Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wednesday, December 18

Our solar panels have been showing zero amps coming into our batteries for a couple of days now.  So, Aaron propped the ladder on the pole holding up our solar panels and proceeded to poke and prod and tighten everything possible in efforts to get some charge into our batteries.  We've experienced many rainy and cloudy days recently, so every bit of sunshine needs to go into our batteries. 

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When we turned on the radio this morning to try to send and receive e-mail, every station was full of static.  We couldn't hear SITAG during radio sched, and they obviously couldn't hear us.  In addition our e-mail wouldn't connect to Honiara all day long. 

Olivia and Sarah planted a few peanuts recently, and today they noticed the peanuts had some blooms!  Peanuts are a new endeavor for us, we like learning new things. 

One of the things I love about living out here in Marulaon Village is how much better we get to observe the sunrise, stars, and moon.  The skies cleared enough last night that the full moon woke up up shining in my window on its descent.  Tonight, I will be closing one of my curtains so I can sleep!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Tuesday, December 17th

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After Sarah finished school, Daris came over and helped Sarah begin working on her grass (really bark!) skirt for Christmas dancing.  The process is laborious.  
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The girls have to separate pieces of the bark and then tie them on the waistband one at a time.  They got finished with about half the skirt today. 

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E-Mail is Back!

Dear Friends of the Choates,

I received a delightful blessing when I saw an e-mail this morning letting me know that the Choates have their new radio equipment and transmissions are now loud and clear. I am sure it will take them a couple of days to get caught up on e-mail now that the system has been reset. But hopefully there will be blog updates coming directly from them very, very soon!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Marulaon Woman’s Daybook

Just for today...Monday, December 16 

Outside my window...two little birds swinging on the electric line that connects the solar panels to our house.  They are small with red breasts and sit there about the same time every morning. 

From the kitchen...Pakistani Kima over coconut rice in honor of the friend who introduced this recipe to our family.  It's her birthday today. 

Around the house...the biggest pineapple I've ever seen!  We bought it at market on Saturday morning. 

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On my bookshelf..."Everything: What you give and what you gain to become like Jesus" by Mary DeMuth.  My friend, Gayly, always passes on the best books! 

In the learning rooms...lots of fun California Gold Rush and Pony Express books in the basket right now.  "By the Great Horn Spoon!" by Sid Fleischman, "Chang's Paper Pony" by Eleanor Coerr, "Snowshoe Thompson" by Nancy Smiler Levinson, "Gold Fever: Tales from the California Gold Rush" by Rosalyn Schanzer (love her books!), "Mr. Blue Jeans: A story about Levi Strauss" by Maryann N. Weidt, "The First Transcontinental Railroad" by Adele Nathan, "Ten Mile Day and the Building of the Transcontinental Railroad" by Mary Ann Fraser, "The Last Rail" by Darice Bailer, "Riders of the Pony Express" by Ralph Moody, "The First Overland Mail" by Robert E. Pinkerton, "Riding the Pony Express" by Clyde Robert Bulla, "They're Off! The Story of the Pony Express" by Cheryl Harness, "The Sweetwater Run: The Story of Buffalo Bill Cody and the Pony Express" by Andrew Glass, "Buffalo Bill" by Ingri & Edgar Parin d'Aulaire 

A heart of thankfulness...for my amazing husband who did a great job preaching yesterday and for my leg healing so quickly in response to lots of prayers and good antibiotics 

Pondering these words..."The truth:  God puts us through more than we can bear.  He does.  Why?  Because after we journey through those places, we learn resilience.  And that resilience brings that the ability to joyfully live in the moment despite our circumstances -- a holy paradox."  ~Mary DeMuth 

A few plans for the rest of the week...try to get out a little bit more each day as my leg improves, begin back translating the story of the boy Jesus in the temple, last day of school on Thursday, then we celebrate Benjamin's 13th birthday on Friday 

A peek into my corner of the world...Sarah has made a nativity scene out of pipe cleaner people.  My favorites are Mary, Joseph, & Jesus in their popsicle stick stable and the shepherd responding in fear to the appearance of the heavenly host. 

Nativity 1

Nativity 2

Update and Post

Dear Choate friends,

Just to update you – the radio is still not working for the Choates. Although they are trying to do everything possible to fix any potential mechanical problems, the suspicion is that solar issues are actually the culprit. Fortunately, the God we serve can easily overcome any mechanical problems, but we also serve the God who created the sun. So, if it’s a solar problem, He can handle that too! Will you pray with me that He will restore the radio to working order?

In the meantime, I think all of the pieces of posts and pictures from last week have trickled in. Here’s Sunday’s post:

Sunday, December 15

We are trying to keep one foot in our passport culture and one foot in the culture currently surrounding us as we celebrate Christmas and observe some family traditions.  Today, we read some gingerbread picture books and tried to make a gingerbread nativity scene.  My kids think that the gingerbread is only a vehicle to hold icing and M&Ms and Skittles.  We received the candy in care packages, and we've been saving them for today! 

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The cookies couldn't handle the load, the walls began to buckle.  So we ended up eating our creations and enjoying them very much! 

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We used the recipe from Jim Aylesworth's "The Gingerbread Man":

Sift into a big bowl and mix:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice

Beat together in another bowl:
1 farm fresh egg
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup dark molasses
6 tablespoons softened butter

Add dry ingredients slowly to wet mixture until well blended.  Cover and refrigerate for one hour.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sift flour onto your board and your rolling pin as you work to keep the dough from sticking.  Roll out a portion of dough 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out your gingerbread men with a two-inch floured cookie cutter.  Or, with floured hands, shape and hand press your own little gingerbread men.  (One way to shape them is to make a little ball for the head, a larger ball for the body, and stick-shaped rolls for arms and legs.)  Decorate with raisins.  Place 1 inch apart on a buttered cookie sheet.  Bake 8 minutes, or until slightly firm to the touch.  Cool on wire rack.  This will make about 50 cookies.

