Friday, September 30, 2016

Off we go!

In just a few minutes, I'll be taking these two into Brisbane (with the help of a friend and her car) to take the SAT.  I'm super proud of how hard Sarah and Benjamin have worked to use their minds well!  Please pray for them as they take the test...

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Sweet and Full

The last two days, we've jumped back into the swing of things here at SITAG.  Life has been sweet and FULL!  The kids and I started back to school Monday while Aaron attended an all-day Advisory Committee (AC) meeting.  After lunch, Sarah and Katherine made peanut butter cookies to help break the monotony of Aaron's meeting. 

Stewardship is important to us.  Whether it's our bodies, time, money, energy, or minds, we want to take good care of what God has given to us.  With Sarah and Benjamin in their senior and junior years of high school, we've been pursuing standardized testing and scholarships and doing our best to be good stewards of the good brains God has given them. 

Yesterday afternoon, I was checking with my mom about the anticipated letter in the mail telling us how to proceed through the National Merit Scholarship program since Sarah was named a semifinalist.  My mom has been great about forwarding mail to us and helping us by being our hands and feet back in Arkansas.  After some heart-stopping moments trying to figure out where in the world this letter might be, my mom discovered the letter with our renters.  If the letter had shown up at my parents' home a couple of weeks earlier, it would now be in a box slowly making its way to the Solomon Islands.  But because it was stuck with our renters, my mom was able to send the information so we can meet the October 12th deadline for the scholarship application.  God's timing and provision indeed!

Today, it was my turn to have a meeting.  The CHED committee met for an afternoon of work, then our family hosted a precious SITAG couple for an early birthday supper with apple dumplings substituting for birthday cake.  This couple just celebrated thirty years of service in the Solomon Islands, and we listened to their stories with laughter and a few tears past our bedtime.  We're so grateful for the colleagues with whom we get to share life over here.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Happy birthday, Katherine!

This spunky girl showed up when Aaron and I were both up to our necks in linguistics school.  We're so glad she did.

Today we celebrated nine years of Katherine's life.  Our little ISFP has more of her life documented in this little blog space than the other children.

The day was simple.  My goal was for Katherine's special day not to be overshadowed by our move back to Honiara. 
A box from America helped set the festive tone, and sweet friends here cemented the party atmosphere.

Katherine requested red velvet cake with cream cheese ice cream (following Sarah's birthday footsteps last year).  We warned her that sometimes there isn't any cream cheese in Honiara.

But God had all of the details under control, and Sarah dished up some rich cake and ice cream to finish up our sweet celebration of Katherine.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

September 21

Whenever we are leaving the village, I try to get around and say goodbye to as many people as I can.  And today, I made sure to say goodbye to baby Samuel.  He still isn't thriving, fat and healthy like I think he should, but he is doing okay and seems to be meeting developmental milestones.  He wasn't very happy that I interrupted his breakfast to snap a picture!

I returned to the house to find the kids building their traditional snowman as they defrosted the freezer.  I love how my kids find ways to celebrate even in the hard times of chaos and transition.

Our colleagues in Honiara called the Kosco's office, relayed the message to colleagues in a village who have a cell phone signal, and they relayed the message to us over the radio:  Kosco should arrive early in the afternoon and expects to be in Honiara between 10 and 11 tonight.

Okay.  With that in mind, we decided to have an early lunch and opened a soup mix that we keep for days like today.  I had just ladled the soup into the bowl when we heard, "Koscooooo, Koscooooo!"

We scarfed our soup, washed the bowls, made one last trip to the bathroom, and raced down the hill to the shore.  Benjamin was first, so he and the cargo went ahead of the rest of us.

Those rungs on the ladder seem to get farther apart every time I climb them, and I foolishly tried to ascend wearing wet flip flops this time.  Monster ice chests full of fish to sell in Honiara were stacked two and three high right up to the edge of the ship where the rail paused for people to get on and off.

I was extra thankful for helping hands of friends and my husband as we loaded people and cargo.  Kosco wasn't dilly-dallying today, and we left Marulaon a few minutes after noon.

Our ride went smoothly.  It's not a cruise ship, for sure.  But we are so thankful for the dependable transportation to get us back and forth.  Aaron worked on advisor checking Jonah.  A little ironic, I thought.  At least we had a sunny day and calm seas.

