Friday, 6/6/14

Rooster. Birds. Dogs. Another morning in paradise.

As we gather in the big house before the first tutoring session, I ask if anybody could use a hand. Asher says he expects a challenge from his first group this morning, so I join him for the walk across the compound to one of the 2 classrooms in the Bible college. There are 4 standard 3 students, and the 6 of us sit around a small table, in what may be some of the most comfortable chairs in the whole place, and we talk about birds: distinguishing characteristics, life cycle, outstanding examples. We have some calendars with great pictures, so we flip through them and talk about doves, finches, jays, bluebirds. The children do great until about 45 minutes in, and then they visibly reach the end of their ability to focus. They’re done. So we all walk back across the compound for chai.

During chai, Kaleigh asks if I’d accompany her next class; they’re planning a walk to look for animals of various kinds, and she suspects, with good reason, that one of her students will be a runner. She’s right. 🙂 We amble around the place, spotting and taking photos of all the animals we see. The nice thing about this exercise here at Tumaini is that you’re guaranteed a good representation: there are domesticated pigs and chickens down toward the lake, and a cow and goats in the front field, so there are your mammals and birds right there. Then you’ll certainly see dragonflies and lizards, so there are your insects and reptiles. As a bonus, one of the boys saw a frog last night during the water delivery, so we add the amphibian. The only thing missing is a fish, and since we eat fish, including whole fish, routinely, we’ve pretty much got that covered as well. We return to our class location in the big house and flip through the pictures, writing each animal in its proper category on a whiteboard. “Does it have feathers? Does it have hair? Does it have scales?” It goes quite well. I’m in one of the photos, and we have trouble deciding what Dr. Dan is, because he doesn’t have hair. We close by letting the kids draw and color their favorite animal. They all choose the snake, I suppose because it’s the easiest to draw.

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Lunch is on the Gasses’ porch today; Laura has prepared a stack of tostadas—these are basically chapati that are baked, not pan-fried—and lots of stuff to put on them, kinda like the Stacky-Uppies the other day. They’re delicious, and since everyone is here—all the team members, all the missionaries, all the volunteers—it’s a lively conversation.

I sleep through the 3:00 tutoring session—first real nap since I got here—but the kids don’t report any problems. During game time at 4, Lois says she has a story for me out in the kibanda. When I join her there, she calls one of her boys over and says, “Tell him what you told me. Why don’t you like history?” “Because they lie to us.” “Really?!” I say. “How do they lie to you?” “They say we came from monkeys.” I love what I’m hearing. “You didn’t come from a monkey, did you?” “No.” “Where did you come from?” “God made me.” “And that makes you special, doesn’t it? You’re not an animal; God made you to be like him.” “Yes.”

I have difficulty putting into words the powerful effect this conversation has on me. Knowing the racism of early evolutionary thinking, and the routine assumption that the alleged simian characteristics of Africans were evidence of their lower position on the evolutionary tree, I love that the Scripture has infected this boy’s thinking, so that he understands that he is in fact a special creation of God, in His image and for His glory. He is one of millions of God’s chosen people, a throng God is gathering to Himself, for the praise of His glory, from every kingdom, tongue, tribe, and nation. That is human dignity, and that is a reason to live. The humanistic worldview leaves place for no such dignity.

In the meantime the games are going on. They’re trying Four Corners, a game in which players are eliminated in each round until there’s finally a winner. These kids, however, don’t leave when they’re eliminated; they just keep playing. Enforcing the eliminations is pretty unwieldy, so we eventually turn to that old standby, football. The children know the rules and love the game, and they enforce the rules on one another, so it’s a great contest. I notice that the keeper at the end nearest me is really good. The keepers wear sandals on their hands—I guess to identify the keepers in a tight play—and he’s making save after save. What’s so cool about that? We’ll, he’s in standard 3, and he’s about 4 feet tall. He and I have been hanging out quite a bit the last few days; I had no idea he was such an athlete.

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The early evening routine proceeds—games at 4, one-on-one reading at 5, supper at 6, house devotions at 7, team devotions at 8. As my group is walking back from house devotions, we hear the town crier on the street outside the compound; Shangazi has told us about him. He blows a special whistle and then makes announcements. He’s speaking Swahili, so we have no idea what he’s saying; but we hear the word maji (water), and someone thinks he hears the word for “morning.” Maybe there will be city water service in the morning! Ever the cynic, I suggest, “Maybe he’s saying that there won’t be city water service in the morning. Or maybe he’s saying they’ll come in the morning, take our water, and kill us all!” Well, I guess we’ll find out.

After team devotions, we’ve decided to have a movie night, since it’s Friday. Sarah S has “Despicable Me 2” downloaded to her iPad from Amazon Prime. We try to show it on a laptop screen, but that doesn’t work, so we all gather around her iPad to watch it. Out come the ice cream and soda from U-Turn. Ah, America the Beautiful.

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Dan Olinger

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

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