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saturday, December 14

(by Sarah)
After playing capture the flag for a while (which is very exciting with no boundaries) I got Daris to take me to get my mausa.  She ran up to her house and grabbed goggles and changed clothes.  I ran up to my house, got goggles and forgot to change.  Oh, well.  Anyway, we dog-paddled out and started taking the rocks off of the bundles.  It was crazy murky.  We swished them around and then pulled them to shore.  They stank, and I watched Daris begin to separate the bark.  After I saw her do the first one, I tried, too.  I got a long strip, whacked it on the water, and then pulled the inside away from the outside.  The outside was the dark green part and the inside was whitish and in maybe five really thing layers.  It didn't come off terribly neatly, and I ended up with a bunch of tangles and left some usable stuff behind.  But I realized more of what I was doing it got easier.  After you separate the white part you rinse it in the sea to get the slimy rotting plant matter feel off.  I was very glad that we had some helpers.  It would have taken me like an hours.  As it was, it took maybe 20 minutes.

I learned that if you gather the bark when it's too old, your skirt will be brown, and if you leave your bark in the sea too long, your skirt will be red.  You want it to be white.  I'm afraid mine is going to be a little red.  Then they told me to take the huge arm load to my house and hang it under the house on the clothesline.  I asked if I needed clothespins and they said no.  So, I got Daddy and Benjamin to help me hang it all up.

Dear Friends of the Choates,

Obviously, the blog has been rather silent this week! There are two blog posts finally trickling through that will be posted soon, but their two-way radio has started having issues again. It was slowing down communication at first, and now it’s just not functioning at all.

They were able to get the message out that they are doing fine. Joanna’s blisters are healing and she is up walking around. Benjamin was well celebrated on his birthday.

Thank you for praying for this dear family – please keep it up!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Friday, December 13

For many years on this date, Sarah has been getting up early and serving a special breakfast for the family in keeping with St. Lucia's Day.  Although she didn't have any white clothes to wear, she did provide a scrumptious Scandinavian Tea Ring for our breakfast this morning.

Almost every night this week, the bell has sounded around 8:00 or 8:30 calling children to choir practice.  They usually get started around 9:00 or 9:30 and sing for a couple of hours.  Almost every morning this week, we've had a big storm move across Marulaon anywhere from 3:00 to 5:00.  Sleep has been a little bit hard to come by this week!

Just after Morning Prayer, Kiko stopped by to see if I was going over to Karumulun for the Bible Story workshop.  I laid out my concerns to her, and she and I both decided it would be best for me to stay in Marulaon and continue to heal.  I really wanted the ladies to go without me, but I asked Kiko to walk around and discover everybody else's opinion.  I wanted the decision to be theirs.  A little while later, Kiko returned saying that the ladies were going!  I offered to buy one of the liters of petrol (about US $3) they would need for the motor canoe, if among them they could come up with the money for the other liter.  I also sent a big bowl of popcorn for them to munch while they worked.

E-mail wasn't working for a while this morning.  We depend on our colleagues in Honiara to check the radio and reset it often.  Only three families occupy SITAG right now, with a fourth living about 2.5 kilometers away, and they are really stretched thin with their responsibilities.  When we finally got our e-mail message to come through, we read that the Bilikiki, a scuba diving ship, had changed its scheduled.  They originally told our colleagues that the ship would arrive at Karumulun on Sunday afternoon, but this e-mail said they would be coming Friday morning and leaving my meds with Chief Raymond. 

So the Pony Express had begun - a colleague bought more meds to finish my prescription and took them to the Bilikiki's office.  The Bilikiki staff very graciously offered to bring them out to the West Russells, and they handed off my meds to Chief Raymond.  Benjamin and his two friends (one to help paddle and one to bail water) paddled in a dugout canoe to Karumulun to pick up my meds and bring them back to Marulaon.  All just in time for me to finish the bitter children's liquid meds I had been drinking in between doses of pills.  God's timing is always so perfect!  Reminds me of Proverbs 21:1, except my version is, "The heart of the ship's captain is in the Lord's hand, and He directs it wherever He pleases, even to a remote village in the South Pacific."

Haris asked Sarah to teach her how to make banana cake, so this afternoon, Sarah and Katherine went down armed with all the ingredients for banana cake and recipes in English and Lavukaleve.  Haris' family has a big drum oven (if you look closely, you can see it smoking in between Sarah and Haris) which makes cooking the banana cake much easier than if you only had a pot and an open fire. 

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Tomorrow, the girls are supposed to take the mausa bark out of the ocean and begin drying it to make Sarah's skirt for Christmas.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Thursday, December 12

A hum-dinger of a storm began around 3 o'clock this morning and woke everybody up. All of our windows are open and that we have no ceiling, only a tin roof. So it was loud! Aaron ended up starting his day early, but the rest of us went back to sleep.  When Katherine got up this morning, she hopped into my bed to snuggle. After "good morning", her next words were, "Mama, the thunder shook the house last night. Did it make your leg hurt?" I love that girl and her tender heart

So thankful for the much-needed rain and for the people all over the world praying for a good balance of sun (for the gardens and solar panels) and rain (for the gardens and rain tanks, our only source of water)!

Eta came this morning to weed and put up poles for the wing-bean to climb.  She also transplanted the red papaya seedlings that have been growing from seed Aaron brought in October.  Today was a perfect day for transplanting, cloudy and "cool", with occasional sprinkles.  It will give those little trees a great start in their new homes.

Aaron took down some peanut butter cookies for Kiko as a thank you.  He's been my legs a lot this week!  I also sent him to ask her to come up to the house to talk about the Bible Story workshop in Karumulun tomorrow.  Neither she nor her sisters were home, but her niece said she would send Kiko up when returned.  Aaron checked back after Evening Prayer, too, but none of the sisters were home.  We finally went to bed, assuming she would come by in the morning.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wednesday, December 11

Day four of being stuck in bed began very well!  My leg is much less swollen and red and only a few clumps of small blisters have popped up.  Looks like I may have escaped the huge blisters that cause such trouble.  I might be on my feet within a few days instead of a few weeks!  But I'm going slow and easy and being wise.  Thanks so much for everybody that has been praying for my leg and the malaria.  This morning is the first morning I haven't needed a nap, and I can feel my body slowly getting stronger.

