Saturday, February 29, 2020

Friday, February 28

“Transition is a beautiful opportunity to allow God to minister to all of who we are.”
~Gina Brenna Butz, “Making Peace With Change: Navigating Life’s Messy Transitions With Honesty and Grace”

Oh, transition, I do not love you. But I do agree with this quote, because transition does the hard work of exposing our sin and our weaknesses. My kitchen loving heart has taken a hit with this move to the village:

1) We’ve discovered that one of my favorite cookbooks, “Laurel’s Kitchen,” stayed in Honiara. How am I to offer hospitality to my family without it? I am definitely a recipe follower, and this vegetarian cookbook is extra helpful here because we don’t have a lot of meat options.

2) Did you know that weevils find a jar of basil extremely favorable to build an apartment complex. The bottom of my nice big basil jar looks like dirt. I’m so sad! We thought that our full spice rack would survive during our eight-week absence. And we use basil a LOT around here.

3) Coffee. It starts my day on the dark front porch, Bible in one hand, coffee in the other. An iced coffee cools my afternoon when the sweat is pouring off my face and I just need a moment to sit and think. And yet somehow, we have arrived in Marulaon with only 1½ bags of beans. We’ve taken emergency measures by using half decaf beans and half regular beans in the early morning press. Drastic times call for drastic measures.

All these luxuries that I suddenly find absent?  They reveal my heart and remind me of just how easy it is to find my comfort and my joy in earthly things. Good things, sweet things, but gifts that God made to point me back to my Creator.

Thursday, February 27

Warning: nerdy linguistic post ahead!

The ladies here are always encouraging and friendly to me, no matter how much I stumble, do things incorrectly, and take up their time and energy. I wanted to be able to tell them that they encourage me, so my mission was to walk around the village and ask people how to say “encourage.” I had no idea what I was getting into! First I talked to Moses, and he gave me a phrase “Ngolugui mutete fi oi”. Basically, it’s an idiom that means you have heavy feelings. The verb root “lugu” has a wide range of meaning. We’ve heard definitions like “love” and “sorry” and “think”, and the best we can figure out it’s like our generic “feel”. As in “I feel for you” when we’re told that someone is hurting, or “I have feelings for you” when you are finally admitting that you really like that cute guy.

I moseyed over to another section of the village and found a bunch of small ones gathering kino nuts and green coconuts for their afternoon snack. Kids are always so friendly and fun!

(photo of Village Kids)

The second friend I asked was totally shamed because she had no idea how to put the word “encourage” into her own language. So she sent me to her auntie, Hilda, who has a high level of education and has served on several government committees. She gave me a totally different phrase. The fourth person I asked was again shamed because she didn’t know. So, I need to figure out how to get language data without making my friends feel incompetent. I’m only looking for one word or idea, how much more do Aaron and his team of guys have to wrestle with as they tackle each piece of scripture! Translation isn’t just substituting a word in one language for a word in another language.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Wednesday, February 26

Sweet Bethany dropped by just after breakfast to ask for laundry detergent for her mom, a common request from my friends. Later in the day, when our brains and bodies had absorbed all of the unpacking and cleaning that we could muster, the girls went out to play with their friends. Side Note: In case you sometimes need a “brain break” like we do, the card game “Taco, Cat, Goat, Cheese, Pizza” is a hilarious de-stressor. (Thanks for the new game, Katie!)

Katherine quickly returned with this plate of fish. She said Foster had just arrived in his canoe with a fresh string of fish. I wasn’t sure if this was a thank you for the detergent, so I sent some onions back on the plate. I don’t think I will ever figure out the fine art of relationships here! But I’m thankful for protein. Especially with no market this morning. I had asked my friend, Daisy, if she would be willing to let me buy fruits and veggies from her if she found extra produce the next time she went to her garden. I was super excited when we did get a few cherry tomatoes, baby capsicum, eggplant, and long beans from her. We can tell such a huge difference in our health when we have good fuel to put in our bodies.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Tuesday, February 25

The bells rang 83 times just before six o’clock yesterday morning to start St. Matthias Day off bright and early. The church was packed with visitors from all over the West Russells, and we surprised lots of people by showing up in church. The cell phone tower that is planted in Yandina has been down for almost three weeks, so nobody knew that a ship had arrived in the middle of the night. I got lots of sweet smiles and discreet hugs as people quietly came in and sat near me. Olivia did sing in the choir. I’m so proud of her fortitude!

