Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Weekend Wonders

Saturday, May 21

My teenagers left mid-morning yesterday to go tromping around the island to collect hote hote, a shellfish that gets its name from its ability to stick tightly to rocks. Hote hote means sticky!

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Our good friends Skita and Eta took Sarah and Benjamin to a remote area and showed them how to clean and cook the shellfish in bamboo tubes. They also cooked a little rice and ate it with coconut shell spoons and bowls that our friends quickly fashioned. Disposable and eco-friendly dishes? I think they may start a trend.

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They came home at dusk with a bag full of critters for us to clean and cook. We tried to send some home with our friends, but they said the whole reason for the trip was for Sarah and Benjamin to bring home shellfish. In February this year, National Geographic ran an article called “Seeing the Light.” It featured hote hote, also known as chitons, because of their unique eye structure:

The weirdest lenses in nature...belong to chitons - a group of marine mollusks that look like ovals adorned with armored plates. These plates are dotted with hundreds of small stage-three eyes, each with its own lens. The lenses are made of a mineral called aragonite, which the chitons assemble from calcium and carbonate molecules in seawater. Simply put, this creature has evolved a way to sharpen its vision by looking through rocks. And when their rock lenses erode, the chitons just fabricate some new ones.

Obviously, our Creator God made these amazing creatures and their eyes.

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It is a long and tedious process to clean these little guys. And they are SO chewy. Think about trying to chew one of those pencil topper erasers. It took us a couple of hours on Saturday night to prepare the first batch. Sunday we went a little bit more quickly with the second batch. And some seluk had been thrown in the bag as a bonus!

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We shared some of the hote hote with Matthew as a thank you for all of his faithful hard work while he's been staying in Marulaon. But we ate the rest for supper. Cooked in coconut milk and curry and mixed with unripe papaya, it was a tropical treat.

Friday, May 20

Yesterday afternoon, Katherine asked if she could stay out later than usual to help her friend, Bernadine, fix a supper of cooking bananas while Bernadine's mom and dad were still in the garden. Bernadine doesn't have the use of her legs, so she scoots around yet manages to still be quite helpful to the family.

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I loved that my Katherine wanted to be a good friend and help out with the peeling, chopping, and fire making. Bernadine's cousins Sylvia and Jaden were in the kitchen, too. When I walked down to check on the kitchen crew, I found lots of smiles.

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God knew that Aaron and I both desperately needed an “introvert day.” We woke up to sustained straight line winds and spits of rain. I sat on the porch holding my coffee and Bible, watching a thin little stream of water going into each rain tank, and enjoying being a little bit cool! All morning long, the weather was rough, but Aaron and I slowly refilled a little bit as we quietly went about our work.

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Benjamin checked the tanks for us so we could see how much rain accumulated in the tanks. Once again, we have our “daily rain.”

Thursday, May 19

Matthew has stayed in Marulaon waiting for transportation back to his own village. He's been going over to the church and working on his assigned portion of Matthew 13-19, and Aaron has been going over to work beside him.

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Often, people ask us how long we think the translation of a New Testament in Lavukaleve will take. After three days of hard work, Matthew is is still ploughing through a rough draft of chapter 13. Yesterday, while translating the parable of the wheat and the tares, Aaron gave Matthew a visual illustration with the seedlings that were growing closely together in containers on our porch.

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After lunch, Aaron turned from working with his mind to working with his hands. The men of the village worked together to sew up leaf shingles and finish the District Priest's kitchen.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Wednesday, May 18

We finally caught a rat using bananas in our trap. The trap is eleven inches long, and the rat filled up the cage. I'm glad it's not in our house anymore.
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Tuesday, May 17

Since Saturday, we've not been able to connect with UUPlus and none of our colleagues can hear us on the radio. It's discouraging not to be in touch with the outside world, but I'm thankful we have such great neighbors here in Marulaon! The little things, the “nits,” are beginning to add up: rats, not enough water, and now no communication. My wise friend and colleague, Roxanne, once wrote these encouraging words to me:

It's the low-level stress, the (seemingly) constantly being on the back foot, the almost-but-not-quite getting it that is emotionally - and honestly, physically as well - exhausting. I don't know any way around it other than acknowledging it and then finding a peace with it and forging ahead doing my best (whatever that best may be at any particular time and place) and resting in the sure love and acceptance of our God. Often enough, that allows me to relax and enjoy as much as I can, even laughing at myself over all my faux pas and miscues.