Aaron and the kids went down to Marulaon's market this morning.  I don't know if my absence scared my friends, but I went from no visitors in three days (a really good thing, actually) to three visitors this morning.  Ofoaen and Kate came by to see if I would agree to having my leg "pulled".  That wanted to take some special leaves and rub them on my leg.  I agreed, Leku had done this for me last year when I had cellulitis.  So Kate hustled off to find the right leaves, and Ofoaen stayed on the porch and we traded questions back and forth.  Shortly after Kate returned, Daisy stopped by to check on me.  So all three of them chatted while Kate crushed the leaves and, beginning at my knee, rubbed them HARD down to my ankle.  It hurt.  I was thankful I had taken ibuprofen with breakfast and even more thankful that my leg was much less tender today than it was yesterday. 

After she rubbed the leaves on my leg, she chewed up something and spit it on my leg and rubbed it in some more.  I asked what it was and in unison my friends replied, "Lime".  Lime?  Like what you chew with betel nut?  Because it certainly wasn't the fruit.  I couldn't figure out exactly what it was.  Then I asked about the leaf.  What was it?  My friends exchanged glances, and Ofoaen told me that I would have to go down to Kate's house later and ask her when it was just the two of us.  Ofoaen and Daisy weren't allowed to know which leaves to use.  Kate told me she learned from her mother and would pass down the knowledge to one  of her sons.  Wow.  We chatted for a while, then my three friends waited for me to stand up and deal with the pain before I hobbled back into the house toward bed.  I felt so much better after Kate rubbed my leg and after chatting with my buddies!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tuesday, December 10

(written by Sarah because Joanna is still bed ridden and can't go on any adventures)

Foamela and Haris were supposed to come get me yesterday morning to cut mausa to make a grass skirt.  From what I understood, we would cut bundles of leaves and put them in the sea, somehow tying them to the shore.  Well, they didn't come, so after school I ran down to see Haris.  She was weeding.  She said she'd just been waiting for Foamela all day and I should just get her to take me.  So I got Foamela, and she said she'd take me.  But first she had to get some betelnut.  So we went and bought betel nut from Haris's house and then we went up to Vava Ofoaen's house, since she's Foamela's mom.  We gave her the betel nut and got a bush knife, which you would call a machete.  Then we headed off through someone's uvikola garden and into the trees.  I had no idea what we were looking for, but I saw a plant with really long leaves and assumed that was it.  However, Foamela said that someone had already come and cut all the young ones, and we'd have to go somewhere else.  So we went back the way we came and then headed back behind our house and behind the church where the priest's house in in progress. 

I didn't see any of the plant I thought we were looking for, and she was looking at tree tops (I was thoroughly confused).  Foamela said there was none there either, but she knew there was lots by the bathroom at the end of the village.  She said it was a long way and she didn't want my legs to hurt.  (I'm not sure if this means get tired or get cut up feet.)  I told her I still wanted to go, but just then a lady walked by and asked where we were going.  When Foamela told her, she said that there was plenty by Joseph's house and we should go there.  However, Foamela wanted someone else to go, too, so we went and got Jenna and Daris, who had been playing Capture the Flag with Benjamin and a bunch of other kids.  We went to Joseph's house and then down almost to the start of the toilet at the other end of the village.  At this point, I still didn't know what to look for.  Daris began climbing a tree, whacking in the knife as she went up so her hands were free.  Then she cut off a long straight branch which was growing straight up, because the tree grew sideways, like an arch.  This made no sense to me, because this tree only had leaves about the size of a head.  I finally learned that the skirt is made of bark, not leaves.

After cutting off twigs, we stripped off the bark and made it into two bundles, about as long as my arm and tied in the middle.  They were kind of heavy.  We carried them across the village to a place on the shore near Haris' house, just down the hill from ours.  The inside of the bark was the most lovely pale green, except in brown cracks where the bark had been broken.  The outside was sort of tree colored - light silvery brown with an alive dark green lurking underneath.  Then they told me to go home and rest and later we'd go put the bark in the sea.  So, I realized I was a little tired, and went home, ate some supper (it was nearly five o'clock) and put some shorts on underneath my skirt.  Then I grabbed some goggles and went to see if they were ready.  I had to call Jenna out of a kino tree.  Daris and Jenna and I went and put the bark out deep, not terribly over my head, right in a little sandy spot in the coral formation where we like to swim.  They weighted down the bundles with large rocks and told me we'd come get them on Saturday.  So I went home, and that was the end of today's adventure.

Marulaon Woman's Daybook

Just for today...Monday, December 9, 2013

Outside my window...bright sunshine.  Oh, we sure could use some rain to refill those rain tanks!

On my bookshelf..."Messenger: The legacy of Mattie J. T. Stepanek and Heartsongs"  by Jeni Stepanek.  A sweet, sad story, especially meaningful to our family because the kids sang some of Mattie's poems set to music last year when they participated in the Southwest Children's Chorus

I am thankful for...meds and an amazing family who have kept this household running like clockwork even while I am stuck in bed with malaria and cellulitis

In the learning rooms...Katherine is beginning a new math book this week, Singapore 1B; Sarah is working with quadrilaterals & polygons in geometry; in pre-algebra, Benjamin is reviewing decimals & percents; and Olivia is learning how to find the area of a circle

Around the house...a little bell I stole off the Christmas tree to ring whenever I need assistance, a bounty of pineapples ripening on the cabinet

Hearing...two small 12-volt fans, one at my head and one at my feet, working hard to blow away the malarial sweats

Crafting in the kitchen...spaghetti fortified with lots of good veggies from market and green beans mixed with slippery cabbage on the side.  So incredibly grateful for our friends who hold a small market just for us twice a week!

Pondering these words...
"Father our hearts we lift,
Up to Thy gracious throne,
And bless thee for the precious gift,
Of thine incarnate Son:
The gift unspeakable,
We thankfully receive,
And to the world thy goodness tell,
And to Thy glory live.
~Charles Wesley

A few plans for the rest of the week...I'm supposed to be paddling over to Karumulun Friday to finish crafting Bible stories with twelve other women.  It's not looking like my leg will let me go, but we'll see what happens.  Between now and then, my plans are to stay in bed, sleep as much as I can, and keep my leg elevated to help speed healing.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sunday, December 8

Yesterday was "Seafood Saturday"!  First, I bought two fish at market and made a delicious soup with fish, pumpkin leaves, local potatoes, and eggplant all floating in curried coconut milk.  Later, Eta brought back some of our dishes.  Even though I told her to bring them back empty, she filled one of the bowls with haleav, some kind of clam or oyster.  Finally, Sarah went fishing with her friend, Harris, and came back with several small trophies of her fishing prowess.  So Benjamin fried up the haleav, ("Mom, did you know they explode if you place them in the pan just right!?!") and Sarah fried up her fish for supper last night.

