The God of Dive Trips

One of our translation team members out in the village came down with malaria last week.  She began treatment and soon was feeling better.  But along with the malaria came a case of cellulitis and blisters covered her legs.

The family takes a supply of medicines with them, and after consulting with a doctor by email (sent via their two way radio), she began a course of anti-biotics.  They only had enough drugs to get them through Thursday night, so more drugs were purchased and we began looking for a ship heading in their direction that could carry the package out to them.

A local dive company often takes divers to the beautiful islands where this family lives.  A phone call to the company office confirmed their plans to go to islands and their willingness to take the package. The ship was due to leave Thursday afternoon.

Yesterday I packed the drugs, a few veggies and their mail and took it to the dive office.  Later the woman called to say that the dive shipped planned on getting to the Russells on Sunday afternoon.  I thanked them, but my heart sank as I thought about Joanna’s blisters and the much needed drugs that would keep the healing process going.  What would happen if she didn’t have the antibiotics for two days?

This morning the office manager from the dive company called to say that the ship’s captain had called to say that they had changed plans and were now going to be in the Russell Islands THIS morning (Friday).  The captain said that if the family didn’t get word in time, he would leave the meds in the hands of the village chief and they could pick up the package from him later.

Wow.  The God who calms the seas can also change the direction of a ship full of tourists out on a dive tour. I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised, but oh, my heart is happy this morning.




Sometimes the sea smiles.

Sunday 13 October

On to Sa’a village.

The only way to get from Afio to Sa’a is by ship or canoe. There is a road, but the bridge just past Afio washed out several years ago. So we load ourselves and our luggage into a canoe.

Solomon Islanders have been carving and paddling wooden canoes for centuries. And these canoes are still quite common. But for distance travel, everyone uses a more modern ‘canoe’. Fourteen to eighteen feet long and four to five feet wide, most canoes are made of fiberglass, have several bench seats and a covered front. They are powered by a 25 – 40 hp outboard motor and are absolutely essential for travel in this nation of islands.

The sea is actually fairly rough today; a bit of chop and rather large swells. The sea was smiling, according to a local saying (when you smile people can see your white teeth, think whitecaps).

The driver has to carefully adjust our speed as the canoe rides smoothly up a swell, nose in the air at the peak, and then slams down into the trough, ready to ride up the next swell. I’m glad my computer is not in the front. It wouldn’t like that pounding.

Our first port of call is Liwe (lee-way) Village. Liwe school is one of our pilot schools and we stop in to collect one of their teachers for the workshop. Turns out the Preparatory teacher cannot come because she has a young baby, so we wait while another teacher is found to take her place. We also find out that the Head Teacher, who should also attend, is at an ordination service at Waehi (why-hee) Village, across the bay. So we’re off to Waehi.

We reach Waehi in the pouring rain. I am very glad for my rain jacket and pants, but am still feeling a bit damp. We wait in a “rest house” for a while for the rain to slack off and for several more teachers. Someone shows up with a parcel of pudding- so we have a snack while waiting. When everyone is ready, and it is obvious that the rain is not going to stop, we head back to the canoe.

As we navigate around the next major point along the coast, it’s obvious that the conditions are a bit rough for our canoe – now with 10 passengers and our luggage. As we approach Sa’a village, there is some discussion (in the local language) as to whether or not to attempt to land. The small passage is a bit rough and would require carefully timing the waves, making a run for the shore, immediately jumping out as the canoe beaches and then quickly swinging the boat around so that the prow faces the incoming waves. A mis-timing of any of those actions could result in a wave swamping the boat, or even capsizing it. In the end, the decision is made to by-pass Sa’a and put ashore at Olosu’u, where there is a protected bay.

So now we are about 40 minutes walk past Sa’a, with all of our luggage. And to make things more interesting, the recent rains have flooded the road to ankle deep in places. Fortunately for us, there is a truck available that can give us a ride.

DSC_6289After about an hour’s wait, the truck finally arrives – though calling it a ‘truck’ is perhaps a bit generous. It’s a small Toyota pickup that has definitely seen better days. It lists sideways as it crawls down the road. The frame surrounding the windshield has rusted away and it’s seal is long gone. The frame is actually reinforced by some small wooden boards tied on with string. The windshield is basically just propped into place, leaving a 2 inch gap between it’s top and the pickup cab. The ground is visible through several holes in the floorboards, and the steering column has no cover on it. And of course, the body is rusted through in any number of places.

But the pickup still runs. So we pile our luggage and ourselves in the back and set off down the road. We don’t break any speed records, but is sure beats walking. And it doesn’t take all that long for us to arrive in Sa’a village.

