Sunday, August 21, 2016

Saturday, August 20

Snapshots of a normal week in Marulaon Village

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May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By his love and pow'r controlling
All I do and say.


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May the word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only thro' his pow'r.

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May the peace of God, my Father,
Rule my life in ev'rything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

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May the love of Jesus fill me,
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing
This is victory.

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May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe.
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

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May his beauty rest upon me
As I seek to lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only him.

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~Kate B. Wilkinson, 1925
Tune: St. Leonards

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sunday, August 14

Here's Aaron's report:

The translation team gathered again to work on peer review of Ruth. With individual translators drafting the text, we believe it is important for the translation team to come together to give a peer review. This not only helps to clean up the rough draft and give us more confidence of having a “good” draft to send to the exegetical check, but it also provides the translators a good opportunity to hone their skills and to learn from each other.

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Our team consists of translators who each are leaders in their respective villages and each have many family and community obligations. When we come together, it is often good to assemble at a village that is not home to anyone on the team. This provides a separation from those regular obligations, allowing each member of the team to focus on the translation work at hand. It also gives visibility of the translation work to the hosting village. We want all the Lavukal people to have a feeling of ownership of the translation, to know what it going on so they can pray for us, and to be motivated to practically support the translators in their ministry.

One aspect of working together with this team is that they are hard workers and all very motivated to getting the text “right.” Some might call us work-aholics if they observed us in these work sessions. It is not uncommon for us to work 12-16 hour days. We usually shut down when the thinkers grind to a halt. We stop to attend church services and to eat. Otherwise we tend to work. From what we have heard from some colleagues, this is not a common trait. We are very thankful for the devotion of the Lavukal translators.

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Currently the team is assembling together to do peer review and other translation work about every two to three weeks. We try to continue this pace whether the Choate family is in the village or in Honiara. Please continue to pray for the translation team. Each of us are growing in our respective roles and we are encouraged to see some obvious signs of spiritual growth in some of the translators as well.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Thursday, August 11

Please be praying for the Lavukal translation team as they meet today, tomorrow, and Saturday to peer review Ruth and Jonah. It's a long, tedious process, but the results (a clear translation that flows naturally) are worth it!

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After some miscommunication and some flexibility in changing plans, Aaron and the translation team finally got off this morning. Our family went down to the beach to see them off just before noon.

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Leonard, with Benjamin as his first mate, and Aaron took off to pick up Matthew from Hae Village, then crisscrossed over to Karumalun Village to pick up Ezekiel. On the way, a huge line of wind and rain blew through. Those of us in the house closed the louvers, but those who were in the boat got soaked. When Benjamin finally got dropped off, before the team headed to Leru Village where Simon lives, he was sopping wet and needed a change of clothes before he ate lunch and finished school.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Tuesday, August 9

All of the school kids came back this morning. Seems that some people from another village have a dispute about a boundary line where the new boys dorm is being built, and last night was the perfect time to come destroy the beginnings of the new building. So the headmaster sent all of the kids home. My own school kids love having other kids of the same age in the village during the week! While I was out walking around this afternoon, I found several girls shelling nuts and hanging out in the hammock.

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After lunch today, Aaron walked two miles to Baison, the village on the other end of our island. With no internet or cell phone reception, the best way to communicate information here is face to face. Aaron wanted to talk with our translation committee secretary and also needed to pass a written message to one of our translators in a different village because the translation team is getting together later this week to work on reviewing Ruth and Jonah. The school is in between Marulaon and Baisen, so Aaron was also able to stop and chat with the headmaster, who is from Marulaon. Aaron must have walked really fast, because he completed his business and the four miles in time to be home for supper.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Sunday, August 7

Sweet Sabbath

“A primary qualification for serving God with any amount of success, and for doing God's work well and triumphantly, is a sense of our own weakness...” ~Charles H. Spurgeon

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“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Every time we come back to Marulaon Village, I'm confronted with my weakness. Physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental weakness. I long to be able to do “God's work well and triumphantly.” This weekend, God has been strengthening me in creative ways:

-Several months ago, God moved in the heart of a man in my parents' church to send medicine for the children in Marulaon Village. This weekend, I got to help several baby boys who got their immunizations and needed a little extra TLC.

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-I love watching our kids build cross-cultural relationships here. When guests arrived on Saturday afternoon, Olivia and a few of her friends placed flower necklaces over the neck of each guest. Our chief made a point to say that we were part of the community and that it was appropriate for one of our girls to help with the flowers.

