Saturday, May 25, 2013

Full day. The lunch prep crew has made sandwiches last night for today’s lunch “on location,” so to speak. We have an early breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast (thanks, Angel and Abbie!), and by shortly after 8 we’ve loaded the bus, including the cooler with lunch, and headed for Faith to pick up the young people from there. Then we retrace our steps through Wa and head out the main road to the south, the one we came in on when we first arrived from Accra. I believe it’s our first trip back this way.

Simon is always singing. He seems to prefer Christian songs in a minor key—“O, The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” (to the tune of “Once to Every Man and Nation”), “When I Survey,” and a number of others. I hadn’t realized the extent of hymnody in minor keys. He sings by himself for half an hour or so, while the rest of us talk. Suddenly, his Faith-mates join in, and a songfest begins. They’re loud, passionate, boisterous, joyous. Our kids join in, when the song is in English. In a sense I feel like I’ve finally arrived in Africa; this is the energetic tribal music I remember from earlier trips. It’s good to be back.

After a good many miles—or kilometers—we turn right and head west toward the Burkina border. After what seems like forever on dirt roads, the road is suddenly paved again, and we’re in a town of moderate size, Wachiau. I’m thinking this might be the place, but we drive right through it and back onto dirt roads. A ways further, and down a little dirt path barely wide enough for the bus to navigate, we find a village with a 4-room school building surrounded by 4 or 5 thatched-roof huts, a design laid out in the dirt with stones, and not much else. Kachiau (kah-CHOW) (Google Maps link).

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There are a couple hundred people of all ages waiting for us. Moses, one of my students, has been working on a church plant here for about 4 years, and this is a retreat. We quickly divide the congregation into several groups; I’ll speak to the adults, Will to the teens, and Abbie to the children. Wait. They want to split the children into 2 groups. OK, we can do that. We reorganize and get to work. We fill the three usable classrooms in the main building, and a group of kids goes to one of the huts. Modular classrooms in the African bush.

Will later tells us that he had two different interpreters, one of whom wasn’t paying attention. I would have liked to see that.

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One of the first things a speaker does is audience analysis. It occurs to me that I know virtually nothing about this group of adults. Four or five men, maybe 20 women; they look older, but village life will age you, and with several small children hanging onto a few of the women, I figure they’re younger than they look. They speak a little English, but they’re providing an interpreter, as usual.

I decide to take a risk and begin with a question: “Tell me about yourselves.” Two people, a woman and a man, stand up. Each tells a story about a dream involving demon oppression and the assurance they later received that God was with them. Well. This is a bit difficult. There is such a thing as spiritual warfare, of course, but dreams are a lot more likely to be internally generated than divine revelation, especially if you’re a cessationist like me. J How seriously do I take these stories? And how do I segue from them into the topic Timothy has assigned to me—marriage and family?

I begin by observing that there is only one God, and He is our Creator; He’s stronger than all other gods, because there are no other gods; and He made all other things that people worship. He has loved us and made us His children through Christ’s cross work. And now we have just one responsibility: show everyone we meet how great God is. One way we do that is by our marriages; we can use them to show how much God loves us. From there on to Eph 5, and we have a 45-minute presentation and 20 or so minutes of questions and answers. Their questions indicate good Bible knowledge.

So here we are at what feels like the end of the earth, and there’s a large, fully functioning church, showing the grace of God to everyone in the area.

Awesome.

The kids start games in the three groups, and the parents enjoy watching. There’s some cloud cover early, but it comes and goes (mostly goes), and the day heats up. The team and the Faith kids are working hard.

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Around noon we essentially stop it, breaking for lunch. The church folks have brought their own food, as has the youth group from Faith, and we’ve got those sandwiches. Hand sanitizer all around, and we eat.

When we’re done, before we go, Timothy calls the group together for prayer and dismissal. He announces that the church has a special gift of thanks to give to the team. He calls me forward and presents me with—a string. Attached to a goat. And a sheep.

First I’m chief, and now I have my very own flock? Cool.

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I must confess to a certain ignorance. I’m under the impression that this is a baby goat and its mother; Gabriel tells me on the bus that it’s a sheep and a goat, and the goat is fully grown. OK, I lived on a farm, when I was a kid (pun absolutely intended), but the only animals we had were beef and a dog.

We say thank you, have a word of prayer, and climb on the bus, animals and all, for the long drive back to Wa. I ask Timothy, “What happens if the goat needs to poop on the bus?” Timothy replies casually, “He poops on the bus.” Well, that’s certainly matter-of-fact. The goat spends the trip lying at Joy’s feet, and the sheep is tied up front. The bus is c-r-o-w-d-e-d.

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The Africans sing again all the way home. It’s a joy.

“Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart, in my heart …. “

“Little is much when God is in it; labor not for wealth or fame;

There’s a crown, and you can win it, if you go in Jesus’ name.”

It’s about 2, and we have the rest of the day free. We’re dog-tired, and several of us take a nap. There’s another volleyball game at 4, and they want to be ready for that. 🙂

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While that’s going on, Mama J shows up with two pretty exciting things: 1) three pizzas, complete with sausage and beef, ready to go in the oven (we’ve been planning this for a while); and 2) the tailor with the girls’ dresses. All the girls try them on, and they like them a lot. (Well, one of ‘em has to do some alterations, but she’s up to it.) They’re planning to wear them to church tomorrow.

The volleyball players finally come back in time to get some pizza. Since the power is still out (!?), we eat it all. No fridge.

After supper Catherine has promised a violin lesson to the Seidus’ son Jesse, and he comes by for it. A few of us join them in the living room to watch. Then devotions, with two of the Seidu boys sitting in. The team is full of appreciation for what God has done with them, in them, and through them so far. They’re tired, but they see that God can use tired people too. We plan for tomorrow’s services: 4 guys ready to preach in village churches in the morning, plus teach a Sunday school lesson if asked to. I’ll preach at Faith, and Timothy asks that the girls have special music ready. They plan for “Complete in Thee,” a song that all three of my Africa teams have done.

Along about this time I notice the dining room fan, which is on the 220 circuit, turning. I let out a whoop, and everybody looks as though Dr. O. has just lost his mind. I point, they look, and a cheer breaks out just in time for Timothy, who’s coming the front door, to hear it. He found somebody on a Saturday evening, met him in town, and got the power turned back on. Bless his heart.

I send the laptop up to the chapel with several of the kids for some internet time, while the rest of us play Signs and then just sit in the living room and talk.

Long day. Good day. And a good one coming tomorrow.

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Dan Olinger

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

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