Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Advent Weekend Wonders

"Let this Christmas season be a renewing of the mind of Christ in our thinking, and a cleansing of our lives by His pure presence. Let His joy come to our weary world through us."
~Gerald Kennedy

 

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This quote struck me as it linked together renewing our minds and cleansing our lives with the result of Christ's joy in us overflowing and spilling onto those around us. I love watching my kids blossom. Sarah is the perfect example of this quote, a blessing to all of us who share space with her, and a reminder to constantly seek these truths.

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Sunday morning, we woke up to find a HUGE green bug on the arm of my rocking chair. God's creation is so very amazing. One of the things we heard over and over again when we were visiting with the LEMCO investors was that we live in "paradise." Our surroundings are gorgeous and continually shout the handiwork of the Creator.

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Baby Samuel was born during our last trip to the village, and I spent much time in praying for him and his sickly start. Now he has grown into a healthy little boy who smiles often and spends a lot of time snuggled up next to his grandmother, my friend Ofoaen. I'm so grateful.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Friday, December

"In [God's] kingdom, love lays down its right to safety. To privacy. This love is willing to be inconvenienced and interrupted....This love loves neighbor as it loves itself."
~Christie Purifoy "Roots and Sky"

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I've had a hard week. Every day, it seems that my American culture has head butted against my Solomon Island culture. I haven't wanted to give up my concept of time or "be inconvenienced or interrupted." My kids excel at loving their neighbors well. I prefer to cling to routine and the safety it provides.

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Aaron came back home late this morning after a week of working with the translation team. They've finished peer reviewing Matthew 1-4. Aaron just jumped right in to a big community event with the rest of us. We've had some overseas investors here for the last few days, so we've had extra cooking and village activities. With our finished kitchen, we even got to make a tray of lelenga/cassava pudding! I'm so proud of my introvert husband, he was quickly down at the bottom of the hill, chatting away with two of our friends about translation and God's work in the Russell Islands.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tuesday, November 28

Leonard was at our door yesterday at 8:00 getting all of the instructions for the transportation of the translation team to Nono Village. It was late morning by the time Simon had been collected and Leonard was back for Aaron. Just as Aaron was leaving, our friends Leku and Ruthie unexpectedly showed up to finish sewing up the leaves for our kitchen.

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Many hands really do make light work. Aaron had been working to make leaf panels all last week, but with just a few sets of extra hands, the panels were finished in a few hours. We shared our lunch (soup made with curry, coconut cream, pumpkin leaves, and local potatoes) as a small thank you and took a lunch break to help a little bit.

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I tried to explain that we needed to read a book for school that was a book from England (Dickens' "Great Expectations") and that we had a recording to listen to, instead of me reading. The woman on the recording was from England, so they wouldn't be surprised when they heard somebody else in our house.

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As soon as school was finished, we all went out to help again. So many little kids came and played on the beams in our kitchen that I was reminded of a jungle gym. Who needs fancy playground equipment when you can turn somersaults in the kitchen?

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I popped back in the house for radio sched and started Olivia and Katherine through the showers while Sarah and Benjamin finished the last few panels outside. Thankfully, the bell for evening prayer was much later than usual. We never know if it's going to ring at 5:00 or 6:00 or somewhere in between.

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Our friends finished the kitchen in time for everybody to get cleaned up and head to church. We can't wait to show Aaron the finished kitchen when he gets back on Friday!

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Advent Weekend Wonders

Lord Jesus, Master of both the Light and the darkness, send Your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day. We who are anxious about many things look forward to Your coming among us. We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of Your kingdom. We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence. We are Your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To You we say, "COME, LORD JESUS!"  ~Henri J. M. Nouwen

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-Putting up the Christmas tree always delivers delight. Especially when the teenagers get to laughing and being goofy together. We're thankful for the coolness that this rainy weekend brought, even under the heavy rain warning and the lack of solar power to charge our batteries.

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-This time of year makes me miss family, but I've been harboring a little tucked away secret all year long. My aunt makes delicate ornaments cut from white paper, and at the beginning of this year, just before we left America to return to the Solomon Islands, she slipped me a little packet of her handmade ornaments. I've had them paper clipped in my planner all year long, just waiting for the beginning of Advent. What a sweet reminder of far away family.