-We got asked to make another birthday cake this weekend. Providing a special treat that would be out-of-the-ballpark expensive in Honiara brings us much joy!

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-People let us walk around with their babies here. I can remember dreading going to church back when Sarah and Benjamin were babies. All of the ladies wanted to take my baby away! It's an act of trust to watch somebody walk away with your child. I traipsed around the village yesterday with baby Alfonse on my hip while I looked for my friend, Sylvester. I commonly find each of our kids with a baby in tow (even Benjamin!).

-Before the alarm went off early this morning, the rain began to fall. Once again, God gave us a steady, soft rain that would sink into the ground but also help the level of water in the rain tanks creep back up. The big tank by the church emptied yesterday, and the two small tanks in front of our house were down to little trickles. Sitting on the porch this morning with my Bible, God refreshed my spirit with cool rain and His Word.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Friday, August 5

Yesterday afternoon when school was finished, I walked around most of the village. Not many people were home, but it was really nice to chat with the few that were around. I found Ruthie and Leku sitting on their steps, and enjoyed a good visit for more than an hour. When I looked at watch at discovered that it was time for radio sched with SITAG, Leku grabbed me and said she had a watermelon for our family. We enjoyed it with lunch today. It was beautiful, sweet, and yellow inside!

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Nako and her baby boy, Samuel, came home from Yandina's clinic yesterday, so I made extra lunch of curried pumpkin and lentils over rice to share with her.

Margaret came and weeded our ground for several hours this morning. No matter how hard I try, I can't make our yard look right in the eyes of our neighbors. So I pay friends to help me! Every single time we leave the village, my language skills go backwards. I was thrilled that I caught what Margaret said in two different extended conversations this morning. Once, when I took down some pumpkin seeds, she told me to take the dish back up into the house so the village kids wouldn't ruin the seeds. And another time she asked me what I planned to plant in an area I was clearing. Even though I can't spit out very much Lavukaleve, I'm encouraged when I can hear and understand it.

Thursday, August 4

Ezekiel stopped by and chatted with Aaron on our porch recently. When he left, Aaron wrote this encouraging summary:

On St. James' day, he was the gospel reader. As he prepared, an idea came to his mind of how to really get the people to understand what the work of Bible translation was really all about. Ezekiel looked ahead to the gospel reading for the special day and worked up a rough draft of the required verses from the gospel of Matthew (which is being drafted at this time by the Translation Team).

Ezekiel talked with the new District Priest of his plan and made sure the priest was approving and knew the intent was to build interest in God's word, not to deceive the people.

When the time came in the service for the reading, Ezekiel had a Pijin Bible and put his paper with the Lavukaleve version of the reading discretely in the pages so that the congregation did not know it was there.

He read the passage in Lavukaleve and the whole place was so surprised. Many afterward had comments for Ezekiel. One dealt with the reading itself. A member of the translation committee encouraged Ezekiel that he read it just right (a big issue for us as we are starting to sort out where to put punctuation marks). Another man asked where the Lavukaleve Bible was that he read from because he wanted to see it. Ezekiel explained that we don't have it yet, but that they now have a better idea of what we are doing in the translation project. Many talked about how clear and understandable it was in their language and how happy they were to hear it. There was also another big encouragement for Ezekiel who had worked hard on his draft making it have older words with full meaning, but balanced with the style of talk that the younger generation also uses. He got many comments that it was really good at being the real Lavukaleve for everyone.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Wednesday, August 3

Nako's daddy, David, was at our house before seven this morning to let us know that she and the baby were about to leave in a motor canoe for the bigger clinic in Yandina. The baby had begun running a fever and needed a better equipped clinic. So, I raced down the hill to find a crowd of women and children surrounding Nako who was holding a tiny bundle. All I could do as they stepped in the canoe was say a quick prayer over baby and mama as I slipped a little petrol money into my friend's hand.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Tuesday, August 2

God is answering prayers for rain! Our neighbors told us that when we came back, God would give rain to Marulaon. Today we've gotten a nice, soft garden rain all day long. The ground couldn't handle a “gully washer” anyway, because the dirt is so dry and cracked. Please keep praying for a good balance of rain and sun.

I found out yesterday that my sweet friend, Ofoaen, has a new grandbaby. Her daughter Nako delivered a little boy early yesterday morning. In the last year and half, a bunch of baby boys have been born here, but only one little girl. They are at the clinic in another village because our clinic is closed.

