Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hello friends and family,

I'm writing this realizing that I am down to the last few days in the Solomons.  I am excited to see family and friends again, but there are many things I will miss about this beautiful country and the hospitable giving Christians I have met here.

Actually the plan was to fly to Figi today to debrief our trip as a team.  However, due to bad weather, the airline was not able to drop passengers off, so our flight was full.  We are on standby to fly on Thursday, but right now are waiting to see if we can get tickets.  Thankfully, God has allowed our team to respond to the situation with grace and flexibility and in some ways it is nice to have a few more days here, even if it means a shorter time in Figi.  We are thankful that we can come back to the SITAG base where we have been staying and are still planning to do some debriefing and reflecting on our trip while we are here.

God has taught me a lot about the importance of flexibility this past week.  I was planning to go to the island of Malaita with Scripture Use specialist Cynthia Rollins this past weekend to do a follow-up survey on the distribution of audio New Testament devices in the Wala language.  However, Cynthia has been fighting some serious sickness and one of the Wala villages was unprepared to host us, so it seemed that God had different plans for the timing of the trip.  We canceled the trip, so I have stayed back in the capitol city of Honiara.  One blessing about this change of plans was that I was able to help with a literacy workshop which has been taking place these past few weeks.  The environment of the workshop was very exciting to me.  People from eight different language groups attended this workshop to develop reading materials in their language, including primers, alphabet books, and Sunday school materials.  Literacy work is very exciting because it gives people access to God’s Word.  Many translated scriptures are not used in the Solomons because the people cannot read or write.  However, the materials these the people at the workshop created could be the first step to teaching someone to read God’s word in the language that speaks to their heart.  Many of the people in the workshop were learning to use computers for the first time to create their materials, so I was able to help in small ways like helping with basic computer skills and typing some of the translated literacy material. 

Overall, my experience in the Solomons has been wonderful.  I would appreciate your prayers as I say goodbye to this place.

Other prayer requests:

·         Health for Cynthia. She actually went to the hospital yesterday, and the doctors are trying to figure out how best to help her.  Pray for wisdom for the doctors.

·         That our team can find tickets to Figi, and that we can use these next few days to say goodbye well to the Solomons

·         Our team debriefing is effective and helpful

·         Guidance for God’s future direction with Wycliffe and missions

Thank you for your prayers! I look forward to seeing you soon!


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Busy two weeks in the Solomons!

After a week on the island of Malaita with no internet access and then a busy week helping with the Festival of Pacific Arts in back in the capitol of Honiara, I finally am sitting down to write an update.  So much has happened, and it will be hard to shorten everything to a few lines, but I will attempt to sum up these past few weeks.

We headed to Malaita on Monday, July 2nd and landed in the town of Auki. Even though it is the biggest town in Malaita, it seemed very small to us with only a few streets for us to navigate. People in Auki are very friendly, so we got accustomed to raising our eyebrows as we passed them in the streets (the typical greeting in the Solomons). Our group split up and stayed in different three villages close to Auki.  My leader Tracy and I were very blessed to stay in the spacious guest above the home of a couple named Rose and Collin. While we were prepared to bathe in a river and use an outdoor toilet, this house was had indoor plumbing and air conditioning. The house also contained several bedrooms with queen sized beds and a spacious living room, so it ended up being the perfect meeting place for our group. We were really blessed to hear from Rose about how she felt God had directed her to buy the house, how he had provided the loans and finances for her, and how he had revealed to her in a dream that he wanted her to turn the upstairs into a place for traveling missionaries and people in need.  It was obvious God’s presence was in the place, and I felt honored to receive Rose and Collin’s hospitality.  I was also able to connect with their daughter, Susan, and especially Rose’s nineteen-year-old sister, Sharon.

Each day we were in Malaita, the part of my team who had undergone the ethno-arts training in Dallas put on a workshop about how to use local arts to address community needs.  While I did not teach at the workshop, I was able to help in support roles, such helping prepare for tea breaks and doing shopping for the group.  My confidence using the Solomon Islands Pigin grew as I “storied” with the Nationals during tea breaks and after the workshop. “Story” is the Pigin word for conversing, and it is the perfect way to describe a conversation, as storytelling is extremely important to their culture, and many conversations included stories about their lives.  It was encouraging to see the positive response from the Nationals, as most of them were extremely passionate about their art forms, and excited to use the resources they had learned in the workshop to help their communities.

