Monday, February 29, 2016

Weekend Wonders


What a great weekend God gave us!  A year ago, we unexpectedly bumped into this college friend in Honiara.  Other than that short meeting, we hadn't seen David since we were on a choir tour singing around Europe.  He looked like this:
 
 
He really hasn't changed a bit in twenty years, and this weekend we got to enjoy being his adopted family while he is away from his own precious wife (he is sitting next to her on the bus - pre-wedding) and five children.
 

Friday night we enjoyed his company, then all day Sunday, too!  We attended church together, shared meals, played spades (he has only honed his skills at going nil since our college days) and basketball.
 

And we laughed.  A lot.  I'm still a little bit in awe at watching God orchestrate our schedules again.  This is David's last tour of duty in the Solomon Islands, and we only arrived a few weeks ago.  We're praying that this is only the first of many times where our paths cross.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Birthdays Galore


The last week has held many opportunities to celebrate birthdays here at SITAG.


Last week, we got to host a birthday party with a request for "cinnamon cake", so Sarah made a coffee cake with a cinnamon ribbon inside (I grew up calling this kind of cake "sock-it-to-me" cake!). 


This week we got to celebrate another special friend, and her birthday cake request was for flan.  Sarah was happy to whip up this one, too.


One of the SITAG traditions I love the most is the ladies piling in the vehicle for an afternoon coffee break in town.  It's amazing how quickly we can finish our work for the day or rearrange our schedules when we know that sweet fellowship and a treat are waiting.
 
 
These ladies are the best support through the ups and downs of life!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Goodbyes


Our lives here at SITAG include lots and lots of hellos and goodbyes.  People come and go in and out of our lives and hearts all of the time.  Yesterday, we took one of colleagues and friends to the airport to send him back home to his family.  I felt like we've had my older brother living with us for the last two weeks.  And now the house feels empty.  Taylor has brought extra laughter and joy and helping hands into our family during his time with us.  Once again, it's like the sun going behind the clouds.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

In Memory of Robert Bruce Choate


How grateful I am for this man and the role he had in shaping my husband's life.  Though we didn't plan to return to America last year, that unexpected trip back gave us time with Aaron's grandfather.


This tough WWII veteran had a soft spot for his great-grandchildren.


And he served his church for many, many years as bus driver, usher, and whatever was needed in his quiet way.  One of my favorite memories is the way he served his wife and washed dishes and cleaned off the table so quickly, sometimes you had to hang on to your plate or glass if you weren't quite finished.
 

Robert Bruce "Bud" Choate
August 21, 1924-February 25, 2016

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wycliffe's Bibleless People Group of the Week

 

Our dear friends Jim and Carolyn left SITAG early this morning to return to their village where the read-through of the entire Roviana Bible will begin tomorrow.  This couple has given thirty-three faithful years of their lives to see this Bible to completion.  You can read more about the Roviana project and how to pray as they near the finish line.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

SITAG Family


One of the hardest parts of living overseas is being so far away from family.  But God knows how hard it is, and He puts our SITAG family around us to support us and to sweeten life a little bit.


This afternoon, we had to say goodbye to the men and women who came to serve us during Conference.  We are so grateful for them!  They were super flexible with the delay that Cyclone Winston handed them when it attacked Fiji.  We loaded up the truck and one of the vehicles and headed off to the airport.
 

Team SITAG had quite a few goals for the afternoon.  One goal was to get this team of volunteers checked in and on the plane.  That goal was hampered by the time it took for the guy behind the counter to hand write each boarding pass.  We've never seen that happen before, but this team got to move very slowly through the line while they patiently waited.
 

One of our goals was to have fun during our wait on top of the airport.

 
Another goal was to pick up a colleague who finished a New Testament a few years ago and now lives in Papua New Guinea.
 

But he comes back from time to time to work with a language cluster project, and we always enjoy spending time with him when he is in the Solomon Islands.


Watching my kids interact with their younger SITAG "cousins" brings me such joy.  I really appreciate our colleagues' attitudes about treating each other like extended family.


We whooped and hollered when our colleague stepped off the plane, then we hustled down to arrivals to welcome him.  And to check on the departing team, who was still waiting in line.


Another one of our goals was to continue school work, even though we weren't at home.  I was super proud of Olivia who was so very diligent in completing the work she brought with her, even though her friends were playing around her.


Another colleague of ours was supposed to arrive from Fiji over the weekend, but he got stuck in Fiji because of the cyclone.  When we called the control tower about his arrival time, we were told he would arrive at 1:45.  We thought we would just stick around for a few more minutes and pick him up, too.


Sarah makes everything around her beautiful, even her friend's hair.  I love watching my kids blossom!  When we called the control tower again, they said the plane from Fiji would arrive at 2:10, so we decided to hang around a little bit longer.
 

The SITAG men are such good daddies and husbands and friends.  Whenever Aaron is away from the family, several of the guys always make sure that we are doing well and offer to make the trip to the wharf in the middle of the night so I don't have to go down.  I feel honored to be a part of a group whose members are full of godly integrity and have servant hearts.
 

When 2:30 rolled around, some of us decided to go back down and say goodbye to the departing team who had finally made it through the line.  But we found they were no longer in the waiting room and had already gone through customs.  Oh, we had some tears, then.  The men and women who taught our kids for a week really connected and made some strong relationships, and our kids wanted to be able to say goodbye.  Olivia especially struggled, and I was super proud of her for her mature response in the face of disappointment.
 