This afternoon, two little boys were hanging around our house. During a break in the rain, I went down to chase down our rake which we had loaned out. The boys finally approached me with three small coconut crab for sale. I bought the two biggest ones with Nako in mind, and Aaron hung them up on the porch with the rope that safely held their claws. After evening prayer, I asked Nancy what to do to keep the crabs alive overnight. Nako's dad plans to visit the clinic tomorrow morning, and I want to send the crabs to her. Nancy said to put the crabs in a bag and tie them tightly. So we did. And we put them in a bucket with a lid. On the porch. We've had way too many escapee crabs!

Sunday, July 31

Thanks to our SITAG friends, we were down at the wharf by 6:30, watching the rising sun make each ship especially beautiful in the glow.

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The Kosco was moored farther away from the dock than we've ever seen before, so each pass from the wharf to the ship required a leap and a helping hand.

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SITAG lined up and formed a line of muscles

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that got our cargo quickly loaded onto the ship.

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We had plenty of time to visit and play games in our favorite spot on the ship. If we had arrived even half an hour later, we would have had to look for a different place.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Safely in Marulaon

Hello, friends!

The Choates made it safely to Marulaon over good seas. They arrived to a full rain tank and, as of last e-mail, were enjoying a drizzly morning of rain showers. Please continue praying for a good balance of rain and sunshine!

E-mail is iffy, at best, but some things are trickling through. So, keep praying. A blog post will hopefully be coming soon!

- Ann

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Get Ready, Get Set, Go!


Thanks to our SITAG family, we are ready to leave for the village.  Sweet Betsy gave us some distraction from packing yesterday when she and the girls danced to songs from Conference 2016.

We're so thankful for this prayer warrior and her sweet servant heart.  She is WAY more than just somebody who cleans houses at SITAG.

After lunch yesterday, we had lots of helping hands around to measure and freeze tomato paste

and to sort through a 20 kilo bag of onions.

Today, we had lots of those same hands show up to help load the truck.

Even small hands helped.

We couldn't do this whole moving thing without help.  Transition is hard, but our SITAG family is a tiny body of Christ.  They know how to encourage and help because they've all been in our shoes.

Now, we're getting ready to turn off the light and head to bed.  Our tummies are full because some of our precious friends hosted us for supper.  Our minds and bodies are tired, but refreshed from the sweet fellowship.  In the morning, the truck will pull out at first light to take us down to the wharf.  Please pray for calm seas as we travel all day back to Marulaon Village.  We don't know what we will find with the water situation when we return, so please continue to pray for rain.  And as always, we depend on the slow radio/e-mail connection (no internet) which usually doesn't work well.  Thanks for upholding the translation project in prayer, too!  We're excited at the translation process that is being done and look forward to watching God work.

Friday, July 29, 2016


I got a new cookbook for my birthday:  "Fika - The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break".  The introduction neatly captures my feelings, especially on a busy, chaotic, detritus-filled packing day like today.

Although it may be well meaning, "Do you want to meet up and grab coffee?" in English just doesn't carry the same weight as the corresponding Swedish question, "Ska vi fika?"  "Should we fika?" is shorter, simpler; and every Swede knows exactly what it means:  "Let's take a break, spend some time together, slow down."  In fact, it doesn't even have to insinuate coffee; fika is all-inclusive and can be done just as well with a pot of tea or a pitcher of fruit cordial.  Fika isn't just for having an afternoon pick-me-up; it's for appreciating slow living.
Therefore, it's not just because you bae a certain cake and serve a cup of coffee that you have fika.  To truly fika requires a commitment to making time for a break in your day, the creation of a magical moment in the midst of the routine and the mundane.  Fika is the time when everything else is put on hold.

We pulled some of Sarah's cardamom bread out of the freezer, toasted and slathered it with Nutella left by a visiting guest, and seated ourselves at the table for a few minutes to reconnect with each other.  Time well spent.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Happy Birthday, Sarah!

We began to celebrate Sarah early.  She was filled with culinary goals for the day, and the coconut scraper was put into action for a breakfast of coconut pancakes. 
While Sarah and Aaron drove down to Honiara's Central Market to find the perfect fish, the rest of us took turns scraping the piles of coconuts that we would need for the coconut cream for lunch.  As I took my basket down to SITAG's outdoor kitchen, the rain began to fall.  I prayed that God would make the rain move over and fall in Marulaon Village, too.

We had lots of helping hands to clean out the old bed of stones and build a new one that would fit our needs.  One of our colleagues shares a birthday with Sarah, and we were looking forward to sharing this meal with their sweet family.

I'm so out of practice since our kitchen in Marulaon still hasn't been rebuilt.  But many hands make light work, and soon we had the fire going to heat up the stones.

