Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tuesday, February 24 - Prayer Tool #7

Pray that I may...together with you be refreshed.  Romans 15:31-32 (NIV)

Missionaries deal with many of the same stresses you face in life, like overwhelming workloads, conflicts in relationships, and financial uncertainties.  Often, however, missionaries struggle with these issues alone, without the fellowship and support of other Christians.  Living and working cross-culturally adds and additional element that can challenge their emotional, spiritual and physical vitality.

  • Pray that God will provide opportunities for missionaries in lonely areas to spend time with other believers.
  • Pray that God will provide times of peace and relaxation to refresh His workers.
  • Pray that God will encourage missionaries with the knowledge that people back home care about their emotional well-being.

Monday, February 23

We so often get asked, "What does a normal day look like for your family?"  There is no NORMAL for our lives here, but often normal looks like school for me and the kids.  Last night, normal looked like trying a new recipe with my sweet friend Eta.  She had given me a recipe for chicken wings, a much loved delicacy here since the frozen wings have to be shipped in from Honiara.  The recipe wasn't very specific, and as I kept asking her more and more questions, she finally admitted that she had never cooked this particular recipe.  

So, as a one-time treat, I asked one of our amazing SITAG colleagues to send out a 2 kilogram packet of frozen chicken wings on the Kosco.  Before church, I marinated the chicken with some grated ginger from our garden.  After church, I gathered all of my chopped goodies (like onion and greens) and headed down to Josephine's kitchen where I found Eta waiting for me.  Benjamin came down to help me, and while he was there, he earned quite the name for himself as a willing worker and a great chef.

cooking for the weekend
We had so much fun cooking the wings in a big pot on the open fire.  I brought some rice, too, and Josephine got it started on a smaller fire.  We brought some small solar lights down with us, but I discovered that my friends are used to having zero lights.  If they need to see if the food is cooked, they just pull out a burning stick from the fire and hold it up over the pot!  When we were finished, everybody got a taste, even Kiko who had dropped by in the middle of the cooking.

Aaron doing language learning MON

This morning, "normal" looked like Aaron working alongside our community for several hours in the blazing hot sun.  They cleaned up the church grounds in anticipation of St. Matthias Day celebrations tomorrow.  We made a couple of big bowls of popcorn to help replenish the salt lost in all of the sweating that was going on.  After lunch, Aaron went back out into the community with his computer and worked to fill in some gaps in his picture dictionary.  He's trying to fill in as many holes in his vocabulary accumulation as he can.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Sunday, February 22

Sunday afternoons are usually a great time to find friends at home.  Today, however, many people went to the funeral in Leru Village. 

Sylvester getting girls ready for school
I found my sweet friend, Sylvester, getting food ready for her three girls to take to Fly Harbour Primary School.  Since the kids stay all week from Sunday afternoon through Friday afternoon, parents have to send extra food with the kids on Sunday.  Wednesday afternoon is also set aside for parents to come visit their students and bring another round of food.  The students are expected to cook for themselves.

little girls playing bride
Nearby, several little girls were playing with a mosquito net underneath one of the few tall, wooden houses in Marulaon.  I asked if they were playing bride and they giggled like crazy.  Then I asked the little one where her husband was, and she giggled even more.  They were so cute as they took turns parading underneath the net.

Naomi holding Nolan
Sunday afternoons are also a good time to sit and watch for the Kosco.  We can see it from far away as it chugs through the Russells.  Today, we were looking forward to receiving some mail and some petrol on the Kosco, so anticipation was running extra high. 