Monday, May 16

Yesterday, Aaron met with the new executive members of the translation committee. We are super excited about this gung-ho group that really want to see the Lavukal Bible translation project move forward. I hid behind some banana trees to get pictures so I wouldn't disturb them.

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This morning, Aaron attended the requiem for our neighbor who died last week. The kids and I stayed at home to continue plugging away at school. After the big breakfast that the family provided for the community and the visitors, Kiko brought our family's portion: parcels of pig, some fish, and a few pieces of lelenga. I felt really honored that the family would think about including us in the “take-out” baskets that they prepared to go home with everyone. Since one of the translators, Matthew, was the brother-in-law of the deceased, he was already planning to be in Marulaon. Ezekiel and Simon also paddled over, and 4/5 of the translation team worked hard all afternoon.

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These guys are great. Not only are they godly and hard-working, but they all have a good sense of humor, too. The translation office was supposed to be completed in 2014, yet the grassy area behind our house is still just a grassy area. So, the translation team decided they wanted a photo of them working in the “office.” When I asked them what food they wanted me to provide, they said they were willing to just have tea and banana cake. Nancy generously opened up her kitchen for the guys to rest and refuel after a grueling afternoon of trying to figure out how to say “descendent” while reviewing Matthew chapter one.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sunday, May 15

Sweet Sabbath

Sometimes our spiritual lives seem like they are mired in the marshes, far from the open waters. We struggle and seek answers that don't seem to come. We ask, “How much longer?” and hear only the echo of our words in response. We wonder if we will ever see change in ourselves, in our loved ones, or in a situation that seems hopeless.

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In those days of despair, the disciplines become important. Through simple obedience we find the strength to go on. And later, when we have come to the open waters, we can look back on the times of despair and realize that through them we have grown. Because of them we are able to take the next step in becoming all we are meant to be.

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The disciplines themselves don't change us. But our willingness to obey does. ~Dale Hanson Bourke Turn Toward the Wind: Embracing Change in Your Life

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Yesterday, Sarah sat underneath our house and learned how to weave her kimita into a beautiful and practical mat. The knowledge of how to make the mat is dying out as young girls simply go buy a mass produced, machine made mat from the store in Honiara. A group of young girls gathered to watch as I hung out clothes to dry. For seven hours, Sarah exercised great patience and discipline, often sitting by herself (good thing she is an introvert!) and only stopping for a quick lunch.

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Anybody that walked by our house expressed great admiration for Sarah's facility and diligence in weaving. Watching her, I was reminded that she possesses those qualities in great measure as she builds spiritual and physical disciplines into her life where nobody but the Lord can see as the roots grow deep.

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As you can see from the presence of a new post, the new equipment did solve communication problems! UUPlus is still cantankerous, as always, but radio communication is good again. Nothing is quite as exciting as an e-mail from Joanna after a lengthy silence.

They also got a great rain Sunday night their time! Yay! Please continue to pray for timely rain as the dry season is well under way.

Stay tuned for more new posts, and thanks for praying!

- Ann

Saturday, May 14

Death and drought are both unpleasant, but God is giving us opportunities to talk about Him in the midst of difficult times. Recently, I had a great visit with one of my friends here. She was questioning the most recent death in the village since the woman who died was only 61 years old. My friend wondered if the death was a result of sorcery. We talked about God's protection of those who love Him, but we also talked about God's sovereignty and how He can take what seems like a mistake and use it for His glory. Thinking about Suka's death reminded us to spend our time and energy on eternal things. My friend also had a chance to express some grief and loneliness over her own mom's death a few years ago.

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Then we discussed His provision of the water that the ground so desperately needs to grow crops. This morning, Aaron marked the water line on our two front tanks. When it is so dry, the ground is hard and the pickax bounces back when even the strongest of us try to dig heaps to plant cassava or kumara. The tradewinds are at least month early this year. While I love the cool breeze, I think about the inability to plant crops now and the hungry bellies that will have a hard time finding food in six months. And both of us pondered our reliance on God and His perfect timing that dovetails with His perfect knowledge of our situation. When I live in the village, I am so much more aware of my dependence on the Lord. When I fall back into the hustle and bustle and “easy” of life in America, I tend to forget just how much I need Him.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Communication Woes

Good morning, dear friends of the Choates!

