" May 2014 "

Thursday, 5/29/14

It’s another blissfully slow start. We have nothing scheduled until chai again; I spend the morning fine-tuning the blog and catching up on stored email in offline mode. Chai is mandazi and uji, and immediately afterward we load up Beth’s vehicle and head into town. It’s Beth, Karen, Maiwe, the 3 Sarahs, Caitlyn, Matt, and me. Beth drops everybody but me “at the pavement,” that is, where the paved road starts on the outskirts of town, and they catch a dala-dala, or bus. We want them to have the experience of riding one; Maiwe will take them to the market to practice buying things in Swahili.

Beth and I drive into town and make the arrangements for the Serengeti trip on the 14th of June. Because we’re making only one stop on this trip, expenses are generally lower than normal, and we have enough to take everybody on a 1-day safari ride in one of the world’s premier wild-game parks. We did that last year with a smaller group, and the provider, Serengeti Services, generously said we could fill any empty seats with orphans, and they would pay the children’s gate fees at the park. In planning this trip, we thought they might offer that again, and we noticed that whereas we had 5 empty seats last year with the smaller team, this year we’d have only 2. I got to thinking about that, and our budget surplus, and I wondered aloud if we could get a 3rd safari vehicle and fill those seats with orphans. Then we realized that we’d be taking advantage of their generosity in offering, so we weren’t quite sure what to do. Anyhow, when we sat down with them in the office, Beth tentatively suggested a third vehicle, and they said that if we’d pay the extra gate fees, that would be fine. How much are the gate fees? For a Tanzanian citizen under 16, 2000 shillings. A buck 33. And 10 times as much for an adult Tanzanian. We’ll bring 8 children and 1 of the house fathers for about 20 bucks. I think we have the basis for a wonderful relationship. We set it all up.

Beth drops me off at the Gold Crest Hotel in the center of town. There’s a coffee shop there with free Wi-Fi and very good bandwidth. I buy myself a soda—Krest Bitter Lemon, which I always get when I’m in a former British colony—and get comfortable in a booth. There’s an electrical outlet, and in seconds I’m connected and working faster than I have in days. I answer some email—my wife tells me there’s a mouse in the house—and edit the blog, in the meantime adding photos to about half of the entries. Ah, bandwidth.

Eventually Beth comes by to tell me the kids are done at the market and are going to the pizza shop just down the street. I tell her I’ll be along in a few, upload the last couple of photos, shut down, and walk across the square and into the shade of several large trees to our favorite pizza place. It’s just a vacant city lot, with concrete walls on both sides, where they’ve erected a couple of shelters and put tables and chairs under them. There’s a little booth where they do the cooking, and a couple of toilets in the back. With the shade trees, it’s really a very pleasant experience—and the pizzas are good as well. The kids show me what they’ve bought and tell me their stories of conversation in a language in which they have just 3 days’ experience. Maiwe graciously helped them a lot, and they say the whole experience was much less scary than they anticipated. I knew that, from last year, but I didn’t want to tell them that ahead of time.

After lunch we hit a bank machine for those who want some cash, and a forex for those who have cash they want to convert to shillings, and then drop by a little Western grocery store called U-Turn, run by Indians and specializing in all the stuff ex-pats wish they could get from back home—at a price, of course. Turns out they’ve doubled the floor space since last year. I feel one little twinge of regret: before the expansion, just inside the front door, they had the candy room—just a closet really—which was all closed in and air conditioned so the chocolate wouldn’t melt. The smells in there were astonishing. Well, now the whole store’s air conditioned, so they have the chocolate out on the shelves, and The Smell has dissipated. There’s a price for progress, I guess. I check out the cheese, and the exotic flavors of potato chips, and the saffron-and-cardamom ice cream. Several of the kids buy some snacks to keep for later.

Then it’s back to town center to pick up 5 jugs of drinking water, and back home we go. We have some time to finish up any class prep, but most of us are done with that, and we rest. We find that the other half of the team is also done; they’ve done a jigsaw puzzle while we were away. With the kids at school, there’s not much for them to do. Since the kids are home from school tomorrow, we won’t have that kind of boredom.

