Monday, May 30, 2016

Saturday, May 28

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“Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.”
Psalm 96:2-3

Friday, May 27

My family celebrated me so well yesterday. Sarah made delicious coconut ice cream using freshly squeezed coconut milk. The ice cream paired perfectly with the coconut tres leches birthday cake.

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The kids each made me something for my birthday, and their gifts reflected their personalities so very well. Benjamin finished notating a composition for two sopranos. I've admired it for a long time, and he printed it out for my birthday. Sarah embroidered another gingham napkin with snowflake stitch to add to my collection. She also painted a beautiful canvas for me with the phrase, “Where you go, I'll go. Where you stay, I'll stay.”
Olivia made us all laugh. God gave her that gift, and our family is grateful. She made me several beautiful bookmarks, but the highlight of her gift was the limericks and acrostics she composed. Here is a sample:
Cataracts are nasty,
Cataracts are ghastly,
They turn your eyes blue,
And give you the flu,
And sadly never leave fastly.

Just in case you didn't know, I,
Olivia, have something to say.
And it starts like this: My mom is
Never mean,
Never hateful,
And always kind.

Katherine made me my very own hymnal with copies of some of my favorite hymns inside.
We played games almost all day, and it was so nice to have a day to play and laugh together. My sweet friend, Gayly, sent a birthday box, complete with a Flat Gayly inside. Since 2012, we've celebrated our birthdays together every year. After four years in a row, we have gotten spoiled to being together for our May birthdays, and she was super thoughtful and generous to mail a box to help me feel special and loved!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Thursday, May 26

Aaron was gone for more than twelve hours Tuesday. When he left the house, he said he anticipated being home for lunch, but the mini-tour of the Russell Islands grew into more of trip than he realized. Especially when they had a little engine trouble and had to paddle for a while! Since he was gone, Matthew worked by himself in the church, and we took him some cassava for lunch. I also dropped off several yards of material for his wife as a thank you for loaning Matthew to translating. Each of our guys have plenty to keep them busy every day - responsibilities to provide both food and money for their families, positions of leadership in the community and church - and yet they are faithful to set aside time and energy to do the tedious work of Bible translation.

Wednesday morning, the Kosco arrived around 8:00. Quite a few of our friends were going into Honiara. Our family walked down to the beach to say goodbye to the translators going to attend a comprehension checking workshop at SITAG. A group of ladies who are first cousins were going to participate in a custom ceremony. My friend, Ofoaen, has a nephew who is marrying a girl from the Gela language group. So, her brother has called together the women in his family to come be a part of presenting the bride price and making the arrangement official.
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Our family enjoyed a little bit of visiting and holding babies while we waited for the motor boats to taxi everybody out to the Kosco. At 8:30, I shooed kids up the hill to the house to begin school, while I stayed just a little bit longer to wave goodbye to friends before I joined the kids to tackle another day of school.

Wednesday, May 25

“Each kiss a heart-quake - for a kiss's strength, I think, it must be its length.”
~Lord Byron

Today marks the 26th anniversary of our first kiss. The Lord knew that we needed to build an early foundation of trust in each other and in Him to prepare us for the adventure He had in store for us. There will be extra kissing going on in our pantry today as we retell the story to our children and celebrate our marriage and God's faithfulness to us through the ups and downs of the last twenty-six years.

