Saturday, October 18, 2014


This cloudy Saturday found Sarah and me busy in the kitchen cooking tons of granola (okay, really only two gallons) to take out to Marulaon.  This trip will be shorter than most, only about eight weeks.  We also made banana bread and cookies to share, and I worked on supper prep as well.  But all of this cooking got me thinking about community.
Quite often, I run out of ingredients.  In the last few days, I've had to borrow garlic, soy sauce, and eggs from my sweet neighbors.  But thankfully, it's a two way street.  I loaned out yeast and onions today.  Part of the joy of living at SITAG is the sense of community it provides for our family.  One of my colleagues dropped by with a cantaloupe she picked up at market because she knows I love cantaloupe.  (They remind me of my grandparents who still keep a garden at their home on Lake Conway.)  And tonight, another colleague mentioned that she had seen a 20kg bag of onions for sale because she knew that we were looking for a big bag to take out to the village.  Aaron promptly went out and bought the onions!

Obviously, our SITAG community is built in.  We desperately need each other if we are going to survive and thrive here.  But back in our passport culture, it's very easy to live independent lives, never even meeting our neighbors much less going to borrow an egg from them.  We struggled on furlough as we tried to create community, be involved in other people's lives, and encourage people to drop by our house.
My friend, Gayly, sends me the Urban Farm magazine.  I think it's my new favorite.  In the May/June edition, the magazine ran an article about living in intentional community.  For most people I know, that concept would immediately be labeled "weird".  But it's a Biblical concept!  Loving your neighbor as yourself.  God made us all different, and you may not want to go buy a house with three of your best friends and their families. 
Our family likes to cook.  So, for us, building community looks like taking cookies and thank you notes to fire fighters or the dentist or church staff when we are back in the States, and here we take banana muffins to the district priest and the catechists in the village.  I have a friend in Mississippi who is gifted artistically, and she shares her skills to bless people with art lessons for children or with a keepsake for our children's librarian.
But might you be willing to use whatever gifts God has given you to interact with your neighbors?  Could you adopt a widow?  Volunteer at a food pantry or crisis pregnancy shelter?  Run in a race that is fundraising for a good cause?  I'm curious, what does look like for you?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Odds & Ends

Yesterday, we said goodbye to a volunteer from Australia.  She's been helping out SITAG for almost five months, doing whatever little things have fallen through the cracks and giving her time and energy to be a good "Auntie" to all of the SITAG kids.  She'll be missed!
In August, she also helped us build a small raised bed to plant our Chinese cabbage, tomatoes, and buna, a leafy green that has become one of our favorites.  We've been trying to use up the Chinese cabbage because it's getting old and because we are leaving next week.  One newly discovered recipe is brown rice, chicken, and cilantro salad, but we tweak the recipe by adding a lot more Chinese cabbage than the recipe calls for.

And this is sweet Betsy.  Betsy is a "house girl" at SITAG.  She keeps the group's houses in great shape with her servant spirit, no matter who is coming and going throughout the year.  She and the other employees are a trustworthy constant at SITAG, and we are so thankful for them.  Earlier this week, Aaron was down at the wharf picking up a colleague, and I saw a strange guy walking around behind our house.  I went to find one of the employees to ask if SITAG had any visitors.  As soon as I told Patson and Silas that I didn't recognize a man walking around SITAG, they dropped the lumber they were carrying and were off like a shot up the hill.  Happy ending - the guy was from the Solomon Islands Water Association and was just checking meters.  But he had zero identification, so nobody knew that he was "official".  Patson and Silas both got cinnamon rolls the next morning as a "thank you" for going above and beyond their job descriptions.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The SITAG directors returned today!
So we all showed up to welcome them back.  Aaron has done a fabulous job holding down the fort in their absence, but now he gets to turn his attention back to being a translation advisor and preparing to go back to Marulaon. 
One of our colleagues had the bright idea to make signs saying, "Welcome back to the zoo!"  Very appropriate indeed.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Honiara Woman's Daybook