Lucia & Delcia

I saw Aaron, Benjamin, and Olivia running by on the way to Belza's canoe, so I knew the Kosco was close by.  Several of us ladies and many children moved from underneath the house to the shore to watch the canoes come and go from the ship.  All of the sudden, one of the ladies started hollering for somebody to grab a spear because she saw a huge squid right at the shore line.  I didn't see a thing until I had looked for a while.  One of Sylvester's sons grabbed a sharpened stick and threw it at the squid.  Black ink squirted high into the air and clouded the water, but the squid had escaped, much to the chagrin of my friends who were hoping for squid for supper!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Saturday, February 21

Today has been bittersweet.  Our neighbors brought lots of fruits and veggies to market to help keep the Choate family healthy and strong.  Today, one of the families also brought a huge mud crab.

another crab

We cooked it up with pumpkin greens coconut milk, curry, and salt for lunch.  It's claws were as big as Katherine's feet!

After we were in bed last night, Aaron and I heard the bell ring three times slowly, the signal that somebody had died.  I didn't hear anyone wailing, so I didn't think the deceased was from our village.  While at market I learned about the bitter part of the day.  The death was in Leru Village, and a man had killed his mother and sister with a bush knife.  Several close relatives live in Marulaon, including our translation committee chairman, Hiva, whose sister was killed.  The whole village is stunned.  We have had the opportunity to send food and petrol for the needs of the family, and we would really appreciate prayers for the families and villages that have been touched.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Friday, February 20

Each morning, as I sit on the porch enveloped in a cloud of mosquito repellent, I drink my coffee with my Bible in my lap and watch the sky change as the sun comes up.  Sometimes the sky streaks with apricot and sometimes it is gray and foreboding.  The light reflects off the water and I can tell which way the current is moving.  A few days ago, I could here the surf crashing at the end of our island, but here in our little harbor, the water almost always gently laps at the shore.  Today, a little rain shower from one little gray cloud made everything sparkle just as the sun rose above the horizon.  It was a beautiful way to start my day.

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We have eight weeks left in the Choate school year, and Sarah and Benjamin finished the dissections for biology today.  It's been so fun to watch them work together and to enjoy their delight and fascination as they learn.  They have been a good team for a long time.

Sarah & Benjamin 2006

Thanks to all of you who have been praying for our kids' residence permits to be finalized.  SITAG's director has been spending hours in the immigration office on our behalf.  She has also been fighting for permits and visas and all kinds of paperwork for several other SITAG teams.  Here's part of her update that showed up in our e-mail inbox today:

The next challenge is trying to finish off the permits for the Choate kids. This has been going on for months and was held up due to the change in policy and new required forms. It is no exaggeration that over the past few weeks I have been making 1-2 trips a day to follow up on these pending cases. Documents seem to be getting lost in Immigration and it's been an ongoing challenge, but one that I think we have nearly 'won'.

Thursday, February 19

Aaron was gone almost all day yesterday. He was finally able to meet with Ezekiel, Marulaon's translation committee members, and Karumulun's translation committee members. Ezekiel has been gone attending to family business for the last few weeks, so we're really thankful that even these few men were able to come together in Karumulun.

committee members

One of the things that came out of the meeting is the date for the next meeting of the entire committee - March 8. Please be in prayer for this meeting. Weather affects transport since almost every village is on a different island. Another exciting thing that came out of this meeting is the ground breaking for a translation office.

Aaron digging

The office will be really nice to have, but more than that, it represents the momentum of the translation committee and the project as a whole. Sometimes it feels as if we are going backwards! But this morning, the goal was for the three Marulaon committee members to dig the post holes for the small translation office.

Hiva digging

The four servant hearted guys began work shortly after Morning Prayer, while the day was still a little bit "cool". They cleared the brush with a grass knife, measured and lined up small sticks to mark where to dig, and then the hard work began. Chief Leonard and Walter had some other commitments, so Aaron and Hiva finished digging and scooping out the dirt with coconut shells.