When we discovered that the colleague for whom we were waiting wouldn't arrive until 3:30, we decided to wait until the Illinois team boarded so we could wave and holler and send them off right.  Then we called another colleague to pick up the late arrival, and we headed back to SITAG.  The last goal on our list was for the kids in the truck to stop for ice cream on the way home while the moms stopped by market and a few other stores for groceries.  Today was very productive!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Back to school


 
After all the rain we've experienced in the last week, today was an absolutely gorgeous, sunny day.  The team that came from Illinois to minister to SITAG during Conference got stuck here for a few extra days because of Cyclone Winston hitting Fiji, and I was really thankful that they could bask in a beautiful Solomon Islands' day.
 
 
We started back to school to day after a month's break for packing, moving across the ocean, and SITAG's Conference.  I had reminded the kids that the first day back is often a little bit rough, so they needed to be intentional about extending grace to themselves and to each other (and to Mama, too!).  It was such a good day.  Being back on a routine, having Katherine sit on my lap to read to me, listening to kids practice piano, everybody diligently completing school work - wow!  So many of God's gifts in our day.  We still have Taylor living with us, too, and we are really enjoying his company.  It's like having my big brother live with us, and we love it.
 

And these two cuties?  They comprise the entire 2nd grade class at SITAG.  After PE, I found them both sitting at the table, silently poring over their times tables.    

Friday, February 19, 2016

Highlights of SITAG's Conference

 
SITAG's Conference is finally over.  We are gasping for breath and grateful for all that was accomplished and for the many people who were praying for our branch.  Here are some of the things that stand out as I look back over the last, very intense, week:
 

-Sarah made Willow Bird's Coconut Tres Leches Cake with a few tweaks and won the SITAG bake-off that got our Conference started on a sweet note
 

-Sunday night was an impromptu party as we added four people around our table and played a game we learned from Julie.  I love it when people just bring their own food over and add it to the table!
 

-Business meetings!  The business has to get done, even when it's tedious.  But for most of the time, we kept light hearts, voted quickly, worked together, and maintained a spirit of unity.


-Having extras in my house again makes me so happy.  Almost every day when the meetings finished, I found borrowed kids hanging out.
 

-This couple.  They keep coming back.  Four times now they've made the trek across the Pacific Ocean, braved the heat, and put up with the slow to non-existent internet service.  They keep shepherding us, loving on us, encouraging us.  And we are SO grateful.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Bibleless People Group of the Week

In 1992, big hair was finally on its way out, Aaron and I were dating and preparing for a career in music education, and this couple signed up with Wycliffe's Bibleless People Prayer Project to pray for the Lavukal people in the Solomon Islands. 
 

You can go here to read the rest of the story of God's work among the Lavukal and how we get to be a small part...


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Comfort and Convenience

"I understand asking God for comfort and convenience, but I've seen that often leads me to complacency.  Once God solves my issues, I move on and forget to look for lessons I need to learn from what I faced.  But looking to God for purpose and perspective forces me to learn crucial lessons in perseverance and maturity." 
~Lysa TerKeurst

 
How I treasure my comfort and convenience!  When I read these words last week, I recognized myself and my love for comfort and convenience.  Moving to the Solomon Islands has a way of removing much of the comfort and convenience, and the cold I've harbored since the day we've stepped off the plane has left me longing for ease, not for purpose and perspective.  Gratefully, the last few days have changed my heart, even if those days have only seen my cold get worse and an ear infection set in. 


In the midst of the business meetings this week, we have the opportunity to hear each team give a report of the last biennium, and then all of SITAG gathers around and prays.  We go through lots of tissues because each team has faced challenges.  Our faith is strengthened as we hear each other speak of God's goodness and guiding hand through the hard times.  And there are plenty of hard times.  Many of our precious SITAG family has been soldiering on, quietly, faithfully, diligently, for seventeen, twenty-seven, thirty-three years.  Daily fighting Satan's darts. 


Daily making the choice to be faithful to the Lord's leading, because each of us knows that our lives are not our own.  The Choate family has only lived on this side of the world for seven and a half years, and my cold has left me unable to breathe, sleep deprived, and extremely cranky.  But listening to my colleagues' stories has encouraged me to look past my love of comfort and convenience and instead to look for God's purpose and perspective throughout the difficulties each day brings.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sweet Sabbath


"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if e do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."  Galatians 6:9-10
 
 
Sunday is my favorite day of SITAG's Conference.  After three days dedicated to corporate worship and the preaching of God's Word, my thirsty heart is beginning to rehydrate.
 

I've been surrounded by faithful servants of God like Jim and Carolyn, who have given their lives to the Roviana translation project for the last thirty-three years, and are nearing completion of a whole Bible.  Other servants sneak in and out, like Margreet, who keeps refilling the water bottles and pouring them into the hot water pots so we can enjoy our coffee during the breaks.


But my very favorite part is when the children join the adults.  When we sing, the rafters ring. 
 

Our entire SITAG family together for a church service, united in heart and voice, makes my heart soar.
 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

SITAG Conference


I love that SITAG's Conference begins with three days of spiritual emphasis.  This is Scott's fourth trip to the Solomon Islands to serve as our Conference pastor, and we are so grateful.  We feel encouraged, challenged, and shepherded as he opens God's Word to us in our heart language.


I also love that our family and friends want to nurture our SITAG family and help make our Conference a little bit easier as we wade through the long days and the business meetings ahead.


A HUGE thank you to Ava for providing hot chocolate and pretty napkins, to Gayly for sending treats for the ladies and Valentine's Day candy to help make our weekend sweeter, and to my mom who snagged Starbucks Vias because she knows that SITAG really, really likes its coffee.