I always assume that no e-mails from Joanna means that UUPlus is acting up. After not receiving an e-mail for over a week, I received word yesterday from the SITAG Director that communication is, indeed, a problem right now. But, it’s not just e-mail. Even radio communication is problematic. So, although Aaron has found occasional reception spots where he can use the cell phone to text or make a brief phone call, most communication between the Choates and the world outside Marulaon has been very challenging, to say the least.

New equipment will be on the way to them Sunday their time, so please pray that this will solve their communication issues!

And don’t stop praying for rain. We don’t know their water situation right now, but they always need a good balance of rain and sunshine, no matter what the circumstances.

Thanks for praying!


Friday, May 13, 2016

Thursday, May 12

We got a light rain all night long! But please keep praying for more rain for our area. Enough water came through the downspouts to raise the levels of each of our three rain tanks by at least a few inches. We feel like God gave us our "daily rain" instead of our daily bread. Because the rain was soft and lasted most of the night, the ground had a chance to absorb the much needed moisture, too. One of the things on our agenda today was for Eta to come and help work in the yard. She brought Skita with her, and because the ground was soft, we decided that today would be a good day to dig up dirt and carry it over to our house to prepare the canoe planters for some seedlings.

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While the kids and I did school, Skita and Eta weeded and prepared a small place for me to transplant delicate things like Chinese cabbage. They took small sticks of bamboo, pounded them into the ground, then wove pandanus leaves in and around the sticks to create a small barrier for little feet and animals that like to walk right through my fruits and veggies. I've had problems with rows of my slippery cabbage being knocked down because people walk right through, so hopefully this will create both a visual barrier and a physical barrier. Around 11, the kids took a break from school, and all of us went with pickax and bush knives in hand to dig and carry bags of dirt. We worked for about an hour before we had enough dirt. We were pretty grimy, gritty, and sweaty when we came home to cook lunch!

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After we cooked some popcorn for our friends, we took turns grating old coconut husks to toss in with the newly dug dirt in our raised bed. Sarah is really earning a name for herself for being a willing worker and for wanting to learn the Lavukal way of doing things. Benjamin is also earning a good name for himself as a willing worker and a very funny guy. Later in the day, I heard stories from my friend Sylvester about Benjamin. She came back from the garden just as he was carrying the last bag of dirt back to our house and they struck up a conversation. She kept going on and on about how willing he is. And when I was visiting yesterday afternoon with some of the ladies who had gathered at the deceased woman's house (there will be a large group there all week), I also heard about what a hard worker Sarah is as she made her kimita only a few feet away on the shore. I'm really proud of my kids and the choices they make. They are a huge part of the ministry here.

Wednesday, May 11

The last few days have been filled with little bits and pieces of much needed encouragement. With both rain tanks in front of our house empty now, I really appreciate the reminders that God is in control and that He a God who cares about me:

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-Sunday evening, while we waited for the translation committee meeting to finish, I waved flies away from the food and held this happy little boy. Hensy and Nancy's kids are always so sweet natured, and the most recent addition to their family just snuggled right into my shoulder.

-In my daily Bible readings, I've been working my way through Judges. Reading about real people like Gideon and Manoah makes me really grateful that God chose to include their stories. Both of those men needed a little extra encouragement and instruction, and both of those men chose to trust God and to believe that God would provide the wisdom and skill they needed to complete their tasks. That's exactly where I find myself this week - needing the strength, wisdom, and skill to do all that God has called me to do.

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-Sarah is moving ahead with weaving her kimita. I'm grateful for the other young ladies in the village who have befriended Sarah and are willing to patiently teach her. This afternoon, Sarah and Josa took each kimita and smoothed it against a piece of wood until the reed was smooth and flat and ready for the next step.

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-I'm encouraged that the translators got the go-ahead from the translation committee to add some new books to the translation work. The translation team also plans to get together next week for the peer review of the rough draft of Matthew 1-11. Here are the new assignments:

Ezekiel- Ruth
Simon- Jonah
Matthew- Matthew 12-19
Albert- Matthew 20-28
Aaron with the team- Peer review of Matthew, Jonah and Ruth
Aaron - exegetical checking of the reviewed drafts

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tuesday, May 10

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Katherine and I are reading a biography of George Muller for school. When we came across a passage in the book that described the small ways that so many people had helped support the orphanage, I couldn't help but think about all of the small (only in the world's eyes!) ways that people help support our ministry of Bible translation in the Solomon Islands. Whether you give your money, prayers, time, or words of encouragement, we want to say a huge thank you for the investment you make in our lives and in the lives of our neighbors here in the Russell Islands.

