Friday, May 17, 2013

I get two loads of laundry done before breakfast. That feels good. And clean. Most of us are now wearing clothes that our mothers would actually approve of.

Well, we’ve got all this fresh peanut butter; we need to eat it. So breakfast is toast with PB&J. That, of course, cuts down on the conversation, because the only possible answer to “Dr. O., what’s the plan for this morning?” is “Mmgblftmhgsrtdbf.”

After breakfast I decide to walk into town to look for a few supplies. To my surprise, pretty much everybody wants to go. So 12 of us walk through the verdant “front yard” to the gate, wave to the gatekeeper, take a left, and head down to town.

Right outside the gate are some very odd trees; their trunks are strangely bulbous, as though they have warts all over them. When I had asked Timothy what they were, he said they were oaks. Why, then, the weird trunks? Well, people cut off the bark to chew on to clean their teeth—and I noticed goats nibbling on them too—and the trauma causes the deformations as the tree tries to heal the wound. Very odd.

tree2 tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s about a mile or slightly more into town. The sight of 12 white folks moving in a line down the street certainly draws a look or two. As we approach the kiosks near the town center, we start looking for the stuff we’re after: dish soap, liquid hand soap, coffee (several of the kids have been agitatedly asking for it, and their parents probably know who they are), maybe something else we find as we noodle around in the small shops. The girls spot a fabric shop, and I make a mental note that the day is over. A bunch of them buy a few yards of different African fabric patterns to make into skirts. Then, to my horror, the guys get involved and pick up some fabric for shirts. But at least it doesn’t take the 3 hours I predicted it would. And the shop owner has a very good day. 

shopping

Along the way we run into Rhoda, one of Mama’s helpers. She is going away to boarding school for the semester, and the girls wanted to see her before she left, so she looks us up. She becomes our tour guide for most of the excursion, and she’s a great help.

After hitting a few shops and getting most of what we need, and a few other things (vanilla, chili spice mix), we plunge into the market. If you’ve ever seen a street market in a developing nation, you know what we’re talking about. It’s quite a bit busier than it was when we visited there with Timothy the other day, and we wander around, taking in the sights and sounds and smells.

 

market

Time to head back. It’s hot, and we’re thirsty and tired. A few of the kids haven’t brought water bottles. I start looking for a vendor, and on a street corner at the city’s busiest roundabout (that’s a traffic circle in your neck of the woods) I find her. Moderately cold sodas and water sachets. Everybody gets what he wants, and yet another vendor has a good day. She provides benches to sit on in the shade; we can’t take the bottles, because they all have to be returned to be reused; so we take a pleasant break and drink.

The hike back up the road to the compound is uneventful, but long. We do stop in a small bakery shop to get some bread, and we get two loaves literally right out of the oven. Which is why we have hamburgers on fresh-baked bread—with guacamole!—for lunch.

plate

This second day of VBS is every bit as successful as the first. The smaller kids are at the church waiting for us when we drive up, and the older kids come along when the word spreads that we’re back. Games on the field, stories and songs in the church building. I spend the entire time sitting on a bench under a tree, which (bench) some kids have brought out for the honored guests. John Seidu, Timothy’s younger brother and today’s bus driver, sits with me, and we talk ministry in Africa.

John attended CABC in Kitwe, Zambia, after we were there with the last team in 2010. We start sharing names of mutual friends: Ken Mbugua, Sandala Mwanje, Kennedy Kaseke, John Njoroge. It brings back a lot of memories. When he finished in 2011, he returned to Wa with the desire to plant churches, get them running, and then turn them over to a permanent pastor. This church in Diesi is the first of those; Pastor Jacob has been here for about a year now. John points to two men sitting on the ground near the bench. They’re town elders, and they gave the church the land it’s on, as well as the football field on which the children are playing. And it’s right next to the village’s two wells. It’s the bush equivalent of 3 square blocks in Manhattan.

Sun setting, we say goodbye to the kids, and their parents, and board the bus for the ride home. As we stop at Faith to drop off some of our Ghanaian colleagues, the call to prayer is sounding again from the mosque across the street. It’s piercing, irritating, almost whiny: “Allahu akbar,” repeated endlessly. “God is great.” Yes, He is. But He is also good, and that’s not something the call to prayer, or its sponsoring theological system, includes. What a contrast with what we’ve been singing on the bus—“Amazing Grace,” “I Am Resolved,” and

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

When we arrive home, Joy discovers that the kitchen floor is covered with ants carrying large pieces of food off to their cold storage facility. We begin with an impromptu dance party, everyone smashing indiscriminately in his own little section of the kitchen floor.

It’s a massacre.

We think a piece of food must have fallen down between the gas stove and the cabinet; all our stored food is properly sealed. Since the stove is gas, I’m not inclined to move it; I’ve noticed that “code” is not something construction crews seem to care much about here. (You should see the electrical box … no, you shouldn’t.) So we’ll keep an eye on the situation and see if anything further happens, and if it does, we’ll try to isolate the precipitating foodstuff, so to speak.

Mama brings over a special treat for supper: banku with sauce, and fried fish. Banku is the Ghanaian version of what we called nshima in Zambia and ugali in Kenya, a sort of thick grits that is a staple all across Africa. You take some in your fingers, roll it into a ball, and use it to pick up whatever else you’re eating. It sounds messy, and it is, but it’s delicious. This version is different from the East African version; it’s slightly fermented, so it tastes a little more acidic.

plate2The fish (fried Atlantic redfish) is special because the head is still attached, and I’ve been telling the kids this whole trip that the head is the best part of the fish. We peel the flaky flesh off each side, then remove the spine and ribs and go to work on the head. The cheek meat is really flavorful, and the eyes are a delicacy virtually everywhere in the world except the United States. They pop when you bite ‘em, and they taste sweet. Some of the kids try them; I’ll let them tell you which ones they are.

One of the college students comes by to let us know that our outreach activity scheduled for tomorrow will start at 8 am. That’s earlier than we’re used to. Good.

Sunday will be early too, since we’re going up to Lawra to visit a church there. So it’s time this team got moving.

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Dan Olinger

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

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