Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I wake up at 6:30, feeling rested. The birds are singing, and the light is streaming in the louvered windows that constitute 2 full walls of our bedroom. (3 of the girls in the room next to ours have a similar setup—and since their room is the closest to the chapel, they even get 1 bar from the router, but not enough to sustain actual web access.)

The rest of the crew? still in the arms of Morpheus.

Bible time.

They start stirring about 8. Ivy has brought by some eggs and a loaf of bread, and soon Emily and Michaela are making French toast. GF (gluten free) has eggs.

A note about blog style. First, I’m including a lot of details, because I’ve learned over the years that that’s what parents want. I know this is read by many others, including valued prayer supporters, and I suspect that most of you are not interested in all the details. Skim away. J But when I write, I’m thinking of the parents, who want to know what and how and where their kids are doing. So, details.

Second, the health of individual team members is nobody’s business. So I’ll mention general health issues, in the interest of giving you sense of how things are going, but I won’t give out health information here about individual team members. Thus the reference to “GF” above. I’ve told the parents that I’ll keep them informed of specific issues with their kids; so if they read here that someone has malaria, and they haven’t heard from me, they don’t have to worry. 🙂

Anyway, breakfast is good. We have the rest of the morning free, so I encourage them to steward their time: 1) Email Your Mother!; 2) read your Bible; 3) get ready for VBS this afternoon; 4) do laundry; 5) whatever.

I spend much of the morning getting the finances caught up, organizing the photo storage system, and generally putting things in order. Of course, there’s the ever-present need to keep the whole thing recorded in the blog. My intention, at least while we’re here in Ghana, is to post yesterday’s entry first thing in the morning. Since we’re 4 hours later than EDT, that means you’ll be able to see the entry when you get up.

There’s a little tentative language there, due mainly to the electricity situation. Ghana’s power infrastructure really isn’t sufficient to handle the load that population growth and increasing urbanization bring. Things are worst in Accra, where they’ll go dark for a day or two at a time. Here in Wa we get occasional power failures, but most last less than an hour. So far we’ve never had more than 2 in a day. But when power goes down, the router does too, and that means no internet access. We usually have it, but loss is completely unpredictable.

Lunch is a fish and bean stew, and spaghetti and sauce. Everything’s really tasty, but they’re feeding us way too much. At one point today they come down to the house to get some of their earlier serving dishes, but none are clean because they’re all in the fridge full of several days of leftovers. I tell Ivy again to please cook less stuff. 🙂 We also agree that they won’t prepare any supper tonight or lunch tomorrow; that’ll give us a chance to chip away at what we have.

We’re starting our first VBS today. It will run Tuesday through Friday, from 4 to 6 pm, at the main church. There’s a Christian school there with several hundred students. One really interesting feature: most of the students are from Muslim families. The parents like the strong curriculum and moral teaching; they’re willing to sign a statement that they will support the curriculum, which is thoroughly Christian, and so far it’s worked well.

At any rate, we’re expecting a high turnout because everybody at school knows about it, and it’s on the same property. Timothy drives us in the school bus (he bought it from someplace in Pennsylvania and had it sent over in a container), and we pick up a bunch of kids at several places along the way. When we arrive with a full bus, the courtyard is swarming with kids. Simon and Gabriel, two recent Bible college graduates, are already there. We spend a moment deciding whether we have enough room on site to do this, or whether we need to go down the road a bit to a bigger field. We decide to stay.

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Simon leads the older kids into an assembly room in the school building; Jess, Sarah, Jessica, and I go along. Gabriel and the rest of the team take the smaller kids into the church sanctuary. Jess is slated to tell the story in our group; after Simon leads us all in several songs, Jess tells the story of Job, emphasizing his submission to God’s sovereignty, while Simon interprets for her. I can tell you that speaking through an interpreter is more difficult than it looks, and Jess does very well. I get up and ask the kids some comprehension questions afterward, and they seem to have gotten it. Nice work. Meanwhile, Jessica has been telling the younger children the story of Jesus calming the storm, with Gabriel interpreting. They tell me that went well too.

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That’s the first half of the time; now it’s time for games. There’s essentially a vacant lot next to the church, to which we relocate. Previous Africa teams have learned to form up game teams efficiently by having the boys and the girls stand in separate lines, shortest to tallest, and then counting them off by however many teams we want. That’s a simple way to keep the teams reasonably even. We form the older kids into 2 teams for football, hand them a ball, and they’re good for the rest of the afternoon. (At one point there are 2 balls in the game, and that just makes it more fun.) The younger kids move away a bit and play other games under Gershon’s supervision, with help from the other team members as needed.

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As the kids begin playing, I notice another American standing around, so we get to talking. Allen is from Kansas City, a youth pastor with a Pentecostal Holiness background. He came to Africa on a mission trip some time ago and fell in love with the place (well, duh), and when a friend was coming over to take care of some business with an NGO for a few days, Allen came along. He was nearby, waiting for his friend to get out of a meeting, when the kids invited him to VBS. We spend the game time swapping stories and laughing with the kids. He’s leaving Thursday, but I think he’ll be back tomorrow night. It’s a refreshing conversation. Oh, and the kids really like his pink Mohawk. They don’t show all that much interest in my – oh, never mind.

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At 6 we send all the kids home, and the ones who came on the bus ride back with us. It was a good start; we had, I estimate, between 150 and 200 kids today, and these things tend to get bigger every day.

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Back at the house, the whole team is chattering while we heat up some leftovers for supper. This is one of my favorite parts of team life. You tell them in general what they’ll be doing, and they make plans. And then you throw them into the deep end of the pool, and they find out that, by God’s grace, they really can swim. This is one of those things that stories can’t recreate; they have to experience it to understand it.

Something else they learn is the beauty of different parts of the body of Christ working together. I ask them, “Could you have done this without Simon and Gabriel?” Of course not. I drive home what is a major philosophical point with me: we are not the wise American here to help the needy Africans. The African believers, frankly, do not need our help. We don’t know anything that they need to know. They know what they’re doing. We can help, I suppose, by drawing a crowd—nasalas are not a common sight here in Wa—but we have much more to learn from our African brothers and sisters than they do from us. We are privileged to labor beside them in ministry.

After dishes are washed, we gather for devotions and share more of what they’ve learned. I tell them they’ve had a great start. They’ll need to build their skills throughout this week in preparation for the much more challenging work of taking VBS out to the villages, where fewer people speak English and where the environment is generally more challenging. But for now, well done.

After devos pretty much everybody heads to the chapel for internet access, while a couple of the girls stay at the house to do laundry. Did I mention that you sweat all the time here?

I go to bed. They stay up. I have no idea what they do. I’ll find out in the morning.

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Dan Olinger

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

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