Monday, April 30, 2012

It's finally here!  We're shooting to be at the airport around 5 p.m. (CDT) Monday night, and we'll arrive in Orlando around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday morning (CDT).  We'll fly four different legs, stopping in Vanuatu, Fiji, Los Angeles, and finally Orlando.  Thanks for your prayers as we begin this next section of our adventure!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

from April 4/5

With all of the bad weather over the weekend, the Kosco didn't even make it out of Honiara to Marulaon until Monday morning, so it was running about 18 hours behind schedule then.  When our friendly SITAG deputy, Andy, called the Kosco office to find out what time they would arrive in Marulaon on the way back, the answer was, "Night straight".  Got that?  Our best translation was that the boat would come in the middle of the night.  So, after evening prayer, we began to carry all of our boxes down the hill to wait for the motor canoe.  Thankfully, we had lots of little helpers.

We really didn't know what time to set the alarm clock, if at all, so we decided on two o'clock and asked the neighbors to come wake us up whenever they heard the ship.  Around one o'clock, Aaron and I both woke up to hear the dugga-dugga of the ship's engines, so we quickly woke up the kids, pulled the sheets off the beds, piled the mattresses together in our room, and covered them with a big sheet.  One last stop in the bath room, and we all headed down the hill to await the motor canoe we had lined up earlier.  The problem was, the canoe was in another village now, and the owner had his cell phone turned off.  Oops.

God had it all under control.  A teacher from our village, just happened  to be bringing in another teacher to catch the ship, and our friend quickly volunteered to cart us and all of our things out to the Kosco.  Three trips and lots of hugs later, we were all aboard the Kosco in a kind of dreamlike state.  So hard to say goodbye to all of those people who got out of bed to see us off.

the stinky fish that saved our spot on the boat - you can see Katherine's shoe just underneath the fish in front, and she has really big feet for a four-year-old

The boat was full enough that we couldn't find anywhere for all six of us to sit down together, so Aaron and Sarah stayed down on the open deck, while the rest of us went up to the covered deck and split into two teams.  The only thing keeping our spot open was two big stinky fish leaking all over the deck.  Really.  So, we scooted them around and spread out our mats.  Katherine and I on one side, and Benjamin and Olivia around the corner.

Not much sleeping happened on the ship.  It started to rain after a couple of hours, so Aaron and Sarah just had to stand up and huddle with the rest of the passengers wherever they could find shelter.  Of course, as soon as the sun came up, our kids pulled out the books.

When Katherine and I spread our mat, we were head to head with this little cutie and his mama.  The little boy kept stretching and grabbing my hair during the night, but Katherine and I got lots of good snuggles.

We finally pulled into Honiara around 9:30 and found our friendly SITAG deputy, Andy, and his son waiting to help us off the boat.  What a welcome sight!

Lots of other folks from SITAG came to help us unload our cargo and make sure we got everything safely back up the hill.  I drove one vehicle full of kids while Aaron rode in the back of the truck with our stuff.  Glad we didn't let the kids ride in the back, because on a big bump just outside of SITAG, Aaron went flying out of the truck! 

A big thank you to everybody who prayed us back into Honiara.  Our last trip out to Marulaon this year was fabulous!

From April 3

Today was the day to take down the solar panels.  When we put them up three years ago, we had lots of help, and we had lots of help again today.  Knowing how to climb a coconut tree and perch on top came in handy for these guys.

While they worked, the kids gathered round and created quite an audience.

Earlier in the afternoon, I was trying to finish up the last of the family photos, and I found my friend Sylvester cooking hote/shellfish.  Hote means stuck, and these little guys stick to the sides of rocks.  They have "hair" all along the edge of their oblong bodies, and Sylvester was just pouring boiling water over them and stirring to remove the hair.  Later, she will pop off their armadillo like armor, remove the innards, and make a stew for the visiting catechists.