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I would appreciate prayers for my health.  I woke up in the wee hours of the morning with distinct signs of malaria and began taking meds this morning.  This evening, my left leg is showing signs of cellulitis again, in the same place as last year.  We will e-mail our doctor in Honiara for advice about which meds to take.  Both of these put together mean that I will probably be flat on my back for at least a week and slow to move around for a couple of weeks following.  I have quite a capable crew here in the Choate household, though!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Saturday, December 7

I'm still trying to learn how my amazing neighbors think about time.  Yesterday, I wanted to wait long enough for the Bible Story workshop so that my neighbors would have a chance to cook and eat breakfast and complete any morning chores they might have.  So around 8:30, I walked around the village checking with my friends to see if they were almost ready to get together.  Everyone seemed ready, so I sent Benjamin to ring the church bell (an old gas cylinder) to let the community know the workshop was ready to begin. 

I took water, notebooks, and pens over the the church, then walked over to Skita's house to ask for help in moving a heavy table to where the ladies planned to meet.  Skita and Eta helped me maneuver the table around the corner, and Sarah soon brought ginger snaps to strengthen us in our work.  Around 9:30 we finally began with prayer, and I asked them up front if they were interested in continuing the project or if they just wanted to quit.  They assured me that even though they hadn't continued the project in my absence, they were very interested in moving forward.  Then we talked about which stories to tackle next.  They decided to keep moving through Genesis and the life of Jesus.  IMG_0385 - Copy (320x213)

We divided up into two groups and begin diligently retelling the stories in Lavukaleve, while I walked back to the house and grabbed some fresh banana cake to share.  There were small interruptions for babies needing to be fed, a toothache, and taking clothes off the line for impending rain, but the ladies worked hard. 

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Around 10:30 three ladies from Karumulun showed up.  I was so excited to see them!  By 12:30, everybody's brains were fried, and we decided to meet next Friday in Karumulun to finish up the rough draft of the stories.  Then my hard work will begin in the back translating and comprehension checking as we revise the stories.  I've asked the ladies to begin thinking about who they want to draw the pictures for the stories and who might read the stories when we record them to put them on the Sabers.  Janet (Ezekiel's wife) even brought her Saber to play back the recordings we made in 2011.  Her Saber still works!  We closed out our morning with an "action chorus"!
in Lavukaleve and a prayer.

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Thanks for all of the prayers surrounding this project!  Please keep them coming.  Our village only hears God's Word in tiny pieces during Morning and Evening prayer, and even then the reading is muffled and has to be heard over the cries of babies and the chatter of children.  Watching these ladies try to figure out what the Pijin Bible really says, and helping them figure out concepts like the Passover feast, excites me.  This is the only time they are immersed in God's Word.  Yesterday afternoon, Eta told me that crafting those stories and choosing just the right words was hard work!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Friday, December 6

We are so thankful for care packages!  Sarah made St. Nicholas purse cookies with a treasure (a Hershey's kiss) inside to celebrate.  This year we used peanut butter cookie dough instead of the recipe we used last year.  I think they turned out even better this year!


Thursday, December 5

The Choate kids got a day off school today to tromp over to the primary school graduation on the other end of our island.  This school serves eight villages in the West Russells, and we really wanted to go and support the students.  For many, sixth grade is as far as they will go in school.

Even though the walk is only a couple of IMG_0334 - Copy (213x320)miles, we knew it would take us just under an hour, so we left the house around nine o'clock.  We carried three backpacks filled with first aid supplies, water, and snacks, as well as a woven mat to sit on during the festivities.  The kids (who all chose to go barefooted) sang Christmas carols all the way and paused now and then to look at God's beautiful creation all around us.  Some orange lichen caught my eye as did a bunch of hermit crabs (kokovan) enjoying a breakfast of old coconut. 

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Sometimes the path wound through beautiful coconut groves, sometimes the path was so covered with ferns that weIMG_0376 - Copy (213x320) could only follow the path with our feet, not our eyes.  At one point, we found a freshly fallen tree across the path and wished we had our bush knives in hand.

We got rain just before dawn this morning (a big thanks to all of you who have been praying for a good balance of rain and sun!), so the path was very slick.  Several of us slipped and fell along the way, so we arrived muddy and very sweaty right at ten o'clock, starting time. 

However, our neighbors were enjoying their break after morning IMG_0341 - Copy (214x320)prayer and fed us tea and ring cake.  Our family split up and found the appropriate groups - Aaron hung out with the "big men" in the special shelter built for them, I went and found Kiko and her sister Delight, and the kids sat on our mat and played cards with the other kids. Olivia found one of the plants that responds to touch by closing up its leaves. When we were in Papua New Guinea in 2008, we were told that these plants were planted by the Japanese during WWII so they would know if somebody had recently walked by. 

A little before noon, the graduation ceremony finally began. 

IMG_0354 - Copy (320x213)As a "big man", Aaron gave a short speech encouraging the graduates to be a blessing, just as Abraham was blessed to be a blessing. IMG_0356 - Copy (214x320) When each of the fourteen graduates had received their diplomas, we took a short break while the ladies prepared lunch.  Each village had a small table where they gathered to load their banana leaf dishes with food. IMG_0365 - Copy (272x320)Our family was asked to join the "big men", so the kids and I loaded our plates and ate on our mat while Aaron stayed in the crowded small shelter and ate with the men.  I moved over to eat with Kiko and her family.  Kiko's niece, Julet, has two of the cutest kids ever.  Jude and his little sister, Selina, who was named after Kiko's mom who died while we were on furlough.  Selina is still scared of me, but I'm working on making a friend out of her!