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From "George Muller: The Guardian of Bristol's Orphans":

George thanked the many hundreds of people who had helped make the orphanage a reality. Some, he pointed out, had helped in large ways, such as with the ton of coal that had been delivered to the house one day and the anonymous gift of one hundred pounds that had arrived the next day. But many of the gifts had been small, yet they meant just as much both to the person who had given them and to George, who told how a small boy who looked like he could have been an orphan himself knocked boldly on his door the day before, a shilling held tightly in hand.

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"This is for your girls," the boy said when George opened the door. "I found a ring, and when I returned it to the owner, she gave me a shilling for being so honest. Here it is." A women in Bristol sent George five shillings with a note saying she had gone to buy a new dress and deliberately chose the plainest one she could find rather than the more elaborate and expensive kind she normally purchased. The five shillings represented the money she had saved by purchasing the less expensive dress, and she wanted the orphanage to have it.

Marulaon Woman’s Daybook

Just for today...Monday, May 9

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On my bookshelf...Turn Toward the Wind: Embracing Change in Your Life by Dale Hanson Bourke

Outside my window...Sarah's kimita are just about dry. Her friend, Josa, said they can begin to weave the mat soon.

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I am hearing...wailing outside. An elderly woman died this morning. She had ten children and countless grandchildren, so the village will soon be full of mourners.

A heart of thankfulness...for the Lavukal translation committee meeting yesterday afternoon. It didn't follow my Western ideas of understanding how things should be done (surprise!), but the program has new momentum and some new leadership. I'm excited that two of the new officers are cousins from Marulaon - Leonard will be the new chairman and Kiko will be the new treasurer.

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Pondering these words..."If you have chosen to live a life of the Spirit, the winds will still blow. You will not be exempt because of status or power. You cannot beg God to spare you because you are not strong enough. The winds will help make you strong. They will blow and you will have to respond. If you choose to turn away, you will miss the chance to grow." ~Dale Hanson Bourke

Around the house...Leonard and Aaron are on the porch right now discussing the translation program. Our porch is a great place for a meeting!

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On my knees in prayer...for rain. We are heading into the dry season which usually lasts until September or October. We knew that tanks were getting low around the village, but we didn't realize just how low. The big 2000 gallon tank by the church is empty. The 1000 gallon tank in front of our house is almost empty, and the 600 gallon tank in front of our house still has some water. Those tanks we've been able to donate to Marulaon (because of generous donations) to add to the personal rain tanks scattered throughout the village. Our family's tank in the back is less than half full. Suddenly, we're into the "don't mop and don't wash sheets" mode.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Friday, May 6

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When we first started our journey of school at home, my goal was to give our young children more time with Aaron. He was in seminary and worked at a church half an hour away, to put Sarah in school all day would have given her very little time with her daddy. Homeschool meant the kids could work when Daddy was gone and enjoy his company when he was home.

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Fast forward to this year, and I have students in 11th, 10th, 7th, and 2nd grade who are close to finishing up their year of curriculum. Benjamin and Sarah finished their chemistry this week, and Benjamin couldn't wait to begin physics, so he has jumped ahead and began the course.

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What a joy it is to learn together at home, and the flexibility that homeschooling brings allows our whole family to participate in the ministry of Bible translation for the Lavukal. Our children get to attend community events and help wave flies away from the food. They play games in Lavukaleve, building relationships with the children that will be the generation that grows up with the Bible in their own language. Sarah is learning some of the traditional crafts and cooking skills from the ladies here. I'm so proud of my kids and the role they play in serving the people of the Russell Islands.

Wednesday, May 5

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Once again, we enjoyed a marvelous market. Our neighbors even brought some lelenga (cassava pudding) and fish. I finally got the name of that yellowy leaf that is supposed to be so good for new mamas. It is the same one that my friend, Jenny, knows from Makira. Called "geke" in Makira, it's "lelevio" in Lavukaleve. The ladies laughed at me because of all my questions about this leaf and its properties! I made a big pot of soup with the ingredients I bought at market, and we had plenty to share with one of the widows in our village.

