Solomon Islands: Part 1
By Rachel Wolverton, Wycliffe USA marketing strategist
(Rachel visited Wycliffe’s work in the Solomon Islands in early July. This blog series gives a glimpse into Bible translation efforts in that part of the world.)
My whole life I’ve watched friends and family give to charities, churches, and non-profit organizations. I’ve seen them wrestle through decisions of where to give and how much, hoping that their gifts will be a blessing to those on the receiving end. My husband and I have had these same conversations in our home. Sometimes we feel that the best way to bless others is to give quietly, staying under the radar.
But my recent trip to the Solomon Islands taught me differently.
My husband and I accompanied a family who has given generously to Bible translation there. They wanted to learn more about Wycliffe’s work in that part of the world, to put visuals to the people and language groups they are praying for daily, and to give their kids a greater understanding of the world. They would have preferred to simply observe as a fly on the wall and not burden anyone. Perhaps in America, things can work that way.
Not so in the Solomon Islands.
We were all received with fanfare. The people in the village of Poro that we visited had rarely seen white-skinned faces, and definitely not in groups of eight at a time. We were greeted with a welcome unlike anything I’ve ever seen and were followed by an entourage of people attempting to communicate in broken English (which is more than we were able to do in their language, Gao). There was dancing, songs, gifts, and more.
We’d been told that Solomon Islanders love speeches, and on our last night, Joshua, the national coordinator for SIBTLP (Solomon Islands Bible Translation and Literacy Partnership), made a speech to those of us who were visiting.
He expressed to Nate, the father of the family, sincere words of thanks for giving generously so that people speaking more than seventy languages in the Solomons could read the Bible in their own language. That was the part I was expecting. But then Joshua thanked the family for coming to visit them, for taking the time to get to know people in Poro village. He also thanked them for coming as a family. Solomon Islanders are relational, and they value little else in life as much as they value relationships, especially those of the family. For this family to have given money without visiting would have made little impact. But because the family gave their time and offered friendship to Solomon Islanders, they showed that they cared for them and were committed to Bible translation. The last thing Joshua shared was the most touching: “We view you as partners in this work.”
In that, I realized that the fanfare, the entourage, and everything we all would have opted out of if given the chance were the islanders’ way of building relationship with us. It was their way of expressing that they viewed this family as a part of the team, not just unknown faces giving money anonymously to people they know nothing about.
In the United States, we might have felt that a visit of that magnitude was burdensome, but not for these people. It was even more meaningful than any monetary gift could have been.
My opinion of generosity has been rocked. I want to think of ways to give, not only money (which is still very necessary), but also my time in ways I haven’t before, like building relationships. Maybe it’s as simple as actually reading the updates I get about work I’ve supported so I can know how to pray, or writing letters of encouragement to those involved. We often talk about holistic ministry, but in the Solomons, I was taught something new. I was taught lessons about holistic giving.