Back up to the house we went to finish preparing the food that needed to cook about an hour underneath those hot stones.
Lunch was late, but our friends were very flexible, even with little ones who needed naps.
And the birthday girl was thrilled to get her local food fix!
I'm so grateful for the adopted family we have here at SITAG and for the family and friends who took the time to think ahead and send gifts and cards for this special birthday girl.
Sarah's day fit her ISFJ personality so well:  Quiet, friendly, responsible, conscientious.  Committed and steady in meeting her obligations.
Thorough, painstaking, and accurate.  Loyal and considerate.  Notices and remembers specifics about people who are important to them.  Strives to create an orderly and harmonious environment.
After the lunch party finished, Sarah turned her attentions to finishing the second birthday cake.  Because you don't want to try a new recipe on visitors, right?
She worked hard to get the icing just right - to "soft ball" stage.

And we finished the day with full hearts and full tummies and lots of laughter.

This mama didn't cry one time as I observed this capable and spunky young lady.  I know: times, they are a-changing for our family.  Much transition is ahead. 
But until then, I'm enjoying every day with this beautiful seventeen-year-old and the joy she brings our family.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Kokonut Pacific Field Trip

Last week, school age SITAG kids went on an amazing field trip to Kokonut Pacific.  Because all of these kids usually live in a village, they are all familiar with coconuts, how they grow, and how you get to the good stuff inside.  This company empowers local growers so that almost the entire process of making coconut oil happens in the village, on their own schedule.

We watched as one of the women used an electric coconut scraper to extract the flesh from the coconut in about 30 seconds.  Even Sarah, our fastest coconut scraper, takes several minutes to finish one coconut when she scrapes it the old-fashioned way.
After the coconut is scraped in small batches of about 15-17 coconuts, the meat is weighed and recorded before it goes over to the drying table.
 If the coconut isn't dried, when it is squeezed a delicious milky substance comes out.  That's what we use to make cassava pudding or to cook rice. The kind employees let us take turns moving the coconut around on what looked like a huge griddle fired by coconut shells and husks.

One of the themes throughout the whole field was "no waste".  No fuel but the leftover parts of the coconuts themselves is needed to keep the surface nice and toasty.  In about thirty minutes, the coconut meat is dry enough to be scraped into a cylinder.
The cylinder of dried coconut meat is transferred over to the squeezing machine.  The oil runs down into the measuring cup, where it is again weighed.

And the leftover coconut meat can be reused in stock feed or baked goods.

It's toasted coconut, and that's exactly what it tastes like!  Again, no waste.

After the oil is pressed out of the coconut meat, it is poured through cheesecloth and allowed to settle.

All of this work takes place under a pavilion with open sides where the breeze flows through.  Many of us decided we wouldn't mind working here!  After the coconut oil extraction demonstration, our group moved over to the enclosed building and met even more employees.

We learned about the small barrels of oil that come in from the villages and how they are numbered and checked for quality.

We watched one of the men as he vacuumed the oil from the small barrels and moved it into the mixing tanks.

And we marveled at the ingenuity of it all.

People living in the village who can take the coconut, one of God's most perfect creations, and turn it into beautiful, pure oil and make some money in the process.

We moved on to the "value added" department where ladies were filling small bottles of oil and making soap that caused the whole room to smell delicious.

We met Queenie who told us about the high quality and purity of the soaps - the coloring and scents are natural.

Like this beautiful batch that was drying (and made every single one of us want to touch it!).  It is colored with paprika!

Cutting the soap is also done by hand with this nifty gadget.

After refilling our big 1.5 liter oil bottles for the village and a visit to the gift shop, we were hungry and ready for the lunch the tour provided.

Before the teaching session began, the kids had the opportunity to try squeezing the oil.

Frank not only gave a great tour, but his lectures were fascinating to all of us.  I was curious what kind of educational background would be needed for this line of work, so I asked! 
A bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Masters in Community Development have equipped him to lead this fine operation.

He showed the kids dirt, let them run their hands through it, and talked about what makes "healthy" dirt.

He talked about the history of organic agriculture and the fair trade movement and why they are both so important, especially with the history of blackbirding in the Solomon Islands.

He finished up discussing quality assurance, trust, and good stewardship...
...lessons that apply not only to making coconut oil, but to living life.

When the classroom session concluded,

we refreshed ourselves with green coconuts to drink.

We're so grateful for the opportunity to learn about and support an organization like this, one that "brings the factory to the villagers instead of taking the villagers to the factory".