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No solution to the water problem in sight, so the staff has purchased some 55-gallon (or so—this is a metric country) plastic barrels to store lake water in, and they’ve placed them around the campus and hired a truck to fill them. This will keep the lake water from contaminating the city water supply in the large standard storage tanks. It’s generally not wise to expect much response from the government here—you know we never have that problem in the States—so we’re planning for this to be the situation for the duration of the trip. We’ll plan on no access to city water; we’ll drink from our supply of filtered water purchased in town every week; I’ve also suggested that with judicious use of a wash cloth, they can probably get their faces clean with drinking water as well. We’ll use the lake water for flushing toilets and washing dishes; that’s fine as long as the dishes are dried thoroughly, by whatever method, before the next use. For bathing we have several options: we can add a small amount of bleach to the lake water to kill the microorganisms, though of course that make us smell a bit like bleach; we can boil the water, which will require more fuel than I think is prudent; or we can use well water from the lower end of the property. That well is designed to supply just the missionary houses, but so far it has produced enough water that we think a few weeks of extra load won’t be a serious problem. I expect we’ll use that water and try to conserve, again by judicious use of wash cloths.

This may sound like a hardship, but it’s really not; it’s how most of the world lives. The American view of water (and electricity, for that matter) as a limitless resource is almost unique in the world. It’s good for these students to see life from another culture’s perspective. They’ll be fine.

Supper is rice and beans, with pineapple for dessert. In the boys’ house, Sarah B has the devotional on commandments 7 and 8. We’ve discussed how she’ll define “adultery” for the seventh commandment; she tells the kids it means that a man should have only one wife. I think that’s close enough for this age level. That goes well, and the boys seem to be singing a little better than earlier this week. Two of them pray in Swahili. I can’t understand what they say, of course, but I don’t hear any snickers or sense any other misbehavior, so I guess things are on the level.

In team devotional time I ask what the Lord is teaching them, and we share what’s going on inside. This is a significant part of our bonding as a team and setting things up for mutual edification in the trying and tiring days ahead.

Signs afterwards, until 10. I don’t know why, but that game is always filled with laughter and generally brings teams closer together. It’s been pretty much the favorite pastime of every team I’ve been involved with.

Wednesday, 5/28/14

Our rooster goes off at 5, right on schedule. I doze until 8, and Asher hits his snooze button about 14 times; he tells me he remembers only the first time. I would think a person would remember only the last one, but to each his own.

We have a fairly serious water problem. We’re fine for drinking water—we could actually drink more than we are and have neither a supply problem nor a budget problem. But non-potable water, which we use for bathing, flushing, washing dishes, and similar tasks, is about gone. I’ve mentioned that we have 12,000 liters of storage, which is fed by the city water supply. They’ve been working on it, and until now there’s been a slow but steady feed from the city, and we typically get enough overnight to let us squeak through the next day. But it appears that we didn’t get any last night, and we’re going to wipe it out today. We’re at the end of the rainy season, so we can’t expect any substantial amount in the rainwater collection system for the next few months. I decide to skip my morning shower to contribute to the effort, and I ask Asher to tell me if that turns out to have been a mistake.

Chai this morning is chapati and Fruit Loop tea. One of us is gluten sensitive, so we have some uji for him/her in place of the chai. Then it’s our last orientation meeting with Beth and our last Swahili lesson from Maiwe. We cover imperatives and possessives today, and it’s more complicated than it sounds. In English, we have a different possessive pronoun for each person and number—my, our, your, y’all’s :-), his, their. Swahili does the same, but the form also changes depending on whether the thing possessed is singular or plural; so, for example, you might say “my book,” but you’d have a completely different word in place of “my” if you’re dealing with books as plural. And there are several different noun classes, with different possessive forms; so you might say “my book,” “xxx books,” “yyy banana,” “and “zzz bananas.” All to say the idea of “my.” So that stretches our minds some.

Lunch with the missionaries is couscous and veggies, with pineapple that we provide. We sit around the table for quite a while afterwards, getting more advice and stories from Beth. I knew this before, but I’m impressed again with how much work hosting a team is. There’s all the logistical stuff—where they’ll sleep, what they’ll eat, how much TP they’ll need—but there’s all the teaching too: cultural education they’ll need in order to serve effectively and without offense. And the truth is that most team members will need that information for only a few weeks and probably will never return to this specific culture. Even so, the rewards of serving effectively even for the duration of the trip are worth the effort, and occasionally there’s the long-term payoff: somebody senses a call to return, and he does. But the people doing the hard work now don’t know if or when that will happen, and if it does, who will be affected.

