Memories of missionary days in Solomons

RAYLAND – Spending 15 years with the Wycliffe Bible Translators in Dallas was enjoyable and fulfilling, but perhaps the most eventful year was in 1980, when Virginia “Ginny” Young served as a missionary Bible translator in the Solomon Islands.

Young worked in the office as a library coordinator until it was decided that everyone should spend a year in the field as a missionary.

That field turned out to be the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific and the Guadal Canal, where a group of six taught the island people the Pijun language. This was a more universal language, as each island had its own language, even some spoke a bit of English.

“The Pijun language was developed during World War II, when soldiers were there and needed to understand some of the spoken word,” she said.

Virginia and other missionaries made up a primer so the adults – and it was the adults who received the lessons and passed them down to their youngsters – could become acquainted with a more universal language.

“We would hold classes with about 12 adults to teach them to read and write Pijun. This was easier for the Catholic sisters there to converse with the natives without learning all the tribal languages,” Young explained.

The Rev. Charles Dailey of the Wintersville United Methodist Church got Ginny on the path to employment with Wycliffe. When her husband, Paul, died, she was working as the church secretary and Dailey said she needed to get a college education.

Despite her doubts over becoming a college student, she graduated from Ohio University in three years and with renewed confidence, she went to work in Dallas.

“I loved the tropical aspect, the temperature varied from 70 to 85 degrees and there were all kinds of tropical fruits to enjoy. Coconut milk was like our Coke drink is here. And the coconut was different from any dried coconut that we have,” she said.

“If we needed to travel to another island, we sailed in small ships, often loaded with chickens and pigs as well as passengers,” Virginia smiled in remembering.

Regarding roads for traveling, the military built suitable roads up to 20 miles from the airport but after that it was all dirt roads. Most of the traveling was done in the back of flatbed trucks, it was noted.

Young was on the mission trip with another female and they had a straw house, built with a wooden structure. Cooking was done by open fires, sometimes inside of the huts but mostly outside. There was no electricity on the islands, except in Guadal Canal. Food was served on banana leaves and eating was done on the ground.

“There were little stores that depended upon getting merchandise from ships or sometimes planes. Paper products, sugar and flour needed to be flown in. “There were no cows or goats on the island and nobody drank milk as it could not be kept in the heat. There was a food called a pudding that was with a root called taro, grated and cooked with coconut milk. I didn’t like it at first but came to be fond of it,” she said.

“I learned enough to help the people with their language. You had to listen and write down the sounds you heard. I learned much of the Pijun from a teen daughter of couple who sort of adopted me,” she said.

“I went to another island to spend Christmas with friends, going on a canoe ride on Christmas Day,” Young remembered.

Ginny is now an elementary tutor with the Jefferson County Christian School. One of her activities is serving as president of the United Methodist Women in Smithfield.

Speaking of her years with the Wycliffe Bible Translators, she said, “I would do it again. I loved the work.”