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As directors of our group here in the Solomon Islands, one of the most enjoyable jobs is making ‘Team Visits’. Our translation advisor teams live in remote villages around the country and we see them when they come to the capital city where we live. Once every two years or so, the director tries to make a trip out to visit the teams to see how the work is going in the community in which they serve and to be an encouragement to them.
On Friday afternoon, we climbed on a Solomon Airlines Dash 8 and flew west to Munda – a small town and mission station for the United Church. Jim and Carolyn Mudge have served the Roviana speaking people who live in this area since the 1980s. Jim serves as the translation advisor for the project.
The Roviana New Testament, which was dedicated in 1995, has been widely used and has been sold out for years. After completing the New Testament, the church wanted the Old Testament as well. After years of labor, the end is in sight and the translation team is down to editing the last 10% of the Old Testament.
We’ve been friends with the Mudges for years and it has been a lot of fun to finally see them in the context where they have served for so many years. They have many friends and are a valued part of the community.
On Saturday, Jim took Tim and I for a walk to see some of the area. One of our first stops was a World War II Japanese foxhole. During the war, Munda saw a lot of action. In fact, the airstrip we landed on was built by the Japanese during the war.
This is the translation office the church built many years ago to support the translation project.
On Saturday afternoon we traveled to Noro – about a 20 minute truck ride away and is the home of the Soltuna cannery. The Mudges are friends with the American manager of the facility and though they were not processing fish that day, we got a tour. We learned that there is a lot that goes into producing a can of tuna and that the Solomon Islands has some of the best tuna anywhere! Later we all went to dinner at a new Chinese restaurant in Noro.
Sunday was Mother’s Day here in the Solomons. The men had planned the church service and we were given leis to wear. Since Carolyn and I didn’t have our children around to make the leis, someone took care of that and this little girl, Titiana, placed the lei on me.
The women were asked to make two lines – one for those whose mother was still living and the other for those whose mother had passed away. We paraded into church and a wreath was presented to one of the ministers for each of two groups – white flowers for the living mothers and red for the ones who were with the Lord.
After the church service, the women paraded back out of the church and formed a line so everyone could shake hands and wish them a Happy Mother’s Day.
I had asked Carolyn if she thought there would be anyone in the congregation who would have carried a Roviana New Testament to church. (Since the congregation is made up of Roviana and non-Roviana speakers, Pijin and English were used in the service.) Carolyn pointed to one old man and we were able to talk to him and get some pictures of him with his much loved and well-used Bible.
After a nice Mother’s Day dinner at the Mudge’s house, we took a walk in the area where they had lived before. We met many of their friends who were pleased to see Jim and Carolyn.
The man in the photo, Robert, was known for his drunken behavior and bad temper until through the ministry of a visiting evangelist he turned his life over to the Lord. He was excited to tell us how he was sold out for Christ and nothing was going to stop him from serving God.
Robert is a carpenter and is in the process of building a house for his family. On the wall he has a sign to remind him of his commitment to God and to his family.
Robert told us about how he and his family have benefitted from a recording that was done of the Pijin New Testament. He still has the Proclaimer – a solar powered audio device which he showed us. Proclaimers are produced by Faith Comes by Hearing and Tim and I were involved in the project back in 2008. It was encouraging to see the Proclaimer being used, although he said it doesn’t hold a charge for very long anymore. We will see if we can’t get a replacement for Robert’s device.
On Monday morning, we had an appointment to visit the minister who leads the United Church. Meeting with national church leaders is an important part of keeping good relations with the churches who are our partners in Bible translation.
Then we met with the local church leaders of the United church who responsible for the Roviana translation project. The Roviana New Testament should be completed late this year and will be typeset in early 2016. It’s time to start thinking about the dedication of the Roviana Bible and we discussed some of the factors they may want to take into consideration in planning the event.
Monday afternoon we took a break and went to the local resort where we had made reservations to stay on a nearby island to celebrate our 25th Anniversary.
Unfortunately, the water tanks on the island were drained so instead they put us up in one of their best rooms free of charge, Monday night. They repaired the water problem and tonight we are sleeping in a small house on a island off of Munda. It’s just the two of us – and the little old man who is responsible to keep the generator running this evening!