Aaron scraping dirt with coconut shell
By ten o'clock, the day's work was finished, and the committee members had all cleared out to go do their own personal work. Chief Leonard has the posts waiting in Leru Village, and the next step is supposed to take place on Saturday morning.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wednesday, February 18

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! Psalm 133:1

Brothers Jovan and Rodney

Jovan & Rodney
Life isn't worth living, unless it is lived for someone else. ~Albert Einstein

Jovan & Rodney, brothers

Monday, February 23, 2015

Marulaon Woman's Daybook

Just for today...Tuesday, February 17

Marulaon house

On my bookshelf..."The Journey from Alabama to Austronesia and Beyond" by Jerry Allen. Really more of a journal of how God used people to pour into Jerry's life and then how he was able to pour into others, this book contains sections about the Allens' time in the Solomon Islands. The descriptions of ship travel in the early 1990's made me laugh, they are still true today!

From the learning rooms...Sarah made a model of the parts that make up the singing apparatus as part of her study of the voice.  Sarah and Benjamin get to finish up their biology dissections with a fish and a frog on Wednesday and Friday.

vocal mechanisms Tues 2.17

Pondering these words..."Contentment is learned by accepting life each day as God gives it to you, and adjusting your expectations to life's limitations."  ~Sally Clarkson

A few plans for the rest of the week...Aaron has a meeting in Karumulun tomorrow with some members of the translation committee.  We're hoping they move forward with building the translation office and praying for their wisdom in future planning.

A peek into my corner of the world...my friend, Isabella, who always makes "bun cake" to sell at Marulaon's market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

Isabella TUES

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tuesday, February 3

Here’s a post that got lost in the e-mail shuffle a few weeks ago. Enjoy!

Children are such a gift. I love kids in any place, but I especially love the ones that God has given Aaron and me. Right now, Katherine delights all of us. From her sweet lyrics that she writes on the chalk board (can you tell we've been singing "I Need Thee Every Hour"?)

Katherine's song lyrics TUESto her questions after the lights are out at night, "Mama, do dolphins have bones?" to her made up recipes and prolific art hanging the length of the hallway. She is always creating, composing, loving, and inquisitive, and fully the Meyer's Briggs ISFP sensitive artist type. That sensitivity spans physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental realms. This picture of Jesus showed up on our dry erase board:

picture of heaven
I revel in watching my kids blossom and grow into the lovely people that God made each one of them to be!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Prayer Tool #6 - Monday, February 16

Pray for God's Guidance

Pray...so that by God's will I may come to you with joy.... Romans 15:31-32 (NIV)


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Many missionaries travel frequently, both nationally and internationally. Their mode of transportation varies from country to country and often involves stressful situations.

  • Pray for clear guidance from God regarding travel decisions.
  • Pray for necessary permissions to travel.
  • Pray for protection and provision during their travels.

Sunday, February 15

Note: I am republishing this one because I discovered it was incomplete. Here is the full post.

Sarah and Aaron got home last night around 8:30.  They left the other village just as supper was being served, so we pulled out some leftovers and triumphantly presented the caramel corn as a Valentine's Day treat.  The parents and teenagers stayed up late chatting over the happenings of the day.

Sarah decorating for Bishop 2-14
We learned that Sarah helped her Aunties decorate for the welcome of the diocese bishop.  She also sang in the Marulaon choir who was assigned to the official welcome.  I'm so proud of the lovely young woman that Sarah has become!  This morning, that alarm seemed to go off super early, but we dragged everybody out of bed and made a quick pot of oatmeal to fortify us through the long morning.  Officially, you aren't supposed to eat before a communion service, but I knew I wouldn't do well without some food in my tummy.

Benjamin on top of canoe
We were down at the beach just a few minutes after 6:00, and Belza showed up a few minutes later to whisk us away in his canoe taxi.  The sunrise and the view were absolutely beautiful.

picture of back half of canoe SAT 2-15
Belza is such a good driver.  When we came out of the shelter of the smaller islands and entered more open sea, the swells increased.  Belza knew exactly how to maneuver the boat, slow down and speed up, whatever it took to ease the ride.  So thankful for his skill in driving!

