The Gift of a Special Mentor

As Christians we know that God directs our path. Sometimes when we look back, we can see how the people we met along the way have influenced our lives. It’s a special gift and blessing when that happens.

More than 45 years ago as a part of a 9th grade health class requirement, I volunteered to help in a kindergarten classroom in a local elementary school. I love kids and was thinking of becoming a teacher, so this seemed like an easy and fun way to fulfil that requirement.

Lee, Mrs. Skandalaris to me at the time, was one of the teachers in that classroom. She had raised her 4 boys and gone back to school to get a degree in education. She hadn’t been teaching very long when I met her, but it was obvious that she was a wonderful teacher. She was kind, but had a no-nonsense way about her as well. It didn’t take long for me to gain an admiration for her.

I liked helping out so much that I did more than my 20 hours and learned so much in that classroom. Lee let me stretch my wings in that classroom as well. If I had an idea for one of the classroom learning centers, she encouraged me to prepare the materials and try out the idea.

A couple of years later when I was taking a high school child development course, our teacher made us aware of a Title 9 program at an elementary school in a needy area in our district. We could apply for the job and get paid to help tutor children in the reading lab. Lo and behold, the head of the reading lab was Lee Skandalaris. Along with 3 other students, I soon found myself heading to the reading lab every day after school to work with these kids.

Each of us was assigned children to work with, one on one or in small groups. We would pick them up at their classrooms, bring them to the reading lab, and work with them. Lee would give us some guidance on what the kids needed and then let us work. For 2 years I was blessed to have that wonderful experience. I learned so much through Lee and from just being given the experience of seeing where children need help and devising ways to help them. What an amazing opportunity I was given while still in high school!

I followed my dream of becoming a teacher, and through the years Lee and I kept in touch. She received our newsletters and was especially interested when we began serving as literacy specialists. Lee’s love of reading and education lead her to complete a Master’s degree an even her Phd.

When we returned to Detroit in January for my father’s funeral, we took that opportunity to contact Lee to see if we could come for a visit. She said, “I’m frail, but come see me.” Armed with literacy materials from our latest project in the Solomons, we enjoyed a lovely time with her in her sunny living room.

When we returned to Detroit in January for my father’s funeral, we took that opportunity to contact Lee to see if we could come for a visit. She said, “I’m frail, but come see me.” Armed with literacy materials from our latest project in the Solomons, we enjoyed a lovely time with her in her sunny living room. We talked about our projects and she told us about the ways she still kept busy in mentoring others and editing the newsletter for the retirement community in which she was living. And Lee gave me a beautiful antique broach she had acquired in New Zealand many years earlier.

Lee gave us updates on her sons and their families. She told us about her son Rick who lives in the Philippines and has cottages for rent. She said, If you ever get to the Philippines, you should go visit Rick and Techie. We agreed we would keep that in mind, but we were both thinking – we don’t know when we would ever have reason to go to the Philippines…

We left Lee’s place on that cold January afternoon with warm hearts and the gift of being able to visit in person with a special friend and mentor from my past.

A few months later, we were asked to consider helping teach a course in the Philippines. We were certainly surprised and we were happy for the opportunity to serve. Then we remembered Lee’s encouragement to go visit her son. We found the link and started dreaming. We learned there was an opening at Rick and Techie’s and we made reservations to enjoy a few days of holiday (vacation) while we were in the Philippines.

I was keen to meet Rick and Techie and was planning on sending Lee a photo of all of us together. When we did meet Rick, I showed him the photo Tim had taken of Lee and I in January. It was then that we learned that Lee had passed away just a couple of months after we had seen her.

We were shocked and a bit sad, but we were also so very thankful for the memory of seeing Lee one last time and the wonderful time we had with her. I’ll be forever thankful for Lee and her part in my formation as a teacher. What a blessing and gift.