Other highlights of the Malaita experience included swimming in the river in the village where six group members stayed, visiting a waterfall and playing with Malaitan children in the pool underneath the waterfall, eating a traditional feast, and being surprised by a “traditional welcome” at the closing church service at the village where I stayed. The traditional welcome included men dressed as traditional warriors running from the trees, waving weapons, and shouting.  After startling us, they welcomed us into the church and explained that this kind of welcome was their way of honoring us, as they only perform it for people whom they consider “big men.”  We were presented with flower necklaces and escorted in the church with a traditional song.  I think I can speak for the entire team in saying we were overwhelmingly honored by the hospitality we were shown.

This past week has been busy, as we have been attending the Festival of Pacific Arts in Honiara and  promoting the arts workshop, which the team conducted on Wednesday and Thursday.  I have been shadowing Cynthia Rollins, a woman who does Scripture Use in the Solomons.  I am still learning about how her role fits in with the larger picture of Bible translation, but from what I have learned so far, she works with all denominations of churches in the Solomons, trying to promote the use of mother tongue scripture and providing training and resources so Nationals can better incorporate the Bible into church services and daily life. This includes facilitating workshops and doing a lot of networking between churches. This past week I went to two workshops she organized on Biblical storytelling. As I mentioned before, storytelling is extremely important to the culture of Solomon Islanders. At each workshop, we learned how to tell a particular Bible story, as well as five basic questions to ask to lead a Bible study about the story.  This training is especially exciting for groups with no mother-tongue Scripture translations, as they can transfer the stories they learned at the workshop into their mother-tongue, and tell the Bible stories orally.

I praise God for the relationships I have formed so far, both with the Nationals and relationships with my team, which are growing deeper and deeper. I also praise God for the receptiveness I have experienced towards both the storytelling workshop and the arts workshop, and the excitement of those who attended to make a difference in their communities. I praise God for the exciting multitude of ways he is working here in the Solomons.

Prayer requests for the upcoming week:

·         Many of us, including myself, have been fighting colds and sickness. Pray for health and healing.

·         Pray that the people who attended the workshops would be empowered to use the information and tools they have learned.

·         Cynthia and I plan to back to Malaita at the end of this coming week to do a follow-up survey on the distribution of the Megavoice in the Wala language, a machine which contains the New Testament in oral form.  Pray for all the arrangements which need to be made for this trip.

·         Continued team unity

·         That I can be sensitive to God’s voice and direction and that I spend quality personal time with God each day.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

"Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the WORLDS thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder. Thy power throughout the UNIVERSE displayed. Then sings my soul, my Savior, God to thee, how Great thou art..."

These words to this well-known hymn have an much deeper meaning to me since my team landed in the Solomon Islands this past Wednesday. No pictures or descriptions could have prepared me for the beauty that I encountered when I stepped off the plane onto the island of Guadalcanal. The capitol city of Honiara, Guadalcanal, is on the coast, and the Pacific Ocean stretches sparkling blue in plain view of the Bible Translation base where our house is located. I am struck by the incredible green-ness this area, with trees which contain coconuts, bananas, and starfruit among other exotic plants. In my journal I wrote,"If this is fallen earth, I cant wait to see what heaven will be like."

I see beauty in so much more than my Island surroundings. I also see it in the faces I have encountered. Our team has had the opportunity to interact with the missionaries on the SITAG (Solomon Islands Translation Advisory Team) base, and it has been increadible to hear thier stories of God's faithfulness as they serve him. I also see beauty in the smiles of the Solomon Islanders I have passed on our various shopping excursions in Honiara. They seem to be an overall  friendly, gracious people. Because I only speak a little Pigin, my interactions have been limited, but I'm seeing firsthand that a smile can go a long way.

These past few days have been filled with firsts: my first conversation in Pigin, my first time riding in the back of a pickup truck on the left side of the road, first time drinking coconut juice, first time raising my eyebrows following the typical Solomon Islands greeting, and one of the first times I have truely felt like a minority. Our group has been shopping and recieving on-site training in culture and language as well as undergoing training in the art of Biblical storytelling, which is especially important in oral cultures like the Solomons.

