Saturday, April 30, 2016

Wild and Crazy

Last Tuesday, I looked at my amazing husband and pitched a wild and crazy idea.  The kids and I would make a quick trip into Honiara to see the amazing Coombe family and to celebrate with them the completion of the Gela New Testament after so many years of hard work, faithfulness, and sacrifice.  Part of the crazy was the fact that the boat was supposed to come on Tuesday night and part of the crazy was that SITAG housing was full due to the influx of visitors for the dedication.

Surprise!  Sarah greets Naomi at the airport with a hug.
Aaron supported me, his wife who had gone slightly off her rocker.  Maybe it was the heat that was getting to me.  Maybe it was the rat that we didn't seem to like the poison or the fish we left in the trap.  Sarah said the rat was vegetarian because he loved to eat the pumpkin seeds I left out or the tomatoes that were sitting on the cabinet overnight.  Whatever it was, we stayed up late Tuesday night, cooking ahead and preparing shopping lists and talking on the radio with our amazing SITAG colleagues who made a way for us to have comfy beds on which to lay our heads when we arrived.

SITAG's truck about to drive off to the wharf to load the Gela New Testaments onto the boat

And it's been a whirlwind few days.  The ship was much later than anticipated, but that gave us a day trip instead of an overnight trip.  Our SITAG colleagues flexed and picked us up late Wednesday night and even brought us some fresh food from one of the roadside stands.  We got to surprise Naomi at the airport and holler and hug necks when the team of visitors arrived.  I was able to do some shopping in Honiara to get a few of the things we had forgotten in the hustle and bustle of leaving for the village.  The kids and I got to work in the ERC alongside an amazingly organized colleague who is getting our library into shape.  And I fought UUPlus from this side (again with knowledgeable colleagues by my side), singing out on the radio and trying to encourage the teams in the village as we all spent hours just trying to connect with the outside world.

"See-you-laters" We love this sweet couple so much!

And now the whirlwind is about to slow down.  In the morning, a huge group of people will leave on a ship bound for Gela to celebrate God's grace in bringing His word to people in their heart language.  And my own children and I will once again get on the trusty Kosco and head back to Aaron in Marulaon Village where we are working toward getting scripture translated into Lavukaleve.  Some day, we will be the ones hosting friends and family as we celebrate a New Testament dedication.  Until then, we are faithful with our two loaves and five fish as we offer up the little we possess to the Lord.

Marulaon Woman's Daybook

Just for today...Monday, April 25

From the kitchen...leftover pizza from yesterday.  Sunday lunch in the village is always homemade pizza, this week with some of our precious pepperoni.

Around the village...Sarah has been learning how to weave different kinds of baskets from Leku.  Now we don't have to ask for other people to make them for us when we need a container to hold yard waste or to transport lots of pineapples.

From the learning rooms...Katherine is learning about light and mirrors and magnifying glasses.  She had fun playing with the mirrors, and Benjamin had fun scorching things with our bright sun coming through the magnifying glass.

Pondering these words..."Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair."  ~G.K. Chesterton

Outside my window...the red papaya seeds are finally sprouting and growing like crazy after two weeks of sitting quietly in the soil.

A few plans for the rest of the week...Aaron is gearing up for a translation awareness tour this weekend to remind each village that they need to elect new translation committee members to come to Marulaon for the May 8 meeting.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Sweet Sabbath

Sunday, April 24
"From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth - he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.  No kind is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.  A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save."  Psalm 33:13-17

I love Sunday afternoons.  They are a true Sabbath in the village.  It's the one time during the week when work ceases, people sit around and visit, kids play.  I need that time to help recuperate from a week full of giving completely the little energy that I have.  Little Rube (pronounced Roo-bay) was born the night my parents arrived for a visit in 2010.  He's a spunky guy.

I enjoyed a Sunday afternoon visit with Rube's grandparents, Ofoaen and David.  They were so sweet to sit and chat for a while.  I love their sweet and quiet spirits. 

"Every day now, I pray that God will multiply my feeble efforts in each area of responsibility to meet the needs of others.  I look to Him to see what He wants me to be involved in, and as I do all I can in each area, minimal though it might be, I can expect Him to multiply my efforts to the blessing of others.  I would find live very overwhelming if I didn't know we serve a powerful and gracious God at work.  This relieves a lot of pressure, for He can maximize our minimal efforts for His glory and the blessing of others." 

