Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Today is our last day of VBS for the trip. It’s bittersweet. We set off at the usual time (8:30) for our respective locations in Kraaifontein and Guguletu. When my vanload arrives at the Goog, as we call it, there are already 20 to 30 kids waiting outside the gate. Sizwe gets the key from across the street, and we let the kids in. We park the van around back and to the side, so we’ll have the whole back yard for games.

By the end of the session we have over 100 kids, down a little from yesterday but still up from Monday. The kids seem unusually polite today; they call us “Sir” and “Ma’am,” and one girl who accidentally kicks me apologizes immediately. They listen well to the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, especially when Sizwe translates the story into Xhosa. I stand at the back of the room, watching the kids listen to the most important story ever told, and I wish I could see into their heads. For how many is this the first time they’ve heard the gospel presented clearly and accurately? How many are moved by the story of the special Man who didn’t do anything wrong, but they killed Him anyway? In how many is God’s Spirit working in a new way today? I’m thankful that we have such a strong follow-up structure in place; Sizwe and his wife already know the children, and they know him, and as one who grew up here in Guguletu, he will be trusted. This is ideal.

Sizwe asks me to close this last session with prayer, and as I like to do, I pray the Aaronic blessing over them: “Lord, I pray that you would bless them, and keep them; make your face to shine upon them, and be gracious to them; lift up your face upon them, and give them your peace.” For how many will this be their outcome? If the Lord tarries, my life will end before we can know the answer. But there will be an answer.

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As we’re driving back to the house, we get a text from Mrs. Graham. The other group has finished at Kraaifontein and, since the weather is beautiful, have decided on the spur of the moment to drive east toward Stellenbosch, for a scenic view of the vineyards. Now they’ve decided, since they’re so close to Stellenbosch, to go the rest of the way and have lunch at a berry farm that the Grahams really like. We can come if we want.

Oh, let’s think about that. OK.

So we head east on the Stellenbosch Arterial and meet them at the appointed place along the side of the road. Then on to the restaurant in Stellenbosch. The town is a key part of South Africa’s famous Garden Route, a scenic tour of the extensive wine country in that part of South Africa. The vineyards, the surrounding rugged mountains, and the white buildings of the town are all beautiful. We caravan—the Grahams’ van, Joy’s van, and then mine—to the berry farm and park by the restaurant. It’s quaint, with an extensive gift shop at the entrance, filled with jams and jellies and fudge and teas and salad dressing and 8 kinds of vinegar and all sorts of other stuff. Eric asks if we’d prefer outside or inside seating—well, duh—and we get a series of small round cast-iron tables on the stone patio, with a breathtaking view of the farm and the neighboring vineyards stretched out clear up the side of the foothills, to a point where you couldn’t think they could cultivate land at that angle. Even in winter, there’s a lot of green, and today’s bright sun provides a real visual treat.

The menu is astonishing. I see immediately that they have scones, so I order a plateful with all the fixin’s. When they arrive, I give instruction on the proper construction of the South African scone: first butter, then jam (they bring about 20 different flavors in small jars), then clotted cream, then grated cheddar. It sounds awful, but it’s extraordinary. As to the rest of the menu, everything’s fresh and homemade, and the flavor combinations are genius. I order the salmon lasagna with mushroom sauce. (Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.) To my left, Auria gets sweet potato pancakes; Keri gets the risotto; Jordan gets the chicken pot pie; and the list goes on. This is a really extraordinary restaurant. And the meals average about $7.

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On our way out, we empty the gift shop, pretty much. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but the place has a very good day.

Eric suggests we drive a little further to the town of Franschhoek  (yes, that’s 5 consonants in a row, including 2 consecutive h’s), which is a settlement of French Huguenots with quite a history. We don’t have time for the museum, but we do hit the gift shops, including chocolate, gelato, several art galleries, other gift shops, and some street vendors.

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I’ve told them all to be back at the vans by 5 pm, so we don’t cut too close on the prayer meetings in our churches. They’re all on time, and we make it back to the house in about an hour, with time for a change of clothes and even a little rest.

Joy’s van goes to Immanuel in Beverley Park, where Jordan preaches. My van goes to the Delft home of one of the members of Eindhoven Baptist, where we gather for a more intimate prayer meeting, and Will preaches. Since we’re leaving Saturday, the round of good-byes has begun. It’s not easy. These are our brothers, our sisters, our friends, our family.

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Back at the house, Bill Knipe comes with 3 of the 4 college-age guys from Eindhoven, with whom we’ve spent a fair amount of time: Jason, Brandon, and Mornay. (Jason’s brother, Luke, has to work tonight.) They join us for team devotions and a brief meeting to go over the remaining schedule; then we introduce them to the Official Team Game, which as you know is Signs. Actually we haven’t played it in a while, but we get right back into it and play until midnight.

Since some of us are leaving for a hike at 8 am, that may not have been too bright. We’ll see.

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Dan Olinger

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

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