This is the last day for the tutors to get their supplies together for duplication, so they spend the afternoon doing that. I finally get a chance to try an internet access method. Karen has a smartphone with mobile hotspot capability, and we give it a try. It actually works, though the bandwidth is narrow and the speed consequently slow. It takes all afternoon, but I succeed in getting all of the blog posts up (I haven’t posted anything until now), though without any pictures and without several links. I effectively lose the connection before I can email the parents what I’ve done, but I do succeed in answering one email from my wife and sending a couple other brief ones. Since I’m going into town with half the team tomorrow, I hope to get a fast connection there for an hour or two. Might even post some pictures.

I’m sad to report that I have one of my increasingly regular stupid moments in the afternoon. As I mentioned before, we have 220V power in the house. There’s a double outlet in the sitting area that several of us use to recharge stuff. I have an adapter for the standard US 110V plug on the left; it allows our plugs to fit, but it doesn’t transform the voltage down. We use that for computer equipment, which is routinely dual voltage, so plugging directly into 220 is no problem. The right plug has a transformer first, which drops the voltage to 110, and then an adapter to our standard plug. We have to remember to plug 110V-only stuff into the right-hand plug. Well, we have a 110V power strip, which I thoughtlessly plug into the left outlet and fry. I’m initially puzzled why my laptop suddenly isn’t getting any power. That has apparently had some other effects as well, which we’re still sorting out. Fortunately, Ferdinand is better at such things than I am, and he’s working on it. I hate it when I make life harder for people when I’m already inconveniencing them just by being here. (See two paragraphs earlier.)

At 5:30 the kids come home from school—tomorrow’s their last day before the break—and we mix and mingle until supper of ugali, meat, and cabbage cooked in a tasty red sauce. It’s about then that we realize the water is just plain gone. So for a quick and dirty (literally) solution we send a caravan of people down the main road to the lake to bring back a bunch of 5-gallon jugs of lake water. The lake water is less clean even than the city water, but at least we can flush the toilets, and with a little bleach we can make it safe to rinse off with. (I’m not inclined to call wiping down with a washcloth “bathing.”) We’ll explore some longer-term options on our visit to town tomorrow; we may just hire a truck to bring us a few thousand liters of city water to give the city time to get its act together on the delivery system.

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That postpones house devotions, but for only a few minutes. Nathanael leads our group’s time with the boys tonight. We begin with singing, and the boys surprise me by asking for some of the songs we taught them last year. What’s interesting about that is that these particular songs were taught to our team by children’s workers we ministered with in Ghana, just before we came to Tanzania; so the East Africans are singing West African (English-language) songs delivered by Americans. Nathanael speaks on the 5th and 6th commandments and does so clearly and graciously. We take prayer requests—they’re pretty simple: “Pray for Shangazi.” “What should we pray for Shangazi?” Blank stare. On the spur of the moment, I decide to pray tonight rather than having the boys do it, to model a prayer that goes beyond “I pray for Shangazi.” This is a long slog, but perhaps a few of the boys pick up an idea or two.

Team devotions afterwards is on holiness and fine china. (I often use the analogy of fine china’s “special” status to illustrate the meaning of holiness as separation for the special use of someone important.) During the hour of relaxation afterwards we share embarrassing experiences. I figure that might break down some barriers, if any are left.

Asher lugs our 5-gallon jug of bleached lake water back to our room, and we turn in for the night. Tomorrow will be a busy day for the town-visit half of the team; the others will get their turn Friday.

Tuesday, 5/27/14

What’s an average day look like here at Tumaini?

The first thing you learn is that you don’t need an alarm clock. The light streaming in the window plays some role, but the determining factor is the roosters. They feel a moral obligation to announce that they’re awake and that everyone should join them. I’ve had roosters as my morning companions every time I’ve been in Africa, except for the Cape Town visits, and I oddly associate them with Africa—even though roosters are everywhere, of course. But there aren’t any near my house in Greenville, so I always feel like I know I’m in Africa if I wake up to roosters.

Anyhow, that starts about 6 am or sometimes earlier. The children go off to school at 6:15 or 6:30, and we can hear them chattering as they board the bus. Next week they’ll start their vacation—that’s why we’re here—but they’ll still be up and noisy around the same time.

We don’t need to start quite so early; Beth wore us out last year, and while I have no objection to that—if you’re going to go a long ways and do a lot of preparation, you might as well leave it all on the field, so to speak—I think she feels the need to back off just a little so she doesn’t kill us. So we have nothing officially scheduled until 10 am. We use that time for personal devotions, hygiene, and anything else we’d like to do.