Saying goodbye to friends has been another focus today.  Benjamin and his friend, Jordan...

and Olivia with her buddies, sisters Jayli and Losma.  By the way, Olivia and Losma are the same age!  No wonder people in the village can hardly believe Olivia is only eight years old.
Our last few days in Honiara have been sweet amongst the packing.  We reached "critical mass" yesterday as our bags maxed out on their weight allowance.  Nothing else can go in the bags - sad.  So many beautiful things to bring back, but alas, many things must stay in Honiara.

Last night, our colleagues held a potluck and prayed for us.  We played a fun game where everyone had two clues.  One clue was a question and one clue was the answer to another question.  For example,

Q:  The Paula Deen rivals of the southern hemisphere, the Choates buy a lot of these two foods. 

A:  butter and cream

Q:  Joanna once cooked a "bin for swim" for dinner, believing it to be this vegetable

A: zucchini

Q:  They buy this food at market that most SITAG people don't buy in order to build relationships

A. shellfish

Hmmmm, lots of the questions revolved around food.

This morning, we drove to the market and then to tell Ofoaen goodbye.  I didn't cry!  She has some growths that the doctor biopsied last week.  We are waiting for the results to come back from Australia - a wait of at least six weeks.  I would really appreciate your prayers for this dear friend.

After we left Ofoaen, we swung by the post office with the last of our thank you cookies for them, then ran a few more errands before we headed home.  Now, we are doing the last cleaning and making sure that the bags are the right weight.  Back to work...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

From April 2

Oh, I had to finish giving away my flowers today.  My African violet flourished on the porch this time.  I took it to Kiko as a thank you for her friendship.

Olivia has really enjoyed helping with the babies in Marulaon, and this afternoon, she watch Translyn under our house while we packed up.

Our neighbors asked if they could throw us a farewell party, but we asked if they would consider changing it to a "going back to school" party for Aaron.  They are concerned that we won't come back, and we keep trying to reassure them that, unless God changes the program, we will be back next year.

Aaron and Chariman Hensy

So, they began trickling in around eight o'clock.  We were honored at how many people showed up and crowded underneath our house.  The weather has been really rough the last couple of days, so fishing has been impossible.  Somebody splurged and bought canned tuna just so we would have some fish to eat.


I knew the speeches would be hard, but when Hensy announced that I would be the last speaker I just about lost it.  I still cried when it was my turn to speak.  I wish I could have made the speech in Lavukaleve, but Pijin just had to be okay tonight.  After I thanked the ladies for their friendship and cooking lessons and patience with learning their language, I told them that I would have to come back because I was leaving my heart in Marulaon.

From March 31

Yesterday, after penance, Margaret was supposed to come up and help me transcribe one of the videos I took in Hae.  I finally went down and found her sister, Rebekah.  Rebekah told me that Margaret had gone up to give some custom medicine to Ofain and would be over as soon as she could.  That's one of the things I love, love, love about this culture.  If a friend or family member needs you, you always take the time to help.  Relationships are so important here.  I didn't mind waiting for Margaret, and my friend Ofain got helped, too!

Walter, one of our catechists, told us to stay home tonight from church!  He wanted to come over to our house and give us our own service.  So, he and Hiva came over in the pouring rain after Evening Prayer was finished, and we enjoyed our own private service on the porch.  Sarah and I read the scripture readings in English, but the rest of the service was in Lavukaleve.  We couldn't hide behind our neighbors' voices last night.

This morning after market, I took some clothes down to share with Group One before I began to take family photos.  My neighbors did a great job of holding up clothes and matching up people with the clothes to fit best. 

While I was taking pictures, Benjamin came down to tell me that Kiko was waiting for me at the house.  We are still working on transcribing some videos.  The pictures for the story of Jesus' birth are finally finished, so I need to scan them and print out a booklet.  Two stories now in booklet and recording - yay!

Friday, April 27, 2012

From March 29

This is what Katherine wrote on the chalk board in the list of "I'm thankful for..."  I love that girl!

