Thursday, May 30, 2013

Editor’s note: Now that the Tanzania squad has left Wa, Joy, the leader of the Cameroon squad, will be writing the Ghana entries for the week her squad remains there. Then she’ll be writing the Cameroon entries. We’re mildly uncertain of the reliability of computer hardware for her, so there may be some hiatuses. Thanks for your patience.

Empty chairs at empty tables

Mission teams come and go, leaving behind new friends, church planters, missionaries, and fellow Christians. There’s a spiritual and emotional high that comes with being part of a large group serving the Lord in new and exciting places. But the day always comes for goodbyes. The team normally returns to the comforts of home with new stories and photos of friends. But we’ve been left behind. We continue the work when others leave for fresh fields. There are empty chairs at empty tables, rooms lacking laughter, Uno cards lying idle, laundry needing to be done, and fewer faces to smile at. While our perseverance is short lived in the grand scheme of God’s work here in Ghana, we have a taste of post-mission-team mission work: smiling memories of departed friends, frantic searches for game equipment that left with the group, and exclamations of “I wish…”

As the call to prayer, humming of diesel engines, and bleating of livestock echo through Wa, I’m reminded that harvest is truly plenteous, and we’re here to labor in it. While God has opened the door for most of the team to labor in Tanzanian fields, we have set our hands to plow Ghanaian soil, and we’re not turning back. However, we were facing a decrease in workforce and the guarantee of over a hundred kids (the real number bounced around 150 depending on whether you count the babies tied to the backs of their sisters as participants). To step in the gap, two of the teenage boys, Amos and Josiah (Simon’s younger brother) from Faith joined our remnant. Without the block class to worry about, we embraced the timeless culture that typifies most of Africa. Clocks are so overrated. They just stress you out about what you have to do rather then let you enjoy where you are. Now, I’m sure several of my readers who have run a VBS in the States are wondering how any semblance of order could be achieved without precise time slots for each activity. The key is flexibility in the game time. You see, as Robert was teaching the older kids the lesson on the Philippian jailer, Elly was masterfully leading the small tykes in energy-burning games. Games can stretch out as long as songs, questions, and stories last. When the older kids come marching out as soldiers in the Lord’s army, the little kids’ game time is over. The reverse is just as true. (I’ll name drop here to appease the parents and clarify the concept for the overly time-centered.) When Auria and Elly finish song time with the little kids, Jordan tells the story. More songs followed by the grand march to field to join the older kids that Joy and Heather had been leading in game time. So as you can now see there’s no need to ¬†wear a watch.

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Embracing the Ghanaian time schedules stretched the VBS out for an extra 45 minutes and helped to break down barriers between the team and our Ghanaian counterparts. On the bus ride back, we burst into song and even learned a new Waali song. (I believe we will be tested over it tomorrow, so we’ve been practicing in the team house.) We finished the ride with learning some direction commands that should help during game time tomorrow. Back at the house Mama J had prepared another delicious meal of fried chicken, deviled eggs, and a Mexican-tasting rice. Yeah, we might like not having to share Mama J’s cooking with eight other people.

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Dan Olinger

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

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