A Look into the Solomon Islands

Written by Lori Havenga

I'm like Paris Hilton. She and that other rich pretty girl were on a TV series several years ago where they went to a farm and made fools of themselves trying to do regular jobs. I never watched it because the whole idea seemed preposterous to me. Even if they don't know how to do simple farm work, which is understandable, they could figure it out easily. In the meantime, everybody around them could laugh about how useless the rich pretty girls were at real-life, important jobs.

This month, I've struggled to figure out how to crack open a type of tree nut. This time of year is “ngali nut” season. Ngali (NAH-lee) nuts are about the size of almonds, once the hull and shell are removed. Many families have one or two ngali nut trees out in the jungle.

Early one morning, at the beginning of ngali nut season, I walked with a few friends to gather ngali nuts to bring back to the village. I took along a machete and a woven bag out to the jungle. The mile-long walk to the tree included walking through a river. When we got to the tree, we cleared the undergrowth with our machetes. Then we gathered nuts into large bags for a few hours.

breaking open ngali nuts (1).JPG

Mid-morning, I tried to crack open a few nuts to snack on. I've seen it done many times and have cracked open a similar type of nut. But I couldn't open these ngali nuts. Cracking them takes two rocks: one large rock to put the nut on top of, and a smaller rock to hold in one hand and use to bash the nut open. I think of the smaller rock as “the basher rock.”

then hit it with the small rock.JPG

After we rinsed ourselves off in the refreshing river, we walked back to the village, each carrying a large bag of unopened ngali nuts. My bag of ngali nuts was heavy for me but was small compared to theirs. One of my neighbors recently carried back a bag that weighed 45 pounds. Mine may have been half of that.

That evening, I decided to crack open a few nuts myself. I found stones that seemed the right size. The first small hand-held stone broke instead of opening the nut. The next small hand-held stone that I found also broke in half. Still no opened ngali nuts.

my first two stones failed.JPG

I swallowed my pride and showed the broken stones to a neighbor. He told me that the place to get those strong stones is at the river that I had just rinsed off in. He understood that I didn't want to walk a mile back to the river at that point, so he gave me an appropriate stone from his own ngali-nut bashing rock collection.

I managed to get a few ngali nuts open that evening.

During ngali nut season, people here might crack open nuts for hours a day. It's a good way to get to chat with a friend while both doing food preparation. After several pounds of nuts are opened, the nuts are slowly baked and then stay good for several months. They're one of the few sources of protein and healthy fat other than fish. People mash up the nuts and then add the nut paste to several different foods. I don’t spend nearly as much time cracking open ngali nuts as most women do; if anyone in our village ever sells shelled ngali nuts, we run to buy them.

Now, a month later, I'm pretty good at opening ngali nuts. I'm probably half as fast at it as other adults. I only hit my finger with the basher rock once today.

Ngali nut bashing is one of a hundred things that I've had to learn in a similar trial-and-error-and-ask-questions-and-still-mess-up method. By now, I'm used to being the rich girl who only has a faint idea of what's happening and how to do things.

Why does it bother me sometimes to have no idea what is happening? I never would have said this, but I used to think God was impressed by my competence, intelligence, and all the other things that made me prideful. I think I based much of my self-worth on my knowledge. Upon arriving in a village here, I became immediately inept at nearly all daily tasks. The past few years have been a slow process of becoming familiar with how to do things. In the meantime, God is showing me that I’m his beautiful daughter, and he delights in me, even when I struggle to do basic daily tasks. If I had waited to feel competent before accepting God's love in this country, I would have spiritually starved by now.

If she were here, Paris Hilton and I could break ngali nuts together. We'd occasionally bash our fingers with the stones. I'd be okay with that.

Lori and her husband, John, work with Solomon Islanders on translating Scripture into Solomon Island languages. They are learning a Solomon Islands language, building friendships with Solomon Islanders, and working with local people to translate the Bible. Many Solomon Islanders are excited to learn God’s truths. John and Lori enjoy working with churches there to help Christians and non-Christians alike grow closer to God. John and Lori have three sons: Daniel, Micah, and Gideon.


  1. So glad to read your story and to see how it can apply to our lives. Thank you!!


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