Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Catherine and I are on breakfast prep. We go for simple, mostly because supplies are getting a little low; I scramble some eggs, and she makes some oatmeal. I have it all ready to go at 8:30, when I realize that we’ve scheduled breakfast for 9 today. Drat. I hate it when I’m an idiot.

Timothy comes by during prep and says he’ll have a van ready to take us to the Christian school associated with Faith Baptist in Wa at 9:30, and on the way back, the guys can stop by the tailor’s to order shirts and give the tailor their fabric. Hmm. That means pretty much everybody’s going, and the bus leaves 30 minutes after we start breakfast, and some folks are going to show up for breakfast not exactly ready to jump on the bus. Well, here we go again.

We take the school van this time, rather than the bus. The 14 of us just exactly fill all the seats. The school is on the same property as the church, where we’ve been worshiping on Sundays and where VBS has been going on all week. Timothy takes us through the whole complex, starting with the kitchen, where two ladies are preparing large pots of rice, and the office, where the treasurers work, and then through every classroom. They’ve been adding a grade every year; they’re up to 4th now and plan to go all the way to 12. A very encouraging sign is that the “nursery” (K-5) has grown significantly every year; there are 81 kids in just one classroom. Demand is far outstripping the available space. That means, of course, that the school can start being selective in its admissions and can raise tuition and still fill the seats. And that in turn means that they can pay their teachers a decent wage.

stove school

When we enter a classroom, Timothy asks, “How are you, students?” They rise and say in unison, “We are fine, thank you. And you?” With the ceremony and the uniforms, it all feels very British. Which, of course, it is.

The children are orderly in the classroom and exuberant at recess. Our kids interact with them excitedly during their break, and I can see the educators that many of the team members are in the process of becoming.

kids kids2

On the way back, as promised, we stop at the tailor’s. There a photo of President Obama on the sign in front of the shop, and I ask the proprietor if the President buys his clothes here. He laughs and doesn’t answer.

It’s amusing to watch the guys pore over the designs and select their patterns. Timothy tries to get me to buy one, but I’ve already got one from the Zambia team last time, and I really won’t get much use out of another one. By the team we leave, the fabric is deposited, the design selected, the torsos measured. Custom shirts for between $5 and $10.

shopping guys


When we return to the house, the hairdressers are waiting for the last two girls, Angel and Abby. A few hours under the shade tree, and we have the Nefertiti Nine.


For lunch we decide to get started on the many cans of tuna fish I picked up in Accra. We figure 4 sandwiches per can, so that’s—let’s see—4 cans for one sandwich apiece. But Jon doesn’t like tuna—Jon really doesn’t like tuna—so he gets the components of PB&J, some assembly required.

Major internet session after lunch; several of the kids get a chance to email their families and of course check with the Great and Powerful Oz, aka Facebook. (I have to admit, I’m doing a little bit of that too. It’s the easiest way to chat with my wife.) I note with some pleasure that a few of my students are there at the same time, and some of them are even working on their papers.

The team takes off for VBS—they’re doing a full 5-day program at Faith this time—and I print out my notes for tonight’s class and start writing Friday’s midterm exam. I start with some really easy questions to give them some momentum; I’m going to avoid really hard questions and focus on the big ideas, not little details. I’ll be interested to see how they do, since I don’t really have any access to their educational history. I’m going by their comportment in class, and they ask very good questions.

As I’m walking to class, I see the bus come in from VBS. They’ll eat supper, change clothes, and head back over to Faith for Wednesday night prayer meeting. Jon is preaching tonight. Before last Sunday’s ride on the motorbike, he’d never preached before. I wish I could hear him.

Class goes well, though in the 2nd 1-hour segment the power goes out, apparently beyond the compound. Since it’s a little light outside yet, we move outside and have class in the yard. Pretty soon it’s too dark to see, and Timothy comes over with a lamp so the students can see to take notes. I’m using my iPod light to read mine. After about an hour the lights come back on, and we return to status quo ante.

There was a time when this kind of infrastructure instability would have frustrated me. But after a while in Africa, it becomes just part of the background, and everybody just gets philosophical about it. No sense getting all bent out of shape about something you can’t do anything about and that won’t change.

We dismiss at 8:30; I do a little email and then pick up my laptop to head back to the house. Simon comes over and offers to carry the computer. “I’ve got it OK,” I say. “I know that,” he says, clearly offering help not because I need it, but because he wants to give it. I hand him the computer, and we walk back to the house together. He has lots of questions to pepper me with.

preachingWhen we arrive at the house, it’s locked. Of course; the team isn’t back from church yet. We grab a couple of the chairs the hairdressers were using and sit down on the front porch. More questions. We talk theology until the bus rolls up. I love these providentially provided teaching times.

As the team goes inside I ask Timothy how Jon did. “Very well,” he says. I tell him that Sunday was his first time preaching, ever. He’s genuinely surprised. “He did fine!” he says.

I grab a little supper while the kids give me the day’s news. Turns out that Brita’s getting downright chummy; she let Will and Jordan both pet her today.


Several of them get into the refrigerated stash of pineapple drink that Timothy picked up for us today. Ellie observes that it would taste better when it’s really hot in mid-afternoon; I note the wisdom of that and elect to follow her example by waiting for tomorrow.


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Dan Olinger

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

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