(photo of St. Matthias Karumalun Dancing)

After church, Olivia and Katherine went off with their friends so Olivia could practice dancing. Aaron and I tackled a few boxes, and my sweet friend Margaret Rasol brought us some delicious fish and lelenga. She knew I didn’t have any chance to prepare food for the feasting today. I felt so encouraged by her! The afternoon was full of dancing and visiting in between performances. I still felt like I was on boat anytime I got still, so I didn’t make it through the whole afternoon before I needed to retreat into our house.

Shortly after the program ended, Ezekiel dropped by. He and Aaron drank coffee and made plans for the translation team for a couple of hours while the girls and I unpacked. When we finally ate supper, Olivia said, “We’ve been here less than 24 hours!” Indeed, my spunky one. God has given us the strength to pack a lot in, and it’s been a good day to be part of the community.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Monday, February 24

“...maybe calling it hard allows us to gather parts of our hearts we otherwise would leave behind, and to bring them before God. This is the first path we must navigate in change. We must call it hard when it is….We are unaware of how much our heart energy is being used during times of change in our lives….It’s critical that we learn to acknowledge the impact changes have made on us, and to call them hard when they are hard. This helps us become aware of how our hearts are responding to those changes and allows us to invite God into the process.”
~Gina Brenna Butz, “Making Peace With Change: Navigating Life’s Messy Transitions with Honesty and Grace”

We set two new family “personal records” (PR) on this trip. The first record was for the longest trip we’ve ever had – 24 hours of moving across the water. That doesn’t count the four hours we sat on the boat before it left. And it doesn’t even come close to what most of our colleagues experience because their allocations are farther away.

The second PR was for the hardest trip our family has ever experienced. The Lavucy was absolutely packed because it is currently the only boat going to the Russells; all of the others have broken down and are in different states of repair. So when the boat pulled out of Honiara at 11:00 p.m., everybody just had to do the best they could to find a way to rest. Our girls curled up into little balls on top of the hold, I lay down on the floor of the ship next to them, and Aaron sat up between me and the outside of the ship. Anytime someone needed to walk by, they stepped on me just because there was no other place to put his or her foot.

(photo of Lavucy Girls)

The boat stopped just after daylight at Moe. Then at Louna. Then by midday we had made it to Yandina. Where we stayed for four hours waiting for a part for the engine. Then we turned south and continued our trek of dropping off everyone and their cargo. As the boat got emptier, we had more and more room to spread out, so the girls and I took little naps on top of the hold in between the times when it was opened up to disengorge cargo. The sun began to set, and we were still far from home. Thankfully, we had taken plenty of food and water with us. And toilet paper. The bathroom was the size of a small closet, and I had to duck every time I came in and out or I would hit my head. There was no light, which really was a blessing, but there was a bucket to drop down into the ocean by a rope so the toilet could be flushed.

Not knowing what was going on got harder and harder. We went through almost every bit of food and water that we brought on board, so I was thankful that we always bring more than we think we need. The sun set and the stars came out. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with no moon, and no lights, the stars are spectacular. The crew wasn’t dispersing any information, so we relied heavily on our Lavukal Translation Committee Chairman and good friend, Belza.

Finally, it was our turn to load ourselves into the waiting motor canoe. We left our cargo in the hold to be delivered the next day, and we climbed over the edge of the ship and dropped down into the waiting vessel. As we sped away, the water was so glassy that the stars were reflected in it. After more than two weeks of heavy winds and rains, the calm seas were a gift from God.

