Guest Blog Post

Hello all!

If it seems like it’s been months since we’ve made contact and updated this blog it’s because it actually HAS been months.  I AM working on a recap of some of the highlights, but in the meantime, I am so happy to present our first-ever-post on this blog by a guest!!!

Two friends from our church back home, Melissa and Ben, came to visit us this month!!  Sadly, we had to say goodbye to Melissa after a nice three week visit. :(  It helps to ease the pain having Ben around until the beginning of October, but we all miss Melissa’s sweet, fun presence around here!  I love the intention with which she engages people in conversation.  She asks great questions, and is transparent and open in her own answers.   Melissa is quick to help, quick to laugh, is great with kids (she’s gets a lot of practice working with children as a speech therapist), and is peaceful but also adventurous.  Such a winning combination. :)  She’s also the kind of gal who is up for a good challenge, so when I mentioned it would be fun to have a guest blogger post some things for a new, fresh perspective, she accepted (thank you, Melissa, for your willingness to share!).  I only pray that I can live up to her uber kind words.  Enjoy!

While I was visiting the Wood family, Shirlene mentioned that they had thought it would be fun to have a guest post on their blog. Hopefully you’ll enjoy these pieces of my trip that give you a glimpse of Wood family life as of August 2014.

The Wood family is awesome. I know we all know this, but seriously, being here and seeing how they have fully embraced life here, weird bug bites and all, I am even more aware of how, when God asks us to do something, he gives us what we need to do the task!

A large part of my favorite times here have been spent having great conversations with Shirlene while she goes about doing the wide variety of activities that fill her days. On Mondays she bakes for this local coffee shop in Bocas (the town that is about a 20 minute boat ride away where they do grocery shopping). I’ve gotten to sample some of her creations and the patrons of the coffee shop are lucky! The owner of the coffee shop obviously respects and enjoys conversations with Shirlene very much. A theme throughout their lives here is genuinely making and maintaining connections-something they are excellent at! It is very clear to me that the people here really like and feel cared about by the Wood family.

Shirlene is great at planning events for the people they are friends with here. For example, a “Learn to Make Pancakes Day” for the local indigenous kids or an Italian dinner night with some of their sailboat friends. She does all this while entertaining the kids, stopping to feed their birds a banana, kicking a cockroach out of the kitchen (Did you all know that the song “la cucaracha” is in fact about a cockroach??? I never realized this!! How did it take me this long to learn that??), finding Ellie’s pet kinkajou sleeping in the trashcan, fixing up a local’s leg wound, making AMAZING food (seriously, SO GOOD), looking up ways to treat a friend’s flesh eating bacteria wound, translating a gringo friend’s medical report, helping a local kid with homework, keeping in touch with friends and family and educating everyone she meets on Bubble Tea (hehe…she loves that stuff and has even turned me into a bubble tea drinker!).  AND she always looks pretty and put together! I don’t know how she does it!

Bobby is truly Jack of All Trades and has so many projects going on that I can’t possibly keep track. He is enjoying having Ben around to help with the huge variety of projects he is asked to do. While I was there, he and Ben installed solar panels on sail boats, houses, and resorts, fixed electrical systems, made long lines of heavy batteries look pretty (that’s what’s important, right Bobby??), looked at and recommended how to fix home solar systems, fixed foldable bikes that someone gave them (which Ellie rides round and round and round on the porch), coordinated with the YWAM group who came over to do some work at the village, and worked on fixing a four-wheeler that currently runs thanks to the two of them, but does not have brakes (which does not stop them from riding it down hills, of course). He has so many connections and is in high demand here because he knows where to get things, knows how to fix a wide variety of things, and does it all with clarity, honesty, and a large dose of humor, of course!

Ellie has adapted so well here in many ways; she knows so much about the land and harvesting things and handles her responsibilities really well. She runs the store downstairs, which carries stuff that the other little stores nearby don’t carry (so as not to take business away from the locals), and interacts with the people so easily. I am thoroughly impressed with her confidence and ease in getting to know people. She is honest about the difficult parts too- making friends is hard, in any new place, but especially when there are those cultural differences that affect relationships as well.