We watched the sun set behind Guadalcanal and gratefully pulled into the wharf in Honiara at 8:30.  We found colleagues waiting to help us get our boxes through the crowded ship (sometimes by tossing them over the side of the ship to people waiting down below), up the wharf, to the truck, and up to SITAG by 10:00.

Some of our amazing SITAG family had smiles and supper waiting.  Thank you for the prayers as we traveled back to Honiara!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Safely in Honiara

We're now safely back in Honiara, which means I can go back and add more pictures to the posts that my amazing friend, Ann, posted while we were in the village.  This last stay has been particular intense in every way, thank you for upholding us in prayer and with care packages!

Tuesday, September 20

These flowers fascinate me!  They bloom right in between the church and Eta's house.  When the day begins, the flowers bloom white, but by the end of the day, the droopy blossoms blush to a deep pink.  I've tried several times to take a cutting and have it put roots down in our yard, but I've been unsuccessful so far.

Thanks to my cousin, I now know that these are a type of hibiscus, also known as a Confederate Rose.  God's creativity on display!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sunday, September 18

Whew! This team of guys is amazing. They worked so hard this weekend, pushing through most of Friday night until 4:00 a.m., then getting up and continuing all day Saturday. Our kids worked hard, too, since often both Aaron and I were gone. They've started the packing and the cleaning and the counting of everything we're leaving in the house.
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The Kosco made good time today and left Marulaon around 6:00 p.m. to continue its trip out West, so we anticipate a day trip when the ship returns on Wednesday if loading goes quickly at each of the ports. Please pray for calm seas, for safety as we hand everything over the side of the Kosco, and for clarity of thought as our brains are always feeling tired and a little overloaded as we travel.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Thursday, September 15

We've turned into a little take-away restaurant here in Marulaon! Yesterday, Sarah made a chocolate birthday cake to be sent across the Russell Islands on the Kosco to one of the young ladies at school in Yandina. Today, our family contributed rice and stuff to go on top of rice to feed Group 2 during the church work day. And tomorrow, when the translation team arrives, we'll work together with my friend Kiko to keep the guys’ tummies filled with good, nutritious food to help their minds work well. They'll be continuing to peer-review the book of Matthew, and Aaron will be training the guys to do the village comprehension checks of Jonah and Ruth while we are in Honiara. Prayers appreciated for Friday and Saturday as the team puts in many hours toward the translation of God's Word into Lavukaleve. They don't sleep much when they are focusing and intent on the translation work!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Wednesday, September 14

To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it....He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. Deut. 10:14, 21
This time of year, I'm always overwhelmed by God's creation. Spring has arrived, but not in the way I'm used to watching spring unfold in America. The mango trees have lost their fringes of yellow flowers and now sport tiny green mangoes. Instead of the sun rising directly in front of our porch, it is swinging farther and farther south, rising earlier, and bringing its light to my clothesline earlier as it clears the south end of the house. By December, Aaron and I will be watching the sunrise from our bedroom window on the south end of the house.

The trade winds are still blowing strongly, threatening to blow all of my laundry off the line and hustling any rain clouds far away from our thirsty ground and rapidly emptying rain tanks. In another month, the stiff breeze will subside, and we should be able to expect more regular rain. You would think that in a country as small as the Solomon Islands, the weather would be similar across the double island chain. But when we chat on the radio with our colleagues, we hear about their constant rain and clouds. They watch their solar-charged batteries carefully, while we have to keep an eye on the rain tanks.
Tonight, God's amazing creation gave us a good shake. After church, several of us were outside giving precious water to the veggies trying to grow in raised beds. Aaron and I heard what sounded like thunder, and one of our neighbors said, “Earthquake's coming!” Sure enough, we soon felt a big nudge like somebody had bumped into our island, then the earth continued to roll for just a few minutes. I watched our solar panels sway high on their pole. When they finally stilled, I knew the earthquake was over.

Tuesday, September 13

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We have a roof on our kitchen! Walter and Tom worked for a few hours this morning to build the roof using the panels made yesterday. Aaron had already paddled over to Baison Village to train them for comprehension checking in preparation for the checking of Jonah in a few weeks. He returned home mid-afternoon after the roof was already complete.
Last night, after we had already eaten supper and were beginning the clean-up process, Leku brought by a HUGE bag of haleav shells. I knew there was no way we could open and cook them before bedtime, so today I asked Kiko if she would help us open the critters. After radio sched, Sarah, Katherine, and I walked down to Kiko's house where we quickly worked our way through the entire bag. We left Kiko with half of the haleav and brought home her recipe to cook the shellfish with chili pepper leaves, onion, and coconut milk.