Just for today...Monday, October 13
On my bookshelf..."In Search of the Lost:  The Death and Life of Seven Peacemakers of the Melanesian Brotherhood" by Richard Carter.  A really good peek inside the culture of the Solomon Islands and the tension that existed in the country in the first years of the 21st century.  Also relevant to our ministry because we serve among the Church of Melanesia.  It's hard to believe that these events happened in 2003.
One of my favorite hairdos that make me smile all day long.
A heart overflowing with thankfulness...for this trio of girls, my "pineapple princesses".
Crafting in the kitchen...we tried gingerbread oatmeal in the crockpot last night.  I think it needs a little bit more milk for a good consistency and some raisins for flavor, but it was a great way to start our Monday.  I love being able to use the crockpot when we are in Honiara!

One of my favorite things...The rich history we have here in the Solomon Islands.  This weekend marked the anniversary of the Battle of Cape Esperance.  That's where we live - the top corner of the Russell Islands.
Pondering these words..."The theme is everywhere in Scripture.  The wise person lives for what cannot be seen.  the fool lives to build another barn to store away what is perishing and useless in the world to come.  The wise person longs for spiritual blessing, the fool craves physical reward.  The wise person looks to eternity, the fool lives for the moment."  ~Paul David Tripp
A peek into my corner of the world...this amazing man has kept so many balls juggling in the last week.  Holding down three office jobs and still packing for the village while he continues to be a fabulous daddy and husband, I've never met anyone with more of a servant's heart.  But I won't be disappointed when he hands those office jobs back this week and can be just the Lavukal Translation Advisor again!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Fun

After school and after Aaron had payroll ready for SITAG employees, we all piled in the car for a quick bite of lunch (and a check of the sale racks at a Western grocery store - score on outdated orange juice and some outdated ice cream toppings!). 
Then we hustled to the airport and arrived just as the Solomon Airlines flight was taxiing up to its parking spot.  We were excited to welcome a new friend to Honiara today.

She must be either crazy or absolutely wonderful to fly all of the way from Germany to the Solomon Islands to volunteer her time and energy for two months to help in the office while SITAG is shorthanded.

On the way home, we noticed the clouds gathering and racing from West to East.  That means they were coming from the direction of our village!  As we pulled in the driveway, Savo began to get rain, and before too long, we were experiencing sweet, cool rain, too.

And rain always means a perfect evening for a sleepover, right?  We traded Benjamin for two girls and an "auntie" and enjoyed cucumber masks, banana splits, a movie, and lots of giggles to end a really fun Friday.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sunset over Honiara

"From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.  The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens."  Psalm 113:3,4

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Lunar Eclipse

The Choate household stayed up late to watch the lunar eclipse tonight.
God's creation amazes me. 

And sharing His wonders with friends makes everything more special.

No matter if those friends are close by or far away.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Honiara Woman's Daybook

Just for today...Tuesday, October 7
On my bookshelf..."Food in History" by Reay Tannahill
From the learning rooms...Week 14 of our curriculum finds Sarah and Benjamin reading "Pilgrim's Progress" and learning about the spread of the Reformation while Sarah is tackling imaginary and complex numbers in Algebra 2 and Benjamin is learning about quadratic equations in Algebra 1.  Olivia is studying Southeast Asia and "fractions in the real world".  And Katherine is learning her "two times tables" while reading about birds in science.
One of my favorite things...trying new recipes.  Like the buttermilk cranberry scones that Sarah made.
And the flavored honey from my Mama that makes tea taste so very nice.
A heart overflowing with thankfulness...for friends who send beautiful plates with life-giving scripture.  Physical and spiritual food at the same time?  Can't beat it.

