Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Yet Another Homecoming

Practicing our noisemaking (I'm pretty sure that Boomwhackers weren't made to be blown into like pan pipes, but they sound great!) so our welcome will be heard...

stringing up the balloons so our welcome will be seen...

fencing with Boomwhackers...well, just because...

and finally the plane touches down...

and our friends (who also happen to be colleagues and fellow translation advisors) finally walk off the plane and across the concrete hot enough to fry an egg.

I think they are glad to be back in the Solomon Islands.

And I know that we are thankful and excited that they have returned.

The SITAG kids call this particular guy "Uncle Fudge" because he makes fudge with them and is really just a big kid at heart.

And SITAG continues to fill back up...

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Another Homecoming


Our crazy friends, Henk and Margreet, keep coming back to the Solomon Islands to serve.

The anticipation built...

 and there they were!

These two are such an encouragement to us, and we look forward to the next few weeks of working and living side by side.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Kosco Update

Aaron called the ship's office and learned that the ship has broken down and is awaiting a part in another port.  So, we're holding our plans loosely, but still packing and preparing like we are departing Honiara on February 5.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Communication woes

"Since ancient times, no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him....Yet you, Lord, are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." 
Isaiah 64:4, 8
We woke up to cloudy skies and spitting rain this morning.  Aaron still drove down to the wharf to put some documents on the Kosco.  But he couldn't find the ship.

Last Wednesday, Aaron sent texts and tried to call our translation committee chairman all day long to find out if he and our cargo were coming on the ship:  "Failure".  Our village hardly ever has a cell phone signal, so this was no surprise.  Finally on Thursday, Aaron called the ship's office and discovered that we did, indeed, have boxes on the ship.
photo credit by Olivia Choate
When Aaron talked with the ship's crew, they assured him that the Kosco was back to its normal schedule.  So this morning's disappearing ship act caught us off guard.  The hardest part is that, even though we are living in the same country, we are really struggling with staying in touch with the language group we serve.  Ever since February 2015, Aaron and the translation team have been working toward a translation office.  The office would provide a place to work on the Lavukal translation, a safe area to keep equipment, and a communication center for when Aaron was away from the village.
photo credit by Olivia Choate
So, we are submitting ourselves and our work and the people in the Russell Islands once again to the master Potter's hand and trusting His perfect timing.  Would you come alongside us in prayer for wisdom and finances and timing and good cross-cultural communication in anticipation of Aaron working remotely from America later this year?

Saturday, January 14, 2017



Not much happens in the Solomon Islands during the months of December and January. 
School is out for the summer.

Almost everybody goes back to their home villages for Christmas. 
Very little happens in the way of "work" as defined by our passport Western cultures.

SITAG emptied out, too.  When we arrived at the end of December, only two other teams were in Honiara.
But beginning today, four teams will arrive in the space of a week. 
And we get to welcome each one back to the SITAG family.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Beans and Romance

"Marriage is more than a contract.  It's a messy, beautiful, living, breathing thing, full of dreams and history and patterns and memories."  ~Shauna Niequist
Today is our 20th proposal-versary.  Which automatically means Rocky Road ice cream.  Since Aaron proposed using this flavor, he scrounged up the ingredients to make a marvelous, rich, dark, not-too-sweet version of Rocky Road.  Very romantic.  I'm so grateful for the "history and patterns and memories" that we share.

Real life continues to march, however, and our hungry crew must be fed.  I can expect protein (except for fish) to be twice as expensive here in Honiara as it is in my hometown in Arkansas.  Beef, eggs, cheese, beans, chicken - all of them.  And I crave protein, especially when we have recently returned from Marulaon.  Beans that are twice as expensive are still our cheapest option, so "Scallions and Beans" showed up on our lunch table.
Scallions and Beans
Soak overnight or by quick method:
1 lb. dry white beans
2 qts. water
Cook in water to cover until tender.  Drain and cool.  Reserve liquid for soup or stew.
4 scallions, chopped, including tops
2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
 1/2 c. olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
Pour dressing over beans.  Sprinkle with parsley.  Chill several hours before serving.
Note:  Our family loves garlic, and we have learned to double the garlic in 99% of the recipes we use.  Not this one.  We also find that 1/3 cup olive oil works just as well and substituting the lemon juice (which we don't have) with lime juice (which we do have) tastes just fine.

