Tuesday, May 26, 2015

We’ve had a couple of kids showing mild nausea and other symptoms of either insufficient hand washing or food contamination (he said, vaguely), but they both feel pretty good this morning. No need to use any of the medications we brought along for the more severe manifestations. Keepin’ it simple.

This afternoon we’ll have our first village VBS, the primary purpose of our trip. The plan is to go into a village where we have a church plant, play with the children who will inevitably come out to see the busload of nasala, and establish good will with the parents and especially the chief, whose favor on the church plant can make the difference between success and failure, in human terms at least. I had asked Timothy to schedule the first one close to us, so I could go along and still get back in time for class at 5. He’s chosen Siriyiri, a village just 10 minutes or so west of downtown Wa. Unfortunately, however, the children have school this week, so we can’t start until 3:30, too late for me to go along. So the team will be on their own this afternoon. I’m confident they’ll do fine. The logistics will be easier in that the numbers will be considerably smaller, and the first game will simply be football, which will attract all the children. (We’ll do the games first in the village version of the VBS.) In some villages the lower proficiency numbers in English will make communication more difficult, and translation pretty much absolutely necessary, but here, close to the city, that will be less of a problem.

So I tell the team to use their morning free time wisely, resting, doing laundry, studying (“Remember during the school year, when you said you didn’t have enough time to do the kind of devotions you wished you could? Well, now you have the time.”), helping up at the Seidus’ house. As it happens, Timothy’s brother John is getting married this Saturday, and there’s a lot of preparation going on. I’m sure the team will be able to be of use in those preparations, and they’ll learn something about the local marriage / wedding customs in the process. So the time need not be wasted.

But the power’s out on this side of the city this morning, so that rules out laundry, which a lot of us were hoping to get some progress on. C’est la vie.

Power comes on just around noon, shortly before lunch arrives. Lunch is a very large pasta casserole; we’ll need a couple of meals to polish that off.  Several kids finally get to their laundry, while others read or work on their journals.

The 2 mildly sick crew members stay home from VBS today, mostly because the toilet facilities in the village are completely unpredictable, and I don’t want a case of diarrhea to get really ugly. The other 6 head out to the bus shortly after 3.

They bring supper very early, around 3:30, because Ivy and the girls need to go to choir practice at church. It’s rice with tomato sauce and banku. I’ll eat after my class is over tonight. The crew will eat when they get back from VBS in Siriyiri. We’ll see what they think of the banku.

I head to class at 4:30. The power’s out. Sheeeeeeesh. I send 3 students to get the generator and set it up. Fully one-third of the class is there by 4:45. I guess this casual approach to timeliness really can be modified if the motivation is right. Two-thirds of the class is there by 5, and the generator is up and running, so we start pretty much on time.

At the first break at 6 the power comes on. Perfect. Under the newly spinning ceiling fan, I check my email during the break to find 3 emails from my wife and 1 from my daughter. Life is good once again. After class I’ll catch up on 3 days of blog postings.

Then power goes out again. For the rest of the evening. We sit in the dark heat, and I lecture by the light of my laptop and an LED bulb plugged into a generator-supplied socket. I realize how much I depend on visual feedback from my students; when the room is dark, I have no sense of how I’m doing or whether they’re getting it.

But we finish about 10 minutes ahead of schedule, and I send them home with a well-deserved break.

My first question for the crew when I get back is how they liked the banku. Um, nah. My second is how the VBS went. They had 100 kids or so, when we expected about 50 max in the village. That’s good. They recognized that the English skills were much lower, and they relied more heavily on the translators. But they feel like the first day was generally a success. I remind them that our primary goal here is not a thorough Bible education; it’s softening the ground for the church plant in this heavily Muslim village. The local church will take care of the heavy lifting of evangelism and discipleship. That’s as it should be.

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It’s dark and hot. We’re tired; 2 of the kids are sound asleep in chairs in the living room, and 1 more is in bed. The 6 of the rest of us sit around the kitchen table in the light of a single flashlight standing on end, pointed at the ceiling. I talk about culture shock, and how the differences, especially the inconveniences, just wear you down. We’re all feeling it tonight.

I call the day off, and we head to bed without devotions.

At 10 the lights come on. Power. I run up to the chapel immediately to get the blog postings out and take care of some time-sensitive email. Make hay while the sun shines. Or doesn’t.

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Dan Olinger

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

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