Sarah & Olivia in canoe SUN
Nukofero Village is located on "mainland", one of the larger islands that make up our area.  This village is nestled at the bottom of some mountains, and we watched the tiny speck of the bishop's ship, the Southern Cross, come into view in the little harbor in front of Nukofero.

ship SUN

Unbeknownst to us, the service was following clock time, not Solomon Time, and we pulled up on shore just as we heard the bell signaling that the service was beginning.  We carried Marulaon's contribution of cooked pig and the contribution of a beautifully carved table up the hill, and then Aaron and Sarah slipped into the choir while the rest of us found seats at the back of the very full church.

The first time I knelt down in the church, I felt little fingers scraping the dirt off the sole of my feet. It tickled, and I fought the urge to turn around and see who was helping me have "clean" feet. The service rang with at least five different languages, the most multi-cultural service I think I've ever attended. The three hour service was in English, but the bishop brought his own choir who responded to the service in their own language and sang in their own language, too. Marulaon's choir sang in Pijin, English, and Lavukaleve, and the announcements were made in Pijin and Tikopian, a Polynesian language. Even though this village is in the Russells, most of the inhabitants are Tikopian and retain the language and customs of their native island.

Kiko & Sarah
After church, the village fed the Bishop and his guests, but the rest of us went to find some shade and hang out for a while. I was so thankful that we brought a hand of bananas and some precious hard boiled eggs. My friend, Kiko, was glad we brought bananas, too. I think she ate four of them in a row! Most of our friends chowed down on betel nut to push through the hunger until the feasting began in a few hours. We enjoyed a really sweet time of visiting with old friends and making new ones as we waited for the festivities to begin.

feasting SUN
The whole family was invited to come sit on the benches with the "big men". The kids and I declined, preferring to stay with our friends from Marulaon, since each village had a section in the shade. Finally, I joined some of the "big women" from the bishop's visiting group. They knew the SITAG translation advisor who had lived in their village, so that gave us some common ground. Watching my sweet kids and my friends sit on the ground together, wave flies together, visit together...all of it was so sweet. I'm thankful for the many ways the Marulaon community has opened its arms and hearts to our family.

Aaron & pig

Before anybody could eat, the speeches had to be given. Aaron was thrilled that he was not on the speech list this time! At one point during the speeches, Benjamin came over to us and whispered that he was going to go help Dawa tie up the pig that our church district was giving to the Bishop. Aaron just grinned and nodded his head.

Polynesian SUN
Finally, the speeches were finished, and we enjoyed digging into the wonderful food that God has put in the Russell Islands, especially the fish, shellfish, and cassava pudding. I really do think that God had lots of fun creating this area that is so beautiful and so abundant with sea creatures.

seed pods on ankle SUN
When it came time for our district to make the presentation, we all started from far away, singing and dancing in the hot early afternoon sun, whooping and hollering while Aaron and Dawa laid the pig next to the Bishop and we all filed by and shook his hand.

men playing drums SUN
In between the presentations, different groups presented dances. Again, several different cultures were represented: the visitors from Isabel, the Tikopian transplants, and our Lavukal neighbors. Each group was beautiful and fun to watch!

trans comm lined up
Towards the end of the dancing, the moves became less traditional and more inappropriate. When I made a comment to Grace about how I didn't like it, she said, "Sikalam" which basically means "Trash!" So, we got up and left and found that we weren't alone among our Marulaon neighbors. As my friend Julie wrote, "It must be exhausting/difficult to know which aspects of culture to accept and support, and which to try to bring into obedience with God's Word." Belza had two groups to ferry back and forth, and he was as eager as we were to get started on the long ride back home. We finally pulled up to Marulaon about 5:30, just as the Kosco was pulling out to continue its trip out West. Exhausted and thirsty, we traipsed up the hill for a quick shower, a bite of leftovers, and an early bedtime.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Saturday, February 14

Aaron made heart shaped pancakes for us to celebrate an abbreviated Valentine's Day.