Mr. & Mrs. MacGyver – Adventures with Avocados

When we bought this house more than 20 years ago, we did not realize it had an avocado tree. That’s because initially, it did not bear fruit – it takes quite a few years before avocados produce. Then one year, surprise – big, beautiful fruit. And we are talking really big – 1+ pounders (400+ grams).

A few years ago, the tree started looking poorly. The leaves were not fresh and green and the tree didn’t have as many avocados. We were concerned that perhaps the tree was dying. Last year, Martha took a branch from the tree to the Ministry of Agriculture to see if they might be able to help determine what was going on. The officer looked at the branch and offered to make a site visit. The next day, she came to the house and determined that the tree had an infestation of whitefly, and suggested fertilizer and possibly an insecticide spray. 

We dumped lots of leaf mulch around the tree, moved our compost pile under it, and waited. After a few weeks, we could see the tree was looking healthier and it was blooming. We were feeling hopeful!

The tree began to bear fruit, and we were surprised to have fruit ripen in December – over a month earlier than ever before. And the tree was loaded with many other avocados in various stages of development. 

The tree is quite tall – too tall to pick the fruit by hand.  And besides, we like to eat the fruit when it is naturally ripe. So now, several times a day, we hear this massive ‘bang’ on the roof, then sometimes a ‘bumpity-bump-bump’ down the corrugated iron and then a large ‘thud’ when another avocado hits the ground. Often there is a split in the fruit, but there is still plenty of good, healthy, yummy flesh to enjoy.

It’s a blessing to be able to share the fruit with friends. At the moment, we are getting lots of fruit but we are in lockdown, making it difficult to share the fruit. So, Mrs. MacGyver has been pulling out all the avocado recipes she has collected through the years. And Mr. MacGyver has been experimenting as well. Click below to see some of the MacGyver’s avocado treats:



It looks like someone hacked our account and sent out some spam emails. We have taken measures to put a stop to that and hope the issue has been fixed.

Have a safe last day of 2021 and a blessed 2022!

Martha and Tim



The photo is a little blurry, but then we were pretty blurry-eyed by that time as well!


Except for the residue of sunset on the western horizon, it was dark when we arrived in Honiara. It had been raining earlier in the day, so it felt extra muggy as we exited the plane. The high humidity feels like you are walking into a greenhouse.

Honiara does not have jetways.  Instead, passengers exit the plane, walk down stairs that have been rolled up to the airplane, and walk across the open tarmac to the terminal. We were glad that the rain had stopped.

Once off the plane, medical personnel stationed outside were waiting for us. There was yet another form to fill out and then we had to wait a good 20 minutes while passengers were ushered into the building a few at a time. 

Medical personnel asked us questions, checked our Covid test results and collected the forms we had filled out. A box on a table read, ‘place passports here‘. I was unprepared for that! It felt funny to ‘toss’ our precious passports into a box with a pile of other passports, but it was part of the protocol. They promised we will be reunited with our passports at the end of the 3 week quarantine.

Baggage claim was the next step and it didn’t take us too long to find our bags. We were thankful to see all 3 bags had made it through to Honiara safe and sound and without any additional charges! Customs officials were collecting the regular form that passengers fill out and we made our way to the exit.

At the curb, a flat bed truck was waiting to receive luggage. Tim loaded our luggage on the truck and we were directed to board a small bus for transport to the hotel. It was the 2nd bus in the queue and there were a couple more behind.

We sat on the bus while the rest of the passengers were processed, which took a while. Finally, when all the passengers were on board the buses, the caravan of the truck with the luggage and the buses slowly pulled out and on to the highway. We made quite the procession from the outskirts of town to the hotel with the yellow emergency lights flashing.

Because it was humid, the bus windows were steamed up. I peered through the windows trying to recognize landmarks, but through the blurry windows, it was challenging. 

The caravan arrived at the hotel and snaked through the parking lot and around behind the hotel to a parking area. The truck with the luggage drove up to the building and the first bus backed into an narrow alley between hotel buildings. The rest of the buses waited. We had no idea what was going on.