~Sue Eenigenburg & Robynn Bliss,
"Expectations and Burnout:  Women Surviving the Great Commission"

After a while, I moseyed on over to where our kids were playing.  Olivia quickly earned the name "vavatula", little mother.  She has this sophoric effect on little ones.  They love to snuggle up with her and drop off to sleep.

The other three enjoyed running around playing the village version of ultimate Frisbee for hours while I sat underneath the house visiting with the grownups and holding one of the twins who has increased the bay boy explosion here.  You know it's a successful afternoon when you get peed on, because it means your lap has been full of sweet baby goodness!

Saturday, April 23

From Aaron: 

On Saturday members of the Lavukal Bible Translation Committee met in Marulaon village. This was the first meeting in about a year. One sobering aspect of our work in the project is that much of the work stops when we are gone. This, we hope, is a reality that will change in time. Our goal is to train the Lavukal people to develop the capacity to take on the various responsibilities for all aspects of the Translation work. 

The primary purpose for this meeting was to put into effect term limits which the committee had discussed at earlier meetings.  Aaron was nervous about this part of the meeting, but the move was welcomed by all. The group showed overall attitudes that gave Aaron hope that the next committee would serve with renewed effort to working hard for the next term. Some communities have already selected their new committee members for the next 3 year term. Please pray for the next committee as they seek to hit the ground running with fundraising and some major decisions at their first meeting on 8 May 2016.

Saturday, April 16

I think this post got lost somewhere between Marulaon and my thoughtful (and busy!) friend, Ann, who keeps the blog up and running while we are away from the world of the internet.
Saturday, April 16
Market was absolutely amazing this morning. I try to explain just how much those fresh fruits and veggies mean to the health and stamina of our family. Our situation is unusual for most SITAG teams. Most village teams don't have the bounty that we experience twice a week.

Shortly after market, Hiva showed up to meet with Aaron under the house. I took down some tea and a ring cake (donut) I had just bought at market. They talked about the Lavukal translation for quite a while and arranged a quick paddle over to Karumulun to visit with Ezekiel. A few minutes after Hiva left, Leonard came by. He and Aaron arranged for the payment of some timber and the construction of a new set of steps leading up to our house. The old set is falling apart and beginning to be dangerous. The work should begin on Monday and Benjamin is supposed to be helping. Yipee! Boys began bringing timber and dropping it in front of our house while I hung out laundry.

Aaron and Hiva paddled over to visit with Ezekiel and to take some material over to his wife Janet as a thank you for all of the work she did on Aitum Ovovo. They had a great visit and discovered that there will be a church wedding (distinct from a custom ceremony) in Karumulun next Friday. Whenever there has been a wedding, we've always been in Honiara or America, so we're super excited about the opportunity to attend and observe. So Aaron's Saturday morning was filled with more “work” related activities than yesterday morning, but here it all runs together anyway.

After lunch, Sarah and I delivered our first batch of banana cake to our neighbors. The village continues to grow, so we have to get started fast if we want to make it all the way around the village with a plate of banana cake for each house. Then I walked down to see who was around and to check on the rest of the kids who were swimming. As I went down the hill from our house, I asked Naris about this yellow leaf Sylvester had told me about. You cook the leaf just like any leafy green, and it supposed to help a new mama make enough milk for her baby. This was a new story for both Naris and me, so I wonder if this is a custom from Makira, where Sylvester is from.

I walked along the shore and found my friend, Daisy. Her family was making lelenga (after all, it's the Saturday afternoon thing to do!). They were draining the extra liquid from their uvikola (cassava) by hanging it in a basket made from a coconut branch. Daisy has a new grandson who let me hold him while we chatted. He is cutie! Because he was born during the effects of El Nino, his uncle chose the name Elni for him.

After a good chat with Daisy, I kept walking along the shore and finally came around the end of our island where our kids were playing. Sarah was playing cards with some of the girls, and the younger three kids were swimming in the most beautiful swimming pool you can imagine: the ocean.

I'm grateful that the people in the Russells, particularly those who live here in Marulaon Village, allow us to live and work among them. I'm sure they don't always understand us or our ways. But God is using our time here to make us more and more like Him. Obviously, we want the Lavukaleve translation to move quickly and smoothly so our friends here can read God's Word in their own language and truly understand it. 

