Monday, 6/2/14

Turns out that slow start today is a good idea. Everybody feels pretty well recovered from yesterday’s exertions and ready to start the new challenge, the primary reason we’re here, which is tutoring the children. It’s a good idea to start slowly, with just the afternoon session.

A few of us need to make a quick trip into town today. One of the team had her ATM card taken by the bank Saturday while trying to make a withdrawal for souvenir shopping. Apparently she was a little slow in responding, and, and as Barney Fife would say, “Ker-flooey.” Now that it’s a business day, we’ll take her and her passport downtown and get her card back. And one of the team reported some tooth pain Friday night (doesn’t that always happen just after the close of business Friday?), so we’ll take her to the missionaries’ dentist in Mwanza to find out what’s going on.

We hire a taxi so Beth doesn’t have to drive us. He drops me and The Tooth off at the dentist, and Karen and The Card walk across the street to the bank. It takes a while at the dentist—they take X-rays, then have to take them again, and there’s time to wait for development in both cases—but the news is good, and the treatment should be simple. The Tooth says that the pain quit yesterday anyway, so it’s all good. (By the way, if you haven’t been notified, it’s not your kid.) The dental practice is clean and effective; it’s run out of the UK.

A word about medical issues. The blog is public, and our health is nobody’s business, so I won’t say much about it. I will certainly not identify specific team members with specific ailments. The parents know that I will notify them of anything significant.

The Card returns from the bank with plastic in hand before we’re finished at the dentist, so they go over to the Gold Crest Hotel lobby to wait for us. We show up a while later, just as a gigantic dish of—ICE CREAM!—arrives at the table. The girls share it; I’m happy with a club soda. The bandwidth allows me to get the blog updated, and in the process I learn of the passing of the baby daughter of a friend and colleague. This is tough news—we heard about the accident two days ago and have been praying—and it’s frustrating to be so far from home at a time like this.

I suspect I’m taking Romans 11.29 a bit out of context to apply it here. Little Catherine was God’s gift to her parents, and while she is absent from them now, she is still God’s gift to them and always will be. He doesn’t give gifts and then take them back. She lives. But our hearts are steeled to pray for them. I can’t imagine a deeper grief.

Another taxi back to Shadi. Lunch is already in progress on Dan & Jana’s porch, and we join in, in preparation for the afternoon’s tutoring session and activities to follow. I don’t share the news yet; we’ll address it tonight, when we can pray together.

Session at 3; I walk around to all the sites, and things appear to be going well. Most of the students in one class have forgotten to bring their school work that shows what they need to accomplish over the break, and they have to go back and get them. Karen and Rachelle escort them back to their houses to get the papers—they’ll take the opportunity to waste away the hour if they get the chance. (Not all of the kids are like that, but these 3 are.)

Generally positive reports when the kids come into the girls’ house after the session. That’s good. A positive start helps a lot down the road. We move immediately into game time, a feature we’ll have every weekday at 4. Everybody has contributed game ideas, so we have plenty of options for the month. Today’s menu selection is “The Cat in the Hat.” It take almost half an hour to gather enough chairs and to explain the rules, but then they put it in gear and really enjoy themselves. The 3 Sarahs, Matt, and Lois keep an eye on the 5 little ones off to the side at various times. We have to keep a close eye on the children for cheating; it’s something we try to address whenever we see it.

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Remember that lots of the team bought fabric to turn into shirts, skirts, or dresses? Well the tailors are scheduled to show up today, but the time was a bit in question, and we were hoping that wouldn’t happen in the middle of something. Well, the arrival is right after game time—perfect. Everybody involved queues up to get measured. They have to select a pattern as well, so that takes a while. As they finish, they come up to the big house for supper—ugali and sangara, a fish from the lake. It’s about 3 inches tall and 1-2 inches thick, sliced across the spine, like swordfish, and served with the ubiquitous red sauce. I think it’s delicious; but of course some people are not fish people. 🙂 About 5 of the team don’t get done with the tailors in time for dinner, and they make some popcorn later to stave off The Reaper.

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House devotions is a new cycle, with my group in the girls’ house. We start into the Ten Commandments again, and the girls seem to be both better informed and more responsive. Surprise, surprise. 🙂 As we finish, we all join up outside and wander back to the big house, admiring the stars on the way.

A word about the night sky here. We’re near enough to Mwanza’s light pollution that we don’t have the crystal-clear kind of sky you’d get out in the bush—or in North Korea—but it’s considerably better than we get in Greenville. On the new moon a few days ago, it was fairly easy to see the Milky Way’s path across the sky. With the moon now in waxing crescent, the Milky Way has disappeared, but the stars are well represented. To slightly west of south is the Southern Cross, a diamond shape that is the most famous constellation in the Southern Hemisphere. We’re just a few degrees south of the Equator here, so while we can see the Big Dipper, it’s upside down, because the two pointer stars are aimed at Polaris, which is below the horizon. I can recall mission trips where I was closer to the Equator and could see both Polaris and the Southern Cross at the same time.

Back at the house, Kaleigh makes the aforementioned popcorn. Last year I bought some at the local market, and it didn’t pop worth beans, so to speak, so this year I brought a big ol’ bag from home. We have our devotional time, with some testimonies from the day’s tutoring session, some singing, another thought from Ephesians 1 (adoption this time), and prayer. Tomorrow starts the long slog, with the rest of our weekdays here pretty much the same, and the adrenaline back to normal levels. We’ll need God’s grace to give our best to the children every day.

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Dan Olinger

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

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