The radio on the bus was playing and at the airport we had heard the 8:00 pm news. When the 9:00 news came on, we realized that we had been on the bus for more than an hour. 

Eventually, bus#1 came out and our bus drove into the same area between buildings. One at a time, we were asked to get off the bus to be interviewed by another set of medical personnel. They filled out more forms and then we were given the first of four required Covid tests. 

After we had done that, we were walked to our hotel room. We had reserved an upstairs room with a balcony and a sea view, but apparently the Covid committee had decided the day before to rearrange the rooms and put all the arrivals from ‘high risk’ countries on the first floor. 

We were disappointed to not be in the room we expected, but at that point, we were thankful to be in our room and at the end of a long journey. From DFW Airport (Dallas) to our room in Honiara was about 68 hours.



The flight to Dubai was uneventful. It was nice to be able stretch out across 3 seats and get some sleep. 

When we arrived in Dubai, we found the Emirates desk, where they provided vouchers for a nearby hotel, which included a free meal. After a short wait, a van took us to the very nice hotel. It was wonderful to take a shower and crawl into the luxurious bed. 

In the morning, we used our meal vouchers to get breakfast at one of the hotel restaurants. We got a kick out of the name of another restaurant in the hotel, Cactus Jack’s. When we lived in Uvalde, Texas there was a Cactus Jack’s restaurant there. The combination of a Tex-Mex  restaurant and the middle eastern architecture was interesting.







When we got to the airport there was a further complication.  Because our flight from Aukland to Honiara was not a regular scheduled flight, it was not obvious that we were just transiting New Zealand, whose borders are closed to non-citizens.  Although we were holding transit visas for New Zealand, the airline ended up having to call New Zealand immigration so we could talk to an officer there to get the proper permit code for the airline to allow us on the flight.  We were very thankful that we had arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare!

When we finally arrived at our departure gate, we caught up with our friends, Katena and Altruicia. They have been earning their masters degrees in Dallas and were on their way back home to the Solomon Islands where they serve on staff at a Bible school. They had traveled to Dubai via New York while we flew via Los Angeles. From Dubai, we flew to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Upon arrival in Kuala Lumpur, we sat on the plane for about 90 minutes while it was refueled and a new flight crew came on board. A few more passengers bound for Auckland joined the flight and we traveled on to Auckland.

When we arrived in Auckland, the Honiara-bound passengers were asked to disembark first. Once off the airplane, we met by New Zealand airport officials. We were lead to an isolated gate area in the airport. Medical personnel checked our temperatures and Covid tests from the USA as well as asking us questions about our health. Solomon Airlines agents insured everyone had the proper ticketing. 

In Auckland, we met up with a colleague from Europe who was also returning to the Solomons. The 3 of us are the ‘guinea pigs’ for our group, as there are others that are eager to return to the Solomons as well. 

The flight into Honiara was significantly more full than our other flights. There was no ‘social distancing’ here, though everyone was required to wear a mask and the crew took what precautions they could.  Finally, we were on the last leg of the journey ‘home’!


February 4 – the journey begins

The hardest good-byes

The gift of a hotel room near the airport for the last 2 nights in Dallas made it easier to store our bed and wash our bed linens, etc. We did our final repacking of our bags on Wednesday night, being sure that we both had clothes in all 3 bags in case anything was delayed or went missing.  The bags were close to the baggage limit and the hand carry items were heavy! The way of missionary travel!

Thursday morning, Emily came to the hotel to say good-bye. She helped us take our bags to the entrance where Sarah was waiting to drive us to the airport.

Oh, it was hard to say good-bye to our girls! We hadn’t seen them all the time, but there was the comfort of knowing they were just a short drive away if they needed anything. Being on the opposite side of the globe from family is not easy. We are grateful to friends whom we know will provide support and help if it is needed. 

We got to the airport and after checking in our bags for Los Angeles, we gave Sarah a last hug and started on our way. After finding our seats and settling in, there is always the feeling of relief of finally being on our way. 