Marulaon Woman’s Daybook

Just for today...Monday, May 23
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Outside my window...the wind is blowing and the rain is spitting earlier this morning! We had a huge storm blow through last night, complete with thunder and lightning, which is quite unusual for our area. The heavy rains filled up all three rain tanks on our house. I was thrilled to sit on the porch (in my damp rocking chair) early this morning and actually feel cool while I drank my coffee.
I am hearing...coconut being scraped. A familiar and homey sound.
A heart of thankfulness...for our SITAG family who sent out a new radio and a refilled propane gas cylinder on the Kosco yesterday. The best part was the snail mail that arrived. A HUGE thank you to everybody who mailed us letters and care packages. Those are sweet reminders that we are not forgotten, even though we are living in a remote village on the other side of the world.
Putting a smile on my playing together. Regardless of language or nationality.
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From the learning rooms...the kids have worked extra hard to get a day ahead in school so we can take a complete holiday for my birthday this week. We're working on Week 34 of our curriculum, and I'm so proud of my kids for their diligence as we finish up a school year that has been full of transition.
Pondering these words... “The essence of self-discipline lies in making commitments in times of strength in order to avoid making decisions in times of weakness.” ~Mark Graper
A few plans for the rest of the week...Aaron will be going with Leonard tomorrow to travel around the Russell Islands to distribute newsletters and collect contributions from our language group to send two of our translators to a workshop in Honiara this week. Saturday is a big fundraiser for the church, and we look forward to seeing what everybody brings. We're hoping we can buy a paddle or two to replace the ones that have walked off.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Weekend Wonders

Saturday, May 21
My teenagers left mid-morning yesterday to go tromping around the island to collect hote hote, a shellfish that gets its name from its ability to stick tightly to rocks. Hote hote means sticky!

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Our good friends Skita and Eta took Sarah and Benjamin to a remote area and showed them how to clean and cook the shellfish in bamboo tubes. They also cooked a little rice and ate it with coconut shell spoons and bowls that our friends quickly fashioned. Disposable and eco-friendly dishes? I think they may start a trend.
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They came home at dusk with a bag full of critters for us to clean and cook. We tried to send some home with our friends, but they said the whole reason for the trip was for Sarah and Benjamin to bring home shellfish. In February this year, National Geographic ran an article called “Seeing the Light.” It featured hote hote, also known as chitons, because of their unique eye structure:
The weirdest lenses in nature...belong to chitons - a group of marine mollusks that look like ovals adorned with armored plates. These plates are dotted with hundreds of small stage-three eyes, each with its own lens. The lenses are made of a mineral called aragonite, which the chitons assemble from calcium and carbonate molecules in seawater. Simply put, this creature has evolved a way to sharpen its vision by looking through rocks. And when their rock lenses erode, the chitons just fabricate some new ones.
Obviously, our Creator God made these amazing creatures and their eyes.
It is a long and tedious process to clean these little guys. And they are SO chewy. Think about trying to chew one of those pencil topper erasers. It took us a couple of hours on Saturday night to prepare the first batch. Sunday we went a little bit more quickly with the second batch. And some seluk had been thrown in the bag as a bonus!
We shared some of the hote hote with Matthew as a thank you for all of his faithful hard work while he's been staying in Marulaon. But we ate the rest for supper. Cooked in coconut milk and curry and mixed with unripe papaya, it was a tropical treat.

Friday, May 20

Yesterday afternoon, Katherine asked if she could stay out later than usual to help her friend, Bernadine, fix a supper of cooking bananas while Bernadine's mom and dad were still in the garden. Bernadine doesn't have the use of her legs, so she scoots around yet manages to still be quite helpful to the family.

I loved that my Katherine wanted to be a good friend and help out with the peeling, chopping, and fire making. Bernadine's cousins Sylvia and Jaden were in the kitchen, too. When I walked down to check on the kitchen crew, I found lots of smiles.
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God knew that Aaron and I both desperately needed an “introvert day.” We woke up to sustained straight line winds and spits of rain. I sat on the porch holding my coffee and Bible, watching a thin little stream of water going into each rain tank, and enjoying being a little bit cool! All morning long, the weather was rough, but Aaron and I slowly refilled a little bit as we quietly went about our work.
Benjamin checked the tanks for us so we could see how much rain accumulated in the tanks. Once again, we have our “daily rain.”

Thursday, May 19

Matthew has stayed in Marulaon waiting for transportation back to his own village. He's been going over to the church and working on his assigned portion of Matthew 13-19, and Aaron has been going over to work beside him.

