Monday, May 27, 2013

We have a special treat today. Timothy has arranged for us to drive to Baayiri, about an hour northwest of Wa, to visit the clinic of Cathy Bristol, a Baptist Mid-Missions nurse. She’s been very nice to us; she’s baked muffins and sent them over a couple of times, and we did have her look at one team member who had what turned out to be a minor insect bite. Since the Cameroon squad is generally oriented toward medical work, and since the clinic is named for Pastor Timothy’s father, we’re interested in seeing it.

It’s a long drive over worse-than-average roads, mostly dirt, with lots of washboarding and potholes and washed-out sections. We pass one section where they’ve pulled scores of truckloads of dirt from one location and piled it up on the side of the road to be distributed. One rainy seasons will reverse all of that, of course.

When we pull up to the clinic, there are 20 or so people waiting their turn, including a number of mothers with small children. There’s a mildly old-fashioned satellite dish in front of the building. Timothy takes us in to meet Cathy, but she’s consulting with a patient right now, so one of her helpers gives us a tour. There’s a waiting room, an exam room, a laboratory, a staff room with small kitchen and the refrigerator where they keep the vaccines, and a consultation room. Soon Cathy emerges from this last room and introduces herself.

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She’s small, energetic, and happy, and answers our questions for as long as we have them. She’s been in West Africa (Liberia and Ghana) for nearly 40 years; she came here after the civil war made Liberia unsafe. Her house is here on the compound; the power is solar panels. I ask about the dish; she says the government delivered it so she could tap into the mainframe to check patients’ insurance status and report results (this is nationalized health care), but they didn’t bring a power source. Her solar supply doesn’t provide enough for both the refrigerator and the dish, and she’s not going to risk the vaccines, so the dish just sits there. Looks very official, though.

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Lots of malaria, tapeworm, various other worms (from the standing water; they have wells, but a lot of people drink whatever they find when they’re in the fields working), lacerations from machetes (what the East Africans call “pangas”; I notice that she calls them “cutlasses.” Many of the locals have skin so tough that she needs unusually strong needles to give stitches.

She has a couple of staff members, a lab tech and an operations guy who handles the finances, orders supplies, and generally runs things. She also has a midwife, since the government won’t let an RN deliver babies. Sometimes, of course, it’s just time, and she does what she has to do.

I feel bad that people are waiting while we’re talking, so we let her get back to work. She represents thousands more around the world who labor, hard, in obscurity for little comfort, and who enjoys what she does. May her tribe increase.

When we get back to Wa we take a stroll through the market, seeing much more of it than we have before. It’s a rambling maze, and without Timothy I doubt whether I could have found my way out. Some of the guys buy soccer jerseys, and we get some groceries, especially ice cream for a farewell party we’re planning for tomorrow night.

Lunch is leftovers—some rice, tuna sandwiches, and for dessert some fresh pineapple. It’s true that you do without a fair amount out here—we haven’t even seen a salad since we arrived—but there’s a lot that’s good as well. Fresh fruit seems to taste sweeter here, I suppose because it tends to be tree-ripened.

The team is starting a 2-day VBS today at Siriyiri, where Jon preached on Sunday. They have about 50 kids show up today; Catherine teaches the older students, and Heather the younger. There are groups for the games, as usual,  but today they actually play some soccer with the kids, something they really haven’t done before. (By the way, I was surprised to learn that the Ghanaians prefer the term soccer to the usual football.)

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My class starts at the usual time; tonight I go over the test scores—there was a pretty good distribution, so I’m able to be encouraging. I tell them that the real key to their grade is the paper, which is due tomorrow night. I don’t tell them this, but I intend to go very easy on form and style and to focus on whether they have the key content necessary to the exercise, which is an analysis of the biblical data and opposing arguments to reach a conclusion on a controversial question. I’m hoping that the grades will be quite high.

Our discussion for the night is on the question of continuationism; I review the history and present my rationale for cessationism, along with some key points of Wayne Grudem in opposition. We have a lively discussion on the essentials, and then we spend the rest of the night evaluating claims of the miraculous that they’re familiar with, including the work of witch doctors. I demonstrate a few of the most common illusions—psychic surgery, levitation—and when I do the levitation, one of the female students gasps loudly. That nicely makes my point that at least some of what passes for the supernatural is just simple illusion. That was fun. J

The last half hour of class is accompanied with a driving rainstorm with lightning, and several students run out to take care of their motorbikes. When we finish class, the rain is still pouring down; several team members have come to the last part of class, and we decide to just walk back casually in the cool rain. The clothes will dry out eventually. I leave the laptop in the building, and we saunter over to the house in the driving rain.

When we get there, the rest of the team—pretty much—is having Water Day at the Nursery. They’re in the courtyard beside the house, standing under the downspouts, laughing, screaming, throwing water at one another. They get me with several handfuls of rainwater right through the screened window, but that’s OK, since I’m already soaked.

Play is a wonderfully restoring thing. I’m glad they’ve had this opportunity.

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A few minutes later the Seidus—Timothy, Mama J, and the three boys—show up for our scheduled ice cream party. We’ve got vanilla and chocolate, sliced bananas, pineapple chunks, and a sauce that Catherine, Keri, and Jon have made from some of the peanut butter. One of the Seidu boys has asthma and can’t have cold ice cream, so we heat some up for him.

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We all sit around the in the living room and enjoy the feast; then I express our appreciation to the family for their care of us—we really have kept them busy—and we give them a small token of our appreciation, a music CD of the WILDS men’s ensembles. That strikes me as kind of funny; the monetary unit here is the cedi, pronounced “CD,” and it’s worth about 50 cents. To give them a “CD” for all the work they’ve done seems pretty cheap. 🙂

Timothy expresses appreciation for our work, giving some history of the ministry here. His father, Samuel, was the first Waale to come to Christ (the Waale are majority Muslim); he died at 41, and now 4 of his sons are pastors. Timothy is overseeing the Baptist Mid-Mission effort, which includes the college, the Christian school, Faith Baptist in Wa, and the whole network of churches and church plants that is quickly expanding through the Upper West Region (what we would call a state) in Ghana. Timothy says that we have been very helpful in attracting community attention in the villages where the church plants are, and we have especially connected with the college-age people at Faith. I had noted in the service Sunday that those kids have been a real challenge to us with their zeal, their joy, and their energy and commitment. I’m glad to hear that they have been challenged by us as well.

By this time it’s pretty late; one of the Seidu boys is sound asleep in his chair, and Mama J looks like she’s fading fast. We wave them homeward—it’s still raining hard—and turn to a truncated devotional time. I turn in a few minutes after that. The kids, of course, aren’t done yet. 🙂

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Dan Olinger

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

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