A Visit and an Anniversary

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.