Often, people ask us how long we think the translation of a New Testament in Lavukaleve will take. After three days of hard work, Matthew is still ploughing through a rough draft of chapter 13. Yesterday, while translating the parable of the wheat and the tares, Aaron gave Matthew a visual illustration with the seedlings that were growing closely together in containers on our porch.
After lunch, Aaron turned from working with his mind to working with his hands. The men of the village worked together to sew up leaf shingles and finish the District Priest's kitchen.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Wednesday, May 18

We finally caught a rat using bananas in our trap. The trap is eleven inches long, and the rat filled up the cage. I'm glad it's not in our house anymore.
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Tuesday, May 17

Since Saturday, we've not been able to connect with UUPlus and none of our colleagues can hear us on the radio. It's discouraging not to be in touch with the outside world, but I'm thankful we have such great neighbors here in Marulaon! The little things, the “nits,” are beginning to add up: rats, not enough water, and now no communication. My wise friend and colleague, Roxanne, once wrote these encouraging words to me:
It's the low-level stress, the (seemingly) constantly being on the back foot, the almost-but-not-quite getting it that is emotionally - and honestly, physically as well - exhausting. I don't know any way around it other than acknowledging it and then finding a peace with it and forging ahead doing my best (whatever that best may be at any particular time and place) and resting in the sure love and acceptance of our God. Often enough, that allows me to relax and enjoy as much as I can, even laughing at myself over all my faux pas and miscues.

Monday, May 16

Yesterday, Aaron met with the new executive members of the translation committee. We are super excited about this gung-ho group that really want to see the Lavukal Bible translation project move forward. I hid behind some banana trees to get pictures so I wouldn't disturb them.

This morning, Aaron attended the requiem for our neighbor who died last week. The kids and I stayed at home to continue plugging away at school. After the big breakfast that the family provided for the community and the visitors, Kiko brought our family's portion: parcels of pig, some fish, and a few pieces of lelenga. I felt really honored that the family would think about including us in the “take-out” baskets that they prepared to go home with everyone. Since one of the translators, Matthew, was the brother-in-law of the deceased, he was already planning to be in Marulaon. Ezekiel and Simon also paddled over, and 4/5 of the translation team worked hard all afternoon.
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These guys are great. Not only are they godly and hard-working, but they all have a good sense of humor, too. The translation office was supposed to be completed in 2014, yet the grassy area behind our house is still just a grassy area. So, the translation team decided they wanted a photo of them working in the “office.” When I asked them what food they wanted me to provide, they said they were willing to just have tea and banana cake. Nancy generously opened up her kitchen for the guys to rest and refuel after a grueling afternoon of trying to figure out how to say “descendent” while reviewing Matthew chapter one.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sunday, May 15

Sweet Sabbath
Sometimes our spiritual lives seem like they are mired in the marshes, far from the open waters. We struggle and seek answers that don't seem to come. We ask, “How much longer?” and hear only the echo of our words in response. We wonder if we will ever see change in ourselves, in our loved ones, or in a situation that seems hopeless.

In those days of despair, the disciplines become important. Through simple obedience we find the strength to go on. And later, when we have come to the open waters, we can look back on the times of despair and realize that through them we have grown. Because of them we are able to take the next step in becoming all we are meant to be.
The disciplines themselves don't change us. But our willingness to obey does.

Yesterday, Sarah sat underneath our house and learned how to weave her kimita into a beautiful and practical mat. The knowledge of how to make the mat is dying out as young girls simply go buy a mass produced, machine made mat from the store in Honiara.

A group of young girls gathered to watch as I hung out clothes to dry. For seven hours, Sarah exercised great patience and discipline, often sitting by herself (good thing she is an introvert!) and only stopping for a quick lunch.
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Anybody that walked by our house expressed great admiration for Sarah's facility and diligence in weaving. Watching her, I was reminded that she possesses those qualities in great measure as she builds spiritual and physical disciplines into her life where nobody but the Lord can see as the roots grow deep.