Thursday, January 12, 2017


I was trying to do too many things at once, and my brain just can't handle multi-tasking very well anymore. 
Boiling the eggs for lunch's tuna salad totally left my mind while I helped kids with school and hung up the laundry and checked e-mail...until I smelled egg.  Smelling the eggs you are trying to boil isn't a good sign.  The kids thought my mistake was hilarious when they saw the "egg-splosion" and lunch still tasted delicious.  For some reason, tuna salad tastes like home to me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The kitchen in this SITAG house is lovely, but the window over the sink gives the dishwasher a dismal view.  Until the sun starts creeping in.  Somewhere around 3 or 4 o'clock every afternoon, the sun plays with shade and shadow with the retaining wall. 
This house is built into the side of a ridge, and the sun picks out each little nook and cranny.  It's one of my favorite times of each day, waiting for the sunshine to show up.  (And sometimes earthquakes show up, too, but when we are in town we can check them out on Today's Earthquakes.  In the wee hours of this morning, we got another little shaker!)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

One of my favorite things...

My really most favorite part of the day is when I sit down with the kids and read aloud.  Today we enjoyed the end of the eggnog snickerdoodles while I read. 
Last week, we read "Banner in the Sky", this week it's "The Twenty-One Balloons", and next week start my absolute favorite, "The Singing Tree".  It's like Newberry Award marathon, and it's wonderful.  One of the poems we read today was "Dover Beach", and I immediately was transported back to college when I played "Dover Beach" by Samuel Barber.  When the kids listened to the recording, they weren't quite as thrilled as I was, but it IS a beautiful piece of music.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Happy Kitchen

How can your calzones be anything but delicious when you have such a happy, giggling cook?!?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Settling in...

This week has been blessedly boring and normal.  Until Friday. 
We've been enjoying living in a different SITAG house this time, with a big, well-stocked kitchen and a beautiful view.  Each day has been a busy but routine mix of laundry and filling hungry tummies and school for the kids and paper work for Aaron and some running around town and some staying home.  This week was exactly what we needed coming off a chaotic village stay.

Yesterday, we continued some family traditions and invited our SITAG family over to watch "Amahl and the Night Visitors" (the 1985 version with Aaron singing Amahl) on Epiphany.  Sarah made a Three Kings Cake and hid a pecan in lieu of a ceramic baby Jesus.  Just after 4:00, one of the SITAG kids came flying down the steps to the house to tell me that Olivia had fallen and hurt her wrist.  I had just enough time to get ibuprofen and make an ice bag before my spunky Olivia came wailing into the kitchen, and one look at her swollen wrist confirmed that she was making a trip to the doctor. 
The short version of the story is that our amazing kids finished fixing supper while I went back and forth to the hospital and Aaron stayed with Olivia.  We still hosted our SITAG family for dessert, and Olivia got to join us.  After watching Amahl, Aaron and Olivia went back down to the hospital for the scheduled resetting of Olivia's wrist and the cast.  By 12:30, we were all in bed.  And this morning Olivia returned for another X-ray, as scheduled, but no technicians had arrived yet, so the doctor asked her to come back on Monday.  We're so grateful for the medical staff at Honiara's hospital, especially since we know how much they lack the supplies and personnel they desperately need.  And we're also thankful for our SITAG family and the many people around the world who have been praying for Olivia!

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year's Eve in Honiara

"No matter how imperfectly we've ended the year, in sadness or joy, frustration or contentment, we gently set the previous twelve months in its place in our family's story.  We put ourselves in our place, too -- behind a God who is good and holy and full of love for the version of us that enters the year ahead.  A God who knows what will unfold."  ~Kimberly Coyle

Celebrating God's goodness in 2016 and looking forward to even more of His faithfulness in 2017.  That's what we did on Saturday night with the few SITAG families in Honiara.

Last year brought two (including us!) of the three families from America back to the Solomon Islands.  And 2017 promises more changes for each family.  We have no idea how the year will unfold, but we know that we have our SITAG family to help flesh out God's unfolding plan in our lives.

