Saturday, January 31, 2015

Thursday, January 29

Sarah made a batch of banana muffins to share with our neighbors today.  One of the geckos who lives in our house has a sweet tooth, and that tooth is particularly attuned to the taste of banana muffins and banana muffin batter.  For years, we have watched this gecko sneak up to the dirty dishes to lick the batter off bowls and spoons or creep along the counter to eat the crumbs left from our breakfast of banana bread.
gecko licking banana cake batter
This morning "Pat the Pet", as we affectionately call him, found the batter clinging to the dirty dishes delicious as always.  Even funnier, when he turned around and saw his reflection in the coffee press, his tail stiffened and he froze for several minutes.
gecko looking at reflection
He finally returned to licking the utensils clean before we shooed him away to clean up.
After school, I delivered banana muffins to six households.  I have to go in order around the village, or I forget which house has received the goodies.  I found little Mitchell (isn't she a cutie?) and her mama, Isabella, sitting at my friend Ofoaen's house, next door to their own house.
Isabella & Mitchell eating banana cake
When I delivered muffins to Margaret, she asked for some pain meds.  When I returned with the meds, I also brought my notebook and a pen so I could squeeze in a little bit of language learning. 
Mitchell eating banana cake THURS
I focused on what we call predicate adjectives in English.  The grammar here is totally different, though.  Adjectives like cold or afraid take masculine, feminine, and plural endings, but they also can become intransitive verbs.  So I can say, "Inu nagea?" (You afraid?) to a female friend, or I can say, "Nageare!" (Afraid!) when a little one is afraid of me.  I'm setting up frames to try out patterns and to learn new words.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Wednesday, January 28

Market this morning was wonderful.  My neighbors kept telling me how happy they were that I was back so they could make a little bit of money, and I kept telling them how happy I was that they brought fruits and veggies to market! 
Nobody brought green beans to market, so I took a quick walk out to my garden to see if any green beans had survived the cyclones.  The poles had all fallen down, but I found a small handful of beans.  When I returned to the house, Eta met me with two very ripe breadfruit which she said needed to be motued with four coconuts worth of coconut cream.  Immediately.
Aaron & Benjamin working on raintank
Then she grinned at me and said, "There's your kalimeta!"  I turned around, and sure enough, another friend was standing there with a little boy in one arm and a HUGE bowl of kalimeta critters in the other arm.  Sammy, her little boy, had sores thickly clustered all over his diaper area and scattered across his shoulders, too.  She was coming to ask me to treat him, just like I treated his sister in November.  I repeated my "fancy" treatment - gave them a bar of soap and some laundry detergent to make sure the boy and all of his bedding and clothes were clean.  I also gave him a dose of Benadryl to help with the itching so he wouldn't scratch and spread the sores.  The best medicine?  I prayed with him and his mama before I sent them home.
moving the rain tank
Aaron's list of things to tackle included replacing our worn out rain tank on the front of the house.  This tank is specifically for the neighbors to use, but over the last six years, it has rusted and developed several leaks.  We drew a crowd as Benjamin and Aaron banged around, and thankfully, the crowd helped move the small rain tank up on the platform.  They also help bring the 1000 gallon tank up from the beach.
Ofoaen and Benjamin sawing
The new rain tank was taller than the old one, so Benjamin had to saw the pipe to fit.  Ofoaen helped every step of the way.  She held the pipe still while Benjamin sawed, she held the empty rain tank steady while Benjamin leaned on it to reattach the pipe to the gutter.  She noticed that the the place where Aaron wanted to put the bigger rain tank was underneath a coconut tree, not a wise place to be when coconuts could fall and damage the tank.  I just love her!
The kids started back to school today, and they were willing workers when faced with the huge bowl of sea creatures to extract and coconuts to scrape.  Our lunch of bread fruit smothered in coconut cream and motued accompanied by kalimeta and slippery cabbage reminded me of how much I like living here - the food and the people are both wonderful!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tuesday, January 27