Tomorrow it’s back to Honiara and the less exotic and romantic – but still necessary – part of our job in supporting Bible translation work around the country.
Tim was able to get a local SIM card and call me this afternoon. It was good to get more of the story.
On Friday night:
Tim and our colleagues didn’t get much sleep as they were awake working on sweeping water out of the three story cement block apartment building which is owned by our organization. A 2×4 flew through the window of an unoccupied bedroom causing lots of water to blow into the room.
The rain and winds caused rain water to push water through the frames of sliding glass windows and doors. He said there was water on the floor all night that they worked on sweeping out of the building.
One of the unoccupied buildings owned by the group there lost its roof.
The airport terminal building suffered some roof damage and broken windows. An Australian military plane was able to land today with relief supplies and assessment team. Before commercial flights are able to come in again, the airport tarmac and electronic controls will need to be checked.
Tim is doing fine. I asked him if he thought it was the scariest thing he ever lived through and he said – ‘no’. They never feared for their lives and he thought being close to a tornado would be scarier. The one thing he noted was that the wind was so strong and it went on and on and on making for a long night.
The next step is waiting for the airport to reopen and a flight from Vanuatu to the Solomon Islands. The next scheduled flight is on Wednesday – if they are flying by that time.
Tim promises pictures and more stories when he gets home and can post them. They are still without internet.
Thanks again for your prayers.
This morning I called Solomon Airlines to ask if Tim’s flight would be coming in from Vanuatu. I was surprised when they said it was due in around 1 pm.
A while later I received a phone call from Tim. He is fine and he was letting me know that the airport in Port Vila (Vanuatu) is not open so he won’t be coming today. At this point we have no idea how soon he will be able to get home.
I’ve seen tweets about Australia and New Zealand sending it aid today, so maybe military flights will start to get into the country.
While we wait, I am thankful Tim is ok and trust that he will be here sometime this week.
This week, Tim started his journey back to the Solomon Islands with a stop in Vanuatu – the country to the southeast of the Solomon Islands for a meeting. When he booked his tickets, he had a choice of a half a day in Port Vila, the capital city, or five days. Since he wasn’t sure the half day was going to be enough, he opted for the five days. He is scheduled to return to the Solomons tomorrow afternoon.
However, a powerful storm, Cyclone Pam, has been working its way across the Pacific. Earlier this week we were watching it as it was in Solomon Islands waters, but it mostly dumped a lot of rain and strong winds. It did cause damage in the far east of the country on the islands of Tikopia and Anuta.
“Pam” continued it’s path to the southeast and yesterday hit Vanuatu. On Friday night, it came through Port Vila. I was actually on a Skype chat on Friday evening with Tim until the power/communications system went down. Tim warned me that it was likely we would lose communication when the power grid either was taken off line for safety reasons or the storm brought it down, so I wasn’t too surprised.
You can google or tweet ‘Cyclone Pam Vanuatu’ and see that it has caused serious damage to the country. There are deaths reported in some areas and lots of damage.
Tim is staying in a cement block building owned my our organization. In preparation for the oncoming storm, the windows were taped to help prevent breaking windows and flying glass.
I haven’t received any updates from Tim but he warned me last night that it might be likely that I wouldn’t get any updates until he arrives back here in the Solomon due to the power and communication lines being down for several days.
Of course I would be happy to hear from Tim, but I am assuming that he is fine since he was in a strong building. My heart goes out to the people of Vanuatu, many of whom, live in houses made of materials which would be very vulnerable to the winds and rains.
We’ll see if Tim gets in tomorrow as planned. I’ve read that countries in the region are standing by to fly in relief supplies so assume reopening the airport will be a high priority. But of course weather will play a part in when the airlines start flying again.
I’ve been looking online for more information and photos and videos are starting to be uploaded. I’ll post a link to a video of a drive through Port Vila this morning (Saturday).
Thank you for your prayers and concerns for Tim and please pray for the people of Vanuatu who will be affected by devastation of this record-breaking storm for sometime.