Today we prepare for our departure to the Island of Maliata. We leave early tomorrow morning for the four-hour boat ride. In Maliata, those in our group who took the Arts for a Better Future training in Dallas will be putting on a workshop at the Festival of Pacific Arts about how to use local art forms to meet specific needs in their communities for the glory of God.  Although we did not go through the arts training, a team member named Laura and I are going along for support. The Festival of Pacific Arts also takes place in Guadalcanal so three team members are staying behind in Honiara and helping with a booth put on by SITAG. This booth will inculde maps of langauges of the Pacific as well as dispays of all the New Testaments which have been translated in this area.

Prayer requests for the upcoming week:
  • Safe travel to Malaita as well as safety for the three girls who will stay behind to help with the booth in Honaira
  • We will be staying will host families in Malaita. Pray that I will be able to form a bond with my host family and that I can be a blessing to them. Also pray that I can have confidence with speaking Pigin to them
  • For the Arts half of the team as they will be presenting their workshop four times this week.
  • Laura and I as we will be in a support role to the arts half of the team this week. Pray that we can serve them well and be willing to be flexible as we don't have a defined role.
  • That I would live in constant dependency on Christ and remember that God's strength is made perfect in my weakness.
These past few weeks, God has reminded me the importance of being thankful. I have been reading the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. In this book, the author decides to record a list of one thousand gifts God has given her. I decided to attempt to do the same thing while I am in the Solomon Islands. Here is a peek from my journal of my blessings so far:
  • Green all around--vegeation explosion!
  • Smiles on the Islanders faces
  • Beautiful view of the ocean
  • Slowly gaining confidence in speaking Pigin
  • Testimonies of God's faithfulness
  • Praising God with teammates while washing dishes
  • Beautiful white flowers everywheree which I put in my hair
  • God's Word and teammates who share a passion for it

Friday, June 22, 2012

I'm writing this post from Dallas after a busy week of training. We are staying at a place called the Dallas Center which hosts Wycliffe International Offices as well as the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics, where missionaries go to get the necessary training and classes. It is so hard to summarize everything I've learned in a few paragraphs, but I'll try to hit the highlights.
  • Malcolm Moli, a man from the Solomon Islands has been with us throughout our training, so he has given us a lot of insight into the culture, as well as Solomon Islands Pigin. Ninety percent of people in the Solomons speak Pigin, and it really isn't too different from English. It employs a lot of English words with grammar from the local lanuages. For example, to introduce myself, I would say: "Nem blong me Melissa" (Name belong me Melissa).
  • Half of our team participated in a workshop called Arts for a Better Future. Through this workshop, they learned tools about how to encourage the use of arts in culturally appropriate ways to meet needs of a different culture. Those who participated in the workshop will be conducting a seminar applying what they learned at the Festival of Pacific Arts in the Solomons.
  • The other half of our team (my half) learned some basic linguistics as well as listened to presentations on areas where we could serve at Wycliffe. Besides Bible Translation, there are big needs for people who would be willing to serve with literacy (promoting reading in their own language) and Scripture Engagement, which involves helping people see the relevance of Scripture in their daily lives.
  • We also attended presentations on Spiritual vitality, Spiritual Warfare, and a session about what life is like on the mission field.
  • My team seems to be bonding well.
  • A great week of learning
Prayer requests
  • Travel Safety. Our first flight leaves Sunday evening, and we will be arriving in the Solomons the coming Wednesday!
  • Ability to process the information I've learned
  • Continued bonding as a team
  • That I would be open to ways God can use my gifts when I am over in the Solomons.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Solomon Islands information

Here is some information my trip leader gave us about languages in the Solomon Islands. Fascinating stuff:

"The Solomon Islands has 69 vernacular languages.  English is the 'official' language although very few speak English.  Solomons Pijin is the trade language that people use to communicate across languages.  95% of the people know Pijin.
The population of the Solomon Islands is 500,000.  The largest language group is about 35,000 speakers.  The smallest language group is 3 speakers.
There have been 16 New Testaments completed and 2 Full Bibles.  There are 16 New Testament translation projects currently going.  There are 11 Old Testament projects in progress.  There are 24 languages that need a project started.  We consider 11 of the Solomon languages non-vialbe meaning that we won't be pursuing a translation because the language is dying out.  That means that the number of speakers is very small and most of the speakers are elderly and are not teaching their children and grandchildren to speak the language."
We will NOT be learning all 67 languages when we are there! Our team has already recieved some online lessons in Solomon Islands Pigin, which is what we will attempt to use to communicate while we are there.