I love listening to Aaron share about the translation team as they grapple with the concepts they are translating. He is finally getting to disciple and teach, strengths of my dear husband. But no matter how much work Aaron and the translators produce on paper, I think the bigger work is being done in each of our hearts as we're shaped by our time living and working here.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

In real time...

The kids and I arrived late Wednesday night in Honiara after an all-day ride on the Kosco.  Aaron stayed in Marulaon to work while the rest of us came in to hug some necks.  The precious Coombe family (especially their Naomi, who feels like part of our family), along with lots of their family and friends, will be celebrating the Gela New Testament this coming Sunday.  We just couldn't stand sitting in Marulaon with this bunch so close.  Our SITAG family has been amazing, rearranging housing and helping us with this unexpected trip.  We'll turn around and go right back out on Sunday morning, but in the meantime, we'll be enjoying ice cream, ceiling fans, and internet (not necessarily in that order!).  So please look back for pictures from the last two weeks...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Friday, April 22

We walked down the hill to Janet and Leonard's house just a few minutes after six o'clock this morning. Janet's nephew is the groom today! Soon we were gliding across a very calm sea watching the sun come up on our way to Karumalun.
IMG_2443 - Copy (400x266)
We were the first wave of people to arrive. Janet's family members were making pretty wreaths with young coconut leaves and frangipani flowers. My sweet Sarah jumped in to help right away.

From Marulaon, we had heard the first round of bells - the wake up bells - ring at six o'clock. At 6:30 two bells rang to tell everybody to go bathe and get dressed for church. Our family visited with Janet's family while we waited for the final bell to ring signal that it was time to actually go to church.
Some of the groom’s relatives were frying fish for the wedding feast.
The smell made my tummy growl, even though our family had eaten breakfast before we came.
The bell rang and the drum finally sounded around 7:00, so our family walked over to the church in the middle of this beautiful village. We got settled in the church, the girls and I found a spot on the left in the middle with the ladies while Benjamin and Aaron got shooed up to the front where the special people were sitting.
I was right next to the window so I could watch the bridal party getting ready just outside the church. Watching the bride get her veil tweaked while the pretty little “flower girl” stood close by reminded me of weddings back in my passport culture. The church wedding offered no surprises, and I did love when the priest tied the bride and groom's hands together with the sash he was wearing. Such a beautiful picture of marriage.
After the service, we sang and danced the bride and groom over to a shaded area where a breakfast of tea and donuts had been prepared for guests. The bride and groom looked somber, so I asked Kiko why they had long faces. She told me that it was their custom to look sad because you are leaving your families. Sarah always attracts lots of little ones, and it didn't take long before she had a crowd trying to hold her hands and follow her every move.

Two of the little girls soon grabbed my hands and we set off to tour the village. I'm familiar with this sweet village, but I asked the girls anyway, “Hassa otail vasia?” Where is Ezekiel Hassa's house? They led me to a part of the island I had never seen before, and before too long, I was staring at a pig pen. So I tried another tactic, “Ami ofoe?” Whose pig? It was Hassa's pig! Strike two. “Hassa otua otail vasia?” Where is Ezekiel Hassa's wife's house? They pointed to the other pig pen nearby. It was her pig. So much for communicating well!

We headed off to where I KNEW their house was located, but when we arrived, I was told Janet had already gone back to the public meeting place. So we turned around to go back. But not before I noticed just how beautifully God created our little corner of the world.
As we rounded a kitchen, I heard one of the ladies holler, “Vava Joanna!”, so I turned the corner to go inside. I did my very best to communicate in Lavukaleve when they asked me who made my necklace. Usually I can hear and understand the gist of what people are saying, but rarely can I put together a properly formed sentence to respond.

The ladies were kind and patient. One of them asked me if I had forgotten how to speak language. It was easiest to just say yes!
My tour guides and I made it back to the public area just in time to see the first waves of food come out. The ladies began sorting through the bowls and bowls of cassava pudding, fish, cassava, and pieces of pig.
Two big tables were set up for the feasting: coconut leaves set on top of boards for the “little people” and blue clothes set on top of tables for the “big men.” This concept is still very difficult for me to accept.

Our family is almost always at the “big men” table, which seems so wrong to my American brain trained to espouse equality. But this system works here, and today it was easier for me to think in terms of a wedding with its head table for the special guests.

Along with the other children, our amazing Choatelets helped guard the “little people” table from the flies that really wanted to get at all that delicious food.

Meanwhile, I was waving the flies away from the “big man” table which was quickly piled high with plates full of rice.