I’ve brought my laptop in order to produce this blog, but it also has Logos Bible software on it, so I have pretty much all of my theological study resources right with me. That’s great privilege and a great opportunity for personal study. I often wonder what David Livingstone or Hudson Taylor would have thought of that—and what they would have done with it.

Personal hygiene requires some extra attention, but it’s not a problem. With the city water minimal right now, none of the spigots available to us produces any water, and none of the toilets will flush, so we have to do a little extra work. We have lots of 5-gallon buckets, the kind you get all kinds of stuff in at Lowe’s or Home Depot, and we carry one of those to the large water-storage tanks behind the girls’ house to get non-potable water for washing and flushing the toilets. There are two sources for this water—the city supply, which the folks here have stored up in 4 3000-liter containers, in anticipation of just a problem like the one we’re having right now, and rainwater collection, which is gathered from the gutters and directed into similar storage tanks. In much of the world this kind of water collection and storage is both routine and absolutely necessary; people literally can’t survive without it. In most of America, we take it for granted, and if we lost our city water supply, we’d be in serious trouble in a very short time.

So anyway, we get a bucket of water and take it to the shower, which for the boys is in a concrete outbuilding near their dorm, and for the girls is just down the hall. You disrobe and hang your clothes on any handy protrusion—the showerhead works well, since you won’t actually be using it—and you splash some water from the bucket all over yourself and lather up. Then you splash water on yourself some more to rinse. The water is at room temperature, but that feels a lot colder than we spoiled gringos are used to. Your first attempt at a bucket shower is usually pretty pitiful—and the dance is hysterical—but you get better at it after a few times, and eventually you can actually get pretty clean.

There’s a concrete sink, complete with tap and drain, on the outside of the outbuilding, where you can brush your teeth. We use bottled water for that, of course. (One of the missionaries told me last summer that his family uses tap water to brush their teeth and have had no problems, but that sounds a little risky to me.) We buy several 5-gallon jugs per week from town, the kind of jugs you see on water coolers. So far we’ve been using about 1 jug per day, which is better than we had expected. We pour that water into pitchers that we keep in the refrigerator, and we pour that into our personal water bottles as we need. That’s for drinking and brushing your teeth (I meant to say “for drinking and for brushing your teeth,” not “for drinking your teeth and brushing them”). So you trickle a little water on your toothbrush, brush like crazy, spit, trickle a little more water on your brush to rinse it, and then decide not to use your precious drinking water to rinse the spit off the concrete sink. You can rinse that with non-potable water later, maybe, if you decide it’s a worthwhile use of the water.

If we want a little breakfast, we can drop by the girls’ house and grab a piece of that delectable tree-ripened fruit they have here. I usually don’t do that, because we’re going to have chai at 10. That’s usually a bread—chapati or mandazi, a sort of hole-less doughnut—or a boiled egg, with a liquid—either uji or Fruit Loop tea. Starting next week we’ll have 2 tutoring sessions in the morning, usually at 9 and 10:30, and 1 in the afternoon, after lunch with the missionaries. We’ll have some free time, to ourselves or with the children, in the later afternoon, followed by an hour reading with individual students before supper, which we’ll eat with the children on weekdays, as previously noted. We’ll hold devotional times at the student residences at 7, our own team devotions at 8, and then have free time until 10.

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On this day, we start with chai at 10—mandazi and tea—and then progress to our orientation on Beth’s porch. This seems like a good time to mention that Beth has a Swahili name here at Tumaini; the children call her Shangazi, or auntie, and we’ve picked up on using the name too. Yeah, it sounds a little like Benghazi, but we try not to think about that.

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She spends the time talking to us about the children and about some cultural issues that may come up as we teach them. One that I remember from last year is that when children are in trouble, it is considered arrogant for them to look you in the eye; they lower their heads out of respect—or at least a public display of respect. So telling a child to “look me in the eye when I speak to you” is incomprehensible—the child will not do what you ask, and he’s not rebelling when he refuses. We have a lot to learn; some of it we’ll pick up by experience, but it’s often better to have some forewarning so you can make better sense of a situation while you’re in it.

At 11:30 Maiwe shows up for our second Swahili lesson. We learn a lot more about verb conjugations and sentence construction, and we spend some time working with money and preparing for specific conversations in the market, which will involve bargaining on price.

