could have sent…family!!!  We were also VERY spoiled by the loving cards and gifts from so many family and friends.  Some big highlights were:  Duck tape (in fancy colors and patterns), stainless measuring cups (yay for no rusting!), CHOCOLATE and other sweet treats, shorts and shirts for the kids, sunglasses, natural deodorant, organic apple cider vinegar, craft supplies….and just so many fun things.  One of Ellie’s favorite gifts, one she had made a special request from our church back home for, was a hand painted work of art from our gifted friend, Andrea.  She sent the most beautifully painted scenery with a special story to match!

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Christmas Day we hosted a potluck lunch for a group of friends and enjoyed the afternoon visiting, jamming on guitars, eating, and playing with new toys.  It was a very different atmosphere than the night before, but also very special for us to spend the day with friends we have gotten to know here (and a couple of new ones too!).

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That weekend we hosted our final large crowd event of the week as part of a 12 Days of Christmas tradition amongst some of our Gringo friends in and around the islands.  We made two soups, and Linh, if you’re reading this, your recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup continues to get rave reviews all over the world.  Friends have joked about starting a Facebook page in honor of the soup because it’s so simple and just so good.  Thank you, Selim, Master Networker, for introducing us, and Linh for cooking up that wonderful meal in California years ago. :)

Ratones, I digress.  Yes, this is really how my brain works…one big mass of rabbit trails.

Moving on. :)  Garridan’s departure came all too quickly and before we knew it, it was time for him to leave.  We miss you, Garridan!!  We sure appreciate you leaving the rest behind for a bit longer!  Garridan’s last day here was the same day of our 12 Days of Christmas party, so Simon and Amalia took him into town to catch his plane, indigenous style:

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We continue to see several medical needs arise locally and I’m always thankful for the supplies that we keep on hand…many of the items have been donated by teams that have come through, or people who gave to us while we visited home.  We recently purchased another bottle of Lidocaine that I was so happy to see could be purchased here locally, and away we go doing our best to bring healing in any way God allows.  Some of you, I know, will understand the nervousness I feel over being “it” for them, in terms of medical help, much of the time.  But I feel joy in being able to serve as my very humble skills allow, and to love them with compassion and gentleness.  I still pray that God gifts me with miraculous healing through these hands (you can join me in that prayer too!!), but in the meantime, I plug along with them as they come.  If you’re squeamish, you may want to skip over this next set of photos.  I am finding this post is already quite lengthy, so I will split it up and end on these injury pics, for anyone interested in blood. ;)   Part 2 of this post will follow. :)

Six year old Omar got a fish hook in his leg.  He didn’t cry at all throughout the entire procedure…what a little champ.

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Two year old Zacarias got a wood splinter under his big toe nail that went deep, past the base of his nail.  Poor baby!  I almost cried watching him cry as we tried to cut away nail and dig out a very mushy splinter, bit by bit.  Thankfully we got it all out and he already has a new nail that’s grown in.


Some of you may have seen my Facebook post about our neighbor Francisco who pulled out a part of a tree branch from his arm after leaping out of the way to avoid a large, heavy beam that was sliding toward him down a hill.  His wife made him come over because he didn’t want to go to the Bocas hospital.  He said they would have started cutting and digging into him without numbing the arm in any way…they just say “hold still” and hold you down.  I told him I was happy to do my best, and certainly to numb him, but that he really needed it cleaned out surgically to ensure all of the debris was out.  He told me he would just come back if he needed to because he appreciated the care here a lot more.  We removed a few small pieces of wood, and one really thick, longer chunk that was pretty deeply embedded in his arm…ouch!  We continued to clean and wrap it over the next several days, and ended up removing the stitches I put in, when the arm showed signs of infection and needed to drain.  I was able to consult with Dr. Seth on how best to care for it and what antibiotics to give, which was a big help!

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A couple of weeks later Francisco showed up again with pain in the same arm…and a hard bump that was trying to surface under the skin.  Another wood chunk was making its way out of his arm!  So we went at it again!   It amazes me how God created our bodies to expel foreign objects, fight off infections and heal (not to mention the other miraculous intricacies He designed).  I am praying this is really it this time.  Will you join me in this?  I am no surgeon and while I do enjoy helping people, I really don’t like cutting them!

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Little Neomi came with her mother and aunt recently with a finger injury.  Her entire nail, portion below the nail, and good bit of finger tip had nearly ripped off when her hand got caught while playing.  She pulled her hand out from under a cayuco and peeled back the top portion of that finger.  There was a lot of flesh to remove with it, and she was pretty distraught so we opted to treat it faithfully everyday to keep it from infecting, and allowed the nail flap to dry out and skin to heal up before removing it.  Camille was a huge help in cleaning and wrapping this finger two, sometimes three times a day for a week and a half.  Thankfully, it did not get infected, and her nail-less pinky now is healed and healthy.

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  1. Merri Trifiro
    Feb 10, 2014

    Thanks so much for the update!!! Awsome stuff!!!! I was so excited that such gains for the Kingdom have been made!
    Keeping you all coveredin prayer! Continued blessings and provision according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus!
    Merri <3

    • Shirlene
      Apr 2, 2014

      Thank you so much, Merri, for those faithful prayers that we need DAILY. They do not go unheard and I believe make a huge impact in what God is doing here! Bless you for your faithfulness in praying down God’s will and best for those around us here in Panama…

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