Sunday, June 2, 2013

I wake up at 4, and at first I assume it’s from the time change—it’s 7 am back in Ghana, right? Then I realize that I have it backwards—it’s 1 am back in Ghana. So why am I awake? So back to sleep, and up at 7. That’s great.

Shave and shower. The showers are cold here too. (I later hear that the girls have warm water at the guest house.) I characterized the cold showers in Wa as “refreshing,” right? Well, here, where the weather is 10 degrees cooler, the better word is “stimulating.”

Coffee cake from Beth at the girls’ house at 7:30, and church at 8. Dan told us last night that time is important here; 8 am means 8 am. So don’t show up a minute before that. 🙂

Several of us walk over at 8:05. The building is open, but there are only about 4 people there. Pretty soon the kids start coming over from their homes, and the music leader starts the canned music around 8:15, and we get started.

Women on the left, men on the right. As usual, we split up and sit intermingled with the locals. Everything’s in Swahili, which is why the first thing Dan told us last night is how to greet and respond to greetings. They start with singing, then testimonies, then Bible reading, then more singing. During one hymn I’m delighted to hear one I know; it’s a Swahili song Steve Hafler taught the 2010 team in Zambia as we were leaving for Kenya, so we’d have something to sing in Swahili. It’s actually a Swahili translation of “It Is Well,” to the meter of the standard tune, but the Africans sing it to a different one. Anyway, as the song begins I realize I have just been changed from a spectator to a participant, and it drives home to me the importance of participation in the church, the body of Christ. Spectating is singularly unrewarding; participating changes everything. I’ve never had a clearer experience of that than this morning.

The choir here is more vigorous than those in the churches we worked with in Ghana; they clap and step (it’s not really complicated enough to be called dancing) and sing in a more African style. The preacher of the morning is one of the ministerial students; I have no reason to criticize anything he said. 🙂 They close with the offering, where everybody walks up front and places his offering in the box, with his right hand. (I believe I’ve mentioned before that in Muslim-influenced cultures, the left hand is the dirty hand.)

We’re done shortly after 10 and walk over to the banda (gazebo) in front of the school building for chai. I think that’s going to be tea, but it turns out to be a hot runny gruel, sort of like Ralston, served in a cup, with a hard-boiled egg on the side. Girls from the school bring pitchers of water and soap, pouring the water over our hands while we wash before eating.

Orientation meeting with Dan before lunch; he covers the history and organization of the work of which we’ll be a part, and we talk about motives for being here at all.

Lunch is beans and rice back at the banda with the kids. The plan is that we’ll eat one meal a day with the students and one meal with Dan & Jana and Beth; for breakfast we’re on our own, with plenty of fresh fruit and eggs at the house. The fruit here, by the way, is not like American produce, pretty much all of which is picked green and shipped hard. This is all ripened on the plant, and it’s dark and rich and sweet, the way God intended.

Another meeting after lunch to discuss missions philosophy. It’s clear that Dan and Beth are experienced at hosting teams and at laying out a plan for training them and getting the work done. Beth has promised that we’ll be busy. I think we’re ready.

Beth takes us on a tour of the compound late in the afternoon. Three missionary houses (their partners are away in language studies right now; they’ll join us in a week), several staff houses, an office, the school, the 4 children’s homes (older & younger, boys & girls, about 50 kids in all), the church, the men’s dorm, a football field, lots of playground equipment. And swarms of dragonflies everywhere.

No evening service. Supper on Dan & Jana’s porch, prepared by Beth. Fresh salad! Our first in Africa, made possible by careful washing with water and potassium permanganate. And spaghetti. Very good, and, while I’m philosophically committed to making the team’s experience as African as possible, experienced missionaries know that rice and beans gets old, and sometimes you just need food you know.

When Keri asks if the porch is a “mofreeto-skee zone,” I know she’s not recovered from the trip yet.

Beth asks for 3 volunteers to help with cleanup; she gets 4 immediately. I give her a look that says, “I told you so.” These kids have the kind of great work ethic that a team really needs.

Finally some time in the evening to catch up on the journal for the last few days. We’re using cellular modems here, which are both unreliable—sometimes quite slow—and fairly expensive, so we’re going to have to see how this works. We may not be able to update as frequently, and I suspect we’ll need to cut down on the number of photos. We’ll do the best we can.

As it turns out, we can’t get the modem to work. We’ll need to try another one, but it has no time on it right now. We can pay for some time when we go into town, but that will be several days. The blog’s gonna be a quiet place for the near term.

Tonight is our first team devotions since we left Ghana. Kind of a small group. We miss the rest of us.

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Dan Olinger

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

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