Tuesday, May 28, 2013

If I remember correctly, I think this would be my parents’ 66th wedding anniversary, if they were still with us.

Because of the late night last night, and because there’s nothing scheduled this morning, I had proclaimed this a sleep-in day. Everyone obliges. I wander out at 8 something, and the place is quiet. Time for a nice shower—it’s so cool this morning that the cold shower feels, well, cold, uncomfortably so. When I’m done, there’s still nobody up.

The power is out. I run into Simon outside, who tells me it’s city-wide, not just at the house or on the compound. I find that oddly comforting; maybe the city has taken the system down to deal with the wild voltage instability. It’s really been crazy the last few days; I’ve never seen anything like it. You can see the lights brightening and dimming as much as 20 to 30 times a minute; the voltage regulator that filters the power to the refrigerator is constantly clicking as it adjusts to the changes. The ceiling fans will cycle down, then go to turboprop so we think they’re going to lift the ceiling. My laptop power indicator flashes back and forth between “plugged in” and “battery” at the same rate as the lights’ dimming cycles. It’s plugged into a 110V circuit, and like all laptops it will handle 220V as well; I figure the spikes in the 110V aren’t exceeding 220V, so maybe the thing will survive.

Morning study time. Eventually people start appearing, but oddly, none of the guys. I say “oddly,” because two or three of them had said last night that they’d come down to fix themselves some breakfast. Around 10 Matthew comes by to report that the boys are locked in their house. They’ve made a practice of padlocking the porch entrance for security—not that we really think they need to—and the padlock key is nowhere to be found. (They don’t need to use it to lock up at night.) I saw it yesterday afternoon while doing some laundry there; they check all over where I saw it last, but no key. I have a rack of keys in my room, and the keyway in the padlock is quite distinctive, but none of my keys matches. Well, I guess we’ll just wait until Mama J shows up with the spare. They have a bathroom, and water, and we can always take ‘em some food and pass it through the bars of their cage. Come to think of it, this might be the ideal habitat for them. 🙂

Less than an hour later they’ve been freed.

And then the power comes back. Two nice things in the space of a few minutes. But the irregular voltage is still there.

The church where Will preach on Sunday gave him 3 or 4 yams in appreciation. You may know that what American southerners sometimes call yams—sweet potatoes—aren’t. Yams are big—you see them in the markets here more than 2 feet long and maybe 4 inches in diameter—and the insides are white, like a potato. The girls decide to make fries out of them: salt, garlic salt, pepper, and broiled in the oven. They’re the hit at lunch. Simon comes by at 1 to say goodbye to the 8 of us who are leaving. He tells us how much he’s enjoyed the fellowship, and he gives each of the guys a pair of sandals and each of the girls a bracelet. We have prayer together.

It’s poignant.

The kids head off to VBS, and Timothy and I sit down to zero out the books for our stay in Ghana. The numbers come out good; we’ve spent less than I budgeted—and I make sure he has enough of our money to pay the bills for the week after TZ leaves, while the Cameroon squad is still here. We even kick in for half a month of internet access. The students at the college combine their funds to pay for the wireless access in the classroom / chapel, and since we’ve been using it for a month or so, it seems right to split that month with them.

A bit of rest before class, and then it’s time for the final night of instruction. I begin by collecting the papers; one student doesn’t have his done, and I give him until tomorrow at noon, with a late penalty, of course. Then we wrap up the course content with some discussion of church discipline and some membership issues: I tell them I’d like to know about marriage customs in Ghana, and about polygamy. In the former case, there are, as I suspected, multiple marriage ceremonies here: a traditional / tribal ceremony, a civil one, and a religious one. I ask which one makes the couple actually married; they say the traditional one. The civil one merely registers the marriage in the official records, and the religious one is simply a public testimony that the couple wants to have a Christian home. I ask, “The way baptism is a public profession of conversion?” They laugh, as though they hadn’t thought of it that way before, and they agree. So there’s no confusion in Ghana about when the couple can actually consider themselves married. That helps. In some African countries there’s more uncertainly, and of course Christian sexual mores make a clear answer to the question pretty important.

On polygamy, I ask what they think a polygamist should do when he becomes a Christian. To my surprise, they agree with me that he should keep all his wives and maintain marital relations with them, since he has made covenant commitments to each one. Turns out to be less controversial than I expected.

Timothy has said that we should end the class after the second hour so we can have a little end-of-class party. The team shows up, Mama J brings grilled sandwiches, several people show up with Cokes, Sprites, and Maltas (a non-alcoholic malt soda). Since most of the students seem to prefer the Malta, I try one. Taste is a little odd, not unpleasant, but not something I’d go out of my way to get. And no, not like beer. J

We close the class with prayer, and the students and the team members hang around fellowshipping for at least an hour. I head back to the house to get going on grading the papers. They’re extremely well written (stylistically), but they don’t seem to be focused on the questions I’ve asked them to answer. That’s usually an indicator of something …. And then I find two papers that are virtually identical. Yup. Most of them have copied paragraphs of this and that from books in the library or off the internet. I’m going to need to talk with Timothy about how much instruction the students have received on proper citation of sources. That will determine the type of academic penalty I assess. In the US, of course, it’s a zero on the paper. But teaching is all about holding students accountable for their instruction, and if they haven’t been instructed on this, I can hardly beat them over the head with a shovel. Cross-cultural, and all that.

Eventually the kids come back, and we close out the night with devotions. We’re all tired, and I head off to bed shortly after, but of course they stay up. They’re well aware that these are our last days all together as a team—Abbie is spending the two weeks we’re in Cape Town with relatives in Johannesburg—and they’re treasuring every moment. That’s a good sign.

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Dan Olinger

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

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