I practice...being entirely where I am, glamorous or not, and what I find is that it's better to be in one place, wholly and full-heartedly, than a thousand splintery half-places, glamorous as they may be.  ~Shauna Niequiest
HUGE thanks to everyone who was praying for our trip on Sunday!  God answered with one of the best trips we've ever had.
Aaron & Roxanne with boxes
We left SITAG a little bit after 6:30 with a truck full of boxes and extra kids.  The Kosco was filling up rapidly when we arrived, so we didn't get our favorite spot, but we found a space nearby where we could all sit together and keep an eye on our cargo.  As the boys handed the boxes up to the deck of the ship, Roxanne played Tetrus getting the boxes to fit just right together, and soon everything was settled.  Right now, our SITAG family is very small, but they all showed up to encourage and provide support.  Our directors brought a nice hot breakfast for us.  Lots of people (maybe ten?) from Marulaon were also on the ship.  Ten people is like 3% of our population! 
At 8:30, the ship blew its whistle to let visitors know they needed to leave the boat, and just then, Patson and Judy's family (SITAG employees) showed up to shake hands and hug necks.  We were thrilled that they came down, too!  Even though the ship blew its whistle, it still operated on "Solomon Time" and didn't leave until 9:40 (which really isn't late at all).  Some of our friends from Marulaon were sitting nearby, and we enjoyed chatting with them and catching up on the news from the month we had been absent.  God gave us calm seas and overcast skies - we couldn't have asked for better traveling weather.
flower wreath MON
We arrived in Yandina, the first port, around 2:30, and Aaron went to scout out the market.  He brought back a handful of bananas and some green coconuts.  Usually, we stop at Yandina for a couple of hours, but this time, cargo was unloaded quickly, and we only stayed for an hour.  One more hour brought us to Marulaon.  Thankfully, Kosco switched its port back to Marulaon, which saved us a lot of time and money!  The girls and I went with the first load of cargo with a smiling Belza driving the motor canoe, and Aaron and Benjamin stayed on the Kosco to finish unloading and bring the two rain tanks we brought with us.  What a joy to see so many smiling faces and helping hands!  When we arrived on the porch around 5:30, a little winded from climbing up the hill with loaded arms, I found two beautiful wreaths of flowers with a Happy New Year message written in Lavukaleve for our family.  God knew I needed that little shot of encouragement.  I'm trying to soak up every little thing, knowing that this will be our last visit for a while.  Eta's smile as she looks over her shoulder while carrying a heavy load up the hill, Ofoaen's big hug and "Happy New Year!" as she filled me in on the big wind that had toppled all of the heavy laden banana trees in the village, all of the older kids home from school who will be leaving very soon to begin a new school year.
New Year's Message MON
Monday, we spent almost the whole day washing clothes, mopping, washing every dish, cleaning up gecko poop, unpacking.  But we always make time to pause and play, this time we played a round of Bohnanza in the morning, and we stopped mid-afternoon to walk around and visit before radio sched.  Having older children who know the routine of moving into the village house and who are capable workers makes settling in so much faster and easier.  I feel like we've hardly been gone, one of the reasons is that I got lots of "askims" on Monday!  Bandaids, antifungal meds, sinus meds, and pain reliever, all in one day. 
During Evening Prayer, the cloudy sky began to let loose its heavy burden, and the rain intensified throughout the night.  Heavy winds rose, too, and I found myself praying for my neighbors whose homes aren't as sturdy as mine.  My outside kitchen sustained quite a bit of roof damage from the cyclone a couple of weeks ago, but my neighbors were already battening down their houses in December because they knew that rainy season was ahead.
This morning, Eta came by after breakfast, dressed in long sleeves and layers.  I asked her, "Inu vevea?" (You cold?)  Her response?  "Veveare!"  (I'm cold!)  She did a great job of keeping our yard looking nice while we were gone, and she was bringing four hands of bananas that had been on our banana tree when the cyclone came through.  Eta told me how she distributed any ripe food to the widows in our community, including some of the slippery cabbage that had also been damaged by the heavy winds.  I made sure she had kept some of the food for her own family, and she had.  She is just such a sweetheart!
The Choate team worked hard again today.  Aaron had a long meeting with Hiva, the chairman of the Lavukal Translation Committee.  Benjamin went up on the roof to fix a small plumbing problem and found a nest of baby birds.  He left it alone.  All of the window louvers are now cleaned.  We were going to begin washing the dusty curtains, but since it was still raining, we decided to wait for some sunshine.  But we did get almost all of the books in the house wiped down and checked for insects.  God has been so good to protect our books here.  We've seen some awful damage in other books in Honiara - tunnels bored through books, mildew and mold that have taken over - but thankfully ours have experienced only minimal damage (mostly that musty Solomon's smell!).
We'll be back at school tomorrow and our normal, everyday lives here.  It's really nice to be back in our sweet, peaceful village.  Wherever God puts me is the best place to be, glamorous or not.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Your prayers are working!