Market was small because of rain this morning and because many of my neighbors are leaving around 8:00 (Solomon Time!) to go prepare for the ordination of a priest and for the welcoming of the diocese bishop in another village.  Aaron and Sarah will be in the second load of people to go over.  The ride takes about forty minutes, one way.

Sarah & Kathering drinking through heart straw SAT 2-14
Our home still had an atmosphere of Valentine festivity because Sarah made simple but beautiful Valentine's for each of us, plus, our family just likes any excuse to celebrate!  Aaron, Sarah, and I walked down the hill to wait for Belza to return, and we visited with Belza's sister, Daisy, for almost an hour before she finally said something to the effect of, "Why don't you just go home and rest.  He won't be here for a while, and then I'll send somebody to come and get you."  By that time, it was nearing lunch, so I got some pumpkin lentil soup cooking to fortify my adventurous travelers while the kids played outside.  Sure enough, about the time the soup was done, Belza was ready to take the next round of people.  So, Sarah and Aaron wolfed down their soup and putt-putted away.

preparing the pig
Marulaon is expected, along with the other villages, to make contributions toward to be celebration and ordination tomorrow.  Part of the contribution comes in the form of uncooked food, like root crops, that was delivered yesterday.  Part of the contribution is a pig per village.  Dawa spent the morning killing and preparing the pig, and this afternoon I found several women parceling the bits of pieces of pig.  Listening to them, holding their babies (and being peed on), watching the whole process, what a great way to spend the afternoon!

Naris' hands
I love the ingenuity that my neighbors have in using leaves here.  Give them banana leaves and coconut leaves, and they can accomplish almost anything!  Each small parcel of bite sized pig meat was set into a big coconut leaf basket and surrounded by hot stones to slowly cook all night long.  I finally headed back up to the house, and I found a trail of blood leading me to Benjamin's foot.  He had sliced it on the way home from playing, but he did a great job in first aid while his sweet sisters cleaned up the blood.  He was in good enough shape to help me make caramel corn laced with Valentine's M&Ms as a treat and a surprise for Sarah and Aaron whenever they get home late tonight.

Real-time Post

Hi, friends!

You might have heard reports that there was an earthquake in the Solomons. Most of the family was outside and didn’t even notice it. Joanna said she only noticed because, from her position on the porch, she could tell that the house and water in the rank tank were shaking just a bit.

All that to say, all is well and they are fine!

~Ann H.

Friday, February 13

Wednesday for lunch, we fixed a big pan of local potatoes (umalau) and pumpkin greens covered with coconut cream and cooked on hot stones.  This combination is one of our family's favorites, but we also wanted to have some nice food to share with Barnabas and Edwin as a thank you for spending the last two weeks helping Aaron.  They said they were finished now and that Aaron needed to find somebody new. 

In scraping the coconuts, I pulled something in my back in a place that is prone to injury ever since I went and collected big motu stones in the river on one of the Russell Islands's big islands.  Some people have old football injuries, I have old cooking injuries from the village!  I've been doing school on my back in bed, getting up from time to time, but mostly trying to rest my back for the upcoming trip on Sunday.

Barnabas brought his empty bowl back within a few hours of delivery.  He was SO happy and told me his belly was full now.  Edwin returned his bowl on Thursday, but he didn't get to eat his food.  He was in the garden when Aaron delivered the bowl, and somebody else ate the food!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Wednesday, February 11

The old rusty tank finally emptied yesterday afternoon, but the tank was too hot to move until after church last night.  We can tell how full a metal rain tank is by the line of hot vs. cold.  The sun really heats up the metal above the water line, and the water serves as a great insulator against the heat and keeps the tank cool below the water line. 

moving the rain tank WED 2-11
As the sun began to dip behind the trees, several of our neighbors helped us take down the old metal tank and lift up the new plastic tank into the perfect spot to fill up pots and pans with clean water.  This morning after market, Ofoaen sent her work crew (husband, son, and various assorted male neighbors) to bring the old tank over to her house.  She is SO excited to get this tank (which we considered trash) to collect water to use for washing bodies and clothes.

removing old rain tank
Lots of people turned out to give advice to the guys trying to move the unwieldy rain tank.  Ofoaen's daughter, Naris, had to rescue the guys when they almost knocked over a clothesline with the big tank.  She held up the line so they could pass underneath.