I wanted to post a picture of the Solomon Islands, but for some reason my computer is being really slow so right now, so just imagine a chain of islands located northeast of Austrailia. We will mostly be staying on an Island called Guadalcanal in the capitol city of Honiara. However, we will spend a week on a different Island called Malaita.

Here is our tentative schedule:

Sunday, June 17--meet my team in Dallas and begin our week of training

June 24-27--travel to Solomon Islands

June 29-30--attend a story telling workshop

Monday, July 2-Sat, July 7--go the the island of Malaita, where we will spend the week with host families fromt the Island. We will attend the Fesitival of Pacific Arts (FOPA), which involves participants from all over the South Pacific. Members who are on the 'arts' half of our team will put on a workshop there. The rest of us (the language half) may have opportunities to use what we have learned in our story telling workshop

July 9-13--attend FOPA activities back in Honiara

July 16-21--This is a free week for the 'arts' half of our team, as the FOPA events will be over. However, it will be a busy week for me. I will get to shadow a Scripture Use Specialist, which is a special Wycliffe position with the goal making translated portions of Scripture available to the people and helping them know how to use it. We will be doing a survey of a group of people who speak the Wala langauage. Wycliffe has recorded Scripture orally through the use of technology called Megavoice. We are following up on the use of Megavoice players. I may be able to shadow the Scripture Use Specialist in previous weeks as well.

Tuesday, July 24--Leave for Figi, where we will spend the week debriefing our experience.

July 31--arrive back in the States.

On the weekend we may have opportunities to do some touring and visiting beaches and will get to attend local churches on Sunday. I am excited to worship in a different culture!

Sunday, June 10, 2012


I came up the title for this blog based on what God has been teaching me these past few years. It can be summed up in one word: walk.  As I have just finished my junior year at Northwestern college, I'm definitely in a time of my life where I feel pressured to figure out God's direction for my life. But God has been teaching me that His will is much more than a decision to make or a specific destination He wants me to go. It is about a lifestyle of pleasing Him and living for him. It is about walking. I have been encouraged by these words from Francis Chan's small group workbook for his book Remembering the Forgotten God:

"The concept of walking is so basic that perhaps you've never considered what walking entails. Think about how simple it is. You don't have to know exactly where you are going; it doesn't require any planning; all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other. Really, the only way to walk is one step at a time. We can get so caught up in the big picture that we lose sight of the fact that God is simply calling us to walk. It won't always be easy, but we can always put one foot in front of the other."

It is definitely easy to get caught up in the big picture. I ask questions like "What does God want me to do with my life?" when perhaps a better question is "What does God want me to do with my day?" or my hour? or this minute? God's word actually has a lot to say about his will in the present moment:

Colossians 2:6-7 "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus, the Lord, so WALK in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, abounding in thanksgiving."

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for THIS is the WILL OF GOD in Christ Jesus for you."

This is on my heart the week before I embark on my short term missions trip to the Solomon Islands with Wycliffe Bible Translators (I meet my team June 17th and return home July 31st). Wycliffe is an organization God has placed on my heart, and during this trip I will be able to observe Wycliffe missions in action. Maybe God will speak clearly about his direction for my life! I want to be listening to His voice for my future while I am in the Solomons.  Yet I realize sometimes God does not speak loudly or reveal all His plans at once. I want to be content if God reveals my life direction loudly and clearly or if I  home with more questions than answers. And I don't want to become so obsessed with God's will for my future that I forget that He is really calling me to walk with Him here and now, confident that if my lifestyle is consistent with his Word (rejoicing, praying, giving thanks), I will already be in His will wherever I am and that He is in control to redirect me and open and close doors in His timing.