Saturday, May 11, 2013

We agreed last night to have breakfast at 9 this morning. Mrs. Seidu brought a flat of eggs over yesterday, so we figure scrambled eggs and toast will be just fine. Keri, Abbie, Catherine and Ellie go to work on that. We soon find—or rather, don’t find—any butter or oil, and they decide, against my unexpressed better judgment, to try it anyway. To my amazement, they produce some edible scrambled eggs, with cheese, on a gas stove without any oil. They make toast by essentially dry frying the bread in a pan. Works just fine.

As all this is going on, there’s a knock on the front door, and guess who shows up? Our 3 wandering team members! Timothy ushers Joy, Katie and Robert into the house, and we all come running. I assume they’ll want to go straight to bed, but to my surprise, they actually want to talk a little. We gather around the dining room table, while Robert eats some sandwiches from last night’s supper, and they all describe their adventures.

It is a work of grace that they’re here. They spent Wednesday night at JFK airport; they checked on hotel prices, which of course are absurd in NYC; two rooms would have been $500, plus two cab fares. Their judgment was that their spot in the airport, where I had delivered their passports to them, was safe; there was airport staff, including TSA, around, and so they decided not to go for the hotel.

So. That’s one night without sleep. The next day, they had the whole day free, and they were already outside security at JFK, so those rascals decided to go sightseeing in New York. Jumped on the subway, went to the 9/11 Memorial, Times Square, and Grand Central.

Back to JFK for their 10:30 p.m. flight to Accra. They say it was uneventful, but that’s now two nights without sleep.

James met them at the Accra airport, right on schedule, and drove them to the guest house, where they were able to get a shower. He took them out for pizza with the money Timothy left behind for that purpose. And then the 9 p.m. overnight bus ride to Wa. That’s three nights without sleep.

But there are evidences of grace all around. On the bus, an American Methodist missionary lady saw the three white kids and made their acquaintance. She was going all the way to Wa—and further yet, to her mission station in the very far north. She took them under her wing at the bathroom stops and saw that they were OK. I don’t know her name, or her mission board, but someday I’ll be able to thank her.

Robert says that the driver turned out the lights on the bus, and he thought there might be some sleep in his future, but then he turned on loud music, and during the 12-hour overnight ride, they played three movies, one of them twice. One was some sort of horror movie, with witch doctors and animated blood and such. When Robert arrived at the house, he was unable to close his eyes. (OK, I made that last part up.)

Three nights without sleep, and a graduation ceremony in 30 minutes. I send them all to bed.

I had it in my head that the ceremony was at 11; a couple of the team members remember 10, and they’re right. So we get dressed quickly and walk 100 yards or so across the compound to the ceremony site, a sort of Quonset hut with no ends. (Those of you familiar with the BJU campus, think the Activity Center about half size.) There’s cloud cover, and a nice breeze through the wind tunnel, so it’s a lot cooler than it could be.

There are four graduates. The school has existed for about 50 years as Baptist Bible Institute, but just recently, with the considerable expertise and help of Dr. Phil Smith, retired BJU provost, the curriculum has been upgraded to Bible college level, and the name changed to West Africa Baptist College. This is the first group of men to have gone through the entire program, so it’s the first graduating class of WABC.

The service runs almost 3 hours, but that’s mostly because everything is done in both English and Waale; the pieces of the ceremony move right along. Each of the graduates gives a testimony, each of their stories distinct accounts of God’s grace in different ways. One was raised a pagan, complete with animal sacrifices; another grew up in a devoutly Christian home. I have the privilege of relaying greetings from Dr. Smith, and then I preach from Haggai, addressing most of my comments to the four graduates. They, and their pastors in the “Amen corner,” and the rest of the congregation, seem to receive it well. Timothy confers the degrees and distributes the diplomas. In accordance with local tradition, gifts are given to each graduate, including a smock in the traditional design for the tribal chief. It’s moving.

During the service, the team is sitting in a section reserved for them. A little boy comes over to Angel and crawls up into her chair. Happens every time.

Afterward the crowd moves out into the surrounding area and is fed a bowl of seasoned rice and vegetables. Timothy suggests that the team go back to the house, where his wife will bring us our food. We have the rice and a piece of fried chicken. Very tasty.