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A number of years ago, Tim and I were asked to help a young Australian teacher learn more about the literacy work we do. The young woman’s name was Karen and it was clear that she had the right skill-set to work cross-culturally and teach literacy. We encouraged her to get further training and come back. She did that, and now she is one of our colleagues.
Today, Karen is making a difference in the lives of many women who have never had the opportunity to learn to read. She has developed a Bible-based literacy program that incorporates learning how to read with Scripture and song. She started in the Pijin language and is now branching out to other languages. She trains local teachers how to use the program and is leaving scores of happy women in her wake who can now read God’s Word for themselves.
But Karen’s ministry here isn’t limited to literacy. She has befriended many young women who have needed a Christian friend to help them over some bumps in life. She is compassionate and patient and at the same time shows tough love when it is needed.
Then there are Karen’s younger friends. She loves babies and kids and they love her. ‘Aunt’ Karen is loved by the MK’s and they enjoy spending time with her. And then there is her namesake, ‘Baby Karen’, the child of one of Karen’s many friends.
Today we had the privilege of helping to celebrate ‘Small Karen’s’ 2nd birthday. In a pink dress at morning tea time, we sang happy birthday and ate pink iced cake. Small Karen was delighted with the attention and it was a blessing to help celebrate this little gift from God.
It also felt like we were celebrating ‘Big’ Karen as well. You can see in the photos how very much she loves this little girl and how much ‘Small Karen’ loves her. It’s a beautiful thing to see and we are grateful for our compassionate and fun loving friend and colleague, Karen.
This dolly was our gift to Small Karen – I was tickled to find a doll with brown skin, though I’m not sure what to think about the blue eyes on the doll! : )
I woke up early this Sunday morning to put mini egg casseroles, cinnamon rolls and orange rolls in the oven. No, it wasn’t for coffee time at church, but breakfast for the Choate family. Aaron and Joanna Choate and their four kiddos are serving the Lavukal speaking people of the Russell Islands. They are about the givingest kind of family you would ever want to meet.
For the past few months, they have sacrificed of their time and energies to live in town and serve the needs of our group here. They regularly host folks for meals. Aaron helped in admin in the office and filled in as ‘Acting Director’ when we went to Bangkok for meetings. And they generally help out wherever they are needed with a gracious and cheerful attitude.
This morning, it was our turn to give a little in gratitude for the Choates and to send them on their way back to their village home for a couple of months. Going to the village means purchasing supplies for their time away and packing them up. They also have to pack up all their ‘in-town’ belongings to put in storage. It’s a lot of work and emotional energy to say the least.
We loaded up the baked goods and a thermos of hot coffee and headed to the wharf about 7 am. It was pretty quiet on the wharf and we made our way to the Kosco, the ship that will take them to the Russells. The Choates had come down in the early morning to claim a corner of the deck that will be their spot for the trip to the village. A bench on the deck served as the breakfast bar.
The ship pulled out around 9 am. The Kosco has changed it’s routing and their village is no longer a port of call. They and all their cargo will need to get off at another spot and be transported to their village in a small fiberglas boat with outboard motor. They are hoping they arrive before nightfall.
Other members of our SITAG family came down to the ship to say good-bye and spend time with the Choates before they left. The MK’s played card games on the deck, explored the ship and generally just hung out together. The other village-based family will be heading out this week and these kids won’t see each other again until April – a sobering thought on which no one wanted to dwell.
Tim prayed for them before we gathered up the pans and thermos and headed back to our house. When Joanna stood up, I noticed the back of her shirt which read: “If not US, then Who? If not me and you, if not now, then when? RIGHT NOW, it’s the time for us to do something.”
For the Choate Family – they are ones doing something. It’s big, it’s hard and it’s tough. It’s not easy trying to home school four kids and live in a village far from the conveniences of life in the USA. It’s not easy to learn the Lavukalave language – it’s one of the most difficult languages in the Solomon Islands. It’s just not easy, but the Choates keep on doing it.
The Kosco must be chugging along on its way to the Russell Islands with the Choate family aboard. They have chosen to DO something NOW and we are grateful.
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