My Excursion to the South Pacific
Written by Joyce Dremann
On my 18-day excursion to Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, I certainly experienced island life, but perhaps not typical!
The first thing God allowed me to experience in a small way is what it's like to earn support. Generally, Bethany limits self-funding for missions trips to 10% of the cost and encourages raising support for the balance. That means writing a letter, talking with people, explaining the trip, and being accountable to others. For someone such as I, blessed enough to pay for the total cost of the trip, this is hard. I don't like raising support! But God allowed me in very small way to better understand the life of missionaries by participating in the finance raising aspect of their lives. For that I am grateful.
To prepare for the trip, we read about culture and history and did lots of planning. (In fact, in retrospect, we probably over planned, but we didn't want to run out of plans!) We were to provide meaningful activities for the SITAG’s (Solomon Islands Translation Advisory Group) children while their parents attended their bi-annual conference. SITAG works with local churches and translators to translate the Bible into the language of the local people.
Medicine was part of the planning. I already had many of the required immunizations but still needed treatment for malaria. You see, mosquitoes are alive and well in Honiara, so I started malaria meds on February 5 and continued for an entire month. The rain needed for that beautiful, tropical vegetation provides an ideal environment for mosquitoes!
God graciously provided the money I needed for departure on February 7, 2016, along with four others from Bethany. After a very long trip we landed in Honiara’s small airport where we were greeted by the smiling faces of the SITAG team who presented us with fresh coconut milk in its original container, the coconut! Ahhh… island life. We then jumped into the back of a small flatbed truck to travel to the SITAG housing.
We arrived at what looked like some of the nicest housing in Honiara, which was simple but adequate. However, since all electricity is produced by diesel generators and expensive, I had to keep reminding myself to conserve energy in ways in which I am not accustomed, such as turning fans off when leaving a room, shutting the power off when the washing machine is done, and not opening the refrigerator without a plan of action!
I learned how to adjust to change and to appreciate different skill sets. SITAG shares two or three vehicles and since there are no grocery stores nearby, we had to creatively use foods on hand to prepare our meals. But we worked together to get the job done for God’s glory.
Honiara is a unique place. As a capital city, it falls short of what I anticipated. There were cruise boats in the harbor, but few passengers explored the city; there is really nothing to do. No great shopping malls or large stores. There are stop signs, but I didn’t see one stop light as we traveled around. Roads are less than smooth and not easily traveled and many areas need to be tidied up!
Days were busy and full. Jet lag, heat, and humidity caused the end of the day to not come quickly enough! Days started early, with group devotions around 7:00 a.m. What a wonderful way to start the day by realizing Who was in charge of this endeavor and Who we were serving.
My prayer was to serve God by effectively ministering to the children and families and to glorify God. He answered my prayer! The parents were great, but the children were really special! Al, my husband, and I primarily worked with the older children and we were so encouraged. Our study for the week was the life of Daniel and how we can apply Bible lessons to our lives. We found bright young people who engaged in thoughtful, lively, challenging conversation. They loved to debate and discuss and even offered to give up snack time or other free time to continue discussing spiritual topics!
Among these children, I observed a community of love quite genuine and moving. They cared for one another. If a younger child needed help, we saw the older children meeting that need.
We ended the week doing a program for the parents as a culmination of our activities and we all had a lot of fun with singing and dancing.
We were scheduled to leave Honiara on February 20. Due to hurricane Winston hitting Fiji, we were delayed. Although I was very satisfied with the time spent in the South Pacific, I was ready to come home. Some prescheduled medical treatment was waiting for us which made a late departure disappointing. However, even this was an opportunity for me to wait on God’s timing. After informing my daughter that we were delayed, she responded, “I take comfort in the fact that God knew this was going to happen all along and that He also knows when and how you will return home.” Yes, we have a God that is not taken off guard and is never surprised or anxious about anything.
After I returned to the states I received a note from one of the children which thanked me for being there and shared that the group had a fun week. It also went on to describe how this child was working on growing and expanding their spiritual life. This is such a good reminder and encouragement for me to keep working on my spiritual life.
Deuteronomy 4:9 says, "Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life…”
What a privilege to share life with these people and to learn how God is using them to further His kingdom!
So, although my excursion in the South Pacific might have been a little different, I did drink coconut milk from a coconut, sit in chairs with the children, shop for jewelry at the local market, see exotic and beautiful tropical flowers, and dance to the music we learned for the week with the children. Most of all, I experienced the luxury of seeing God provide for me in every way and share and experience the jaw-dropping beauty of His gospel! Can it get any better?
Joyce is the wife of Al for almost 38 years, mother of four grown children and grandmother of one and soon to be two precious grandchildren. Some of her hobbies include gardening and travel. She is a grateful follower of Christ.