Once we arrived in Los Angeles, we collected our bags and headed to the International Terminal. We were early for the flight and received excellent service from the Emirates employees at the check-in desk. In addition to presenting our passports, we also needed to present the negative Covid test results, a requirement of the United Arab Emirates. 

The Emirates agent also helped us find great seats on the plane. There were only 60 passengers on the Boeing 777-300, so she found us each a window seat in a row of 3 seats so we could stretch out. Nice!

Along with our boarding passes to Dubai,  the airline provided vouchers for a hotel near the airport, since we were going to be in Dubai for 13 hours. They were unable to provide us with boarding passes beyond Dubai because there were complications with flying through New Zealand. We had applied for and received permits to transit through New Zealand as we would be in the country less than 24 hours. However, since the flight into the Solomons was a special flight, the airline system wasn’t sure how to handle our situation. In the end they told us we would need to get our boarding pass for the Auckland portion in Dubai.

We had been told by Solomon Airlines to try and get our checked baggage tagged all the way through to Honiara. The Emirates staff was able to take care of that, to our great relief!

It was time to head to the gate. By that time we were hungry and wanted a bite to eat. Tim said he had a hankering for Mexican food so we asked a terminal employee if there was a place he could recommend. He pointed us to a nearby restaurant and where we enjoyed a delicious meal of Yucatan-style food. It will be a while until we have good Mexican food again, so we thoroughly enjoyed this ‘last supper’. 

The flight went well and we got some decent sleep in between and sometimes during movies! 

Here’s the route of our flight:

Los Angeles to Dubai




January – the whirlwind month!

Our storage unit for our household goods in the USA – a 2 car garage

February 3

On January 7th we learned we had been granted permission to re-enter the Solomon Islands on a repatriation flight. The Solomon Islands remains closed to regular commercial flights, so at the moment, these special flights are the only way to enter the country.

 Then we learned the next flight was on February 7th from Auckland, New Zealand. There was no other word about if/when the next repatriation flight would be scheduled, so we decided to try and make it. 

We made lists of things we had to do;

      • fulfill requirements of Covid testing for the Solomon Islands
      • fill out multiple forms for the Solomon Islands Government
      • pack up our 3 bedroom house and store everything in a 2 car garage
      • purchase items to take with us
      • pack boxes to go in a shipment, help to purchase and pack up linens and baking pans and 10(!) cast iron skillets for our group houses in the Solomons, etc.
      • prepare our house for rental and engage a real estate agent to handle the property
      • etc.!

The weeks flew by and it felt like we were constantly in motion. The delivery trucks made regular stops at our house. Boxes were filled and carried off to storage along with our furniture. The house started emptying. Meanwhile we began getting tested for Covid as we needed 3 negative results in order to board the plane. 

We never could have done it by ourselves. We are so very very grateful for the friends who helped pack boxes, carry furniture, run errands, bring meals and generally encouraged us along the way. 

Tickets were purchased (at a much higher cost than usual) and we made reservations for a 3 week hotel stay for the required 3 weeks’ quarantine upon arrival in the Solomons.  A special launch account was set up to give people a chance to contribute and in a short 3 weeks, the full amount was received. It was such an encouragement and blessing!

The last hurdle we had to ‘jump’ was a Covid test 24 hours before our departure. We found a lab that could provide results in 12 hours and took our test the morning of February 3rd. At about 9:00 pm that night, we received our negative results, clearing us for departure the next morning.

Some of you have followed our travels on our Facebook page, MatzkeMission, but we decided to start to blog our travel and quarantine adventures here. Each day we will try and share an update. 


Progress Report!

Things are moving ahead with our plans to return to the Solomons. You can read about where we are this week in our latest newsletter by reading below or clicking here: Progress Report


Since we sent out this letter, we have received about 1/3 of the funds needed to cover our ‘launch’ fund. Thank you for all who have contributed!