Thursday, June 27, 2013

Today is a rare day to start slowly. We sleep until we wake up, which for most of us isn’t that late. Joy, Keri and I make a run to Limnos Bakery, which has some of the best pastries ever, to get an assortment of things for breakfast. (Here’s to you, Carl Abrams.) We pick up 14 nummies of various kinds and head back to the girls’ house, where they are consumed in minutes. A good way to start the day.

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We’ve planned to drive to Genadendal, which claims to be the first mission station in Africa. It’s 2 hours each way, but we’re going to take our time getting started, so we don’t go by the Knipes’ house until 10:30 or so. We load up the 3 vehicles and head inland, or east.

Not far inland we take a little side trip south to the Strand, or the beach at the north end of False Bay, on the east side of the Cape. We park on the main drag and run out onto the beach, many of the kids shedding their shoes, rolling up their pants, and running for the water. I’m reminded of something a Capetonian told me when I first came here in 2000: “It’s easy to spot the tourists in Cape Town; they’re the ones running into the water.” It stays pretty cold here year round, especially on the west side, but here in False Bay it’s certainly cold in winter.

We toss a Frisbee, take some pictures, and generally kick sand around for half an hour or so.

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We stop at a mall to get some lunch; we decide to eat at a Wimpy’s, which is a hamburger joint named for a cartoon character in the old Popeye series. It’s all good, but the locals seem to like their fries limp, pale, and unsalted, which is a bit of a challenge to our American palates. And, of course, they call ‘em chips.

When you leave Cape Town going east, pretty quickly you cross a mountain range, very reminiscent to me of southern New Mexico, or the foothills of the Rockies. We switchback up the mountain, and with each rise the view back toward Cape Town gets better and better. Eventually we crest the pass and head down the other side, into a rolling plain reminiscent of the Great Plains, only not so big, or, um, Great. Although it’s winter, we’re surrounded by surprisingly lush green pastures, hosting herds of sheep. The sun is shining, it’s much warmer than it’s been lately, and the day is just gorgeous.

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Around 2 we arrive at Genadendal, a village nestled in a valley surrounded by rocky mountains. It was settled by Moravians in 1738—think Old Salem, NC—and, as I noted earlier, is said to be the first mission station in Africa. A key pioneer was Georg Schmidt, who ministered there for about 7 years in a somewhat controversial tenure. (It’s complicated.)

We meet Isaac Balie, a native of the town, former principal of the elementary school, and something of a town historian, who runs the museum. His daughter Judith graduated from BJU and was my student a few summers ago. He shows us around and tells a lot of stories about the history of the place. He also gives us all a package of honey bush tea, a special Genadendal product. We have time to take a quick hike up the hill behind the site, where the view of the entire valley is spectacular. Looking further up the sunlit hillside reminds us of “The Sound of Music,” without the snow-capped peaks.

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We leave about 5 for the 2-hour drive home. Sundown comes early here these days, and much of the drive is in the dark. We arrive back at the Knipes’ a little after 7, where Susan has prepared a supper of pasta, salad, bread, and dessert. Seems almost like we never left. 🙂

After supper we have a devotional time with singing, testimonies, and a challenge by Bill on finding the will of God. One of the benefits of bringing teams to the field is letting them hear from missionaries in action; the practical theology that comes from that is difficult to replicate in the classroom.

It’s almost 10 when we get back to Keurboom. There’s a little hanging around, but many of the team starts to shut down for the night pretty quickly.

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Dan Olinger

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

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