From March 28

We never know what time the Kosco will arrive.  The earliest we've ever experienced was 5 a.m.  But it didn't come that early today!  So, Cynthia got to go down the hill to market with us.

I'm always amazed and grateful at how much our Marulaon friends are willing to share with us.  I KNOW that God has used the fruits and veggies from market to help us stay healthy and keep us in the village for longer stays.


We bought some motued fish, some pumpkin leaves, and some umalau/sweet potatoes, which made me want to motu and share the experience with Cynthia.  But around 8:30, we heard the dugga-dugga of the ship's engines coming around the corner of the island.


So, we packed up Cynthia and all headed down the hill to say goodbye.


She hopped in the motor canoe and sped away to catch the ship.  What an amazing woman, that Cynthia!  She was so willing to jump into life with our family and to experience life in our village so she could help the Lavukal prepare for having the scriptures in their heart language.

We still enjoyed our motued lunch later in the day, but it would have been much sweeter if we had gotten to share it with Cynthia.

From March 27

This morning, we paddled Cynthia over to Karumulun.  My friend, Nancy, went with us to help us find the path through the coral once we crossed the deep part.  Margaret was supposed to go with us, but her daughter Mary was still sick.  One of the older men in the village said Mary has malav nura/wild people in her belly.


The kids are great paddlers, but we still banged into each other as we tried to row in time.  Singing together help a little bit.

Nancy and Sarah sat on the front and guided us to a soft landing in Karumulun where Ezekiel was waiting for us.

We brought some umalau/sweet potatoes, faluk/slippery cabbage, popcorn, banana cake, and unpopped popcorn to share.


Ezekiel walked with us to give Cynthia a tour of the village.  We played the creation story on the Saber for the village chief and several onlookers.

And we finally got to meet the District Priest's family.  We're excited about our new Priest.  He seems very humble and very interested in caring for his flock.  Hopefully, he'll still be assigned to our church district when we return next year.

Isn't their baby adorable?!?  After our village tour, we walked back to Ezekiel's house where the ladies had prepared a small lunch with haleav, a type of shellfish, umalau, and rice.  Benjamin gave the speech for our family, and he did a great job.  In Ezekiel's speech, he surprised us by saying how pleased he was that we ate and cooked the local food.  I'm still learning, but I'm thankful that God made it easy for us to enjoy eating the food in the Russells.

(Thanks to Cynthia for sharing her pictures!)

From March 25

Our friend, Cynthia, arrived on the Kosco yesterday afternoon.  She is coming to help us get the Sabers up and running.  We've been having so many problems with them.

What an adventurous woman she is to brave the ride on the ship and live in close quarters with our family for a few days.

Today, I gave her a tour of the village and introduced her to some of our friends here in Marulaon.  Kiko is one of my favorite people - hardworking and honest and always ready for a laugh.

Kiko's great-nephew had been experiencing abdominal pain, so Barnabas came over to prepare some custom medicine.  God made so many leaves that have curative properties.  Our family has received benefits from several of the leaves that grow around here, thanks to the help of our friends. 

Barnabas smashed up some leaves, soaked them in water, and strained the mixture.  Then, he spooned it into baby Jude's mouth and massaged his belly.


Later in the day, Cynthia and I played the recordings on the Saber for Margaret, who helped with the back translation of the creation story.  Margaret's daughter, Mary was really sick, so after Margaret listened to the recordings, we took some cold water to Mary to help cool her down.  Then we played the recordings for more of the women who had helped to craft the story.  I'm really pleased with the final booklet, and the ladies seem to be reading along really well.  Six months of hard work, and we finally have our first booklet and recording completed!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

From March 24

In the mystery of love, as God planned it, "no one can ever figure out who is doing the giving and who the receiving," writes Thomas Howard.  Real lovers "know that giving and receiving are a splendid and hilarious paradox in which, lo, the giving becomes receiving, the receiving giving until any efforts to sort it out collapse in merriment or adoration."
~Ben Patterson

Twenty-two years ago today, Aaron reached over in a dark movie theater and held my hand for the first time.  I'm still happy to hold his hand through our adventures, and to collapse in merriment and adoration with him.  Happy hand-holding-versary, dear husband!