After lunch a few of the girls are doing the dishes, and I am enjoying studying the ceiling over my bed, when I hear them calling my name. Water is spewing out from under the sink, and there’s about half an inch already covering the kitchen floor. A quick look underneath shows that the cold water feed-line receptacle at the bottom of the faucet structure has broken off, so that the feed line is emptying itself at random. But as many of you know, feed lines don’t empty themselves; you have to turn them off. No sign of cutoff valves under the sink. I see the feed lines going through a hole in the cabinet to the left, so I ask Heather to pull that drawer out. Feed lines go behind the drawer and into the next section of cabinet. I open the door under that section of the counter; Keri shows up with a flashlight and shines it back there; the feed lines go through the wall.

I run through the increasingly deeper swimming pool that we used to call the kitchen, looking for the other side of that wall. It involves going through the living room, down a hall, into an unused bedroom, and into its closet. There are the two lines, coming in to a water heater. Two valves. I turn ’em both off. Ha.

Nothing happens. Water is still pouring out from under the sink. While I’m standing there, puzzled—that’s really supposed to work—Keri hollers through my window, from the back yard, where she’s unaccountably run, that there’s a faucet handle sticking out of the ground there; should she turn it? Sure, I holler. The flood stops.

Now that’s teamwork. The girls start mopping up the kitchen floor; I inform Timothy, who says he’ll call a plumber. Can you get a plumber on Saturday? Sure. This is Africa; people actually believe in working here.

Then Joy, who, last we heard, was asleep, walks into the kitchen. She sees a tub in the middle of the kitchen floor, which is filled with water that came out of the spewing pipe. She asks if she can borrow it, because Katie is in the shower and had just shampooed her hair when the water cut off. Ah. Timing is everything. We get her the water so she can finish her business.

So. That means that the outside valve took the whole house down. We have no water until the break is repaired. I think about options in the meantime. We have no water at this house, but the boys’ house has water, and a bathroom, and a kitchen sink. We can cook here, where there’s a stove, wash the dishes up there, and use the bathroom up there, pretty much indefinitely if we need to. We’re good.

The team starts working on plans for the VBS that we’re starting Monday. There’s a lot to think about: schedule, songs, stories, games, team names, cheers. Initially we don’t have much information about the specifics of our audience, but just then Mrs. Seidu shows up to see if everything’s OK in the kitchen. Just in time to answer questions—how many kids? What ages? What do they like? As an additional providence, she has brought along two of her sons and two of their friends, and we grill them. Do you like to sing? What songs do you like? Do you like to learn new songs? Do you like to play football? (I know what you Americans are thinking. But in most of the world, in football you actually use your feet. It’s only the Americans who call it soccer.)

Along about that time Katie comes out, nicely showered, and shortly later the guys show up, with even Robert shaved and walking. Soon the whole group is gathered around the table brainstorming, figuring out who’s good at what, planning a structure that will be as flexible as possible, given that this is, after all, Africa.

They’re a team now. I always love when this time comes, a few days into the trip. They’ve moved from acquaintances to partners in something that is bigger than themselves. It’s the moment that keeps me doing this.

By the time they’ve gotten the program together, the plumber has come and replaced the faucet with one of those nice new high-spigot models, so you can get really big pans in the sink. Water’s back on, and a cheer goes up from the crew around the table. The plumber smiles and waves. Janet comes running down to find out what all the cheering is about. I tell her she’d better get used to it; we’re one happy bunch.

It’s 6 p.m., and they decide to go for a walk around the compound. It’s prime time for mosquitoes, which means it’s prime time for malaria. I tell ’em to repellent up.

We tour our side of the compound, which includes the Bible college classroom, the men’s dorm and the library. I can’t help looking through the stacks; they have a really excellent library, with the standard commentaries and a few (e.g., NIC) that I didn’t expect; a good theology section, including biblical theology; and very good materials on biblical introduction.

Eventually we work our way back to the house, where it’s leftover night for supper. I’m really surprised that we have leftovers; I expected them to eat more. A couple of the guys do seem to excel the others; their parents know who they are.

After dinner the boys volunteer to do the dishes. We thought it was worth taking a picture. They had to keep asking the girls where things went. When I commented that only two of them were doing anything, and the other two were just watching, the other two volunteered to do them tomorrow night. I’m speechless.

The work done, we had our first devotional time as a complete team. Good singing, good testimonies, good prayer time.

A good day.

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Dan Olinger

Chair, Division of Bible in the BJU School of Religion.

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