Lunch with Beth, Karen, Rachelle, and Laura Gass is mac and cheese and tomato soup. Cheese is quite expensive in most of Africa, so we won’t see a lot of it, especially the kind that smothers the dish or hangs in strings from the edge of the food. (I’ll bet mission teams to Mexico don’t have that problem.) This is really good. We spend more time talking about the kids and particular needs, as well as hearing some stories.

We have the whole afternoon to work on tutoring prep again. I’m not a tutor this year; I’m not trying to avoid work, but I thought it would be good to be free during teaching times to do class observations, to be available for crowd control in the difficult class of the hour, or to sub if somebody gets sick. So I have this afternoon free. My plan is to catch up on the blog—which I’m doing right now, if you hadn’t noticed—and to take my Swahili cheat sheet from last year and fine-tune it so I can make it available to the kids who want it.

I’m still working out the web access. We have some folks here with smartphones that can serve as hotspot tethers, and they get 3G here on the compound, but so far that isn’t working reliably. My standard expectation is that there’s no access without a trip into town; we’ll keeping working on the mobile hotspot possibility, but so far it still looks as though we’ll have only 2 updates a week or so.

About 5:30 the children get back from school. (Yes, they leave at 6:30 am and get back at 5:30 pm; there’s a 90-minute bus ride each way, but the private school is exponentially better than the public school here in Shadi, where the Tumaini staff learned that children were sometimes put to work in the teacher’s fields.) We have some time to play before supper.

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Supper is an old standby, rice and beans. It’s what much of the world has for food at every meal. This is the meal for which we get a utensil, a spoon. 🙂 A chunk of pineapple for dessert.

House devotions after supper; in my group, Caitlin continues with the boys on the series on the Ten Commandments. She does well; she’s energetic, and the boys listen.

Team devotions goes well; several team members share what they’re learning, and they’re right on track.

We’re getting into a rhythm now; I think jetlag is pretty well done, and the schedule seems normal to us. I suspect that getting the boys to their dorm at 10 plays a part in that.

Monday, 5/26/14

And so begins the week of preparation for 4 weeks of tutoring. The children are still in school this week, so we have time during the day to get some preparation done for what’s coming. That preparation involves two main activities: lesson-plan prep, and cultural adjustment. Beth has scheduled as much of each as we can cram into 1 week.

We start by sleeping in. That’s a good prep technique. 🙂 Our first scheduled activity is chai at 10. Today’s snack is a hot, sweetened ginger tea that last year’s team thought tasted just like Fruit Loops™ and that we consequently called Fruit Loops Tea. (Very imaginative, last year’s team.) The carbohydrate is chapati, a fried Indian flatbread, served hot, that is common in East Africa. It’s like a thick tortilla, slightly oily, with some almost-but-not-quite-burned spots. It’s my favorite food in Africa; the children laugh at how excited I always get when chapati are on the menu (and yes, I ham it up some for them just because I enjoy their reaction).

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As we’re finishing the food, we start going over the tutoring schedule that Rachelle and Karen have set up. It looks complicated at first, but it’s really not. Each team member has 2 to 3 1-hour lessons to teach each day to typically 4 to 6 children, though there will be some classes with only 1 or 2 students in them for special attention and remediation. It’s set up so that several tutors cover each grade (called a standard, after the British system) and rotate among the kids; that way the kids aren’t seeing the same tutor each time, and just as important, the tutors aren’t seeing the same children each time. We’re reminded repeatedly that we’re here just to help the children make a little progress; there’s no pressure. We quickly decide who’s teaching in which standard and at which times.

Caitlin and the 3 Sarahs will be working with the 5 Kindergarten students, the 1 “Prep” student (remediation before entering Standard 1), 1 student in Standard 1, and 6 in Standard 2; Hannah, Kaleigh, and Asher will be covering 14 students in Standard 3; Lyddie and Lois, 12 students in Standard 4; and Josalyn, Nathanael, and Matt, the 16 in Standards 5 and 6. We think that’ll be a reasonable load, and the rotation we’ve set up should prevent burnout. We’ll be focusing on English, maths (that’s what the Brits call it, which makes sense if you remember the long form of the word), and science.

Then it’s time for our first Swahili lesson. I’m happy to see our teacher, Maiwe, again. He’s very competent, and I’m confident that this year’s team will benefit from his skilled instruction as much as last year’s did. We learn some nouns and noun classes, numbers, and the basic verb forms and then spend some time constructing sentences. That’s a lot of progress for the first 1-hour lesson.