We finally arrived on shore at Marulaon around 11 p.m. As we climbed up to our house, the pre-St. Matthias Day celebrations for the evening were winding up, and several of Olivia’s friends were walking underneath our house. They were super excited and surprised and we heard lots of “OLIVIAAAAA!” A dead rat awaited us in Olivia’s room. Not exactly the “welcome home” present we anticipated! We found the clean sheets, handed out granola bars, quickly filled the shower bags and rinsed off, emptied the ice chests, and tied up the loose ends before we finally fell into bed. Thank you SO much for your prayers. This was certainly a hard trip for our family.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Safely in Marulaon

Hello, friends! Just wanted to let you know that the Choates made it safely to Marulaon! Joanna will update you more fully as soon as they get settled. In the meantime, pray as they balance resting after the long trip on the Lavucy with settling back in and diving back in to village life.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Packing Up

At 9:00 this morning, Aaron called from the wharf to say that the Lavucy (I've been spelling it wrong all along!) was indeed headed to the Russells tonight.  So here's a look at our day and the many ways God has blessed...

A friend who will literally give you the socks off her feet.  I thought I was going to sleep in this morning, so I packed up my exercise clothes yesterday.  But my body clock woke me up on the normal alarm schedule.  When it came time to dress for my walk with Roxanne, I couldn't find any socks.  So my sweet friend pulled the cute socks off her own feet (she had a pair of compression socks to wear) so we could have one last chance to move and chat together.

Our lovely hardboiled eggs are ready for the ship, lovingly decorated by Katherine.  These eggs are Aaron and me.  I think they will bring a smile to my tired face tomorrow morning when my sleep deprived self eats breakfast on the boat.

One last video chat with our college kids.  Oh, how I love and miss those two.  Yay for technology!

A date.  Getting away just the two of us is so rare.  But today, somehow, we had the time.  I hadn't realized just how much we needed to talk about some of the big things on our plate right now.

Then it was time to load all of those red boxes, and our SITAG family showed up big.  Everything was quickly loaded,

and we jumped in the truck with our girls in the back.  I think all MKs must love riding in the backs of trucks.

We found our ship and loaded it quickly with all of the helping hands.  Roxanne and I climbed aboard and explored the ship.  We struck up a conversation with one of the guys, and then discovered that he was the captain!  When he found out we were with Bible translation, he told us he was from Gela and mentioned our friend, Taylor, who is the translation advisor for that project.

We piled back in the truck, and Aaron went to check in with the crew before we left. That's when he discovered that the ship wasn't going all the way to Marulaon Village.  So he came back to the truck, we started praying, and he went back to ask the captain to reconsider.  Thankfully, the captain was generous and agreed to go a little bit farther and drop us off.

We still feel like we are serving as the broken, and in just a few hours (should be around 5 a.m.Central Daylight Savings Time on Saturday morning) , we'll be pulling out of the wharf for another couple of months in the village.  We appreciate your prayers (and your emails!) and look forward to how God is going to work during this next trip!

Friday, February 21, 2020


When Aaron went down to the wharf this morning to check on the Lavusi, they said "Not tonight".  A little bit of engine trouble means we're shooting for Saturday night.  Saturday night means we get to the village on Sunday night.  And the village feast day begins bright and early on Monday morning.

So, what do we do to stay sane while we live out of backpacks and remember all of those last minute things that still need to be done?  

~We snuggle.  

Especially those of us whose primary love language is physical touch.

"I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.  Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD."  Psalm 27:13-14

~We look for the ways that we see the goodness of the Lord in this delay.  

I woke up to a text a few days ago saying my grandmother had been taken to the hospital.  With the extra time we've had in Honiara, we've been able to stay well connected with my mom to get updates on Grandmother.  We were also able to use improving technology to call my dad for his birthday.

~We get silly.  

Let's face it.  Moving is hard.  Thinking you are moving, and then putting on the brakes is even harder.  These amazing girls have done that twice in the last week.  We've packed up school books because we thought the Kosco was coming, only to unpack the school books and start back to work again.  Only to hear that the Lavusi was leaving on Friday to pack up the school books again. And now we're delayed at least another 24 hours.  Playing games and being goofy together helps solidify the family bond and also diffuses the stress and grief that comes with our frequent moves.  

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Thoughtful Thursday

Matching lantana and papaya on the breakfast table

"Every day a thousand voices speak into my life and the vast majority of those voices have not gotten the flowers of their insight from the wisdom garden of the Lord."  

