Kids and the Village

If Emily has any regrets about growing up in the Solomon Islands, it is probably that she didn’t get to live in a village for a long enough to learn a local language. She envies her MK (missionary kid) friends who spent many years living in a village because their parents are Bible translators. Emily has enjoyed the opportunity to hang out in a village this week.

Kids here have a lot of freedom in the village. They can run and play outside all day, jump in the sea for a swim or take a ride in a canoe. If someone is cooking, it’s not unusual for someone to offer the kids a bit to eat – villagers are so pleased when the MK’s like the local food!

The other day someone came to the house with a few sticks of sugar cane for the kids. The Emily and Grant quickly grabbed a machete and headed outside to cut the cane in pieces and share them around. After the outer skin is cut off, big bites of the cane are broken off and chewed to release the sugary sweet juice inside. When the juice is all gone, the tasteless bits of cane are spit out on the ground.

Last night Emily and Tim went to the evening prayer service and afterward Emily and Grant (one of the other MK’s) hung out with the village kids. They strolled around the village and the kids were telling Emily the names for different things in the Zabana Language. Later they sat around and the kids told Emily some of their traditional stories. She had a wonderful time hanging out with the kids.

Village life is not perfect, but there are some really nice advantages. We always know that when the kids are wandering around the village, they will be watched and cared for by the whole community. It’s a nice feeling.


Day 3 in Kia – Sunday

We woke to a drizzling rain. The rain is welcome as yesterday one of the water tanks ran dry. At 6:30 am the church drum pounded out a rhythm that sounded like it would never end. We ate a little breakfast and got ready to walk down the hill to the church service.

The church building is a long building made of bush materials. The floor is loose pieces of coral. It is a typical Anglican style church. A wide aisle separates the women’s side from the men’s. As worshipers enter the church they drop monetary gifts or lay produce from their gardens at a cement stand.

Heavy wooden benches provide seating with the added luxury of a back to lean upon. Scattered among the pews were kneeling pads woven from pandanas leaf. The two priests assigned to this church were not in the village so the service was lead by the local catechist. Prayers and liturgy were said in the English language with some people reading along in their prayer books, but much of it would be said by memory.The Scripture readings were read in English. Some day they will be able to read them from the Zabana New Testament.

After the service we wandered back to the house to wait for the drum for Sunday School. The appointed hour came and went and it appeared that Sunday School might be cancelled for the day. Eventually the drum was sounded and Lee, Robin and I went down. Lee and Robin are both Sunday School teachers. I went down to take some video and photos.

The Sunday School was filled with preschoolers through teenagers. The teacher led them in singing – some in English, some another local language and then in their own language of Zabana. Their strong voices belted out the songs in rich harmony. The kids were broken up into their various classes for a time of Bible teaching and then came together again for the closing time.

At my special request, the teachers helped arrange the kids in the new church building, that is almost complete, so we could video tape them singing in the Zabana language. Over 150 kids patiently stood in the church and joyously sang out – many with animated faces. What a privilege to be in this place and hear them sing and pray in their own language. I couldn’t help think about when we are all in heaven and standing at the throne singing praises to God. Maybe some of it will be in the Zabana language.

After lunch we played a board game that the Lees taught us and then we went down to the church. We were going to videotape the village kids playing a game with coconut shells, but when we got there we found a feast about to start to honor a woman who had died a year ago. People were standing in lines facing each other. Between the rows of people, banana leaves were laid end-to-end and covered with food. Sweet potatoes, fish, clams, rice and even sea turtle meat was ready to be enjoyed. After a word of prayer, the feasting began. Not one piece of silverware could be seen, but clamshells were being used as individual scoops by a few. Each person helped themselves to the food in front of them. People continued to eat as the family and friends of the deceased said a few words of kindness.

After a short time the food was finished, the bowls, pots and banana leaves were cleared away and the churchyard was returned to its normal state.

The kids soon gathered to play the coconut game for us. They had fun playing it and it was good to get it on video.

Tonight we are going on a crocodile hunt! We asked the boat driver who took us to the island yesterday if we could see a crocodile. Tonight the adventuresome among us will go out in the fiberglass boat and paddle along the coastline with a strong flashlight and see if we can spot a crocodile. We’ll keep you posted as to whether you can call us ‘Crocodile Matzke’ or not!

Sunday Night – ‘Crocodile Hunt’

Just after dark we made our way through the village to the house of our boat driver. The narrow muddy trail meandered between houses that were illuminated by kerosene lanterns. Our flashlights lit the trail in front of us and as we passed by the dark silhouette of a person we would greet them with ‘redu vehana’ (good evening) in Zabana.