As you can see from the presence of a new post, the new equipment did solve communication problems! UUPlus is still cantankerous, as always, but radio communication is good again. Nothing is quite as exciting as an e-mail from Joanna after a lengthy silence.
They also got a great rain Sunday night their time! Yay! Please continue to pray for timely rain as the dry season is well under way.
Stay tuned for more new posts, and thanks for praying!
- Ann

Saturday, May 14

Death and drought are both unpleasant, but God is giving us opportunities to talk about Him in the midst of difficult times. Recently, I had a great visit with one of my friends here. She was questioning the most recent death in the village since the woman who died was only 61 years old. My friend wondered if the death was a result of sorcery. We talked about God's protection of those who love Him, but we also talked about God's sovereignty and how He can take what seems like a mistake and use it for His glory. Thinking about Suka's death reminded us to spend our time and energy on eternal things. My friend also had a chance to express some grief and loneliness over her own mom's death a few years ago.
Then we discussed His provision of the water that the ground so desperately needs to grow crops. This morning, Aaron marked the water line on our two front tanks. When it is so dry, the ground is hard and the pickax bounces back when even the strongest of us try to dig heaps to plant cassava or kumara. The trade winds are at least a month early this year. While I love the cool breeze, I think about the inability to plant crops now and the hungry bellies that will have a hard time finding food in six months. And both of us pondered our reliance on God and His perfect timing that dovetails with His perfect knowledge of our situation. When I live in the village, I am so much more aware of my dependence on the Lord. When I fall back into the hustle and bustle and “easy” of life in America, I tend to forget just how much I need Him.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Communication Woes

Good morning, dear friends of the Choates!
I always assume that no e-mails from Joanna means that UUPlus is acting up. After not receiving an e-mail for over a week, I received word yesterday from the SITAG Director that communication is, indeed, a problem right now. But, it’s not just e-mail. Even radio communication is problematic. So, although Aaron has found occasional reception spots where he can use the cell phone to text or make a brief phone call, most communication between the Choates and the world outside Marulaon has been very challenging, to say the least.
New equipment will be on the way to them Sunday their time, so please pray that this will solve their communication issues!
And don’t stop praying for rain. We don’t know their water situation right now, but they always need a good balance of rain and sunshine, no matter what the circumstances.
Thanks for praying!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Thursday, May 12

We got a light rain all night long! But please keep praying for more rain for our area. Enough water came through the downspouts to raise the levels of each of our three rain tanks by at least a few inches. We feel like God gave us our "daily rain" instead of our daily bread. Because the rain was soft and lasted most of the night, the ground had a chance to absorb the much needed moisture, too. One of the things on our agenda today was for Eta to come and help work in the yard. She brought Skita with her, and because the ground was soft, we decided that today would be a good day to dig up dirt and carry it over to our house to prepare the canoe planters for some seedlings.
While the kids and I did school, Skita and Eta weeded and prepared a small place for me to transplant delicate things like Chinese cabbage. They took small sticks of bamboo, pounded them into the ground, then wove pandanus leaves in and around the sticks to create a small barrier for little feet and animals that like to walk right through my fruits and veggies. I've had problems with rows of my slippery cabbage being knocked down because people walk right through, so hopefully this will create both a visual barrier and a physical barrier. Around 11, the kids took a break from school, and all of us went with pickax and bush knives in hand to dig and carry bags of dirt. We worked for about an hour before we had enough dirt. We were pretty grimy, gritty, and sweaty when we came home to cook lunch!
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After we cooked some popcorn for our friends, we took turns grating old coconut husks to toss in with the newly dug dirt in our raised bed. Sarah is really earning a name for herself for being a willing worker and for wanting to learn the Lavukal way of doing things. Benjamin is also earning a good name for himself as a willing worker and a very funny guy. Later in the day, I heard stories from my friend Sylvester about Benjamin. She came back from the garden just as he was carrying the last bag of dirt back to our house and they struck up a conversation. She kept going on and on about how willing he is. And when I was visiting yesterday afternoon with some of the ladies who had gathered at the deceased woman's house (there will be a large group there all week), I also heard about what a hard worker Sarah is as she made her kimita only a few feet away on the shore. I'm really proud of my kids and the choices they make. They are a huge part of the ministry here.