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

"While there are immense benefits to putting down roots in a particular place among a particular people (contrary to, and perhaps because of my immensely poor example, I highly recommend it) there are also some potential liabilities -- namely, the narrowing, blinding effect of never being exposed to cultures, peoples, places, skin colors, economic brackets, dialects, philosophies, experiences, and perspectives that those are other can offer us.  

For it is only in drawing near to the other that we gain a fuller appreciation of the imago Dei.  For the imago Dei (image of God) is not contained in any single people group or place, but rather in the faces and stories and triumphs and sorrows of every nation, tribe, tongue, and generation.  Rather than lock us down into a single place and perspective, the nomadic way increases our exposure and broadens our horizons."  ~Scott Sauls  

We're grateful for the many places we've put down roots.  SITAG truly feels like family and home.  I can't imagine working with more dedicated, godly, funny, kind people.  Roxanne and I walked together early this morning and God gifted us with a lovely view as we sweated and chatted together.

But it looks like we're getting ready to be nomads again.  Our translation committee chairman, Belza, called this morning to inform us that the copra ship Lavusi is planning to leave Friday night.  We're holding this agenda very loosely, but preparing full speed ahead to leave for the village on this wooden tub of a boat.  And we're hopefully looking forward to seeing the "faces and stories and triumphs and sorrows" of our Marulaon neighbors this weekend!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Lent starts next week.  We really hope we are in the village by then. The sunny start to the day was promising for ship travel!  We've had rain and wind almost every day for three weeks, but this morning the sun broke through.  Looks like I'll finally be able to wash my hair in warm water.

This year, Marulaon's feast day falls just before Lent, which means we can celebrate!  We'd love to be able to join our neighbors in the feasting and dancing like we have in the past.   We just have to find a ship going the right direction.

Since living in the village requires all of my mental and physical energy, I won't have any creative juices flowing in the weeks leading up to Easter.  This year, we plan to simply use Sister Wendy's "The Art of Lent" alongside "Whiter Than Snow" by Paul David Tripp.  I really enjoyed focusing on the Penitential Psalms last year, but this year we'll narrow our lens to just Psalm 51.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sweet Sabbath - Radically Ordinary Hospitality

"Radically ordinary hospitality doesn't keep fussy lists or make a big deal about invitations.  Invitations are open....Practicing radically ordinary hospitality necessitates building margin time into the day, time where regular routines can be disrupted by not destroyed....When radically ordinary hospitality is lived out, members of God's household are told that they are not alone in their struggles or their joys." 
 ~Rosaria Butterfield, "The Gospel Comes With a House Key"

Oh, that's one of my show people that they are NOT alone in their struggles or their joys. This weekend has given us opportunities to come alongside colleagues in both situations.  I love how our SITAG family doesn't really need a reason to celebrate.  The reason given for fireswinging (Olivia continues to be the champion)?  The Choates haven't gotten on the boat yet!  I've always been a strong advocate for celebrations of any sort, and this article helps me articulate why.

With our extra "gift of availability" this weekend, we've been able to offer frequent babysitting services to some of the cutest kids around.  When we thought the boat was leaving on Saturday night, we grieved that we were leaving our SITAG family in the midst of many needs.  But sticking around has given us the opportunity to help out just a little bit.

This morning, we woke up to a brilliant double rainbow as the sun rose behind us and the rain came toward us.  Such a sweet, loving gift from our Creator to begin the day.

"The purpose of radically ordinary hospitality is to build, focus, deepen, and strengthen the family of God, pointing others to the Bible-believing local church, and being earthly and spiritual good to everyone we know.  When our Christian homes are open, we make transparent to a watching world what Christ is doing with our bodies, our families, and our world." ~Rosaria Butterfield

Build.  Focus.  Deepen.  Strengthen.  I love the authenticity and transparency that life here brings.  We discovered this afternoon that an old friend (who used to live next door to us in Dallas) was attending a workshop here at SITAG this week.  So he joined us last minute for supper - the buns that I originally made to eat on the ship.  What's on the table doesn't matter as much as who is around the table.   The food has been simple and the fellowship has been so sweet.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

So many goodbyes this week.  And so much change. 