Bella is a sweetheart and seems quiet at first, but then realize that she also has a bit of a dramatic side to her! She likes to laugh. My favorite is when they get their bird, Lulu, imitating Bella’s laugh and shrieks. It is hilarious! Bella likes to do art projects so we spent a lot of time doing that. One day we worked on what was supposed to be a seal but eventually ended up as an entire mermaid-seal family. She is sweet and creative and likes to do things well.

Ethan is a crack up, saying all sorts of great things (the speech therapist in me is overjoyed to see the richness in the language he uses as he tells all sorts of stories all day long). He also has this adorable lisp (totally age-appropriate in case you were wondering) so everything is just that much more cute. At every meal he says, “Momma, will you sit (th-it) by me?” My favorite quote from him during the trip came when I asked him to go brush his teeth, to which he said: “The sawdust in the box in the bathroom is too spicy.” To which I thought, “Hmmm, I know we are on an island, but do they really use sawdust for teeth brushing??” Shirlene later explained that he was talking about the baking soda they were using until they got more toothpaste!  Another of my favorite quotes happened at dinner. Several conversations were going on and I heard Ethan ask his mom “Mommy, do we have guts (gut-th) in our tummy?” Valid question and he’s a smart kid. So Shirlene explained the inner-workings of our “gut-th” in Spanish to him. He is just such a fun kid.

Ellie, Bella, and Ethan are doing a great job coming up with all sorts of different activities to fill their days. I think that is a benefit of not having hours a day spent on TV, computer games, running to an from soccer and art class and basketball etc. These kids have great imaginations and are so good at coming up with activities to do using nothing but nature. Ben and I often got invited to go climb through the mangroves at the end of their dock, paddle the canoe up the coastline, swim over to the tree we can jump off, collect snails, and go get sugar cane. It is interesting to have less freedom as far as going places here; you can go weeks without leaving their property if you don’t go into town for Tuesday shopping day. No just jumping in the car to go somewhere.

Ben and I did join Bobby and Shirlene in town one day for the epic Tuesday Shopping Day. I think Shirlene has written about the shopping here. It includes going to many stores that may or may not have what you are looking for, going to and from the boat dropping things off, going to the vegetable stand where you might have to wait for them to unload the truck depending on the day, chasing the chicken truck around town, and doing it all in sometimes pouring rain or hot, hot sun. Pretty different than our trips running to the grocery store! I was impressed with the number of people who know them around town. They have really been intentional about getting to know people and, not surprisingly, you can tell that they are very respected and well liked.  Shirlene and Bobby have a commitment to long-term relationships with the people here. I enjoyed talking with them about this, as it is a subject I’ve thought a lot about. What helps us to make true changes in our lives, aside from God? Humility and recognizing a need for change first, but then it seems that it is most often with the help of friends and family that have been there for the long haul, through the boring parts of life, the times when not much growth is evident, that we are able to make lasting changes. Those people who know us well and we trust are the ones that tend to have the greatest impact. Less frequently do we just hear a speaker or meet someone one time and have true and lasting change happen. That is what I admire about the Wood family; they are here because they truly feel called to be here long term, whatever that looks like, with people through the good, boring, and difficult times.

Their property is pretty neat here. They have done SO much work here and now have a pretty nice set up as far as housing goes. One of the best things about their place is the fruit that grows here. Ellie is an amazing fruit girl and she took Ben and I around to collect fruit. We chopped down banana trees with a machete and harvested the bananas, which is a regular chore here. They also have pineapple, guayaba (only has a few little white worms inside to which Ellie said “My Nana says it is ok to eat those”) taro, coconuts, passion fruit and guava. They also have breadfruit, which Ben used to make Breadfruit Flan. It has a slightly tropical taste and is very unique. Shirlene experiments with the local fruit and other plants here and comes up with ways to use many of them.

Panama is a very interesting country and it has been neat to see the different activities there are to do here as well. We got to go to a cacao farm, which was awesome. Bobby and Shirlene know the owners who knew next to nothing about producing cocoa when they moved here and bought this farm. That seems to be common here, people moving to get away from the daily 9-5 jobs, wanting to do something different in life. Panama also has beautiful beaches, just a 10-20 minute boat ride away here with white sand and great waves to play in. Ben and I spent a day at Red Frog beach enjoying the beach, walking through the jungle, ending up in a random town where we met a guy on the street who knew Bobby (seems like everyone knows Bobby!). Bobby also showed us these awesome bat caves where you walk, swim, climb, and crawl for an hour or so through the caves with bats flying around your head and tarantulas, giant cave crickets, and tailless whip scorpions crawling along the walls (google these, they are so creepy!). On our particular visit, there was also rat that had met his demise within the caves, which added a special aroma to the whole experience. It was such a fun and unique adventure! Panama offers so many uncommon animals, plants, and sights that we just don’t see living in the Northwest.