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Ezekiel and Janet were there to support their grand-daughter who was graduating.  Aaron and I both enjoyed watching Ezekiel be a goofy grandfather as he danced and played with his grandson.  IMG_0361 - Copy (320x213)

We finally began our walk back to Marulaon around three o'clock.  Katherine and Olivia needed a pit stop before we left, so we stopped at one of the most beautiful bathrooms in the world. IMG_0373 - Copy (213x320)We finally arrived hot, a little sunburned, sweaty, and thirsty around four o'clock, so grateful for the chance to spend time with our neighbors.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Wednesday, December 4

Often people ask me, "What does a normal day look like in the village?"  There IS no typical day, but I wish I had taken lots of pictures today, because it was as close to normal as we get. 

After morning prayer finished, the kids and I walked down to the little market that our friends hold for us twice a week.  We bought pineapple, slippery cabbage, bananas, umalau (sweet potatoes), papaya, long beans, mangoes, a surprise watermelon (we almost never see them here) and eggplant.  We're so grateful for the food that our neighbors bring to help keep us healthy and strong.  Kiko mentioned that her neck was hurting from carrying heavy things on her head, so after we brought up all of the food, I took some Tylenol down to her and stayed to visit with her sisters for a few minutes. 

When I walked back up the hill to the house, I finished laundry while the kids began school, and Aaron walked down the hill to find Barnabas, with whom he had set up a language learning session this morning.  Aaron came back up the hill to say that he and Barnabas were going to meet under our house, a very culturally appropriate place to meet, about the same time that Eta showed up to weed our yard.  So I spent the morning like this...

...go down and borrow a file to sharpen our bush knives, go back up to the house to check math, pop popcorn and take some down to the guys underneath the house for a snack, go with Eta to get some cuttings of a beautiful hibiscus in Ofoaen's yard, come up and listen to Katherine read, take popcorn and water down to Eta and check on her progress, come up and check science, go down and plant slippery cabbage stalks and marigold seeds, come up and ask history questions, chop veggies for lunch, go down and move clothes because it looked like rain, come back up and get money to pay Eta, get lunch on the table and kids to the table while Aaron continued his session under the house...

After lunch, we heard the bell ring for a community health meeting.  A group came to talk about family planning, and we were quite surprised that the meeting was to be held in mixed company.   Aaron attended while I finished school with the kids.  When the kids went out to play, I walked down to see if I could help Naris as she prepared a light meal for the visitors.  She needed a food cover, so I hustled back up to the house to grab the beautiful food cover that my friend, Margaret, made as a gift last year.  When everything was ready, several of us ladies walked over to the meeting to hear the end of the discussion.  I was really proud of my husband for standing up and reminding the group that the session was on FAMILY planning, married couples, not for young people who wanted to run around and still not get pregnant, and that God's plan really is the best way.  After the program, we were able to spend a few minutes with the visitors and help serve them food before we needed to get back to the house for the 4:30 radio sched with SITAG.
Then it was time for a quick supper of leftovers, showers, evening prayer, and advent devotionals before we all headed to bed.  And that's what a "normal" day looks like!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tuesday, December 3

As I feel like I have only two widow's mites to give to my family and to the Lavukal today, these words brought me great encouragement:

What faith it takes to believe that it is worth giving God our infinitesimally small resources when faced with the needs of the world!...When the poor widow put two very small copper coins into the temple treasury, Jesus said that she had put in more than all the others, even than the rich who "were putting in large sums."  How then did Jesus measure what was given?  By what was left!  ~Dr. Helen Roseveare

Sunday, December 1

After church this morning, we began pulling out Christmas decorations, music, and our tree.  I was really missing family and friends at the start of this Advent season and was a little bit teary when I heard a knock at the door.  My friend Ofoaen stood there with a plate of lelenga and a tuna.  She said that her husband, David, had gone fishing yesterday and caught two fish, so they gave one to us.  The fish was good sized, and I was so humbled to find it on the plate.  I think Ofoaen was embarrassed to find me crying, and her gift prompted even more tears.  I told her that I felt like God sent her because I was missing my family and she was like a sister to me.

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Saturday, November 30

Instead of making lelenga (cassava pudding), we made kora today.  It's a little bit like scalloped potatoes, local sweet potatoes (umalau) sliced thinly and layered with thick coconut cream.  I bought the umalau earlier this week from a friend, and because we didn't go out to our garden to get cassava, I forgot to get the leaves we needed to put on top of the hot stones as insulation.  Aaron started the fire to cook the kora while I delivered a some t-shirts.  A couple of our friends are teachers at a university and sent 47 t-shirts for us to deliver to our neighbors.  I've been going house to house delivering t-shirts for Christmas.  I love how God worked out the exact right amount of t-shirts for the amount of houses in Marulaon!

Anyway, when I came home, the fire was burning brightly, and I remembered that I didn't have the leaves we needed.  So, Aaron and Benjamin hustled off to the garden to get the leaves while the girls cleaned up for Evening Prayer.  The guys came back with the leaves, and Aaron said they had a hard time finding as many leaves as we usually put on top of the stones.  We went ahead and prepared the stones, leaves, and burlap bags.  Then Aaron and I turned our attention to building a quick trellis for my tomatoes that are growing like crazy.  As I headed back toward the house, Aaron said, "Do those bags look like they have new holes burned in them?"  I agreed, so I hustled up to the house to get a bucket of water while he began to dismantle our carefully constructed oven.  By the time I stepped in the door, I could see flames leaping up in our leaf kitchen outside.  I grabbed the bucket of water and flew down the stairs to douse the burning bags.

When the crisis was over, Aaron and I looked at each other.  We were in a bind.  Our stones were hot, our huge tray of food was covered in stones and ready to cook, but we had no leaves and no bags to insulate the all-night oven.  Just then, Dawa came around the corner and walked by our house on the path down toward his house.  We called him over and explained our situation, and he said that Naris was just behind him.  I ran to find her, quickly told her what I needed, and we both flew into action, running down the hill, grabbing banana leaves and her burlap bags, running back up the hill to the kitchen.  She doused the edges of the rocks with water that hissed and steamed, and we covered the stones with leaves and bags again quick as a wink to capture the heat of the stones.
I truly believe that God sent my kind next door neighbor just at the right time to help me repair my mistake.  Now I get a good story, and Naris's family gets a big plate of kora tomorrow!