We waved goodbye to Henk and Margreet on Monday.  Unexpectedly we said goodbye to Roxanne when her ship announced they were leaving a day early, then said hello to her again when Marine canceled any ship travel because of weather.  Much has been written about saying goodbye and all of the grief that accompanies change.  

We've learned that the Kosco plans to leave on Saturday night, so we've bumped up our timetable.  It's gonna be a close one, folks.  Soon after we leave, so many people that we love will also leave SITAG to return to their passport countries.  We want to say goodbye well.  And we know we will get to say hello again.

We're nurturing the whole person, making sure to take time for exercise, playing together, making good food choices, worshiping together, and reading our Bibles.  Listening to this song on repeat to remind me of where I get my strength.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Rainy Days and Mondays

Getting back to a routine with school and exercise and life feels SO good this morning!  The girls are beginning the last quarter of the school year.  Just nine weeks of the curriculum left to enjoy.  Some of my favorite read-alouds are coming up!  (I dare you to read the first half of "The Westing Game" and put it down without finishing it.)

The rain let up long enough for us to take a nice walk this morning - and my buddy, Roxanne, is here to join us!  So nice to have her back at SITAG, even for a brief visit.  Our family is beginning the food freezing and box packing in hopes that we can find a ship next week that can take us back to Marulaon. 

But it is rainy season around here!  Today's radar reminded me about Tropical Cyclone Uesi, spinning just Southeast of the Solomon Islands. We are doing our best to be prepared so we can be ready with 24 hours notice (or less) and jump on a ship.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Sweet Sabbath

Reynie smiled and glanced over at him.  "We've always come back to this table.  Every time we've gone and done something dangerous together, we've come back here and sat around this table."

"And talked about everything that happened," Sticky said, nodding.  "And enjoyed feeling safe."

They stood in silence for a time, taking in the room together. 

"Let's make sure we do that again," Reynie said.

We celebrated an early birthday for Margreet since she and Henk are leaving the Solomon Islands tomorrow.  I'm still in awe that they keep coming back.  That we get to sit around the table once again and talk about everything that has happened.  That we get to feel safe together.  

That we get to tell stories of the Lord's faithfulness in our lives, even during hard times.  There were no dangerous boat trips this time.  But there was lots of laughter and the traditional birthday cheesecake and games and hard work, shoulder to shoulder.  I think this is a trend we should continue.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

SITAG Conference 2020

"I pray that your partnership in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good things we share for the sake of Christ.  Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you have refreshed the hearts of God's people."  Philemon 1:6-7

After eleven days of crazy wonderful busy, we're coming up for air.  We've loved welcoming people day after day at the airport, helping to provide morning and afternoon tea breaks, and

learning together as Pastor Scott preached through one of my favorite books of the Bible (Colossians).  I'm still blown away that Scott and his lovely wife Carol have been coming to serve SITAG since 2009.  They know what it's like to live here, but they still keep coming back! 

The improving internet cooperated and SITAG had remote members join us for team reports and prayer as well as for listening in and commenting on business sessions.  I had forgotten how precious and unique a voice is.  I haven't heard some of these sweet voices in years, and when those familiar voices chimed in with prayer requests or hellos, I often had trouble holding it together.  Especially when it was the very last report given by a retiring team.

Olivia and Betsy looked after the four littlest SITAG members all day, every day.

We brainstormed as a group and reminded ourselves that the Lord has abundantly blessed the work of Bible translation and Scripture Engagement, which fueled our discussions and plans for the rest of the week.

We watched the Super Bowl a few hours after it actually happened.  And we all cheered for our favorite teams, even if those teams weren't playing in the big game.

Each evening, there was a special activity.  Sometimes it was professional development, sometimes it was a ladies painting fellowship.  We often hosted our colleagues and visitors for supper and listened to their stories about God at work in their lives.

And Friday afternoon, every age and stage gathered to watch the kids perform their closing program: Moses leading the Children of Israel through the Red Sea.  Then we wrapped it all up with sharing communion together.

A fruitful week indeed.