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After school, Sarah went with some friends to gather kimita, a long slender reed with thorns on its edges. These reeds are used in weaving sleeping mats, and both Sarah and I have wanted to make one for a long time. They grow in rough places with lots of bugs, and my friends have always told me I couldn't come along. After a couple of hours, the girls had collected enough (six parcels, according to Sarah) kimita for one mat. They spent the next four hours laboriously taking the thorns off each reed.

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I watched the girls wrap a piece of fishing line around their thumb and first fingers and, starting at the base of the reed, slowly peel off the edge with the thorns. When Sarah finally got home, she placed the kimita under the house in preparation for sunning them tomorrow. They have to bleach and dry in the sun for a few days before they can be woven.

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I'm so proud of my Sarah!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Marulaon Woman's Daybook

Just for today...Monday, May 3

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From the learning rooms...Benjamin and Sarah finish up Chemistry and Olivia finished Pre-Algebra this week. I'm feeling a little bit too young to have kids this old.

A heart overflowing with thankfulness...for a good trip back on the Kosco yesterday. We got back to the house around 7:00 to a delicious supper of pizza that Aaron had prepared and kept warm for us. On the boat, we got to ride along with our friends Ruthie, Ruthie's daughter Bethany, and Ruthie's niece Wendy. The kids had a great time playing cards together.

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At one point, I had Bethany asleep on my lap. The wind must have been behind us, because we had no breeze at all even in the front of the ship. I was fanning her for all I was worth. Ruthie had noticed that Katherine looked a little sick and had gone over to the side of the ship. So sweet Ruthie took an umbrella to shade Katherine from the hot afternoon sun and rubbed Katherine's back until she felt less nauseous. I like how we all work together to make life just a little bit easier.

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On my bookshelf...Sarah and I should finish reading Hope Was Here sometime this week. I cherish the time spent every evening with each child, sharing books, visiting for a few minutes, and praying together to end the day.

Around the village...the kino are blooming. I never noticed before that we actually have a cutnut season, but every tree in the village is in full bloom. And my sinuses know it!

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Pondering these words..."Are you mourning over your weakness? Take courage! You must be conscious of weakness before the Lord gives you the victory. Your emptiness is the preparation for being filled with God's strength." ~Charles Spurgeon

A few plans for the rest of the week...the new Lavukal Translation Committee will meet next Sunday. Prayers appreciated!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Wild and Crazy

Last Tuesday, I looked at my amazing husband and pitched a wild and crazy idea.  The kids and I would make a quick trip into Honiara to see the amazing Coombe family and to celebrate with them the completion of the Gela New Testament after so many years of hard work, faithfulness, and sacrifice.  Part of the crazy was the fact that the boat was supposed to come on Tuesday night and part of the crazy was that SITAG housing was full due to the influx of visitors for the dedication.

Surprise!  Sarah greets Naomi at the airport with a hug.
Aaron supported me, his wife who had gone slightly off her rocker.  Maybe it was the heat that was getting to me.  Maybe it was the rat that we didn't seem to like the poison or the fish we left in the trap.  Sarah said the rat was vegetarian because he loved to eat the pumpkin seeds I left out or the tomatoes that were sitting on the cabinet overnight.  Whatever it was, we stayed up late Tuesday night, cooking ahead and preparing shopping lists and talking on the radio with our amazing SITAG colleagues who made a way for us to have comfy beds on which to lay our heads when we arrived.

SITAG's truck about to drive off to the wharf to load the Gela New Testaments onto the boat

And it's been a whirlwind few days.  The ship was much later than anticipated, but that gave us a day trip instead of an overnight trip.  Our SITAG colleagues flexed and picked us up late Wednesday night and even brought us some fresh food from one of the roadside stands.  We got to surprise Naomi at the airport and holler and hug necks when the team of visitors arrived.  I was able to do some shopping in Honiara to get a few of the things we had forgotten in the hustle and bustle of leaving for the village.  The kids and I got to work in the ERC alongside an amazingly organized colleague who is getting our library into shape.  And I fought UUPlus from this side (again with knowledgeable colleagues by my side), singing out on the radio and trying to encourage the teams in the village as we all spent hours just trying to connect with the outside world.