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-While it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas inside our house, outside, one of the tribes is finishing up a big meeting. Complete with pigs. This is the second tribe to meet in Marulaon this week. And two nights this week, I've awaken to the smell of bar-b-que making me hungry.

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-December also means that it's pineapple season. Before we arrived on this side of the world, I never knew pineapples were so beautiful, with their tiny purple flowers and streaks of red running up their spiky leaves.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Friday, November 25

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We celebrated Thanksgiving today. Heavy rain all day long made it easy to stay inside and celebrate. We made room for a whole chicken when we came out to Marulaon, and when it came time to eat our Thanksgiving Chicken, Aaron used our special carving set that was a Christmas present many years ago from his Great Aunt Mary.

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I think family and traditions always grow more precious as you get older, and because we are so very isolated from our friends and family, I especially appreciate the memories of those sweet people. Our table was bountifully full with good food in pretty blue bowls given to me by my MIL years ago.

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Old handwritten recipes guided us, giving us extra reasons to be grateful for the people who took the time to write down culinary memories. After lunch, the kids took turns whipping the cream to top our pumpkin pie.

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It's funny how little things make the day feel "normal". One of our colleague gave us a DVD of an accidentally recorded football game. Not even a whole football game. Just one hour.

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But watching that game together while we enjoyed the delicious pie? That is what made the day feel like Thanksgiving!

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My favorite part of Thanksgiving is watching our thankful turkey grow. Mr. Turkey is certainly not Pinterest worthy, but he is a simple act of choosing thankfulness, sometimes in difficult situations. We keep the feathers from year to year and look back at preschool handwriting marking the germination of a thankful heart.

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Some of my favorite feathers this year: Sonlight (our school curriculum), the "first things" box (when we move, we always have a box that contains the most important things - like toilet paper and food), coconut scrapers, being a 3rd culture kid.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thursday, November 24

We normally wait to celebrate Thanksgiving until Friday here, then we feel a little bit more connected to our family and friends in America.

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Sarah had some definite ideas about what our Thanksgiving meal would look like here in the village. Mostly, it would look like an abundance of dessert: pumpkin, apple, and pecan pies.

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Around 4:00, Benjamin came in asking me to go take some children's ibuprofen to one of our little friends who has been running a high, cyclical fever. We think she has malaria. I promised to be back in four hours to give her another dose.

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While Sarah and I cooked in the inside the kitchen, underneath the house, Aaron and Olivia were sewing up leaves to make the walls of our outside kitchen. None of us are as fast as our neighbors, but I'm really proud of my husband for the local skills he is honing.

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I took more meds to our sweet, sick friend at 8:00. Her mama still hadn't taken her to the clinic, and I begged her to go first thing in the morning. Her family was doing their best to secure a motor canoe, and I offered our dugout canoe if they wanted to paddle over to the clinic.

Wednesday, November 23

The village is full of people. The largest tribe in our language group is meeting in Marulaon this week, and Aaron sat in on their meetings for most of the day today. His anthropologist-linguistic self took notes and enjoyed tracing the different family lines of the people we love so well. The catechists are meeting in another village this week, so Aaron, the Bible-loving-teacher, walked the four miles to spend the day with them on Monday. I love the different sides of my husband and the ways he gets to use the gifts God has given him.

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One of my favorite things is walking around the village and watching how much the children have grown. My little buddy Mosta (aka "Text") pulled on my camera and begged for me to take his picture while I chatted with his grandmother, Margaret, the other day. My friends here all have grandchildren.

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Margaret also has a kitten. She tried to get us to take it home when she found out about our rat problem, but Katherine was content just to cuddle. And I was content to leave the kitten in Margaret's home.

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Not all of the little ones love having their picture made. This is Muna. Last week, she greeted me with a running hug and a big grin. When I had my camera handy the other day, she only frowned. Very much on purpose. She is still a spunky girl, and I love hanging out with her and her family.

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Inside our home, Olivia has been working on a science experiment this week using chicken bouillon dissolved in water. One glass was the control, one had vinegar added, one glass stayed in the fridge, and the last one had salt added. Things grow here even when we don't want them to, and we wanted her science experiment to grow. It was wildly successful.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Saturday, November 19

We've fallen back into the routine of village life again. School and language project work through the early afternoon, then we each fan out into the community. The kids usually go out to play with their friends. One day this week Sarah walked out to our garden and came back with four beautiful pineapples, and another day Aaron and I walked to the garden to weed and plant green beans and pumpkins.