Wednesday, May 11

The last few days have been filled with little bits and pieces of much needed encouragement. With both rain tanks in front of our house empty now, I really appreciate the reminders that God is in control and that He a God who cares about me:

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-Sunday evening, while we waited for the translation committee meeting to finish, I waved flies away from the food and held this happy little boy. Hensy and Nancy's kids are always so sweet natured, and the most recent addition to their family just snuggled right into my shoulder.

-In my daily Bible readings, I've been working my way through Judges. Reading about real people like Gideon and Manoah makes me really grateful that God chose to include their stories. Both of those men needed a little extra encouragement and instruction, and both of those men chose to trust God and to believe that God would provide the wisdom and skill they needed to complete their tasks. That's exactly where I find myself this week - needing the strength, wisdom, and skill to do all that God has called me to do.
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-Sarah is moving ahead with weaving her kimita. I'm grateful for the other young ladies in the village who have befriended Sarah and are willing to patiently teach her. This afternoon, Sarah and Josa took each kimita and smoothed it against a piece of wood until the reed was smooth and flat and ready for the next step.

-I'm encouraged that the translators got the go-ahead from the translation committee to add some new books to the translation work. The translation team also plans to get together next week for the peer review of the rough draft of Matthew 1-11. Here are the new assignments:
Ezekiel- Ruth
Simon- Jonah
Matthew- Matthew 12-19
Albert- Matthew 20-28
Aaron with the team- Peer review of Matthew, Jonah and Ruth
Aaron - exegetical checking of the reviewed drafts

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tuesday, May 10

Katherine and I are reading a biography of George Muller for school. When we came across a passage in the book that described the small ways that so many people had helped support the orphanage, I couldn't help but think about all of the small (only in the world's eyes!) ways that people help support our ministry of Bible translation in the Solomon Islands. Whether you give your money, prayers, time, or words of encouragement, we want to say a huge thank you for the investment you make in our lives and in the lives of our neighbors here in the Russell Islands.
George thanked the many hundreds of people who had helped make the orphanage a reality. Some, he pointed out, had helped in large ways, such as with the ton of coal that had been delivered to the house one day and the anonymous gift of one hundred pounds that had arrived the next day. But many of the gifts had been small, yet they meant just as much both to the person who had given them and to George, who told how a small boy who looked like he could have been an orphan himself knocked boldly on his door the day before, a shilling held tightly in hand.
"This is for your girls," the boy said when George opened the door. "I found a ring, and when I returned it to the owner, she gave me a shilling for being so honest. Here it is." A women in Bristol sent George five shillings with a note saying she had gone to buy a new dress and deliberately chose the plainest one she could find rather than the more elaborate and expensive kind she normally purchased. The five shillings represented the money she had saved by purchasing the less expensive dress, and she wanted the orphanage to have it.

Marulaon Woman’s Daybook

Just for today...Monday, May 9
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On my bookshelf...Turn Toward the Wind: Embracing Change in Your Life by Dale Hanson Bourke
Outside my window...Sarah's kimita are just about dry. Her friend, Josa, said they can begin to weave the mat soon.
I am hearing...wailing outside. An elderly woman died this morning. She had ten children and countless grandchildren, so the village will soon be full of mourners.
A heart of thankfulness...for the Lavukal translation committee meeting yesterday afternoon. It didn't follow my Western ideas of understanding how things should be done (surprise!), but the program has new momentum and some new leadership. I'm excited that two of the new officers are cousins from Marulaon - Leonard will be the new chairman and Kiko will be the new treasurer.
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Pondering these words..."If you have chosen to live a life of the Spirit, the winds will still blow. You will not be exempt because of status or power. You cannot beg God to spare you because you are not strong enough. The winds will help make you strong. They will blow and you will have to respond. If you choose to turn away, you will miss the chance to grow." ~Dale Hanson Bourke
Around the house...Leonard and Aaron are on the porch right now discussing the translation program. Our porch is a great place for a meeting!
On my knees in prayer...for rain. We are heading into the dry season which usually lasts until September or October. We knew that tanks were getting low around the village, but we didn't realize just how low. The big 2000 gallon tank by the church is empty. The 1000 gallon tank in front of our house is almost empty, and the 600 gallon tank in front of our house still has some water. Those tanks we've been able to donate to Marulaon (because of generous donations) to add to the personal rain tanks scattered throughout the village. Our family's tank in the back is less than half full. Suddenly, we're into the "don't mop and don't wash sheets" mode.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Friday, May 6