Marulaon Woman’s Daybook

Just for today...Monday, December 2

Outside my window...rain, glorious soft rain sinking into the ground and dripping into the rain tanks.  The tanks around the village were getting low, and the rain means lower temperatures, too.  I absolutely love, love, love the rain!

I am hearing...Handel's Messiah.  We're beginning some sight-reading lessons with the kids, and we're all looking forward to the Choate family Messiah sing-along later this month.

On my bookshelf..."Comfort Ye My People:  The Real World Meets Handel's Messiah" by Kay Bruner, a former SITAG member

From the kitchen...I plan open one of the soup mixes from a care package and used up the leftover chicken from Thanksgiving.  It will be so quick and easy that I think we'll be able to finish school early!  Lunch prep, eating, and cleanup takes at least a couple of hours, so the mix is certainly a treat.

One of my favorite things...making discoveries with my kids.  Katherine and I found this locust skin on a tree the other day while we were weeding.  She was scared at first, and I was reminded that she had never seen one before.

IMG_0301 - Copy (214x320)Around the house...I have almost 200 Chinese cabbage seedlings and about 30 tomato seedlings that I've planted in old plastic ice cream containers in nice, neat rows.  After their initial mass planting in a flower pot in mid-November, I thinned them out and moved them into the ice cream containers to grow big and strong in preparation for their move in my old canoes. My porch rail is filled up with seedlings, and I've got some neighbors who are eagerly anticipating my leftover seedlings moving into their gardens!

Pondering these words...David prays voluntarily submitting himself to God's tuning fork:  "Search me"; "Test me"; "See if there is any offensive way in me" (Psalm 139:23-24).  In effect, he is saying:  "Lord, let me know if my life is out of tune!"...As the tuning fork is applied to my life, I can "hear" the flat keys.  The Master Tuner may have to tighten the strings, thus producing temporary pain and stress.  But the final result will be a beautifully voiced instrument of praise!  ~Don Wyrtzen

From the learning rooms...Olivia and Katherine are entering into the War of 1812 while Sarah and Benjamin are in the midst of the California Gold Rush; all the kids are flying through their math books; Sarah and Benjamin are studying weather and keeping a month long chart of clouds, temperature, and precipitation while Olivia is working her way through TOPS Electricity

A few plans for the rest of the week...we're going to the local elementary school graduation on Thursday, it's about a 45 minute walk to the other end of our island, and Friday I'm meeting with any women who are interested in continuing the Children's Story Bible in Lavukaleve.  I would appreciate prayers for Friday morning!

A peek into my corner of the world...setting up the Christmas tree yesterday and the general goofiness that goes with being part of our family.  The Christmas lights provided a great science lesson, too, because they were wired in series.  Aaron the kids took them apart and wired all three strands of lights together.  Now we only need one extension cord, but the resistance is so high that the lights barely glow.  Our tree appears to be lit by tiny flickering candles!

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Friday, November 29

Our Thanksgiving celebrations have been slow and sweet.  Aaron let me get some much needed extra rest this morning, then we enjoyed some pumpkin muffins that Sarah made yesterday.  Thankfully, the pumpkin pies were the only food we made before we knew the US Navy wasn't coming, so we have four pumpkin pies to enjoy over the next few days. 

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I asked around for extra baking dishes when I thought we would have eight extra men, and Melody quickly loaned me two of her trays, the closest thing to 9x13 pans I could find.  I returned them last night with eggplant, Ramen noodles, and canned tuna as a thank you for her immediate willingness to loan out her dishes. 

Our Thankful turkey has grown lots of feathers in the last week.  I love watching my kids' personalities come out as they write a variety of things on the feathers.  We keep them from year to year, not to give the turkey a fuller tail, but to enjoy reading and sometimes deciphering the young handwriting (or scribbles). 

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After breakfast, we sat out on the porch and read Louisa May Alcott's "An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving", one of my favorite Thanksgiving books.  We read it aloud every year.  Then we began a game of hand and foot.  All six of us can play this one at the same time, and Sarah and I were way ahead by the time we needed to stop for lunch preparation.  We enjoyed our chicken, green beans, corn casserole, faux candied yams with marshmallows from a care package, watermelon, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin spice coffee.  Then, Sarah and I put so much space between us and the rest of the family that we called off the game before we even got to the fourth round.

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I didn't realize how much we needed a Sabbath, just a day to stay in the house and rest both brains and bodies, to laugh and play and focus on the many things God has given us.  What a gift!

Thursday, November 28

While Eta weeded our yard this morning, I noticed big black clouds to the north.  A few minutes later, Kiko walked by with her knife on the way to her garden.  She turned, faced the oncoming clouds, and waved her bush knife back and forth.  I've seen her, and others, do that before when the wind was blowing very strongly, but never at an approaching storm.  A few minutes later, I went out to check on Eta and asked about what I saw.  She confirmed what I thought about Kiko trying to cut the storm to keep it away.  I asked Eta if there was anything the Lavuakal did when they wanted the rain to come.  She told me that there is a special leaf that they take and throw into the ocean that will bring the rain.  I'm going to try and find somebody to show me which leaf!  Eta and I planted wing bean and cantaloupe, and I went back up to help the kids with school.  As I went from room to room, checking on each member of my family, I glanced at Eta outside.  She was cutting the storm with the bush knife!

Two of the members of the US Navy came by after lunch to let us know that they would not be able to join us for Thanksgiving.  They hadn't discovered much in the way of bombs or artillery in our area (thankfully!), so their ship was moving to another area this afternoon, earlier than expected.  We were disappointed, but their departure certainly solved the problem of stretching our little chicken.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 27

We received a huge surprise today!  Four men from the US Navy showed up at our house to introduce themselves.  They are serving on an Aussie ship with a team that is working around the Russell Islands to help find "leftovers" from WWII.  They've already found several bombs and were asking if we had heard any stories that might help them find more remnants of the war.  I asked if they had any plans for Thanksgiving, and they said no.  So I invited all eight of the American on the boat to eat a Thanksgiving meal on Friday. One of the guys is supposed to come by tomorrow and let me know if they were granted permission to come share the holiday with us.  I'm praying that the little frozen chicken we brought back from Honiara stretches to feed eight hungry men in addition to our family.