Monday, September 12

The materials were all ready, all we needed were the workers! Today began our “kitchen raising.” Just before noon, a couple of friends showed up to sew up the leaves into panels to construct the walls and roof of our outside kitchen.

We finished school as quickly as possible. I went down to peel cooking bananas and cassava while Aaron worked alongside our friends, and we all visited while we worked. Soon, we had a small group of friends underneath our house working. Olivia and Katherine offered their services as babysitters for the many little ones that accompanied their mamas.
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Sarah came down, too, and learned how to sew up the leaves. Benjamin was stuck inside finishing up his physics and pre-cal. I soon moved up to my happy place (not that I was unhappy underneath the house), the indoor kitchen, and peeled and chopped to prepare a thank you meal for our friends who had given so generously of their time and energy. Just as the sun began to drop behind the coconut trees on the western side of our house, we gathered to eat and to celebrate a day well spent!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sunday, September 11

The Aitum Ovovo workshop today was double booked with the Women's Association meeting, but God turned that into a really good thing! Allison, the leader of the Women's Association, came and asked me if I wanted to go first, but I told her that I would just come to her meeting and hold my workshop when she was finished. So we had tons of women show up who normally would have stayed at home!
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We sat underneath several trees, enjoyed the shade, and chatted while we waited for the meetings to begin. After a rocky start with some feuding between sisters, the Woman's Association meeting finished. The three ladies who have been helping me each took a group of ladies. I've learned that they need to divide themselves because they have so many rules about who they can sit by and whose name they can speak.
I had forgotten that Marulaon has several women who have married in from other language groups, so one of the groups had a large contingent of ladies who didn't speak Lavukaleve. Eta quickly adjusted and Leku jumped in as a translator. I also had the Pijin version of the book, so that particular group used both languages as they read and discussed the content.
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Once everybody got into the swing of things, the discussions went really well. I heard lots of laughter, too. Watching the ladies slowly figure out who read well and young ladies picking up responsibility and older ladies offering their two cents - the whole dance was beautiful.

We only got through the first two sections and decided that we would meet again next Sunday to go through the next two sections. That would get us halfway through the book, and hopefully the ladies will take the initiative to continue discussing the book on their own.
When we wrapped up, one of the ladies thanked the group for working together to produce a book that they could use to teach their daughters. And after church tonight, another friend told me that she liked the book because it touched on their culture (the story is set in a Melanesian context) and the Bible.
This project has been a team effort from the very beginning - from Amy Carter writing the story to the translator from Leru Village who hand wrote the entire Lavukaleve translation to my friend Margaret who helped me decipher the handwriting to the ladies from three different villages who have come together over the last two years to produce an almost finished product. Please, don't stop praying that God will continue to work in these ladies lives and to teach them that His Word contains practical, every day wisdom.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Saturday, September 10

“Solomon Time” challenges me. The two-pronged approach to life opposes so many of the values I hold dear, yet also opens my eyes to other cultural viewpoints. I've learned to flex to the lack of following a clock.
It's harder for me when plans are constantly changing, the first prong of this cross cultural truth. The last few days have been full of changing plans. Motor canoes that were supposed to be available at the last minute become unavailable. Meetings that were supposed to happen, suddenly get moved to a different day. This mindset wears on me as I try to decipher what is really going on. When I remember that God holds time in His hands, I'm comforted and given strength to keep trying to blunder my way prayerfully through another culture.
The other prong that challenges me is when people tell me that they will accomplish something, yet the goal may or may not be met in what I consider a timely manner. Or at all! I know that if I tell somebody that I will do something, I have to do it right away, or I usually forget to do it. Sometimes the reluctance to complete a project is actually my neighbors' way of telling me “no” without incurring shame. I still have a hard time discerning the root of actions here. In all of the tensions, I want to shine with God's love and to point people to His Word.
So, I beg for prayers - Sunday mid-day here, or Saturday evening in America. I hardly have a voice, and the three ladies who are helping me lead the small groups for the Aitum Ovovo workshop are all facing physical challenges of their own. But we will offer the little we have as we share God's Word along some practical information to encourage the ladies in Marulaon Village.