Crafting in the I worked in the Educational Resource Center for several hours, so supper was chicken in the crockpot.  Honiara recently got a shipment of carrots (made me so very, very happy!), so we peeled carrots and potatoes ahead of time and let them hang out in a bowl of water until it was time for them to join the chicken.  But last night, we enjoyed calzones (one veggie, one ham and pineapple) for supper.  We are entering the "last hurrah" phase of cooking as we finish up our time in Honiara and preparing for the rationing of food in Marulaon.
Pondering these words..."Every element commercial food system supports a shortsighted emphasis on low-price, high-volume production -- no matter the quality or ultimate cost....Refocusing our food dollars on local, sustainable farms may not always be cheap in the short term, but it's smart in the long term."  ~Amy Cotler
There's a lot to unpack in this quote, but two things really jumped out at me.  1) The concept of reaping and sowing, short term vs. long term, and 2) being a good steward of what God has given us.  If we truly believe that God made us and He gave us His beautiful creation to use and enjoy, then we will tend carefully our bodies and the earth.  Stewardship won't look the same for each one of us because God made us each unique, but I want to do the very best I can with what I have.  Anybody else want to chime in on this?
A peek into my corner of the in the hammock.  Yet another reason why I love school at home!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Village E-mail

SITAG's village radio/e-mail system, UUPlus, isn't working.  The "brain" of the system lives in Honiara.  SITAG is a tiny branch, currently only two teams are village based and need this technology. 

But we are one of those teams.  And the thought of having no contact with family and friends, and only radio contact with SITAG, makes me sad.  Staying in touch with people I love brings me great joy and encouragement, and I enjoy being able to update the blog through e-mail while we are in Marulaon.

So, would any of you be willing to pray that the situation would be resolved?  I don't know what God has in mind - fixing the current system, providing a better system, teaching us to rely more on Him because we don't have e-mail, or something totally different.  But He knows!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sweet Sabbath

"Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God."  2 Corinthians 9:10-11

A few ways that God is "increasing my supply" today:

-enjoying a lovely lemon loaf Sarah made with lemons from a friend
-listening to sermon series on parenting (but good for the whole family!) by Chuck Swindoll
-discovering that Solomon Islands' cacao beans are being turned into some amazing chocolate

-soft, life-giving rain that has been falling all afternoon

Friday, October 3, 2014

Selwyn College Graduation

Last year, we found out about this special day at the last minute, but this year, we discovered the graduation date well in advance,

and we made plans to drive the 50 kilometers out to the end of Guadalcanal so we could support two students from Marulaon Village. 

Isn't Harris a cutie?  She took so many prizes!  Each grade gives a prize for the top three scores in each subject.  Harris placed 1st or 2nd in most subjects.  She earned the overall highest GPA for Form 3, and she also won the "Dux Prize" (the highest GPA for Forms 1, 2, & 3 combined).
Can't wait to see how God uses her!
The other student is Chief Leonard and Janet's son, Jerald.  He just finished Form 7, the highest grade possible in the Solomon Island's schools.  Very few students go that far in school.
Janet brought Lolikia, her youngest, to cheer on Jerald.  I think "Loli" has forgotten me since I've been in Honiara so long.  I never could get her to smile or come to me.  Even my girls couldn't tempt her away from her mama.
The graduation ceremonies began at 8:30, and between speeches and prizes, didn't finish until around 3:00.  In between sections, groups of students from each province in the Solomon Islands preformed traditional dances to give everybody a chance to stand up and stretch.
We are super proud of these two students, and we're thankful that we were able to go and support our language group and build relationships at something as simple as a high school graduation.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Happy Birthday, Aaron!

Aaron took over as SITAG's director, operations manager, and administrative assistant today.  Three full-time jobs.  On his birthday.  So, his celebration has been very low-key.  But he requested his favorite no-bake chocolate oatmeal cookies for his "birthday cake".

He is a rock for everybody here at SITAG.  A true shelter from the stresses that cross-cultural living brings.  "Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land."  Isaiah 32:2

And for his birthday entertainment?  Aaron chose to watch Funny Face with the family tonight.

The kids decided they each needed to make a "funny face" in their Daddy's honor.