Monday, June 24, 2013

We wake up in 3 different places, all of them comfortable. Well, except that it’s winter now, and it’s just so cold all the time. Well, you folks from Winnipeg may not think so, but it’s in the 40s (actually, the locals would never say that, because they use Celsius), and hardly anybody heats their houses here, because the electricity is so blasted expensive—about twice as much as in the US. Occasionally they’ll use little propane space heaters to take the edge off a room that’s in use, but in general Capetonians just put on an extra sweater (they call them jerseys) and keep a stiff upper lip. Our recent memory of sweating constantly and profusely in Ghana has our brains all sorely confused. So we put on layers of clothes—I have on a sweatshirt and 3 heavy shirts right now, and I’m still happy for the heat of the laptop. Getting up in the morning and walking on the cold tile floors is one of the biggest challenges of the day.

We grab breakfast—cold cereal—as we want it in the kitchen, and the folks from the other houses get here about 8:45. Joslyn, Heather, and Ellie are staying with the Elmers; Joy, Katie, Angel, and Keri are at the Grahams’. That leaves the guys, Catherine, and Auria here with the Knipes.

We load up 3 vehicles—2 rentals, piloted by me and Joy, and Bill’s larger van—and head for Eindhoven Primary School in Delft, where Tony’s church has advertised for a VBS. We get there almost an hour before it’s scheduled to start at 10, and we canvass the neighborhood spreading the word. Delft is a lower-income Coloured neighborhood, with very small concrete-block homes surrounded by often makeshift fencing, barbed wire, barking dogs, and other security features. But everyone we see is very friendly, and they promise to send their kids.

At 10 there are only about a dozen kids there, but within a few minutes we’re bustin’ at the seams with about 150. After some initial casual Frisbee-throwing while the kids arrive, we start with singing and a Bible lesson. The team has designed the 3 days around the theme of soldiers, and today is Joshua and Jericho, complete with the old spiritual. Heather tells the story, and Jon teaches the songs. We find that we’re teaching several of the songs we learned in Ghana; the kids seem to like them, and a couple of them are about soldiers, so they fit right in with the theme. The room is hard, with a lot of echo, but we find that the kids understand and interact. Our kids note how much easier it is when there’s not a language barrier.

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The second hour is games. We divide the kids into older and younger, boys and girls. The 2 older groups go outside in the parking lot for Steal the Bacon and other games, while the little ones use the atrium inside. It’s cold and windy, and it rains some, but we manage to work the games around the breaks in the precip.


After games we split them up into groups of about 14 for each team member and do some follow-up on the Bible lesson.

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The Coloured children are beautiful. Those of mixed race, who are the majority, have dark curly hair and café-au-lait skin. Many of them reflect an Afrikaaner background in their light-colored eyes—blue, gray, green, gold—that are just striking.

After a quick lunch we head to Immanuel in Beverley Park, a neighborhood of Eersteriviere. It’s a little more upscale neighborhood than Delft, but still struggling. This is a much smaller group, only about a dozen children, we suppose because of the rain. We meet in the church sanctuary, having moved the plastic chairs out of the way for the games.

It’s good to see Kevin again. He’s 7 years older than when I last saw him, but then again, so am I. He has matured, is comfortable in the ministry. He’s just returned from the States—Greenville, in fact. Someone paid for him and his wife Lydia to attend the Whetstone Conference at Mount Calvary Baptist Church. That was a good investment.

The children get a lot of attention, and the lesson and games go well. All the children promise to invite their friends for tomorrow. I think they will.

Susan Knipe—if you look up the word aplomb in the dictionary, there’s a picture of her—has supper ready soon after we arrive back at the house, and we enjoy eating together in the large braai room, which used to be a courtyard in the middle of the house and is large enough to contain us all easily. A few young men from the Eindhoven church have been eating dinner with us and doing a little hanging out for fellowship. It’s a good fit.

Some of the girls want to buy some clothes for the colder weather (I warned ‘em, honest!), and I’m planning to take them to Tyger Valley Mall, which was the biggest thing in town when I first came here back in 2000. Susan suggests we go instead to a newer mall, Century City, just down the N-1 toward the city. (“N” highways are “National,” what we’d call interstates. “R” highways are “Regional,” more like our US highways. “M” roads are “Metro” and would be smaller and slower than the others. N-1 is the major national highway.) We pile into the vans and head out for an evening of adventure. Everybody goes.

When we drive up, we think we’re looking at Disney World, or maybe Las Vegas. The mall is huge, with large parking decks, high-rise apartment buildings, a “Canal Walk” that looks like a piece of Venice, and brilliantly colored lights everywhere. We park in one of the brightly lit decks and head inside. The inside is what you’d expect from the description of the outside. Three floors of parallel hallways filled with stores. Tile floors, with a ceiling that looks like the Sistine Chapel with skylights. I suggest that it’s over the top. (Heh, heh.) The girls immediately get to work, and we guys suggest that we might just be in the way and wander off.

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So the girls shop, and the guys go to the food court, even though we just had supper. The food court is 3 floors of brightly lit restaurants, from the fancy to the fast. We stop at a gelato bar and enjoy the product; then we just stand on balconies and marvel at the architecture, the marketing, the hugeness and brightness of it all. We wander out on the Canal Walk, which even in the dark is impressive. When we meet up with the girls at the end of the night, we show them the gelato bar and the Canal Walk, just because we think they’ll like them.


This, too, is Africa—modern, prosperous, growing, progressive. The continent is perhaps the most misunderstood and stereotyped on the planet. It has no indigenous tigers and very few jungles. Yes, there are mud huts, but there is also Century City. Sure, Cape Town is exceptional, but Nairobi is not all that different, and there is character available to bring that kind of growth to much of the rest of Africa. As I see it, the greatest need is spiritual, a change of heart that will chase away the corruption and the entitlement mentality and the cultural resistance to planning. If that change ever comes, Africa’s potential is limitless. And for some people, it’s been a long wait.

Well. That was an educational night. Back to our hosts and to bed.

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Dan Olinger

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

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