Overall, the time I spent in Panama was not only a fun trip to a new place, but a growing time for me spent with friends I care about, have such fun with, and have an increasingly deeper respect for. It is a hard place to live in a lot of ways. There are awesome things about it, but it is very different from how most of us live. The Wood family knows that it is where God has asked them to be, and how they handle their unique situation is evidence of how God gives us the skills, patience, and abilities to do what He asks us to do.  Bobby, Shirlene, Ellie, Bella, Ethan, I miss you guys already and thank you for letting me spend time with all of you!

Here is a brief look at Melissa’s time with us here:

Melissa 9

Ben and Melissa…we’re so glad you’re here!

Melissa 7

Melissa making friends with the parrots

Melissa 8

Helping dig trenches in one of our neighboring villages. Nice, muddy work. :)

Melissa 6

One of our final meals with a wonderful team from YWAM Belize (we love you guys!). Eating is good for the soul!

Melissa 5

Always willing to help brush some hair. :)

Melissa 4

Bella and Melissa…a couple of JUNGLE girls!

Melissa 3

Melissa failed to mention in her post that she made US wonderful food and cookies while she was here too. :)


Melissa 10

Ben and Melissa on our cacao tour at Green Acres Chocolate Farm.



Melissa 11

Robert is a great tour guide with lots of fun information about cacao, but also so much more!

Melissa 1

Our kids sure loved all of the game time they got in with these two over the past few weeks.


Melissa 2

Aww, I love these two.  :)



Thank you Melissa for your investment in us as a family and in what is going on here in this crazy life of ours!  Thank you for loving on our kids so well while you were here and for making our days more fun.  I already miss the great conversations and discussions on heart and faith matters.  We miss you and are sooo glad that you came!  :)
Shirlene and family



  1. Andrea
    Aug 25, 2014

    What a wonderful treat to find in my emil!!! Thank you Shirlene and Bobbie for having Melissa give us such a fine, full, fun, ummmm, “frilling” :-) glimpse of life on the island from a different perspective.
    I am so very grateful that both Melissa and Ben got to have time in real life with you. And grateful that Ben gets to stay on for a good amt of time to come alongside, something at which he excels. YAY God! for His always amazing ways that He directs and provides for us as He begins to make course corrections in our paths so that we can live the adventures that HE designed us to live!!
    Bobbie and Shirlene, I’m always in awe at all that has been required of you just to persevere through all the assorted tests, trials, disappointments…and that you do it so very well. I have read every one of your posts with joy in how powerful your testimonies are to all whom you encounter, work, and play with.
    Our Father is SOOOOOO pleased with you AND the children,
    He is smiling with justified pride in His children who love and serve Him in such an “all-in” manner.
    I get vicarious thrills at reading all of your doings, including the hard stuff, the “networking,” the absolute generosity with which you function. ….and yearn to be able to drop in on your lives there, tho that most probably is not in the plan…. SO, that makes your postings and the in person reports from those who have visit a very precious gift to me!! Thank you!
    I send you much love, with prayers for the fullness of ALL that Father God has planned, for, in, and through you, to unfold with many joyous surprises…(.whether seen as joyous at the time or, as sometimes happens, seen later. ) Andream

  2. Paula
    Aug 26, 2014

    oh Bobby and Shirlene…. sooooo good to hear from you. I am sending you an email as we speak, so check your inbox!

  3. Janelle
    Sep 3, 2014

    I LOVED this post. Thank you, Melissa, for putting into words the incredible call God has placed on the Wood family and how they rise to the occasion-in such a challenging location! You really captured each person as seen through your eyes and the examples of everyday life you gave. What an insiders’ perspective. Thank you so much! I hope everyone gets to enjoy this post and gain new appreciation for this incredibly loving, godly family.

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