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And just like that, it’s time for lunch. Now, this is not a change of topic: remember that lost luggage from Dar? Well, the lost-baggage people have been in touch with Beth; all the pieces have been delivered to Mwanza, and they’re ready to pick up. We figure that we’d better take each person that the luggage belongs to, so Lois, Sarah M, and Matt (who, according to the luggage tag, was the official owner of the Tumaini box that got left behind) ride into town with Beth in the morning and arrive with everything in place just as we’re starting lunch. We’ll catch them up on the teaching schedule and Swahili lesson as we have time.

It’s a weekday, so lunch is with Beth, Karen, and Rachelle on the Eadses’ porch. Stir fry and noodles. Very good, and the conversation flows with the filtered water.

After lunch we devote the afternoon to getting lesson plans ready; each tutor will sketch out what he’s teaching each hour and select handouts / worksheets / etc. from the educational supply office to be duplicated. We’ll have the copies made in town later in the week, so we need to get these decisions made before Wednesday to give the duplicators time to get them done by Friday so we can pick them up. That will mesh nicely with our acculturation experience; we’ll need to go into town at the end of the week to shop in the market in Swahili, so we can pick up the copies then.

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We have a lot of work done by suppertime; there will be time tomorrow to get closer to finished. Supper tonight is ugali and daga, or salted minnows. People who like anchovies would like daga; most others probably wouldn’t. 🙂 Reactions range from 2 who try a mouthful and just can’t do another, to several who say, “Not too bad,” to one who says, “This is awesome!” (That would be me.)

At 7 we start our cycle of devotions in the children’s houses. We combine all the boys into one group, all the girls into another, and the 5 new little ones, who have much less exposure to Christianity, we set aside for special care. We’ve divided the team into 3 squads, who will spend a week with one group and then rotate. I’m with Nathanael, Caitlin, and Sarah B, and we’re spending this week with the boys, talking about the Ten Commandments. I speak tonight (and will again Friday). Tonight I talk about the role of the Law for the Christian (though not in those terms, of course), laying out the gospel, and then quickly cover the first 2 commandments. The boys seem to listen and understand, though my little pre-test is a disaster; I ask if anyone can be good enough to be saved, and they all solemnly nod yes. There’s always a question whether they understand my English, of course. But we’ll clarify that by the end of the week.

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As each squad finishes, we regather at the house for what will become a regular time of team devotions to wrap up the day. We sing, share testimonies, go to the Word, and have a time of prayer. These are all means of grace, things that one Christian can do to edify another, and the primary reason we gather regularly is that we need the daily encouragement and strength that we gain from one another—or more precisely, from God Himself as we share His Word and His works. I suspect that the crew doesn’t feel this need as strongly now as they will later, when they start to get really tired; right now the adrenaline can keep them going, at least physically. But early in this experience, there’s usually some fear, even though it’s often unexpressed: Will I get sick? Will I be able to deal effectively with people who speak my language only marginally? Will I do something stupid? Will I be able to handle the children? We all need the assurance that God supplies all we need for every situation in which He places us, and I start this evening with Eph. 1:3 to address that directly. For me, there’s another purpose to these devotional times: I get a chance to look into their heads a little more closely than I might be able to otherwise. As I listen to their testimonies, the way they sing, even which songs they choose to sing, I get a sense of how they’re doing, and how maturely they’re addressing the challenges of their days. And that lets me know who might need a little extra encouragement and what kinds of things I ought to emphasize in these devotional times.

After prayer it’s only 9 pm. I ask the girls whether they’d like us to leave their house so they can get to bed, or whether everybody feels like staying up for a while. To my surprise, they say they’re not tired. I’m surprised, because the rule of thumb is that it takes you one day to get over jet lag for every hour of time change, and we’re on day 4 of a 7-hour change. I guess these kids are just hardy. (I’m more just hardly.) So I suggest that they learn the Official Africa Team Game, Signs, and we spend an hour laughing at ourselves. Kaleigh seems to be the most facile player, probably because she has quite a bit of experience, but I suspect everybody will be pretty good at it before long.

I usually put a 10 pm curfew on teams, because it just seems to help them be at their best every day. And in a situation like this, where one housing area is also the general hangout, it’s a courtesy to those who live there to give them a chance to get ready for bed at a reasonable time. We shut it down at 10, and we boys disappear into the darkness, leaving the girls to their house.