In fine weather, with a lighly loaded canoe and a 40 hp engine, the trip from Afio to Sa’a takes a bit over an hour. Our journey took us six. But that’s the way it is.


The Modern Conveniences are (almost) here!

I’m afraid I left you all hanging with my last blog post.  So let me continue the journey with you.

Saturday 12 October
Afio – government substation for the southern region of Malaita province, nestled at the southern mouth of the passage between small Malaita and the main island. The Phoenix turns up the passage at this point, by-passing the eastern side of the island and Sa’a village. So we disembark at Afio to meet up with Richard, the Chief Education Officer for Malaita Southern Region, and get a canoe to Sa’a. Richard has to attend a funeral today, so we are here until Sunday morning.

There’s not much to Afio; a few government buildings, a disused market hall, and a couple of guest houses are tucked in-between the shoreline and a steep cliff. Up the hill a bit is a small hospital and a few houses for its staff. Further up are a few more houses for the substation workers, and a mobile phone tower.

The guest house has screens on the windows, but nobody has informed the mosquitos of this. So I’m glad I brought my mosquito net. There is no power grid. The guest house has a small solar system and the owners also fire up a small generator occasionally when there is no town water pressure or to run the lights when it’s been cloudy.

I manage to make a few calls back to Martha in Honiara, and send a few texts back and forth. But coverage is very spotty due to the steep cliff, and I have trouble maintaining a connection even when the signal is strong.

Yes, the modern conveniences are coming, but it’s still a bit “hit or miss”.


You’ll Never Get This at Denny’s

Friday 11 October

The ship was scheduled to leave Honiara at 6 pm yesterday and we finally got underway about 6:45. I would definitely rate this as one of the nicer trips I’ve had by ship. The sea stayed calm, with only some gentle swells. I managed to get a few hours sleep stretched out on the wooden bench. We stopped briefly at a couple of villages before dawn and then made a more lengthy stop at Kiu village. A small, protected harbour and coral sand beach made for a nice landing area. And the Phoenix sidled up to the beach and dropped the front ramp. Passengers and cargo streamed off, to be greeted by canoes waiting for cargo and a small open-air market waiting for the passengers.

Feeling a bit hungry, I bought a foot-long skewer of roasted molluscs (think clams). Munching on these, I headed back to the ship. As I was finishing off the last few, a passenger offered me some ‘pudding’. I gladly took a slice, asking what kind it was. “Kakake pudding” was the reply. Kakake is a type of edible swamp taro, commonly used for this dish, and a favorite. There are several ways to make pudding, but one common method is to peel and boil the taro, then grate it and mix it with coconut milk that has been boiled down to a thicker cream. The mixture is then wrapped in banana leaves and baked in a ground oven. The result is a heavy, starchy cake, infused with and covered by coconut cream. Very rich, but tasty too.

Shellfish and ‘pudding’ for breakfast – ah the islands life.


A Trip to the Provinces

Those of you who follow Martha on Facebook will know that I made a trip to one of the provinces here in the Solomons a couple of weeks ago. During that time, I was out of communications contact, except for some occasional text messages to Martha and very short phone calls.

However, I did do some blogging on that trip, which I thought I’d still share, even though it’s a bit old now. Wo, remember, I’m back in Honiara now and back in the land of electronic communications. Thanks for your prayers during my journey.


Thursday night 10 October

Well, after a long day of scurrying around I’m off to the island of Small Malaita. I’m traveling with Marion Luihenue, the Coordinator for our project, and Jonathan Soiseu, a member of the Solomon Islands Bible Translation and Literacy Partnership, and long-time Bible translation worker.

The airstrip on Small Malaita has been closed for almost 10 years because of a land dispute, so the primary way to reach the island is by ship. We are on the LC Phoenix, the nicest and most reliable ship available (ironically often called ‘Phonics” by many locals).

The ‘LC’ stands for “landing craft”; a type of ship with a flat bottom, open deck for heavy machinery and cargo, and a front drop ramp. A landing craft can sidle up to a beach or low wharf, drop its front ramp, and off load heavy equipment right to shore – essential for heavy construction or, more commonly here, logging. The Phoenix is exceptional in that it also has a large 3 deck passenger section. Perhaps it was a small ferry in its previous life – handling passengers and some of their vehicles. Today, it’s the best available transport for our trip. Fortunately, it’s not very crowded And the sea is relatively calm.


Land of the Unexpected

from Martha

This morning I visited the high school on our center here in Papua New Guinea to find out what we need to know about Sarah attending next year. It was great! Everyone was so helpful and welcoming. When I was introduced to the 10th grade class and they were told another girl was coming to be with them, the girls spontaneously said, “Oh, niiiiiiice!!!!”. Sarah is going to enjoy this amazing place and the great school.