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Leku came over one afternoon to help out our struggling watermelon patch. She had noticed that we have vines and flowers like crazy, but no fruit. So, she and her sister poked a stick through the base of each vine and pruned the tips of each vine, too. Leku promised that it works every time for their watermelons, and since the seeds I planted are from her watermelons, I think we'll give it a try and see what happens!

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Yesterday afternoon, I set out to do some specific language learning on comparatives. When I was at market on Wednesday morning, I realized I didn't know how to say "the smallest pineapple" or the "ripest papaya." I set out with some pieces of orange card stock that I had cut in various lengths and widths. In both places where I stopped for "school," my friends had trouble comparing more than two things. When the suffix "-ril" is added to an adjective it means something like "less than." So "bakeilaril" means "a little less big," "sosonaril" means "a little less long," and "kasakasaril" means "a little less thin." On the way home, I came across these two sisters sitting on a bench. They were kind to let me take their picture. As some of the oldest ladies in our village, I don't know how much longer we will get to enjoy their company.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Wednesday, November 16

The kids and I started back to school this morning. We often do school on the porch to try and catch a breeze. Katherine was sitting on my lap reading to me when I noticed a neighbor, Fane (Fah-nay), scraping the bark of the mogea (bush apple) tree just down the hill from our house.

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I leaned over the rail and asked her what she was doing, and she told me she was using a halea (bivalve shellfish) shell to scrape the bark. Her son had a boil on his hand, and this bark would make a good medicine to help his hand heal. She would mix the bark with water, boil it, let it cool, then rub the mixture over his hand.

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Finally, she said she would pack the boil with the bark and tie it all up to speed the healing progress. God sure has put some amazing medicine in the plants here!

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Aaron was also back to work today. He spent the morning gathering the community calendar from the village leaders. So many events will be held in the next six weeks, and Aaron needs to be able to plan the translation team's work around the community events. After lunch, Aaron paddled over to see Ezekiel but found him gone. Just after Aaron landed back in Marulaon, he saw Ezekiel and Janet paddling their canoe past Marulaon and back to their village. Aaron waved and hollered that he would come back to see them tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 15

Somehow, I always forget how beautiful it is here. Every time we come back, and I go out on our porch early in the morning, I'm overcome with the peace and beauty that God has placed here. Yesterday morning, I was reading in Ezekiel and was convicted when I read "Go through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the forehead of everyone who is in anguish over the outrageous obscenities being done in the city." (Ezekiel 9:4) God reminded me that in the midst of the stresses of moving again and adjusting cross culturally again, he was more concerned about my heart and my attitude than my surroundings. Did I care about my heart in the chaos? Did I care about my neighbor's hearts and lives?

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The unpacking and settling in is going well. Having four older, very capable children helps things go quickly. We finished washing all of the dishes and unloading all of the boxes yesterday, and I enjoyed delivering almost all of the pictures I had printed in Australia. Today, we've been washing windows, mopping (again), weeding and trying to tame the overgrown yard, and cleaning all of the school books. We were able to harvest a small bowl of cherry tomatoes and none of our school books seem to be damaged by little critters or mold. Sarah's clothes didn't fare so well, one of her shirts hanging in the closet was molding.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Monday, November 14

Our trip yesterday went as well as possible, thank you to everybody who was praying. We don't take smooth trips for granted. Aaron and I woke up the kids at 5:00, and by 6:00 we had colleagues dropping in to see if there was anything they could do to help. I do love my SITAG family! We had plenty of helping hands at the wharf and quickly had all of the cargo up on the second deck of the ship. The seas were calm when we pulled out at 9:00, but several of us felt the weather was warmer than usual.

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The result was that Olivia (yet again) lost her beef jerkey over the side of the ship shortly before we reached Yandina at 3:00. We saw a few familiar faces in the crowds, and I was able to carry on a few conversations from my perch on the ship by yelling down to my friends on the wharf. After two hours of unloading cargo, we finally left Yandina. I was engrossed in reading my book, "The Radium Girls", when I heard Aaron exclaim, "It's a funnel cloud!" We have NEVER seen a funnel cloud of any sort here in the Solomon Islands, so this little water spout was a delight to watch. It lasted for several minutes, but even when it disappeared, the skies were dark and spitting rain.