So. Things are going smoothly, no more surprises than usual, 🙂 and all signs are positive. We much appreciate your prayers.

A word about verbosity. I’ve been including a lot of details in these journal entries, mostly because there’s been a lot to say, and, perhaps more importantly, because I know the parents want to know about pretty much everything. As the days progress, the schedule will get much more regular, and there will be less to report each day. I’ll obviously include stories and other unique things that turn up, but in general you can expect the blog entries to be shorter.

And, in closing for the day, a shout-out to Josalyn, Matt, and Nathanael, who have kindly provided most of the photos over the last several days.

Sunday, 5/25/14

Sunday. We start off at 100 miles an hour. Church is at 8, which on Africa time means a little bit after 8. At 8:03 we leave the house to walk over to the concrete building at the far corner of the compound. Several of the children join us as we pass their dormitories, grabbing our hands and falling into step. We can hear recorded music as we approach the building, which has just a handful of people in it when we arrive. I see a deacon that I remember from last year and walk over to greet him; he’ll be moderating the service this morning.

The building itself is plain, with a peaked roof and wooden benches with backs. There are a couple of wires crossing the room, on which are hung some plastic flowers and colorful placemats, and a red-and-white plastic inflatable ball emblazoned with the Coke logo. We sit scattered across the auditorium, the men on the right, the women on the left, with children claiming the seats nearest us. Within a few minutes the place is full, and we begin with congregational singing.

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There are few things more moving to me than African tribal singing. The voices are loud, impassioned, and the harmonies exquisite. I’m not enough of a musician to describe technically what’s different about it, but I’ve never heard anything like it anywhere else in the world. We sing in Swahili for half an hour or so, referring to the small paperback hymnbooks for the words. Some of the tunes we recognize, and some we don’t. Then come several testimonies from the congregation, with lots of “Amen”s. Then the choir, which uses canned music and choreography, the quintessential shuffling, turning, and clapping that we see in the cultural memories of choirs in African-American churches, though the music itself lacks, of course, the American elements of the latter. Then the sermon, from Samson, the pastor. The boy sitting next to me helps me find the passages, since I can’t understand the Swahili references. He starts in Gen. 24, where Abraham tells his servant not to get a wife for Isaac from pagans, and then proceeds to 2 Cor. 6, “What communion hath the temple of God with idols?” and then to Deuteronomy’s legal proscription of intermarriage between Israelites and Canaanites. I figure he’s preaching about marriage in the faith. His pulpit technique is spot on, though I don’t understand what he’s saying.

After the sermon is the offering. Everyone, men first, then ladies, walks to the front, where the offering box sits on the small table in front of the pulpit, and places a bill (I have 500 shillings, or about 35 cents) into the slot in the box, being careful to use only his right hand. (Due to the influence of Muslim culture, the left hand is considered dirty, and it’s highly offensive to give or receive anything with that hand.) I know the amount sounds small, but this is an indigenized church, and it is not in their best interest to expect large donations from American visitors; further, since this church is the one in its fellowship that gets the most visitors, we want to avoid creating too much financial disparity there. If you’d like to read more about the problems that Americans can cause by throwing money at poverty, you might enjoy reading either When Helping Hurts or Toxic Charity (the usual disclaimers).

Last year the services ended with a handshake line out in the yard, an opportunity for everyone to greet everyone else; but this morning there’s going to be a members’ meeting, so the moderator dismisses all the non-members, and the team and the children walk back across the compound to the kibanda, or gazebo, right in front of the guest house for chai, or morning tea time. Despite the name, there’s not always tea; this morning the beverage is uji, a thin gruel made from millet, rice, soybeans, and beans. It reminds me of Ralston, a dark cereal they used to serve in the BJU dining common back when I was a student, except thin enough to drink. We each get a cup, served with a hard-boiled egg, and we sit around the kibanda and fellowship with the children.

For lunch at noon we have our first exposure to ugali, an African staple. (Ugali is the Swahili word; the team in the Bemba area of Zambia called the same menu item “nshima,” and last summer in the Waala area of Ghana we ate a similar staple, slightly fermented, called “banku.”) It’s essentially polenta, or very thick grits, a corn-meal mush firm enough to take in your hand and roll up into a small ball, with which you pick up any vegetable, meat, or sauce that accompanies it. It sounds messy, and it is; but it’s quite tasty, since it picks up the flavor of whatever you pick up with it.