"See-you-laters" We love this sweet couple so much!

And now the whirlwind is about to slow down.  In the morning, a huge group of people will leave on a ship bound for Gela to celebrate God's grace in bringing His word to people in their heart language.  And my own children and I will once again get on the trusty Kosco and head back to Aaron in Marulaon Village where we are working toward getting scripture translated into Lavukaleve.  Some day, we will be the ones hosting friends and family as we celebrate a New Testament dedication.  Until then, we are faithful with our two loaves and five fish as we offer up the little we possess to the Lord.

Marulaon Woman's Daybook

Just for today...Monday, April 25

From the kitchen...leftover pizza from yesterday.  Sunday lunch in the village is always homemade pizza, this week with some of our precious pepperoni.

Around the village...Sarah has been learning how to weave different kinds of baskets from Leku.  Now we don't have to ask for other people to make them for us when we need a container to hold yard waste or to transport lots of pineapples.

From the learning rooms...Katherine is learning about light and mirrors and magnifying glasses.  She had fun playing with the mirrors, and Benjamin had fun scorching things with our bright sun coming through the magnifying glass.

Pondering these words..."Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair."  ~G.K. Chesterton

Outside my window...the red papaya seeds are finally sprouting and growing like crazy after two weeks of sitting quietly in the soil.

A few plans for the rest of the week...Aaron is gearing up for a translation awareness tour this weekend to remind each village that they need to elect new translation committee members to come to Marulaon for the May 8 meeting.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Sweet Sabbath

Sunday, April 24
"From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth - he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.  No kind is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.  A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save."  Psalm 33:13-17

I love Sunday afternoons.  They are a true Sabbath in the village.  It's the one time during the week when work ceases, people sit around and visit, kids play.  I need that time to help recuperate from a week full of giving completely the little energy that I have.  Little Rube (pronounced Roo-bay) was born the night my parents arrived for a visit in 2010.  He's a spunky guy.

I enjoyed a Sunday afternoon visit with Rube's grandparents, Ofoaen and David.  They were so sweet to sit and chat for a while.  I love their sweet and quiet spirits. 

"Every day now, I pray that God will multiply my feeble efforts in each area of responsibility to meet the needs of others.  I look to Him to see what He wants me to be involved in, and as I do all I can in each area, minimal though it might be, I can expect Him to multiply my efforts to the blessing of others.  I would find live very overwhelming if I didn't know we serve a powerful and gracious God at work.  This relieves a lot of pressure, for He can maximize our minimal efforts for His glory and the blessing of others." 

~Sue Eenigenburg & Robynn Bliss,
"Expectations and Burnout:  Women Surviving the Great Commission"

After a while, I moseyed on over to where our kids were playing.  Olivia quickly earned the name "vavatula", little mother.  She has this sophoric effect on little ones.  They love to snuggle up with her and drop off to sleep.

The other three enjoyed running around playing the village version of ultimate Frisbee for hours while I sat underneath the house visiting with the grownups and holding one of the twins who has increased the bay boy explosion here.  You know it's a successful afternoon when you get peed on, because it means your lap has been full of sweet baby goodness!

Saturday, April 23

From Aaron: 

On Saturday members of the Lavukal Bible Translation Committee met in Marulaon village. This was the first meeting in about a year. One sobering aspect of our work in the project is that much of the work stops when we are gone. This, we hope, is a reality that will change in time. Our goal is to train the Lavukal people to develop the capacity to take on the various responsibilities for all aspects of the Translation work. 

The primary purpose for this meeting was to put into effect term limits which the committee had discussed at earlier meetings.  Aaron was nervous about this part of the meeting, but the move was welcomed by all. The group showed overall attitudes that gave Aaron hope that the next committee would serve with renewed effort to working hard for the next term. Some communities have already selected their new committee members for the next 3 year term. Please pray for the next committee as they seek to hit the ground running with fundraising and some major decisions at their first meeting on 8 May 2016.

Saturday, April 16

I think this post got lost somewhere between Marulaon and my thoughtful (and busy!) friend, Ann, who keeps the blog up and running while we are away from the world of the internet.
Saturday, April 16
Market was absolutely amazing this morning. I try to explain just how much those fresh fruits and veggies mean to the health and stamina of our family. Our situation is unusual for most SITAG teams. Most village teams don't have the bounty that we experience twice a week.

