Friday, December 5

We left the house at 5:40 this morning to begin the two mile trek to Fly Harbour Primary School.  The morning was beautiful, and it was plenty bright to see the path, even in the darker parts where the trees closed in overhead.  We paused at the beach "facilities" where our friend, Walter, found us, so we chatted for a few minutes with him while we waited for the family to reassemble. 
Fly Harbour sign FRI
The communion service was supposed to begin at 7:00, but when we arrived around 6:45, the District Priest hadn't even arrived.  So, I walked around with my camera in hand, enjoying "Solomon Time."
Inside girls' dorm FRI
This is what the inside of the girls' dorm looked like in June.  It's a tiny, cramped, dirty space in which the girls cram to eat and sleep.
New Girls' Dorm FRI
As soon as the new dorm is finished (it's still missing some of the floor), the girls will have a clean, spacious, and beautiful place to live.  And they will have a great view, too!
Maja - FRI
I found Maja. her family is from Marulaon, and she's one smart cookie.  She and her brother remind me of the 8th graders I taught my very first year as an orchestra teacher.  The combined GPA of my class was 3.98, and they were all so smart that I had a hard time keeping some of them out of trouble!  I've got my eye on this beautiful little girl, I think God has some big things planned for her.
kids sitting on mat FRI
The church service finally got started around 8:00.  The school's tiny chapel is made for holding only the students, so we were some of the few adults actually inside the building.  The rest of the adults and visiting children sat outside and came inside only to take communion.  After the service finished, our family was invited to the "big man" breakfast.  This was another time I was thankful that God had prompted us to bring extra food.  We brought almost four dozen banana muffins and a big container of sliced pineapple to add to their packages of crackers and a few rolls.  It's so nice to be able to share!  After breakfast, the kids found a good spot to spread out our mat to watch the graduation ceremony.  Aaron and I were both going to be up near the stage in our official roles.
Annie's tears - FRI
Annie's Aunt Daisy was holding her, and I have no idea why Annie was crying.  But Annie was in good hands with so many people to love on her.  And every time I saw Olivia running around, she had a baby in her arms.  The "big men" met underneath an inkori tree, heavy with fruit, while we waited to file in and have our necks hung with beautiful flower garlands.  We watched rain clouds build and move toward us as we waited.  Finally, we officially processed in, and I got two necklaces because one of the big men didn't show up.
graduates coming in FRI
After we were seated, the graduates filed in and received their flower garlands from their family members.  Of the nineteen students graduating from the 6th grade, almost half of them were from Marulaon.  And most of the girls are right around Sarah's age.  Rain began to fall, and the tarp under which we were sitting began to sag a little even as more and more people crowded underneath to stay dry.  Most of the families were sitting underneath trees around the stage area.  The speeches began, each of them in English, and most of them read from a piece of paper.  As the "Guest of Honor," I was the last one to stand up, and with my heart pounding, I read my speech in Lavukaleve, interspersed with scriptures in Pijin.  I tried to encourage the teachers, students, and families with verses from Galatians, I Timothy, and Hebrews.
Aaron giving awards FRI
Aaron said the crowd grew quiet and leaned in when I began speaking. I think they just couldn't understand me, but it was important to me to value their heart language and the way God made them.  The Master of Ceremonies commented that my speech was very clear because it was in their own language.  My prayer is that the speech will open doors in the future and help people's hearts to be soft to the Lord.
Joanna handing out certificates FRI
Once all of the official speeches were finished, then came the fun part.  Everybody's demeanor changed from serious and stuffy to an attitude of celebration.  Aaron got to hand out the prizes for 1st and 2nd grade, and I got to give the certificates to the graduates. 
Kiki & Joanna FRI
So many of my friends have been looking forward to this day.  Kiko has been talking about graduation for more than a year!  She is a single mom who adopted her sister's son, Jordan.  Jordan and Benjamin are the same age and like to hang out together, and I like to spend time with Kiko, too!
cassava & rice
After the ceremony finished, the graduates, their families, and the big men were invited to eat at a special table.  Everybody else was supposed to bring their own food.  We knew that we would be invited to the special table, but we went ahead and brought some food for our family, too.  As we began to spoon out rice into our own bowls, fish and lelenga began showing up in our hands from our friends sitting next to us.  We were happy to trade Spanish Rice for some yummy local food!  Our friends sure take good care of us.
Girl eating bread FRI
This little one has the prettiest eyes!  She must have been family of a graduate because she got a coveted roll to eat.  I remember meeting her in June in Karumulun for their feast day.  One of my favorite things about living here is gathering with several villages to celebrate special days.
Walking Home FRI
By the time we left to walk home, it was about 2:30. The rain was coming down, making the path slippery, so we slowed down from our early morning pace.  Sometimes we walked through beautiful coconut groves, sometimes through our friends' gardens, and sometimes the close, lush, green growth brushed water all over us until we felt like we were walking through an automated car wash!  We often heard friends walking home (they could hardly believe we were walking instead of riding in a motor canoe), so we stepped off the path so our quick friends could pass us.
Katherine's foot FRI
We finally arrived home a little bit before 4:00, wet, dirty, thirsty, and tired, but thrilled to have been a part of such a special day in the life of our community.

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