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The church has no evening service, so we devote the afternoon to orientation. We have 2 sessions with Matt Gass, the first addressing missions philosophy, and the second about the history of Tumaini and its related ministries, with a walking tour of the compound between them.

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This ministry was begun under the direction of Rob Howell, who was a BJU Africa Team member (in Kenya) back in the 1990s, when Carl and Linda Abrams were the leaders. He returned to Tanzania shortly thereafter as a church planter under the sponsorship of Grace Baptist Mission, out of Inter-City Baptist Church in Allen Park, MI. As the church plant proceeded, he found that the government required an organization to be undertaking charitable work in order to purchase property—and “charitable work” did not include evangelism or church planting. They could be running an orphanage, a medical clinic, or a school. Rob and his coworkers saw the orphanage as the best fit with the Great Commission, so Tumaini was begun. With that, the church plants could purchase property; and to feed the pastorates of the church plants, a small Bible college was begun as well.

So here on the compound in the village of Shadi is the second church plant, now fully indigenized; the Bible college; and the children’s home. At the link in Google Maps you can see the “big house” (the dining common and, at the west end, the guest house, where most of the girls are staying) just south of the circular kibanda; west of it, beyond the trees, the college dorm, which houses students in the Bible college when it’s in session, but is empty right now and thus available for the boys; and north of the big house, the four identical children’s residences (dorms), in 1 of which 2 of the girls have a small room. The Bible college quadrangle is just northeast of the northernmost children’s residence, the church building is just east of the college, and the parsonage is just north of the church. To the west of the children’s residences are the missionary houses, one each for the Gasses, the Eadses, and Beth. South of those, next to the college dorm, is the residence of Ferdinand, the Tanzanian overseer of the orphanage, and his family, and south of the dorm is the nurse’s residence.

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There’s a lot of natural beauty to see here. The most obvious thing is the view of the lake, or rather the inlet of Lake Victoria, that our property fronts. There’s a marsh between the campus and the lakefront, so we can’t get down there easily, if at all, but the view is remarkable. And since the lake is to our west, we have beautiful sunsets over it.

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There’s also some enjoyment in the flora and fauna. Flowering bushes are everywhere, and the lizards are colorful enough to look like flowers themselves. There are also swarms of dragonflies that tend to do most of their work about a foot off the ground and are really interested in people, so they swarm around your calves pretty much whenever you walk around the compound. They remind me of those quadrotor drones you see in the Youtube videos.

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As to security—I suspect you parents would like to know about that—the entire compound is fenced and gated, with a security guard walking the grounds overnight. The buildings have locked and barred doors and barred windows. And I have a Swiss army knife, a brown belt in judo, and lapsed certification as an EMT. 🙂 Your kids are safe.

After the orientation sessions we have dinner, again on the Eadses’ porch, and after cleanup we head up to Command Central (that’s the guest house, remember?) to get organized. We need to set up several support schedules. First, we have lunch during the week and supper on the weekends with the children, eating typical African food such as rice, ugali, chapati, daga, and so on. (I’ll be describing those foods as they show up on the menu.) But supper during the week and lunch on the weekends is just the team and the missionaries, and we work together to do the prep and cleanup. The missionaries will do most of the food prep, but we’ll provide a fruit or vegetable dish, table setup, and cleanup for every meal, so we need to put those three crews together, and we need to decide what the dish will be each day this week. We’ll also being giving devotions in the children’s houses every night (3 sessions simultaneously), so we need to schedule speakers and support staff—crowd control—for those. And we’ve hired a lady to do our laundry—they appreciate the opportunity to earn some money—and we need to decide whose laundry shows up on which days so we keep her workload even and predictable. Caitlin, Kaleigh, and Sarah S jump right on that, and in minutes we have schedules laid out, agreed to, and posted on the refrigerator door.

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Then we’re ready for our first team devotional session of the trip. I’ve asked each team member for his 3 favorite songs and collected them all in a little songbook, so we sing several numbers from that before sharing testimonies of things learned so far on the trip. The kids have much to say; they’re thoughtful, they’re observant, they’re noticing and learning the right things, and they’re demonstrating good priorities. This is a good group.

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We have a little unscheduled time after devotions before we all head to bed around 10. I think being active is helping with the time-zone adjustment; we’re not there yet, but we’re generally awake during the day and asleep for most of the night, so that’s progress in the right direction.