Shortly after market, Hiva showed up to meet with Aaron under the house. I took down some tea and a ring cake (donut) I had just bought at market. They talked about the Lavukal translation for quite a while and arranged a quick paddle over to Karumulun to visit with Ezekiel. A few minutes after Hiva left, Leonard came by. He and Aaron arranged for the payment of some timber and the construction of a new set of steps leading up to our house. The old set is falling apart and beginning to be dangerous. The work should begin on Monday and Benjamin is supposed to be helping. Yipee! Boys began bringing timber and dropping it in front of our house while I hung out laundry.

Aaron and Hiva paddled over to visit with Ezekiel and to take some material over to his wife Janet as a thank you for all of the work she did on Aitum Ovovo. They had a great visit and discovered that there will be a church wedding (distinct from a custom ceremony) in Karumulun next Friday. Whenever there has been a wedding, we've always been in Honiara or America, so we're super excited about the opportunity to attend and observe. So Aaron's Saturday morning was filled with more “work” related activities than yesterday morning, but here it all runs together anyway.

After lunch, Sarah and I delivered our first batch of banana cake to our neighbors. The village continues to grow, so we have to get started fast if we want to make it all the way around the village with a plate of banana cake for each house. Then I walked down to see who was around and to check on the rest of the kids who were swimming. As I went down the hill from our house, I asked Naris about this yellow leaf Sylvester had told me about. You cook the leaf just like any leafy green, and it supposed to help a new mama make enough milk for her baby. This was a new story for both Naris and me, so I wonder if this is a custom from Makira, where Sylvester is from.

I walked along the shore and found my friend, Daisy. Her family was making lelenga (after all, it's the Saturday afternoon thing to do!). They were draining the extra liquid from their uvikola (cassava) by hanging it in a basket made from a coconut branch. Daisy has a new grandson who let me hold him while we chatted. He is cutie! Because he was born during the effects of El Nino, his uncle chose the name Elni for him.

After a good chat with Daisy, I kept walking along the shore and finally came around the end of our island where our kids were playing. Sarah was playing cards with some of the girls, and the younger three kids were swimming in the most beautiful swimming pool you can imagine: the ocean.

I'm grateful that the people in the Russells, particularly those who live here in Marulaon Village, allow us to live and work among them. I'm sure they don't always understand us or our ways. But God is using our time here to make us more and more like Him. Obviously, we want the Lavukaleve translation to move quickly and smoothly so our friends here can read God's Word in their own language and truly understand it. 

I love listening to Aaron share about the translation team as they grapple with the concepts they are translating. He is finally getting to disciple and teach, strengths of my dear husband. But no matter how much work Aaron and the translators produce on paper, I think the bigger work is being done in each of our hearts as we're shaped by our time living and working here.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

In real time...

The kids and I arrived late Wednesday night in Honiara after an all-day ride on the Kosco.  Aaron stayed in Marulaon to work while the rest of us came in to hug some necks.  The precious Coombe family (especially their Naomi, who feels like part of our family), along with lots of their family and friends, will be celebrating the Gela New Testament this coming Sunday.  We just couldn't stand sitting in Marulaon with this bunch so close.  Our SITAG family has been amazing, rearranging housing and helping us with this unexpected trip.  We'll turn around and go right back out on Sunday morning, but in the meantime, we'll be enjoying ice cream, ceiling fans, and internet (not necessarily in that order!).  So please look back for pictures from the last two weeks...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Friday, April 22

We walked down the hill to Janet and Leonard's house just a few minutes after six o'clock this morning. Janet's nephew is the groom today! Soon we were gliding across a very calm sea watching the sun come up on our way to Karumalun.
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We were the first wave of people to arrive. Janet's family members were making pretty wreaths with young coconut leaves and frangipani flowers. My sweet Sarah jumped in to help right away.

