Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day two of the 3-day Bible clubs. Since we won’t need to canvass today, we can leave a little later, and that means a little extra sleep. When we arrive, about 20 kids are standing outside the locked building. That’s a good sign. But it’s a cold, rainy, windy day—at times the rain beating on the metal roof virtually drowns out all speech—and that suppresses the crowd significantly, to about 50. But that’s actually an improvement; the kids who come are the ones who really want to be here, and we have a much higher leader-to-child ratio, with more opportunity for close interaction.

The story today is Gideon, and we have a song for him too. But the environment is just terrible. The school staff is cleaning with a large commercial vacuum cleaner, and the noise dominates the hall, which, as I’ve mentioned, is hard and echoic. Saying anything to the group is all but impossible. And then, when it rains, God Himself seems not to want us to be heard.

Since the school staff is there doing the cleaning, we ask if we can use a classroom that won’t get in their way. They take us to a modular classroom outside, which is perfect. We bring the older kids in for a story while the younger kids play, and then we switch the groups. Works like a charm. Once again the team adapts on the fly. We also have a much more aggressive and pronounced gospel presentation today, having realized that this crowd is almost certainly virtually completely unsaved. As is common, some are interested, and some aren’t. We focus on those who are, while trying to minimize the distractions that the others can cause.

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We send the kids home with a bag of CheetoTM lookalikes, with the promise that they’ll bring their friends tomorrow. Then back to the Knipes’ for a quick lunch before the 2 pm VBS at Immanuel. Sure enough, there are kids there when we arrive, and we have about double yesterday’s crowd, about the right size for this sanctuary, and low enough to give each child a good amount of attention. We’re hoping that the rain will subside tomorrow and give us a chance to get the numbers up, but we’re also quite happy with the kids who have come.

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On the way back I stop by a shopping center so a few kids can pick up some things. In preparation for tomorrow’s move to the guest houses, and our consequent responsibility for our own meals, I wander through the 2 grocery stores in the complex and note that there’s a good variety—perhaps better than in the States—and that the prices are lower than I expect, significantly lower than in the States. Well, good. That’ll help the budget.

Tacos for supper, and then Bill and his older kids lead us downtown to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. It’s quite a production, bigger even than Century City, the mall we visited last night. It’s a remarkable development at the heart of the city, designed to draw tourism and to provide an enjoyable night out for the locals. Lots of shops, restaurants, and beautiful spaces, and even a huge Ferris wheel, not as big as the London Eye, but not all that much smaller either. (It’s closed on Tuesdays.) We split up in the shopping area, and most of us eventually find our way out on a pier leading to the breakwater. We stand in the dark, a few feet from where the surf is breaking, and enjoy the smell of the sea air and the beauty of the power of the sea. Then back to the tourist area, where we meet up with a few more of our group. I’ve developed a hankering for some raw oysters, so I ask if anybody wants to share a platter with me. Jordan volunteers. I ask him if he likes them, and he says he doesn’t know, because he’s never had them. Well, son, come with me.

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We step into the restaurant at the Cape Union Mart, which is considerably more upscale than it was back in 2000, when my family ate fish and chips out on the dock there and enjoyed tossing chips (French fries) into the air for the seagulls to catch. Now it’s a hoity-toity place with a chef instead of a cook.

We get seated directly in front of the fireplace, which is fine with me. I tell the waiter, Gabriel, that we just want to split a platter of raw oysters and a bottle of sparkling water. Often in a place like this the quality of the service declines when they learn that you’re not ordering much (especially if you’re not ordering alcohol). But Gabriel is a classy guy, apparently, because he treats us like a table of 12 ordering the whole store. Eventually our 8 little oyster buddies arrive, and I show Jordan how to douse ‘em with the options—in this case lemon juice, fresh herbs, TabascoTM, and a salsa made of pickled shallots—and separate ‘em from the shell, and then toss ‘em down. Delicious. We aren’t hungry—we just had supper—but the 8 are just right. Here’s to you, guys.

Raw oysters on linen tablecloths, served by a waiter named Gabriel in a fancy restaurant that’s part of a jewel of a waterfront development in one of the world’s most beautiful modern cities. This, too, is Africa.

We’re just in time to meet the rest of the crew at the appointed time and place, get the vehicles out of the parking garage, and head home. As we gather for devotions before heading for our respective homes, I can tell that the crew is tired, some from ministry effort, some from the culture shock of moving from Tanzania and Cameroon, respectively, to this modern city that defies all their expectations. It’s a lot to process.

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Dan Olinger

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

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