When we first started our journey of school at home, my goal was to give our young children more time with Aaron. He was in seminary and worked at a church half an hour away, to put Sarah in school all day would have given her very little time with her daddy. Homeschool meant the kids could work when Daddy was gone and enjoy his company when he was home.
Fast forward to this year, and I have students in 11th, 10th, 7th, and 2nd grade who are close to finishing up their year of curriculum. Benjamin and Sarah finished their chemistry this week, and Benjamin couldn't wait to begin physics, so he has jumped ahead and began the course.
What a joy it is to learn together at home, and the flexibility that homeschooling brings allows our whole family to participate in the ministry of Bible translation for the Lavukal. Our children get to attend community events and help wave flies away from the food. They play games in Lavukaleve, building relationships with the children that will be the generation that grows up with the Bible in their own language. Sarah is learning some of the traditional crafts and cooking skills from the ladies here. I'm so proud of my kids and the role they play in serving the people of the Russell Islands.

Wednesday, May 5

Once again, we enjoyed a marvelous market. Our neighbors even brought some lelenga (cassava pudding) and fish. I finally got the name of that yellowy leaf that is supposed to be so good for new mamas. It is the same one that my friend, Jenny, knows from Makira. Called "geke" in Makira, it's "lelevio" in Lavukaleve. The ladies laughed at me because of all my questions about this leaf and its properties! I made a big pot of soup with the ingredients I bought at market, and we had plenty to share with one of the widows in our village.
After school, Sarah went with some friends to gather kimita, a long slender reed with thorns on its edges. These reeds are used in weaving sleeping mats, and both Sarah and I have wanted to make one for a long time. They grow in rough places with lots of bugs, and my friends have always told me I couldn't come along. After a couple of hours, the girls had collected enough (six parcels, according to Sarah) kimita for one mat. They spent the next four hours laboriously taking the thorns off each reed.

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I watched the girls wrap a piece of fishing line around their thumb and first fingers and, starting at the base of the reed, slowly peel off the edge with the thorns. When Sarah finally got home, she placed the kimita under the house in preparation for sunning them tomorrow. They have to bleach and dry in the sun for a few days before they can be woven.  I'm so proud of my Sarah!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Marulaon Woman's Daybook

Just for today...Monday, May 3
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From the learning rooms...Benjamin and Sarah finish up Chemistry and Olivia finished Pre-Algebra this week. I'm feeling a little bit too young to have kids this old.
A heart overflowing with thankfulness...for a good trip back on the Kosco yesterday. We got back to the house around 7:00 to a delicious supper of pizza that Aaron had prepared and kept warm for us. On the boat, we got to ride along with our friends Ruthie, Ruthie's daughter Bethany, and Ruthie's niece Wendy. The kids had a great time playing cards together.
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At one point, I had Bethany asleep on my lap. The wind must have been behind us, because we had no breeze at all even in the front of the ship. I was fanning her for all I was worth. Ruthie had noticed that Katherine looked a little sick and had gone over to the side of the ship. So sweet Ruthie took an umbrella to shade Katherine from the hot afternoon sun and rubbed Katherine's back until she felt less nauseous. I like how we all work together to make life just a little bit easier.

On my bookshelf...Sarah and I should finish reading Hope Was Here sometime this week. I cherish the time spent every evening with each child, sharing books, visiting for a few minutes, and praying together to end the day.
Around the village...the kino are blooming. I never noticed before that we actually have a cutnut season, but every tree in the village is in full bloom. And my sinuses know it!
Pondering these words..."Are you mourning over your weakness? Take courage! You must be conscious of weakness before the Lord gives you the victory. Your emptiness is the preparation for being filled with God's strength." ~Charles Spurgeon
A few plans for the rest of the week...the new Lavukal Translation Committee will meet next Sunday. Prayers appreciated!