From Marulaon, we had heard the first round of bells - the wake up bells - ring at six o'clock. At 6:30 two bells rang to tell everybody to go bathe and get dressed for church. Our family visited with Janet's family while we waited for the final bell to ring signal that it was time to actually go to church.
Some of the groom’s relatives were frying fish for the wedding feast.
The smell made my tummy growl, even though our family had eaten breakfast before we came.
The bell rang and the drum finally sounded around 7:00, so our family walked over to the church in the middle of this beautiful village. We got settled in the church, the girls and I found a spot on the left in the middle with the ladies while Benjamin and Aaron got shooed up to the front where the special people were sitting.
I was right next to the window so I could watch the bridal party getting ready just outside the church. Watching the bride get her veil tweaked while the pretty little “flower girl” stood close by reminded me of weddings back in my passport culture. The church wedding offered no surprises, and I did love when the priest tied the bride and groom's hands together with the sash he was wearing. Such a beautiful picture of marriage.
After the service, we sang and danced the bride and groom over to a shaded area where a breakfast of tea and donuts had been prepared for guests. The bride and groom looked somber, so I asked Kiko why they had long faces. She told me that it was their custom to look sad because you are leaving your families. Sarah always attracts lots of little ones, and it didn't take long before she had a crowd trying to hold her hands and follow her every move.

Two of the little girls soon grabbed my hands and we set off to tour the village. I'm familiar with this sweet village, but I asked the girls anyway, “Hassa otail vasia?” Where is Ezekiel Hassa's house? They led me to a part of the island I had never seen before, and before too long, I was staring at a pig pen. So I tried another tactic, “Ami ofoe?” Whose pig? It was Hassa's pig! Strike two. “Hassa otua otail vasia?” Where is Ezekiel Hassa's wife's house? They pointed to the other pig pen nearby. It was her pig. So much for communicating well!

We headed off to where I KNEW their house was located, but when we arrived, I was told Janet had already gone back to the public meeting place. So we turned around to go back. But not before I noticed just how beautifully God created our little corner of the world.
As we rounded a kitchen, I heard one of the ladies holler, “Vava Joanna!”, so I turned the corner to go inside. I did my very best to communicate in Lavukaleve when they asked me who made my necklace. Usually I can hear and understand the gist of what people are saying, but rarely can I put together a properly formed sentence to respond.

The ladies were kind and patient. One of them asked me if I had forgotten how to speak language. It was easiest to just say yes!
My tour guides and I made it back to the public area just in time to see the first waves of food come out. The ladies began sorting through the bowls and bowls of cassava pudding, fish, cassava, and pieces of pig.
Two big tables were set up for the feasting: coconut leaves set on top of boards for the “little people” and blue clothes set on top of tables for the “big men.” This concept is still very difficult for me to accept.

Our family is almost always at the “big men” table, which seems so wrong to my American brain trained to espouse equality. But this system works here, and today it was easier for me to think in terms of a wedding with its head table for the special guests.

Along with the other children, our amazing Choatelets helped guard the “little people” table from the flies that really wanted to get at all that delicious food.

Meanwhile, I was waving the flies away from the “big man” table which was quickly piled high with plates full of rice.

When they ran out of plates to fill, then the platters of fish and pork began to come out.

I watched my friends carefully spoon out a little bit of this pork soup or this cassava pudding onto each plate. When every plate was ready and every person was in place, the blessing was said and we all sat down to an amazing feast. The Lavukal know how to cook!
After the feasting we had yet another long wait. Olivia and her friends dug up lots and lots of tiny “silat” until somebody told them that these little shellfish were under the current seafood ban. Katherine and her friends wove small balls from coconut leaves to help pass the time.
Finally, we heard singing coming from the end of the village where the groom's family lives. All of the women on his side of the family were bringing the new bride and groom for the custom part of the wedding celebrations. The couple had changed from their Western attire, appropriate for the church wedding, to their custom clothes, appropriate for the next part of the festivities.

As soon as the couple was settled, the singing and dancing started up again, this time with male voices. The groom's side of the family came bearing gifts and joyfully singing and swaying.
As each person came bearing their gifts, they paused to shake hands with the bride and groom and to leave their gifts on the table.

Except for the big beautiful canoe. That stayed on the ground when it was given.
Before the groom's side had finished giving gifts, we could hear the bride's side begin to sing. It was like a battle of the bands!
After all of the gifts were given, the speeches began. Aaron was next to last. He did a great job briefly encouraging the groom that “he who finds a wife finds a good thing.”

We finally headed home just before 4:00. I think we've all learned how to gauge our liquid intake so we don't need to use the "beach bathrooms" on day trips, yet not drink so little that we get dehydrated. Therefore, we had a rush for the bathroom when we got home just before radio sched with SITAG.