Benjamin in a tree
Benjamin watched the whole process from the top of a cutnut tree where he was knocking down ripe nuts with a bamboo pole.  He also provided entertainment for our neighbors who were quick to tell him to hold on and not fall or to point out some nuts that he missed.

Benjamin in a tree-close WED 2-11
Our morning started with all of that excitement, but now we are back into our normal routine of Aaron meeting with Barnabas and Edwin for language learning, and the rest of us are immersed in school.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Prayer Tool #5 – Tuesday, February 10

Pray...that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there....  Romans 15:31  (NIV)

man working copra TUES
Cooperation and partnership are essential to ministry and vital to the progress of the work.

  • Pray that the missionary's ministry and attitude will be worthy of acceptance.
  • Pray that colleagues and fellow believers will be supportive.

Marulaon Woman’s Daybook

Marulaon house

Just for today...Monday, February 9

From the learning rooms...it's week 27, so 3rd nine weeks grades will come out at the end of the week.  Benjamin and Sarah are reading C.S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters" and taking a biology test; Olivia begins her study of Africa and gives a speech based on her research paper; and Katherine practices making words plural and spelling words with -igh and finishes reading about mountains.

Aaron replacing screens MON

Around the house...Aaron has been working on replacing the screens on the side of the house that faces the ocean.  Those screen corrode so quickly due to the salt in the air.

Kathering & Sylvia MON

A heart full of gratitude...for village friends for my children.

rain tank emptying MON

Outside my window...a steady stream of ladies coming to get water.  We are trying to empty out a 1200 gallon rusty, leaky, old rain tank to replace it with a new plastic one.  So, we've invited everybody to come use the water for bathing and washing clothes, something they don't usually do in rain tank water.  We've heard lots of laughter, lots of running water, and lots of scrubbing all day today.

One of my favorite things...sitting and talking to my Marulaon friends and sharing about the ways we've seen God work in our lives.

On my bookshelf...National Geographic and Smithsonian magazines.  So grateful for the people who give us these subscriptions and help us be life long learners!

fish fangs MON

Crafting in the kitchen...I bought a large cooked red snapper this weekend at market.  It's teeth were scary looking!  Today at lunch, we enjoyed a couple of new recipes from the "More With Less" cookbook:  Golden Eggplant Casserole and Chicken-Cheese Casserole.  Good home-cooking comfort food!

Pondering these words...Say not you cannot gladden, elevate, and set free; that you have nothing of the grace of influence; that all you have to give is at the most only common bread and water.  Give yourself to the Lord for the service of men with what you have.  Cannot He change water into wine?  Cannot He make stammering words to be instinct (imbued, filled, charged) with saving power?  Cannot He change trembling efforts to help into deeds of strength?  Cannot He still, as of old, enable you in all your personal poverty "to make many rich?"  God has need of thee for the service of the fellow men.  He has a work for thee to do.  To find out what it is, and then do it, is at once thy supremist duty and thy highest wisdom.  "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it."  ~Canon George Body

A few plans for the rest of the week...Aaron will be doing language learning with Barnabas and Edwin every morning this week.  On Saturday, at least part of the family will go over to Nukufero Village to welcome the diocese bishop who is coming for his farewell tour and to ordain a new priest.  Sunday, the whole family will go to the ordination.  Most of our friends will be spending the night, but I think we will sleep in our own beds and then leave very early on Sunday morning for a full day of festivities.

Trent MON

A peek into my corner of the world...this little one joined me and my friend, Ofoean, while we waited for the Kosco to arrive yesterday.  He sure was spunky as he walked along the spine of an overturned canoe and begged me to take pictures of him.