Skita has been telling me that she wants to tell me her story, so this afternoon she and Eta came over for afternoon tea.  Sarah made gingersnaps (one of our village favorites because our recipe doesn't use precious butter).  The ladies were supposed to come at 3, but at 3:40 they still hadn't arrived so I went looking for them.  Nobody wears watches here.Winking smile  I found Eta asleep, and she hopped up to go find Skita.  They both came to the house a little before 4:00.  The conversation quickly turned intimate among the three of us, and I learned that these two lovely ladies have a heart to help young girls in our village love the Lord and serve Him with their lives.  They also love to laugh, and we talked about a cheerful heart being good medicine!  They stayed until the bell for evening prayer rang at 5:45, and my wonderful family followed directions beautifully and gave us the privacy we needed to chat.  Plans are in the works for some casual get-togethers that combine fun, food, and God's Word.

Tuesday, November 26

Since we arrived from Honiara last Thursday, we've heard the consistent bang, bang, bang of some of our neighbors building a canoe.  Thomas and Dawa have been using the end of an old hoe that they've sharpened to chip away at the parts of the wood they don't want on the canoe.  Their work is so rhythmic that it almost sounds like somebody has turned up the bass on the radio!

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Monday, November 25

We knew the Kosco was coming back from the West toward Honiara today, we just weren't sure what time.  Since lots of my pineapples are ripening at the same time, I wanted to send some back to our SITAG family in Honiara as a "Merry Christmas".  When we left SITAG in mid-November, one of the ladies who cleans houses for SITAG (and how we love her!) told us "Hapi Krismas and Hapi Niu Yia!"  If you aren't going to see someone before Christmas, it's very appropriate to part with that phrase, even it if is still November.  So, before SITAG's staff begin to leave for their own villages to celebrate Christmas, we wanted to send them each a pineapple.  Yesterday, I asked Eta if she would make me a basket from a coconut leaf and help me pick the best pineapples to send back to Honiara.  She showed up at 7:00 this morning with the basket, told me she expected the Kosco around 11:00, and that she would be back to weed my yard after breakfast. 

A few minutes later, I heard the chugging of the Kosco's engines, and the village began to hum with activity.  I sent Benjamin to run get Eta while I began to harvest the pineapples that were ripe close to the house.  She came running, and we decided that we would have enough time to run get the pineapples from our bush garden.

So, Sarah, Benjamin, Olivia, and Eta went running down to the path to collect pineapples while Aaron went to find anybody who hadn't already gone to get on the ship.  In record time, we had nine pineapples in a basket and on the shoulders of Chief Leonard.  He is a great one to deliver the pineapples because he is familiar with several of our colleagues and can look for them at the wharf. 

After our adrenaline quit pumping, we finished breakfast and morning chores and began our school work.  Eta came around 9:00, and she and her young niece, Mariska, weeded in our much neglected yard.  I don't think I'll ever win the "Marulaon Yard of the Year" award if I weed by myself, so I don't mind paying a young lady to help bring my yard up to village standards!

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For our morning snack, I made enough popcorn to share with Eta and Mariska.  We love popcorn popped in coconut oil, and the salt tastes so good when we are sweating so much.  As we were munching away, doing math on the porch, all of the sudden, Katherine yelled.  I looked up, and she was holding her tooth in her hands - tooth #5! 

A few minutes later, Olivia hollered, and she was also holding a tooth in her hands.  A molar for her.  Who knew popcorn would help teeth fall out?!? IMG_0304 - Copy (320x213)
Eta reminded us of how to sing the "tooth song" when you throw your tooth up on the leaf roof:
"Kokomita de ngoneo, nam nganeo."
When Eta finished weeding, we walked over to her house so Olivia and Katherine could throw their teeth up on the roof.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Sunday, November 24

The first set of Sunday bells began ringing at 5:30 a.m., and we were so thankful that the bells waited until daylight.  Often, the bells ring as early as 4:30.  The final bell rang around 6:30, and church began at 7:00 this morning.  A sea of bodies pressed into our little concrete block church, and we filled up the wooden benches and kneeling rails, especially on the women's side.  I know to sit on the end of the bench because it has the most support.  Even my girls make the plank sink down in the middle!

Katherine had been awake in the night because she was itching so much, and this morning we discovered that both she and Benjamin had been enjoyed by some tiny sea creatures while they were swimming yesterday afternoon.  We pulled out the Benadryl and the hydrocortizone cream to give them some relief, and Katherine slept on my lap through the entire church service.

By 9:00 we were home and taking our lelenga off the still warm stones.  We had enough to share with three different friends!  As I came back from delivering a plate to Kiko, I found Grace at our door returning one of our bowls.  She had put a tuna inside to reciprocate our gift of cooking bananas last week.  She and I sat on the porch and visited for a long time while the rest of the family did the prep work for our traditional Sunday lunch of pizza.  We even used half a bag of the cherished pepperoni that we sent over in our crate.
After a while, I noticed that Grace was looking hard at something inside the house.  She finally said, "What is that?  A big flower on your wall?"  I turned and discovered that she was asking about our "thankful turkey".  I tried my best to explain Thanksgiving and our family's tradition of making a construction paper turkey and multi-colored feathers to list the many things for which we were thankful.  Grace let us know that she and her kids are going back to her home village to celebrate Christmas with her family, so we won't see them again until sometime in January.

After Grace left, our family began playing Settlers of Catan.  After church in Marulaon, we almost always set the pizza dough to rise and begin playing a family game.  I'd only just begun my strategy to win when Hilda showed up asking for change for some big bills.  She stayed a while and visited with two of her kids nearby.  Hilda is involved in all kinds of groups and committees all over the Solomon Islands.  She's very forward thinking, so it was good to hear her thoughts and feelings about education and church and sanitation and just life in general. 