Friday, September 9

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The Shell
by Amy Carmichael
Upon the sandy shore an empty shell,
Beyond the shell infinity of sea;
O Savior, I am like that empty shell,
Thou art the Sea to me.
A sweeping wave rides up the shore, and lo,
Each dim recess the coiled shell within
Is searched, is filled, is filled to overflow
By water crystalline.
Not to the shell is any glory then:
All glory give we to the glorious sea.
And not to me is any glory whenever
Thou overflowest me.
Sweep over me, Thy shell, as low I lie;
I yield me o the purpose of Thy will;
Sweep up, O conquering waves, and purify,
And with Thy fullness fill.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Thursday, September 8

Aaron just left (around 8:00) to paddle across to Kiolin, the village on the other side of Karumalun. The wind is blowing fairly strongly toward Marulaon, so I predict that Aaron's trip home will be much easier than his trip to Kiolin! He is training the village for the review of Ruth that Ezekiel will conduct while we are back in Honiara.

Tuesday, September 6

For the last week, a cold has knocked my feet out from under me and robbed me of my voice. But a bright spot (literally!) has been the return of our friendly circle of sunshine.

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It pours through the pinhole in the roof and makes a great sundial on the floor of our bedroom every day from 11:15 to 1:00 if we have sunny skies. We've moved school into our room so I can track the sun as it moves across the floor each day.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Saturday, September 3

Sometimes, we get a real hankering for something sweet out here in the village.  This recipe is our ultimate village comfort food that satisfies our collective sweet tooth.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding
(adapted from Quick Chocolate Pudding in More With Less)
Combine in heavy saucepan:
1/3 cup sugar or honey
3 Tbs. cornstarch
6 Tbs. cocoa
2 cups milk
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Cook over low heat until thickened, stirring constantly.
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
Serve warm or cold.
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Friday, September 2, 2016

Wednesday, August 31

Life is never boring here! Last night, well after we were snoring, a loud knock at the door woke us up. Some of our neighbors were trying to find fuel to transport a woman to the clinic at Yandina, a 45 minute motor canoe ride away. The woman had been gathering shellfish in another village and was attacked by a crocodile. We didn't have any fuel to offer, but Aaron donated some money toward the cost of fuel. This morning at market, I heard that the woman's leg had been attacked but that she was doing okay.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Marulaon Woman's Daybook

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Just for today, Monday, August 29

Outside my window...every August and September, these trees erupt with sweetly scented blossoms. Katherine and I think they look like Q-tips just before the flowers open fully. For the last several years, I haven't been in Marulaon to see the blooms, but this year, I'm enjoying them fully! Does anybody know what kind of tree this is?
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From the learning rooms...just beginning the 2nd Nine Weeks today in an attempt to finish the school year by April.
On my bookshelf...Strong Inside. A biography of Perry Wallace, the first African American to play sports in the SEC. Great book!
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One of my favorite kids playing well together in our new canoe. We didn't know that they were in the canoe backwards until one of friends told us.
From the kitchen...cinnamon raisin swirl bread for breakfast this morning with some of the fresh eggs our SITAG colleagues sent. No more floating eggs to make sure that they haven't gone bad.

A heart of thankfulness...this sweet bunch of kids who were playing with a “Go Fish” set of alphabet cards that we gave away a few years ago. Beginning literacy in Lavukaleve is so important for this age group because they are the ones who will group with a Bible in their own language.
Pondering these words... “When I resolve myself to his will, and the inevitable changes that will come, I open my eyes to the joys and blessings of every day of my life. I can either resolve myself to being faithful and joyful, or I can let that opportunity pass me by. If I resolve to be faithful, I will be able to celebrate all of life as God gives it to me without regret.” ~Sally Clarkson, Seasons of a Mother's Heart
A peek into my corner of the world...Sarah underneath the house this afternoon. She is making a “grass skirt” for a little SITAG cousin. The skirt really isn't made of grass, it's bark, and Sarah harvested the bark a few weeks ago. Now that the bark has softened in sea water for a couple of weeks, it's ready to be made into a skirt for a cute four-year-old!