Wednesday, May 15, 2013

We were scheduled to start a VBS in a second location at 3 this afternoon, but that’s been postponed for a day; plans change a lot in Africa. So we have nothing scheduled until prayer meeting at Faith at 7 p.m.

Catherine and Angel are the team’s early risers pretty much every day; they go running on the compound grounds at 7. I usually get up around then to do some studying and writing. Today I sleep in some. But I’m on breakfast prep duty today, as is Catherine, so we set out the corn muffins that Mama J brought by last night, and cut up a papaya, and boil some water for muesli if anybody wants it. Boy, that was exhausting.

With the down time, everybody has time to do whatever he needs or feels like. I get in some Internet and study time; some go for a walk around the compound; Jordan helps some college students hitch a plow up to the tractor so they can take it in for repairs. He’s pretty excited about that. He also gets some nice photos; like his brother Nate, from the 2007 team, he’s good at photography, with a particular knack for nature shots. Flowers, insects, animals—he gets a red-eyed bird and a yellow-headed lizard. (I’m pretty sure those aren’t the formal scientific names.)

For lunch we eat Mama’s leftovers from supper last night—her plan is working perfectly—and then Timothy has some time to take me into town to do some currency exchange. I collect cash from everybody who wants some local money; two girls, who have debit cards, ride along to hit an ATM. The ATMs we try accept one debit card (a global bank) but not the other (a state bank). Not surprising, I suppose. Timothy takes me to his bank for the big cash exchange—$610 worth. Their counting machine rejects one of my bills, but I replace it with another, and there’s no further problem.

International travelers know that you typically take new $100s, when you do take cash, to minimize that sort of problem.

On the way back we drop into a couple of markets to pick up needed supplies—laundry detergent and eggs this time. Timothy asks us if we liked the ice cream last night. All three of us respond “Yes!” with considerably more energy than necessary.

Back at the house, with the new supply of laundry detergent, we start the machines going. They’re small—about three feet tall, maybe 18 inches square—and load from the top. You turn on the water with one knob; when the machine’s full, you drop in the detergent and the clothes and hit another switch to start the agitation. Sounds familiar to anyone who’s done laundry, but these machines look quite different from what we’re used to, and we work through the process carefully. There’s one machine at the girls’ house and an identical one at the guys’. Some of the guys are acting as though laundry sorting is complicated. I express disbelief and tell ’em to man up.

About 3:00, it happens: a glorious afternoon thunderstorm. We’ve had thunderstorms overnight twice so far—the rain on the metal roof ensures that we’ll notice—but this is the first one in the daytime. The temperature drops 20 degrees in 10 minutes, or so it feels. The rain pours off the roof; there are no gutters, but there are downspouts in the corners, and they sling the water several feet out into the yard. Several of us go out on the porches—there are sheltered areas virtually all around the house, entered through various external doors—to take pictures or just to watch. Eventually I find myself on the front porch, looking out over the many trees in the front yard. I notice that Brita, the dog, is cowering under a table, so I speak softly to her (yes, I’ve been informed that Brita is in fact female; forgive my not researching fully initially, but the snapping was a bit of a distraction) and, on a hunch, sit down on the front step, under the porch roof. Just as I expected, she crawls under my legs and lies shivering on the step. She’s terrified by the thunder. I stroke her head and tell her everything will be all right. To this point, she has responded to all of us who reached toward her by snapping at us; we’ve not been able to pet her. She’s Mama’s dog, fiercely loyal and protective of her. So I enjoy the transformation, and we have a pleasant conversation there on the porch for the duration of the storm. As it starts to abate, I reach down to scratch her head one more time, and she snaps at me and growls. Well, that selfish, manipulative little dog. She uses me for protection and then turns on me in an instant. Romans 8:22, writ large.

Mama brings supper—rice, beans and meat—and again we can eat only half of it. I give up.

Prayer meeting is at 7 p.m. We set out at 6:45 and, as usual, pick up a few folks along the way. It’s dark when we get there; this close to the equator, the differences in length of day and night with seasonal changes are much less pronounced. There’s a good group assembled, about the same number as attended Sunday evening. We sing, some in English, some in Waale, some from a traditional hymnal, some from the WILDS songbooks recently donated by Faith Baptist in Taylors, some from their Waale book. The song leader here, as elsewhere in Africa, sings the first line, then says, “Ready, sing!” to get the congregation started. I noticed yesterday that Jon, who is our musical director and has considerable training in choral direction, has adopted the style. All that training in conducting a breath beat, and now it’s all set aside. Cross-cultural ministry.

I preach from Psalm 11; their devotional in prayer meeting runs 20 minutes, which is really 10 minutes since it’s being interpreted. (We have asked if they’re interpreting just for us or whether they do that all the time; they do it all the time. Waale is the regional dialect of the Upper West Region of Ghana, and people from other parts of Ghana don’t speak it, so they translate into English, which is the official national language. It’s interesting that even with just Ghanaians present, they still have to do that.) Then we have prayer requests and split up into pairs to pray. I note with pleasure that the team members have taken seats scattered throughout the pews, not all clustered together, so most of them pray with a national. Thinking ministry, thinking cross-culturally, pushing the edge of their comfort zones. Good for them.

We’re done by 8:30 and fellowship for quite a while afterward. One of the young people, a girl about 12, asks if she can carry my Bible. The kids are taught here to show respect for elders by helping them with such things. I give her mine and don’t see her again while we’re there, but when I get on the bus, my Bible is on the dash, where Timothy placed it when she delivered it to him.

Back at the house, we hydrate, and then someone suggests that we play Signs. That was a favorite of the last team back in 2010, and I know from experience that it’s addictive; we’re going to be at it for hours. Sure, why not. We sit in the living room until midnight, playing, laughing at our individual idiosyncrasies, admiring a well-executed exchange or two. Finally a few cave in and head off to bed, and everybody else runs out of steam pretty quickly.

So a slow day, but a useful one. I’ve learned that days like this are important in the overall structure of the experience. I used to think that since the expense of a trip like this is so high, we need to wring every last bit of energy and application out of the team; but that not only exhausts them, it interferes with their ability to minister effectively, to adapt to new situations with a clear mind, to learn what they need to learn along the way. It wouldn’t be worth the cost, of course, to come to Africa and sit around the house all day every day. But you need to steward your time and energy for best effectiveness.

Avatar photo

Dan Olinger

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

Related Posts

No Comments

Leave a Comment