When Hilda left with her change and a packet of Chinese cabbage seeds, I finished my domination, I mean we completed our game and ate our pizza.  We had hardly finished clean up when Chief Leonard arrived to talk to Aaron about compiling a book of Christmas carols in Lavukaleve.  Those two guys can story about anything and everything, I'm so thankful for Chief Leonard.  He's a good leader for our village, and he's trustworthy and hard working, too. IMG_0296 - Copy (320x213)

I walked down to the point of the island (where Grace and her family live) to check on our kids who were playing with Grace's kids for one last time this year.  Sarah was playing cards, and the other three were swimming and playing with Grace's canoe. IMG_0300 - Copy (320x213)

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I made my rounds through that half of Marulaon, storying with lots of women along the way, picking up a huge papaya from Hilda, and choosing a tentative date for the next Bible story workshop with women from several Lavukal villages.  By the time I got home, kids were going through the shower, and leftovers were on the cabinet for supper.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Saturday, November 23

Our whole family walked out to the garden again this morning to harvest cassava and weed.  When we came home, we ate a quick lunch and then began working to make cassava pudding (lelenga), our first one in twenty months.  We were a little bit slow and rusty, but we finished up most of the work in time for the kids to go out and play. 

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In addition to Aaron's "official" work of Bible translation, we have several goals that we want to accomplish in our village and in the Russell Islands.  One of those is to serve as part of the community.  When Marulaon holds a fundraiser, we contribute; if the village calls for a work day, we work; if there is a school graduation, we attend; and on Saturdays, we make lelenga to share with our neighbors.

I went down to check on our kids and found Benjamin and Katherine swimming with their friends and Olivia and Sarah cooking cutnuts on a motu with their friends.

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I walked up the hill from checking on the kids so I could get my slippery cabbage planted now that the hottest part of the day was finished.  One of the amazing things about the Solomon Islands is the rich soil.  After you eat the leaves of slippery cabbage (yes, they are slimy, but they are our best option for greens here), you just take the stem and poke it in the ground.  It grows!  Aaron was beginning the fire to heat up the stones to cook our lelenga.  The fire has to burn for about an hour to get the stones good and hot.  The kids are really good at helping now.  How different from when we arrived in Marulaon in 2009 with a nine, seven, five, and one year old.  Not only do my kids know how things work now, but they are strong and capable, too!  We worked together to move the stones, place the tray of lelenga on the hot coals, replace the stones, cover the stones with leaves, and cover the whole things with burlap bags.  Just in time, we all finished showering (we WERE a little sweaty and smoky!) and filed into the evening prayer service.

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Friday, November 22

Our batteries are dangerously low after several days of rain, so we were thrilled to see lots of sunshine this morning as we began the day with full rain tanks.

The morning was set aside for village cleanup.  So after we got the morning chores finished, the kids and I started school and Aaron went out with his grass knife (long and curved on one end) to help our neighbors clean up the public areas of the village. 

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When the clean up crew was on the other side of my outdoor kitchen (you can see the roof in the picture), I made two big bowls of popcorn to say thank you to our neighbors who were working so hard.  I almost caused a fight as every one fought for a handful of popcorn! 

The bell just rang to end the time of work, and now clouds are once again covering up the sun we need so badly.  Aaron has come in to study Lavukaleve while the kids and I tie up loose ends of the morning's schoolwork.  We'll all pause for lunch soon. 

Thanks for all of the prayers for our village e-mail.  The CPS has stayed around 60, and we've been able to connect about 75% of the times we've tried.  What a blessing to be able to stay connected to friends and family across the Pacific while pouring ourselves into the Lavukal.

Food and Games

A bit of fellowship: Sarah and Olivia had a little fun when their friend Stacy from Marulaon village joined them for a card game and some cassava. Stacy’s little brother Oma joined them as well!

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Safe in Marulaon

Friends of the Choates,

I’m delighted to report that the Choates have made it safely to the village – in the sunshine this time! It has, however, rained a good deal since their arrival. So, their batteries are running a little low but their rain tanks are nice and full.

Joanna hopes to have a post of her own as soon as possible.

Ann H (friend)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Over and Out

In just a little bit, our family will be headed down to the wharf to catch the Kosco.  Again.  The ship should pull out around 9 p.m. (4 a.m. CST) and arrive in Marulaon around 6 a.m. (2 p.m. CST).  We appreciate your prayers as we make the trip again and pick up where we left off serving the Lavukal in Marulaon Village.  We think we have village e-mail working, but it still transfers in characters per second (cps), and we have no internet.  Hoping to be back in town sometime in February.  This is Honiara, over and out!

Honiara Woman's Daybook

Just for today...Tuesday, November 19
Outside my window...chickens making their morning ruckus as they start the day and sunshine filtering through the mango leaves.  We're in a house we haven't lived in since 2011, and it's so cute and homey!
On my bookshelf..."Living Faith:  Willing to be stirred as a pot of paint" by Dr. Helen Roseveare.  Challenging.
A heart of thankfulness...for people who help extend Aaron's birthday celebration.  Mystic Monk Coffee is our newest favorite!
From the learning rooms...my amazing kids carted school books back so we didn't miss any school.  Our basket includes "How We Crossed the West:  The Adventures of Lewis and Clark" by Rosalyn Schanzer, "Lewis and Clark:  A Prairie Dog for the President" by Shirley Raye Redmond, "The Lewis and Clark Expedition Coloring Book" by Peter F. Copeland, "Of Courage Undaunted" by James Daugherty, "Seaman:  The Dog Who Explored the West with Lewis and Clark" by Gail Langer Karwoski
Crafting in the kitchen...our SITAG colleagues have provided every single supper for our stay in Honiara.  So we were freed up to make a key lime pound cake for this morning's tea break.
Pondering these words...One of the students prayed in French, the government language, rather haltingly, "Go ahead, God, stir me.  I don't care what it costs..." Then there was a long pause, before he burst out, in his mother tongue, "I do care what it costs, I care a lot, but stir me all the same, God!"
 ~Dr. Helen Roseveare
One of my favorite things...autumn.  Friends and family are helping me pretend with things like Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin shower gel, an Autumn Wreath scented candle, and Pumpkin Spice Chai tea.  So grateful for the care packages that were waiting for us when we arrived in Honiara.  THANK YOU to those of you who scrape your pennies together to encourage our family and help keep us on the field with your prayers, gifts, and encouraging words.
A few plans for the rest of the week...chipping away at our long "to do" list and getting back on the Kosco Wednesday night to head back to Marulaon Village