UUPlus seems to be doing well, as post e-mails are coming through from Joanna. We’ve had a packed schedule this week that has kept me from assembling the posts, but you should see them start publishing tomorrow evening. Just wanted to let you know that your prayers are being answered!
~Ann H.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Next Generation

Just before our last village trip, we received "The Singing Book" in the mail from our former voice teacher.  Sarah and Edi used the book for voice lessons in November, and Sarah and I continue to explore the gems found inside (like the Moustache Song by Stephen Foster!).

Here's how Aaron worded his thoughts on Facebook:  "My wife and I consider ourselves to be exceedingly blessed to have been able to study with a wonderful vocalist, an accomplished teacher, and a beautiful person. It is a thrill to have her pass on her legacy to yet another generation of Choate singers!"

Dr. Linney is the kind of professor that invests in her students lives outside the studio, too.  We're so grateful for the amazing people God has allowed to cross our paths!


Good morning, friends! Just a quick update to ask for prayers over the UUPlus system. It is running very, very slowly, keeping the Choates from accomplishing much in the way of e-mail communication.

Thanks for praying!

~Ann H.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Safely in Maruloan

The Choates arrived safely in Marulaon around 5:30 last night their time and are settling in. Joanna will write a real post later. Thank you again to all who pray for this precious family! Keep it up!

~Ann H.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

We're Off!

Thanks to Benjamin and his teenage buddies, the truck was loaded in twelve minutes yesterday afternoon!

We'll be leaving SITAG in just a little while to make our way down to the wharf and find our favorite space on the Kosco.  Prayers appreciated as we have a full day of travel ahead of us and some intense weeks ahead. 

And a reminder, too, that we will not have internet access and our village e-mail is very limited and unreliable.  But please do comment on the blog while we're gone, I can't moderate comments from the village, but I enjoy reading your thoughts when I come back to Honiara.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hard Days

"Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me."  Psalm 50:14-15
This morning started beautifully.  I love the way the sun makes the flowers behind the house glow like rubies.  Psalm 50 was reminding me to bring a sacrifice of praise to the Lord and to call on Him in the midst of packing chaos.  No matter how many time we move, it never gets easier and I never, ever like it any better.

I grabbed Aaron's parallel Bible and flipped to my favorite passage about praise being a sacrificial offering - Hebrews 13:15-16, this time I read from The Message instead of my usual NIV:  ...pouring out sacrificial praises from our lips to God in Jesus' name.  Make sure you don't take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others.  God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship -- a different kind of "sacrifice" -- that take place in the kitchen and workplace and on the streets.

Our children have been a fabulous part of Team Choate.  Olivia hung up laundry (the last of the village sheets!), Sara worked on mending, and Benjamin went over to the ERC to finish some loose ends for me on the computer.  Katherine sweetly helped wherever she could.  They all went out to play basketball during their normal PE time, and when they came in, offering a sacrifice of praise got harder and harder.
First, Sarah informed me that she had experienced another heart "episode".  Thank you, Jesus, that she is okay and that I was typing with a prayer partner and had immediate access to an "Aaron and Hur" kind of friend.  Then, Benjamin came in and said that his glasses had been busted by a basketball hitting him in the side of the head.  Sigh.  Thank you, Lord, that Benjamin isn't hurt.  I praise you for strong, healthy bodies with hands willing and able to work.

Aaron had been in town all morning, and when he returned, he brought God's blessings along with him.  Sarah made banana bread for us to share with a Lavukal family who lives full-time in Honiara.  When Aaron went to deliver the bread this morning, he found three friends from Marulaon at the house, too!  We'll all be going back on the ship together on Sunday.

Aaron also swung by the post office and found some boxes waiting for us.  Today was the last day we could have picked them up before leaving for the village.  Our sweet sending church, Highland Heights Baptist Church in Memphis, sent a couple of boxes.  These weren't just any boxes.

Every year we have been overseas, this small but generous church has sent our children Operation Christmas Child boxes for Christmas, plus a few other goodies for the whole family.  And God's timing is always perfect, especially with snail mail.  He knew that today I would need help finding things that were, in my mind, worthy of praise and thanksgiving.  I think the way I expressed my feelings at lunch went something like this:  "I want to run screaming from the house and jump on the first plane headed to America."

 Not only did we receive love in a box from Memphis, but a thoughtful friend from Florida also sent a care package (thanks, Judy!).  When God sent showers of blessings, He sent a deluge!

