In which we stride through swamps and mud and remain flexible...
"He'll revive their spirits, make them proud to be on God's side. God will use them in his work of rebuilding, use them as foundations and pillars, use them as tools and instruments, use them to oversee his work. They'll be a workforce to be proud of, working as one, their heads held high, striding through swamps and mud, courageous and vigorous because God is with them, undeterred by the world's thugs."
Zechariah 10:3b-5 (MSG)
Now that we are safely in Honiara and have a few nights of good sleep under our belts, I can look back and process the beginning of this week. Our ship, the Kosco, is very regular and dependable, especially by "Solomon Time" standards. Last week, the ship changed its schedule and planned to come out to only our area instead of going all the way out to Gizo in the western part of the Solomon Islands. That meant, instead of us returning on Wednesday, December 28, afternoon or evening, we would be traveling back to Honiara overnight on Monday, December 26.
The teenagers have been practicing with Marulaon's choir since the start of Advent, putting in late hours almost every night of the week. The choir prepared for leading the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, but it also prepared for the Christmas caroling in other villages during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. And our kids were really looking forward to being a part of that experience. For Sarah and Benjamin, this is their last chance, and they are fully aware of taking advantage of every opportunity.
|Leaving Marulaon early on Wednesday morning|
The Kosco's change in plans meant an end to our kids' hopes of going to carol in other villages. Unless...we let them go on Monday night and the choir master (our good friend, Belza) promised to have them home in time for the ship's arrival. We anticipated the ship no earlier than 1 a.m., and Belza thought they would be home by 10. So, we decided to let them go and to trust our friends and our God to work out all of the details. Our alarm went off at 1:00, and Aaron and I got up to start shutting down the house. And realized that none of our teenagers were home yet. At 2:00 they returned, full of stories and laughter and delight. It didn't take us long to have everything ready for the ship - windows tightly shut and locked, mattresses and pillows stripped and piled under a dust cover, linens folded and put in a box to bring back to town to wash.
We began playing Cancellation Hearts, our new favorite family game, and our tiredness led to lots of giggling and goofiness as the night led on. Finally, around 4:30, some of us decided to try and nap until the ship came. We had made pumpkin muffins for breakfast on the ship, and they made a lovely breakfast. Then we began to hear rumors that the ship had cancelled its trip. We finally got an e-mail out to our colleagues in Honiara mid-morning, and they confirmed that the Kosco wasn't coming and didn't have plans to come until January 8.
|Arriving at the tip of Guadalcanal on Wednesday morning|
And now we were in a dilemma. With only four months left before we return to America, we are praying to be a "workforce to be proud of...courageous and vigorous" because God is with us. But lately it has felt as if we are "striding through swamps and mud", and honestly, we haven't felt very courageous or vigorous. We plan to return to Marulaon on February 5, and we have tons to accomplish in Honiara in January. And New Year's Eve is not our favorite time to be in the village. Our only alternative was to hire an engine, driver, and canoe and come across the ocean to the tip of Guadalcanal, then take the SITAG truck back to Honiara. Traveling this way also meant that we had to repack everything and take only backpacks and school books. Leonard, our translation committee chairman, will come back on the Kosco and bring the few boxes we left on the porch (like our dirty sheets and towels - wow, that will smell good when we open the box!).
Coming across the ocean meant depending solely on the availability of the two remaining SITAG teams in Honiara. We have the most amazing colleagues. We arranged the transportation on our end, the two families, on the spur of the moment, got the petrol and the money we needed, and Wednesday morning, our family was down on the beach at 5:00 a.m. waiting for the canoe. At 5:30, Leonard walked over to us to inform us that the original driver wouldn't be coming, instead, our favorite driver, Belza, would be coming along and bringing his son and nephew. Leonard hopped in, as well. We trust and love these guys and are so thankful that unexpected gift in the middle of the chaos.
The sea reflected the morning sun like glass, an answer to our prayers. Twice, we approached a line of rain and watched it part, with rain on the left and the right, but not where we drove through in the middle. The third time, though, we were pelted with cold, hard rain. The kids laughed and considered the whole thing an adventure, and I'm so grateful. Aaron and I were so sleep deprived that we were singing Sunday School songs from our childhood and causing our kids to look at us like we had lost our minds.
We finally hit the shore on the tip of Guadalcanal at 8:15. Aaron had been trying to find a phone signal during the entire trip across the ocean, but never could find one to be able to contact our colleagues. God worked out all of the details, though, and our colleagues had only been waiting for 15-20 minutes. They brought cold juice and cookies and smiling faces to welcome us and strong hands to help our numb bodies out of the canoe. They provided breakfast once we returned to SITAG. They made up the beds before we arrived. They nourished our weary bodies and minds. They were the tools and instruments God used to breathe life back into us. I felt like I had jet lag from flying across the Pacific Ocean. Not only was I exhausted, but my body couldn't figure out what time it was.
After a few days back in Honiara, we are beginning to feel a little more steady on our feet. We've started our puzzle of the Three Wise Men (one of them looks amazingly like my dad, so we call him "King Dan"), we've made Christmas goodies from the contents of care packages we found waiting in Honiara, we've listened to Aaron reading Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" out loud. And we've slept long and well. Thanks for praying for our transition back to Honiara, God is answering your prayers.