After lunch I logged on to my email to find out that my flight on the mission plane from here to the capital city on Wednesday had been cancelled. There were not enough passengers. They suggested I catch a flight to the coastal town of Madang and overnight there before catching a commercial flight to the capital city.

So, now I am scheduled to leave in the morning on the flight to Madang. It’s actually kind of fun because I will be staying overnight in the place where Tim and I served from 1991-1995 at the Pacific Orientation Course. It’s been about 15 years since we last visited and it will be fun to be back again and see some of our old friends.

On Wednesday, I will fly to Port Moresby, the capital city and overnight in a guesthouse. On Thursday I fly to Brisbane, Australia where I will board a direct flight to Dallas.

Papua New Guinea, Land of the Unexpected, is living up to its reputation!


Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

‘m sitting in the MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) hangar in the capital city. My boss and I left the hotel where we were staying about 4 am. Tim is still there for another day of meetings before he travels to Melbourne for meetings on Thursday.

When we arrived in Port Moresby after an hour and half flight from Cairns. A vehicle and driver from the office here picked us up. We were expecting to be taken to the hangar right away for the flight to the highlands where Ukarumpa, the home of SIL in Papua New Guinea is located. But we were told our flight was delayed until this afternoon so we traveled to the SIL office here in Port Moresby.

When we arrived at the office, Jim and MIchelle, the office manager and his wife were preparing to go to the US Embassy to attend an election function. Apparently it was an opportunity to meet with other Americans and watch the results come in. Before they left I had an opportunity to chat with Michelle who handles public relations. It was great to meet her and to learn more about what was happening in the country and offer the help of our Pacific Area office.

I also had the opportunity to meet the office staff. These employees provide services such as finances and PNG visa and work permit applications. I was able to get information on how we will obtain a student visa for Sarah so that she can live and attend school at Ukarumpa next year when we return to the South Pacific.

BTA Director David Gela with his wife Senina

We were planning on meeting with the head of the PNG Bible Translation Association next week, but now that we had time this morning, we took the opportunity to meet with David Gela, director of BTA and Steven Thomas who is responsible for church relations.
Tim and I know David and Steven from the years we lived in PNG and it was delightful to have this opportunity to chat together over mugs of PNG coffee.

Martha and her supervisor Mark with Simon and David from BTA

The topic of our discussion was upcoming meetings in February of 2013 in the Solomon Islands. The Pacific Council of Churches meeting that is held every four years will be hosted in Honiara. This will be an outstanding time for our Bible translation partners in the Pacific to talk to church leaders about the translation work that is being done around the Pacific and the 462 languages in the Pacific that are still without translations.

Solomon Islands Bible Translation and Literacy Programme have requested the opportunity to host these leaders for an evening meal and program designed to educate these church leaders about the remaining needs in the Pacific. We discussed ideas for the venue, program and things that could be given to the church leaders to better equip them to share about the need for Bible translation as they return to their homes scattered across the Pacific.

As we drove around town it was fun to see signs of the recent visit of Prince Charles and Camilla. Apparently Prince Charles included some Tok Pisin in his speech – much to the delight of Papua New Guineans. He announced in Pijin that he is, ‘namba wan pikinini blong Mrs. Kwin’ (number one child of Mrs. Queen). Wish I could have been here to hear the crowd’s response to that!

Now we are at the hangar waiting for the last passenger to arrive so we can board the JAARS flight on a Kodiak which will take us to Ukarumpa. Oh, and our pilot today took me back a few years too.  When we first adopted Emily he was working in the Philippines and we stayed with him and his wife the first 3 nights after picking up Emily. Now he lives and works here in Papua New Guinea. That was a fun re-connect.

Ukarumpa Center from the air.



‘I’m leaving on a jet plane…’

This morning I head to the airport to begin my journey to Chiang Mai, Thailand.  The first (16 hour!) flight will take me to Dubai where I will spend about 12 hours.  It will be nice to have a shower and a rest in the hotel room that is included with my ticket!  The next step is a flight to Bangkok where I will catch a flight to Chiang Mai.

The purpose of my trip will be to attend a conference.  Global leaders and member representatives in Wycliffe and SIL International will gather for ‘once every four year’ meetings.  As Pacific Area Communications Coordinator this will be an opportunity for networking with colleagues around the world.  Important decisions will be made in these meetings and being there will help me to be able to share with our region.

I’d appreciate prayers for my time away.

  • please pray for our family as we are separated
  • pray for journeying mercies
  • pray for important decisions that will be made in these meetings
  • pray that I will be able to do my job well