From March 23

My second session making banana cake got off to a slow start, and it was a very different feel because none of these ladies had ever made banana cake before.  The hardest part is getting the fire just right!  Katherine came down with me and had a blast playing with her friends.  We collected quite a crowd of guys, too, and they all had good questions about the recipe and cooking process.

Sarah and I also made some jello to share with the kindy class.  Originally, I wanted to use the alphabet cookie cutters like I do with my own kids, but we decided to use shapes instead for ease in getting them out of the pan.  Jello melts almost as soon as you take it out of the fridge here in Marulaon.

They had to tell me what color and what shape the jello was before they got any to eat, and then they loved showing off their colored tongues!  Using Lavukaleve was good for me, too.  I'm not used to using the plural form of the verbs, so I got a little bit of school this morning, too.

Sarah was a huge help for me.  She has good classroom management, and I wouldn't be surprised if she ends up teaching young children when she grows up.

From March 22

Several of the ladies have been asking me to teach them (again) how to make banana cake.  So I made extra copies of the recipe in Lavukaleve, and my friend Kiko taught them while I watched.  She is a great cook of all different kinds of foods.  Today's session was for half of the village, and tomorrow, I'll do another session on the other side of the village.

I brought all of the ingredients, and I took a video of Kiko teaching.  I was amazed at the end when the ladies thought I would take home all of the food!  They were pleased to learn that it was all for them.  The cake took a long time to cook over the fire, we think that the pan was too tall for the heat on top to cook properly.  Every time we cook banana cake, we learn a little bit more about what works best.


When I returned home around lunch time, I found Aaron and Ezekiel working on the porch, and Katherine was supervising the meeting from the ila/hammock.  Ezekiel is so great to make the effort to paddle over to Marulaon. 

Monday, April 23, 2012


We're celebrating here and thanking all of you who prayed for a house for us in Arkansas.  We have a cute little old house in our hometown complete with a big front porch and gardenias and roses and right across the street from practice rooms for us to reconnect with our cellos.  Our moms are putting in extra hours to get everything set up before our arrival on May 15th, and I imagine there are many more people contributing their time, energy, and finances as well.  That would be just like the body of Christ!

So, our family is enjoying this simple but yummy recipe and praising God for His provision once again.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

From March 21

Monday afternoon,  I went with Eta and her sister Vauma to my garden.  We dug about 100 heaps and planted uvikola/cassava, and then we dug trenches and planted more than thirty lime seedlings.  The ground was incredibly hot and dry, and worked until almost dark.  I knew that the seedlings wouldn't survive if we didn't get rain, but we haven't had rain in weeks.  In fact, our big rain tank is down to about 19 inches so we are on "Code Orange" - no sheet washing and only hair washing when absolutely necessary.

Yesterday morning, the rain started, gently.  And it lasted.  All.  Day.  Aaron told me that God did it just for my garden.

Today has been full.  The District Priest had his official first tour of the district, so we had a full communion service this morning, followed by a presentation of gifts and speeches after breakfast.  Then Kiko came over to help me transcribe some videos that I had taken last week in Hae Village.

In the middle of writing down the transcription, I hear Olivia hollering down the hill from where she was playing.  Sure enough, she came screaming up the hill with her hand on her forehead.  She had been watching a friend cutting kino/cutnut, and Olivia leaned in a little too close just as the friend was raising the knife to strike a heavy blow to the nut.  We got the bleeding stopped and Olivia calmed down.  She'll have a great scar as well as a great story!

From March 19

Watching Katherine learn to read is so much fun!  Today, she and Sarah made noodle necklaces and wrote words from the -at family on the noodles.  Baby Anna even got a necklace.  Both of them are little village girls wearing only a skirt!