Ian, our boat driver and host for the evening, lives in a house built on posts over the edge of the lagoon. We visited for a while and then we headed out in the fiberglass boat to look for crocodiles. Ian sat on the bow of the boat with a long paddle while his nephew steered from the stern. Vowing the kids to silence, the boat glided into the dark lagoon. The sky above was full of ominous gray clouds. The waveless water was black except for the phosphorescence stirred up by the paddles. Each time the paddle dipped into the water and was drawn back, the plankton were disturbed and emitted a trail of small glowing lights that faded behind us.

The shoreline around the lagoon was silhouetted against the gray sky. As we neared the far side, our hosts shone large flashlights along the shore looking for crocodile eyes peeking above the water or any other sign of a crocodile. Now and then we heard a noise in the mangrove trees at the edge, but no sign of any crocs. Occasionally our flashlights illuminated fish jumping out of the water and we wondered if something was under the water chasing them. The men said it was too early in the night for crocodiles and when it started to rain, we gave up the hunt. Our driver started up the engine and we motored back into the village and home to a shower and bed. Seeing a crocodile would have been fun, but we won’t soon forget the trip around the lagoon, listening to the sounds of nature and seeing the shore dotted with the lights of houses along the shoreline.

Tomorrow – Monday morning, we begin our teacher training workshop.


Day 2 in Kia – Saturday

This morning a couple of the men in the village took us all out to an island where we spent part of the day. We glided through dark blue waters in a fiberglass boat powered by an outboard motor on the back. The village lay behind us as we motored through the passageway out toward the open ocean. Except for a few swirling eddies made by flow of the currents coming in and out of the passage, the waters were deep and calm.

Here and there a house or two sat nestled along the shoreline and on the hillsides felled trees marked the site of a future garden. Overhead, whispy white clouds floated across the blue sky. As we neared the island, the dark blue waters gave way to aqua and peering over the edge of the boat, we began to see coral and fish.

The motor slowed down and inched toward the beach, but the kids couldn’t wait and jumped into the crystal clear waters and ran toward the white sand beach. We unloaded the boat and the guys got back in the boat so they could head out fishing. A couple of hours later they triumphantly returned with over a dozen fish. The kids are outside laughing together as they scale the fish.

In the meantime the rest of us stayed on the island and enjoyed swimming and walking along the beach looking for seashells. An occasional fisherman paddled past in a wooden canoe a fair distance from the island, but otherwise our island paradise was ours to enjoy alone. When we looked out at the scenery that surrounded, we had to remind ourselves that this wasn’t merely a picture postcard we were looking at but a glorious part of the Solomon Islands that we are privileged to be able to visit.

Most of the time our day to day lives here are far from idyllic scenes of waving palm trees and the sea lapping up at our toes. However we thank God for his creation and the wonderful opportunity to experience this small slice of it today.


Day 1 in Kia – Friday

The beating of the church drum at 6:15 AM announced the new day and called people to the morning prayer service at the Anglican church down the hill from the house. We didn’t get up for the prayer service, but lazily stayed in bed for a while. The kids started stirring and chatting and soon we were all enjoying freshly made doughnuts that Robin had made.

This morning we took a walk to one end of the village where the local primary school is located. We were able to meet with the school headmaster and chat about a pilot program that we would like to see introduced at the school. This program, similar to another one that we have developed, would teach kids to read and write in their own language before learning English. The headmaster was very receptive to the idea and when we are assured of the funding of the project, Lee Montgomery will be able to introduce it to this school.

As we walked through the village, we greeted those whose houses we passed. We were met with smiles and welcoming remarks. The village stretches along the narrow strip of land between the lagoon and the steep hills behind. The houses along the water’s edge are built on stilts over the water and often have a wooden plank or logs that make a walkway to the house. Crocodiles are common in the waters around the village and sometimes they swim under the houses at night and make their presence known when they rub up against the posts, making the house shake.

Around many of the houses we saw wooden dugout canoes; some in small sizes suitable for a small child, typical sized ones that would accommodate one or two adults, and even some huge ones that are twenty-five feet long and are used for carrying cargo, passengers or fishing nets. Out on the water we saw some children and adults out fishing in their canoes.

Along the coastline we saw wooden pigpens on stilts over the water. This provides a sanitary spot for raising the pigs, although on rare occasions a crocodile manages to knock down the pen and enjoy a pork dinner. We saw a couple of outhouses similarly located on stilts out over the water with a narrow wooden walkway up to the door.

One of our last visits was to the new church building that is waiting to be dedicated at the end of the year. The front of the church is covered with narrow panels of beautiful hardwood inlaid with mother of pearl designs. It’s neat to see the church decorated in a local style with local materials.

After lunch we headed out to the other side of the village. We hiked to a part of the village that was high on a hill and had a nice view of the passage below. One of our stops was to visit the head chief of the village to let him know about the workshop that we will hold next week. Another stop was to the home of a friend of the Montgomerys who will be taking us out tomorrow in his motorized canoe to an island where we can swim, snorkel, fish and picnic.