The "big kids" graciously took care of the little kids so the grownups could play cards undistracted.  Our evening finished early, with sounds of the Christmas season lifted high, as we reminded ourselves of God's promises in the Old Testament and the ways He has worked in lives for centuries.
"If a telescope zooms our gaze in on one particular thing, God's Word is like a wide angle lens that shouts, 'Remember!  God is THIS BIG!  He is a God of the big picture!'  When we're busy dialing in on legitimately important things like jobs and health and deadlines, it can do us lot of good to remember what God did at creation, and what he promised Abraham. 
Remember how He kept his hand on Joseph, bringing Israel into Egypt and eventual slavery, then delivering them from slavery at the hand of Moses.  All the while He promised on every page that an even bigger plan was unfolding!...Opening God's Word and studying His character is like lifting our eyes from the viewfinder long enough to remember that the God who calls us His people has been hanging the stars in the heavens since time began."
~Raechel Myers & Amanda Bible Williams

Saturday, December 31, 2016

In which we stride through swamps and mud and remain flexible...

"He'll revive their spirits, make them proud to be on God's side.  God will use them in his work of rebuilding, use them as foundations and pillars, use them as tools and instruments, use them to oversee his work.  They'll be a workforce to be proud of, working as one, their heads held high, striding through swamps and mud, courageous and vigorous because God is with them, undeterred by the world's thugs."
Zechariah 10:3b-5 (MSG)
Now that we are safely in Honiara and have a few nights of good sleep under our belts, I can look back and process the beginning of this week.  Our ship, the Kosco, is very regular and dependable, especially by "Solomon Time" standards.  Last week, the ship changed its schedule and planned to come out to only our area instead of going all the way out to Gizo in the western part of the Solomon Islands.  That meant, instead of us returning on Wednesday, December 28, afternoon or evening, we would be traveling back to Honiara overnight on Monday, December 26.
The teenagers have been practicing with Marulaon's choir since the start of Advent, putting in late hours almost every night of the week.  The choir prepared for leading the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, but it also prepared for the Christmas caroling in other villages during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.  And our kids were really looking forward to being a part of that experience.  For Sarah and Benjamin, this is their last chance, and they are fully aware of taking advantage of every opportunity.
Leaving Marulaon early on Wednesday morning
The Kosco's change in plans meant an end to our kids' hopes of going to carol in other villages.  Unless...we let them go on Monday night and the choir master (our good friend, Belza) promised to have them home in time for the ship's arrival.  We anticipated the ship no earlier than 1 a.m., and Belza thought they would be home by 10.  So, we decided to let them go and to trust our friends and our God to work out all of the details.  Our alarm went off at 1:00, and Aaron and I got up to start shutting down the house.  And realized that none of our teenagers were home yet.  At 2:00 they returned, full of stories and laughter and delight.  It didn't take us long to have everything ready for the ship - windows tightly shut and locked, mattresses and pillows stripped and piled under a dust cover, linens folded and put in a box to bring back to town to wash.
We began playing Cancellation Hearts, our new favorite family game, and our tiredness led to lots of giggling and goofiness as the night led on.  Finally, around 4:30, some of us decided to try and nap until the ship came.  We had made pumpkin muffins for breakfast on the ship, and they made a lovely breakfast.  Then we began to hear rumors that the ship had cancelled its trip.  We finally got an e-mail out to our colleagues in Honiara mid-morning, and they confirmed that the Kosco wasn't coming and didn't have plans to come until January 8.
Arriving at the tip of Guadalcanal on Wednesday morning
And now we were in a dilemma.  With only four months left before we return to America, we are praying to be a "workforce to be proud of...courageous and vigorous" because God is with us.  But lately it has felt as if we are "striding through swamps and mud", and honestly, we haven't felt very courageous or vigorous.  We plan to return to Marulaon on February 5, and we have tons to accomplish in Honiara in January.  And New Year's Eve is not our favorite time to be in the village.  Our only alternative was to hire an engine, driver, and canoe and come across the ocean to the tip of Guadalcanal, then take the SITAG truck back to Honiara.  Traveling this way also meant that we had to repack everything and take only backpacks and school books.  Leonard, our translation committee chairman, will come back on the Kosco and bring the few boxes we left on the porch (like our dirty sheets and towels - wow, that will smell good when we open the box!).
Coming across the ocean meant depending solely on the availability of the two remaining SITAG teams in Honiara.  We have the most amazing colleagues.  We arranged the transportation on our end, the two families, on the spur of the moment, got the petrol and the money we needed, and Wednesday morning, our family was down on the beach at 5:00 a.m. waiting for the canoe.  At 5:30, Leonard walked over to us to inform us that the original driver wouldn't be coming, instead, our favorite driver, Belza, would be coming along and bringing his son and nephew.  Leonard hopped in, as well.  We trust and love these guys and are so thankful that unexpected gift in the middle of the chaos.