Hebrews 13 got me started off right this morning, and I think I'll be camping out there for the next few days.  God's Word prepared my heart for the hard day ahead.  The next few days, weeks, months promise to be hard.  Hebrews 13:18 says, "Pray for us.  We have no doubts about what we're doing or why, but it's hard going and we need your prayers.  All we care about is living well before God." 
 I've printed this from A Holy Experience as a bookmark to encourage me through the hard days, too.  Huge thanks to those of you who do such a great job of encouraging me and my family across the ocean! 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Representing the Heart of Christ at the Table

Sarah got up bright and early this morning to prepare morning tea for SICA's (Solomon Island Christian Association) annual meeting as a small thank you to this group for all they do to support Bible translation in the Solomon Islands.

She often makes cookies or breads for SITAG meetings or Bible studies, and it's been really fun to watch her blossom with God's gift of cooking and making things beautiful, nourishing both the body and the eyes.

"When you offer peace instead of division, when you offer faith instead of fear, when you offer someone a place at your table instead of keeping them out because they're different or messy or wrong somehow, you represent the heart of Christ."  ~Shauna Niequist

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Life is worth celebrating...

I love how my husband described last night on Facebook:
"Life is worth celebrating. So when a young friend has a birthday, you invite the whole neighborhood and have a bash! We are so very thankful for our friends, neighbors, colleagues here who get to be our family while we are so far from our American families."

Praying over the birthday girl got the feasting started well.
My awesome friend, Roxanne, invited everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, around SITAG to come and celebrate her youngest child's eight years of life.

"The table becomes the hospital bed, the place of healing.  It becomes the place of relearning and reeducating, the place where value and love are communicated."  ~Shauna Niequist

Monday, January 19, 2015

Honiara Woman's Daybook

 Just for today...Monday, January 19

From the learning rooms...only three days of school this week so we can pack up the books for the village.  Sarah and Benjamin are finishing up Oliver Twist and their research projects, Katherine is learning about compound subjects and reviewing her times tables in math, and Olivia is studying countries in the Middle East and learning about genetically modified food in science.  So proud of my kids for their diligent school work!

On my bookshelf..."The Last Heathen:  Encounters with Ghosts and Ancestors in Melanesia" by Charles Montgomery.  Don't let the title put you off, this is a must read for anyone coming to serve in Melanesia or just wanting a better understanding of the world in which we live.

Crafting in the kitchen...pumpkin pecan streusel breakfast braid.  Living in Honiara means we can bake to our heart's content (or at least as long as we can afford to buy the expensive baking ingredients).

Pondering these words...
"We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.  In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged.  Quite the contrary -- we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!" 
Romans 5:3-5 The Message

A heart overflowing with gratefulness...for electricity.  Both Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon, Honiara's power went off for 4-5 hours.  SITAG has a generator, but it's not working.  No electricity means no pump to get Honiara water into the houses, so the kids had to haul buckets of water and grab a cup for their showers.  I sat on the porch and enjoyed the view

and the breeze while I wrote letters and made myself be still and quiet.  I'm so thankful for electricity and the things that run on it (especially the fridge and the washing machine!).

One of my favorite things...this practical planner that I just found on a bloggy friend's page.  The planner doesn't really work for me here, I don't have carpets to vacuum, a dishwasher to unload, or a vehicle to clean, but I'm looking forward to using the beautiful pages to keep me on track when we return to the States.
Around the house...Saturday night one of our thoughtful SITAG colleagues hosted us for supper.  This freed us up to cook.  All day long. 
We had lots of hands to help, whether it was chopping onions, mixing banana bread, or washing dishes.  My sweet Sarah spent more time than any of us mixing and following recipes.  But now we are prepared to finish this week well and begin the next week in Marulaon a little more easily. 
Wearing out my knees in prayer...for the chaos of the future.  Would you please join me as we give everything we've got to live well in Marulaon Village while planning and preparing to return to the States in just a few months.

A few plans for the rest of the week...just packing up and getting on a boat early Sunday morning!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Full table, full hearts

"When the table is full, heavy with platters, wine glasses scattered, napkins twisted and crumpled, forks askew, dessert plates scattered with crumbs and icing, candles burning down low -- it's in those moments that I feel a deep sense of God's presence and happiness.  I feel honored to create a place around my table, a place for laughing and crying, for being seen and heard, for telling stories and creating memories."  ~Shauna Niequist, "Bread and Wine"

Thursday, our family got to be part of the welcoming committee for a SITAG team we don't get to see very often.  The wharf was packed!  For a little over a week, SITAG will be the home for twelve children between the ages of seven and fifteen.  This hardly ever happens, and we're so excited that the kids will have extra buddies, and so will we!

Last night, we enjoyed teaching this family how to play Pass the Pigs (which is extra funny here in the Solomon Islands where pigs are super valuable).