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This made the decks of the ship super slick (several of our shipmates slipped and fell)! After another hour and a half of travel, we finally arrived at Marulaon. The canoes lined up four deep to get people and cargo off the ship, so we had to wait for a while. Leonard took the first boat of cargo, then Belza took the second boat, and finally the whole family was able to pile into Leonard's canoe, along with the very heavy gas cylinder. By this time, it was totally dark, so Leonard slowly eased the canoe along toward the shore, keeping a careful eye out for the clear path to avoid the sharp coral when we neared land. We dragged ourselves out of the boat, so grateful for all of the helping hands, and began to cart boxes and buckets up the hill. I think we finally had everything up to the house just before 7:30, and then we started rotating through cold showers while others pulled out the clean sheets and began making beds. From start to finish, we depended on others for help yesterday: help from SITAG, help from our Marulaon neighbors, and help from people around the world who were petitioning God's strength and energy on our behalf.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Safely in Marulaon

Happy Sunday, everyone! Just wanted to let you know that I’ve heard from Joanna, and they made it safely to the village. They’re in the process of unpacking, and we should hear more soon!

Have a great week!

Ann

Loading the truck and SITAG Christmas Party

 

I don't know what we would do without our SITAG family.


Yesterday, in the midst of a very busy afternoon, we loaded the truck with our cargo for the return trip to Marulaon Village.


With a little help from our friends, all of our boxes (how do we have so much stuff?!?) was quickly fitted into the back of the truck like Tetris pieces.


And when the boxes were all in place, we went right back to preparing for the Christmas party.





Until finally, everyone gathered to celebrate Jesus' birth.


We sang Christmas carols and played games.


And introduced our Solomon Islands' friends to snowmen.



Finally it was time to enjoy the fruits of our labor!


Two of my favorite guys with servant hearts sneaked into the kitchen to start washing dishes while the speeches of appreciation were given.  I'm super grateful that SITAG is full of men like this - quiet, faithful even when nobody is looking, willing.


To finish up the evening, we enjoyed Sarah's chocolate cake and sang happy birthday to Jesus.  Many of our colleagues are leaving Honiara in the next few days and scattering all around the world.  Tonight was a sweet time to say thank you to each other and enjoy fellowship with some of the most wonderful people God created.


(By the time this posts, we should be in the village sleeping after a long trip on the boat.  We would appreciate prayers for a good transition and for Aaron and the guys as they ready the books of Ruth and Jonah for consultant checking.)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

SITAG Employee Christmas Party - Preparation

 

Today is SITAG's annual Christmas party for the employees.  We have the absolutely most wonderful employees on the face of the earth.  They hold SITAG together while the rest of us come and go.  They are godly, sweet, hard working, and most of all, they are our friends.


A few weeks ago, the employees won first prize for their float in the "Bible Week" parade.  The money they received paid for the pig, who was quickly named "Float".


Yesterday afternoon, Benjamin went with a couple of our employees to pick up the pig and bring it back to SITAG.  Then he helped clean out the truck.


At 1:00 this morning, Benjamin's alarm went off, and he joined some of the guys in preparing the pig to be cooked this morning.  A quick bonk on the head quickly took care of the pig.

 
The ladies began preparing the food in the middle of the night, too. 
 
 
Our family joined the cooking party at the kitchen around 8:00 this morning.


We built two motu (cooking with hot stones) ovens in addition to the one Judy had already built by her house. 
 
 
We heard her moving stones just after the sun came up this morning. 
 

 As soon as the fires were going well, we moved inside to prepare the rest of the food.


Pumpkins, slippery cabbage, fish, chicken, pig, onions, garlic, coconut cream...


we've been gathering plastic ice cream containers to send home the leftovers with the employees.  I think there will be plenty of extra food to send home.


We scraped and squeezed coconuts, stuffed pumpkins,


blew up balloons,
 
 
(lots of balloons)
 
 
put Christmas decorations on the walls,
 
 
cooked some more,
 
 
babysat some sweet little ones,
 
 
cooked a little more food,
 
 
okay a LOT more food.
 
 
and laughed at the sweetness of the fellowship in the midst of all that work.


And now it's time to load the truck with our cargo so we'll be ready to leave at first light tomorrow morning...then we feast and say thank you to the Lord for giving us such awesome people to work alongside us.