The sea reflected the morning sun like glass, an answer to our prayers.  Twice, we approached a line of rain and watched it part, with rain on the left and the right, but not where we drove through in the middle.  The third time, though, we were pelted with cold, hard rain.  The kids laughed and considered the whole thing an adventure, and I'm so grateful.  Aaron and I were so sleep deprived that we were singing Sunday School songs from our childhood and causing our kids to look at us like we had lost our minds.
We finally hit the shore on the tip of Guadalcanal at 8:15.  Aaron had been trying to find a phone signal during the entire trip across the ocean, but never could find one to be able to contact our colleagues.  God worked out all of the details, though, and our colleagues had only been waiting for 15-20 minutes.  They brought cold juice and cookies and smiling faces to welcome us and strong hands to help our numb bodies out of the canoe.  They provided breakfast once we returned to SITAG.  They made up the beds before we arrived.  They nourished our weary bodies and minds.  They were the tools and instruments God used to breathe life back into us.  I felt like I had jet lag from flying across the Pacific Ocean.  Not only was I exhausted, but my body couldn't figure out what time it was.
After a few days back in Honiara, we are beginning to feel a little more steady on our feet.  We've started our puzzle of the Three Wise Men (one of them looks amazingly like my dad, so we call him "King Dan"), we've made Christmas goodies from the contents of care packages we found waiting in Honiara, we've listened to Aaron reading Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" out loud.  And we've slept long and well.  Thanks for praying for our transition back to Honiara, God is answering your prayers.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas Day Celebrations

We slept lightly last night, listening for Eta's voice to call out that our fish were ready to be cooked.  A little before 3 a.m., Sarah woke up, saw lights and movement in Eta's kitchen, got dressed, and walked over.  Eta and her sisters were cooking our fish along with their own so they didn't have to disturb us.  We have the best neighbors!

The "rising bell" rang forty-four times at 4 a.m.  I think everybody in the entire village rolled over and went back to sleep.  But when the "swimming bell" rang at 5:30, we all popped out of bed.  At 6:10, one of our friends knocked on the door to ask if we had any candles the church could use in the service.  The tapers were already packed up with the Christmas tree, waiting for the Kosco, but we still had one unopened box, and Aaron was able to dig it out. 

The church service began at 6:45, and we couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day.  As we walked the few feet between our home and the church, a huge rainbow stretched almost the entire width of the sky, and I felt like God had given me a beautiful Christmas present.  After the church service, everyone was dismissed for morning tea.  Ezekiel walked by our house and called up to ask if we had any coffee. 
Since Aaron drinks coffee, Ezekiel has developed a strong preference for coffee over tea.  Over pumpkin raisin muffins (my mom's recipe) and coffee, Aaron, Ezekiel, and I sat on the porch and enjoyed visiting until the insistent bells called us down to the public area for the dancing.

Karumalun always has the best traditional dancing.  They are so fun to watch!  Olivia was fun to watch, too.  She and her small friend, Muna, giggled as Muna played with Olivia's hair.  Over and over and over again, Muna pulled Olivia's hair over her face, and Olivia blew it out of her eyes.  Muna thought it was the best game in the world!

After the dancing came the feasting.  Sarah and I went up to the kitchen to get the lelenga/cassava pudding, only to discover that our extra thick culinary masterpiece wasn't cooked all the way through.  Bummer.  We cut the edges off and took them down as our contribution.

And then began the long process of combining each family's food, making big piles, distributing the piles on the coconut leaf tables, then waving the flies away while we wait for the start of the feast.

An abundance of food, mostly fish and lelenga, filled up tummies, and then it was time for the speeches.

Aaron was the last one to give a speech, and he made an impact with an object lesson of a dull knife and the lack of God's Word in our lives.

The guests began heading home around 4:00, then the clean up from the festivities began.

What do you do with all of the food and leaf detritus?  You throw it into the sea, of course!  I'm super proud of my kids who played hard all weekend, then worked hard to serve our neighbors by helping to clean up.  We should sleep well tonight!