And then we enjoyed stuffed pumpkin served with a beautiful handmade ladle I found at a craft shop for just a few dollars.  What a sweet way to start the weekend, creating a place around the table for telling stories and creating memories and nourishing each other with good food and good fellowship.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

It's a small world after all...

Aaron and I decided to combine a quick lunch date with some needed shopping yesterday.  It's been ages since we've gone out by ourselves, and school was almost finished for the day.  So, on the spur of the moment, we headed out the door.  And I'm so glad we did.  We thought it might be wise to do the shopping first and then eat lunch to miss the rush, so by the time we stepped into the restaurant, I was ravenous.  

I had walked up to the counter and began ordering my food when Aaron said in a whisper, "Joanna, I think that guy over there is David C____ ."  I didn't turn around, but I told him it couldn't be David, because we were in the Solomon Islands.  He repeated, "I really think it's David!  It looks just like him."  Keep in mind, we haven't seen David in almost twenty years.  We sang together in choir at Stetson University.  I placed my order, turned around, and said, "You are right - that IS David!"  So, we walked right up to him and asked, "Is your name David?"  And the rest of our time was spent catching up with this fun guy with a beautiful voice who played spades with us across Europe on choir tour so many years ago.  Wow!  Only God could have orchestrated this beautiful crossing of paths in the Solomon Islands.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Something fishy

Wycliffe has a new children's book out: 
"In this new book, kids meet Kate, a Wycliffe missionary kid, and her
friend, Mack. They're traveling around the world learning about languages,
cultures and countries. It's an awesome way to help expand kids' worldview
from a biblical perspective, and to teach them about the importance of
Bible translation. You can read more about the book here."

Our family got an e-mail asking if we would submit some recipes as an extra resource to go alongside the new children's book, which we thought was pretty cool since we have four kids who love to cook and eat Solomon Islands' food.  I thought I would share the recipe here.  Our family loves pumpkin stuffed with coconut cream, fish, and onions, and we are trying to measure ingredients to make it easy to replicate the recipe, no matter where you live.  When my friends taught me how to make it, we just "eye balled" everything, so now I'm having to backtrack and figure out how much to use.

Stuffed Pumpkin
(serves 8)
Round pumpkin - about 5 lbs. and 8 inches in diameter
onions - two small or one large, depending on how much you like onion
garlic - one or two cloves, again depending on how much you like garlic
salt to taste - about 1 tsp.
Red snapper - between 4 and 5 lbs.
dry coconuts - 2
boiling water - 2 cups
Bake the fish uncovered in a 350 degree oven about 30 minutes, or until the flesh of the fish is opaque.  While the fish is baking, chop the onions and garlic, and sauté them in a nonstick skillet.  Set aside. 
Wash the outside of the pumpkin and cut a "lid" in the top (similar to how you would cut the top of a jack o' lantern).  Scoop the seeds out and save them for toasting, if desired.  Toasted pumpkin seeds make a very nice garnish for this soup.  When the fish is done, debone it and add the meat to the inside of the pumpkin.

Add the sauted onion and garlic to the inside of the pumpkin.
If you have a teenage boy at your house, give him a hammer and ask him to smash the two dry coconuts.  Or maybe you could borrow an enthusiastic boy if you don't have one of your own.  Pry the bits away from the shells.  Put the flesh of one dry coconut into the blender. 
Add one cup of boiling water and blend until smooth.  Pour into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer or tea towel,  let this mixture cool or you will burn your hands on the next step.  Ask me how I know.  This is not how I make coconut milk in the Solomons.  I use a bush knife, a coconut scraper, and cold water, and I just pour the water in until it looks good.  I burned my hands all for the sake of science.  Just call our kitchen the "Solomon Island's Test Kitchen".  Take the shredded coconut and squeeze the milk out, handful by handful, through the strainer into the bowl.

Now, pause and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Pour the coconut milk back into the blender, add the second coconut and another cup of boiling water. Blend.  Using a large strainer or a tea towel to catch the coconut, pour the coconut milk into the pumpkin on top of the fish and onion mixture.  Squeeze every bit of liquid out of the shredded coconut.

The pumpkin should be almost full when you have finished squeezing.  You don't want it too full or the lid will make the filling overflow.  Add about a teaspoon of salt and stir the mixture inside the pumpkin.

Cook the pumpkin on a baking tray for about 45 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with chunks of pumpkin and toasted, salted pumpkin seeds.  This is also yummy (and stretches to feed more people) served over rice.  If you want the soup thicker, use less water when you make the coconut milk.  The mixture will congeal into a delightful creamy middle.  Kind of like a big Cadbury Crème Egg.