When they ran out of plates to fill, then the platters of fish and pork began to come out.

I watched my friends carefully spoon out a little bit of this pork soup or this cassava pudding onto each plate. When every plate was ready and every person was in place, the blessing was said and we all sat down to an amazing feast. The Lavukal know how to cook!
After the feasting we had yet another long wait. Olivia and her friends dug up lots and lots of tiny “silat” until somebody told them that these little shellfish were under the current seafood ban. Katherine and her friends wove small balls from coconut leaves to help pass the time.
Finally, we heard singing coming from the end of the village where the groom's family lives. All of the women on his side of the family were bringing the new bride and groom for the custom part of the wedding celebrations. The couple had changed from their Western attire, appropriate for the church wedding, to their custom clothes, appropriate for the next part of the festivities.

As soon as the couple was settled, the singing and dancing started up again, this time with male voices. The groom's side of the family came bearing gifts and joyfully singing and swaying.
As each person came bearing their gifts, they paused to shake hands with the bride and groom and to leave their gifts on the table.

Except for the big beautiful canoe. That stayed on the ground when it was given.
Before the groom's side had finished giving gifts, we could hear the bride's side begin to sing. It was like a battle of the bands!
After all of the gifts were given, the speeches began. Aaron was next to last. He did a great job briefly encouraging the groom that “he who finds a wife finds a good thing.”

We finally headed home just before 4:00. I think we've all learned how to gauge our liquid intake so we don't need to use the "beach bathrooms" on day trips, yet not drink so little that we get dehydrated. Therefore, we had a rush for the bathroom when we got home just before radio sched with SITAG.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Thursday, April 21

Today was a construction kind of day.  


Just before lunch, Thomas showed up to take down our outside kitchen which is falling apart. Leonard came over to work on our steps.  

Benjamin got to help them both (and found a snake in the process)!  
Aaron rescued old nails and straightened them out for reuse. While the guys worked, the girls and I finished read-aloud on the porch. "Wheel on the School" is one of my favorite books to share! 
By the time the bell rang for evening prayer, both of our hardworking neighbors had bellies full of popcorn, the kitchen consisted of only four posts, and our new steps were almost ready to be put in place. Leonard says he'll come back tomorrow and install the steps while we are at the wedding.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Wednesday, April 20

Lavukaleve vocab word of the day:
After a small market this morning, several ladies were walking on the path in front of our house. We have a variety of mushrooms growing right now because of all the rain, so I asked Eta to tell me the word for mushroom:

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Marulaon Woman's Daybook

Just for today...Monday, April 18  
Outside my window...rain. Last night in church, the atmosphere was so very hot and humid. We were drenched with sweat by the end of the service. So I wasn't surprised to wake up to a big line of wind and rain around 4 o'clock this morning. So lovely and cool!
From the learning rooms...we're in the homestretch! Week 29 brings us the next to last chemistry test for Sarah and Benjamin and world history in the 1980's; Katherine is studying about Alexander the Great and the human body; and Olivia is learning about Christopher Columbus as well as powers and roots in pre-algebra.

From the kitchen...we ate our last loaf of banana bread this morning for breakfast. Cooking ahead in Honiara made our transition to Marulaon just a little bit easier.
On my bookshelf...I finished reading Boys in the Boat just before we left Honiara. One of our orchestra teacher colleagues suggested this book about the rowing team that won 1936 Olympic gold medal. Great book!
I am hearing...our friend, Leonard, working underneath our house. He is measuring and sawing away so we can have a new staircase to replace the rotted one that currently leads up to our front door.
Pondering these words... “The consecration which meets God's demands and which he accepts is to be full, compete, with no mental reservation, with nothing withheld....It involves our whole being, all we have and all that we are. Everything is definitely and voluntarily placed in God's hands for his supreme use.” ~E.M. Bounds
I am thankful for...the Lavukal translators. Ezekiel brought a rough draft of Matthew 5-8 over to Aaron this afternoon. Ezekiel and his village just keep on supporting the Lavukal translation, even if nobody else around them does.
A few plans for the rest of the week...we get to attend our first Lavukal wedding on Friday, and we are super excited! We'll be headed over to Karumalun early Friday morning to celebrate. Saturday, the Lavukal translation committee will be meeting here in Marulaon. It's the last meeting of this current committee, and we'll be saying thank you to the men who have served during the last term.