Wednesday, June 3, 2015

So today’s my older sister’s birthday. She’s mmphbzzt years old. Good for you, kid.

As usual, I hit the chapel first thing in the morning to post yesterday’s blog entry. I see an email from Roger and Norene Russ saying that they’re safely home in Grand Rapids. That’s good news.

I get the day’s blog entry and a few photos posted, as well as add a few to previous days. Browse back a couple of days to see them.

Wa has what they call “Market Day” every 6 calendar days. Folks come into town from the surrounding villages, both to sell what produce they have and to buy what they need. It’s a fairly big deal; the churches in the area have had to deal with reduced attendance when Market Day falls on a Sunday. I’ve had teams here for a total of 6 weeks over 2 years, and we’ve never been downtown for a Market Day. As it happens, today, our last full day in Wa, is a Market Day, so we’re going to go downtown and see what it’s like.

Ivy drives by the house at 10, and we all pile into the vehicle. Let’s just say there are more of us than actual seats (and seat belts), but we’re all friends, and it’s only a couple of miles, and this is Africa.

The market is buzzing when we arrive. We’re expecting that there won’t really be anything here that you can’t get any other day, but just more of it. And we’re right. We end up splitting into 2 groups: Gershon is with Emily, Charity, and Michaela, and I’m with the rest. I notice that one end of the market seems to be where most of the vendors from the villages have set up. Produce is spread out on gunny sacks on the ground, stacked up attractively, and the vendors are noticeably more aggressive there. It feels far more “authentic” than the less chaotic main section. I tell my group that since everyone’s selling pretty much the same thing in this section, what distinguishes one vendor from another is the aggressiveness with which they wave their yams, or okra, or tomatoes in your face. It’s quite an experience.

We meander for about an hour before heading home on foot. I want to make a stop at Lamin’s soda stand, not just to get a soda, but to say good-bye and “see you next year.” When we arrive, I buy everyone a drink and then tell her that we’re leaving tomorrow. As we sit in the shade of the large tree with her—remember, you can’t take the bottles with you, so you sit there and drink it—I ask her about how she came from Accra all the way to Wa. She says she’s actually from Nigeria, and her mother tongue is Hausa. I’m immediately reminded of Dr. Dreisbach, who spoke Hausa, and I tell her about him. She moved to Accra with her parents as a child, and then to Wa with her husband. He died several years ago, and she has raised several children here. Her youngest, a son, is graduating from Wa Secondary School in 6 months, and she plans to return to her family in Accra when he does. The realization strikes me like a dagger in the heart. “So you won’t be here next year, when I come back?” No.

That’s sad news. I like the idea of developing some local friendships, independent of the church. There will be one less next time. She asks for  my contact information, which I gladly give her; we get a photo with the team; and I shake her hand for the last time and tell her good-bye in English, and “thank you” in Twi—medasi.

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And we head up the road to home.

Lunch arrives shortly after we return to the house. It’s a large container of fried rice with vegetables, including a good amount of ginger. Plenty for everyone, and we all dive in.

Shortly after lunch one of my students comes to the door to turn in his exam—my first submission, before 2 pm. Good for him. He’s one of this year’s graduates from WABC, and he’s probably still in the practice of academia, doing his homework. We’ll see how many more come in before the end of our final class tonight. The more, the merrier, of course; I need to grade them before I go, if possible, so Timothy can return them to the students with my comments.

As the team is about to leave for the last VBS (back at Diesi), Timothy drops in. He hasn’t decided whether he’s going to Accra with us yet; the governing question is whether the guy who damaged his car when he was picking us up will have the money to pay for the repairs by tomorrow. If he does, Timothy will drive down a few hours ahead of us and get the car fixed, and maybe take a few team members with him. If not, we’ll all just ride the bus together, and Timothy can stay here and get work done.

I’d prefer that he not go; it takes 2 days out of his life, and he’s busy fellow. I’m confident that we can take care of ourselves on the bus and get taxis to the guest house when we arrive early Friday morning. I think he’s OK with that as well. But he does want to get the body damage fixed. And so we find ourselves uncertain right up the last minute. There’s a reason people don’t make plans here the way we expect; so much can change at the last minute that it’s just easier to wait until then to make all your decisions. More cultural education.

Shortly later Timothy decides that he’ll stay here. I realize that his main concern is really for us; I assure him that we’ll be OK, and he decides to stay. He’ll need to go down to Accra in a couple of weeks to get Ivy’s residency permit and passport so they can travel to the States in July, so there’s no reason to do another trip just for this. I’m glad he’s decided to give his schedule a bit of a break.

The crew heads off to VBS, and I head off to class. It’s our last session, of course; I cover the book of Revelation in about an hour, and we close in prayer. Timothy’s girls bring over some sandwiches and malt soda, and we all have a little end-of-session party. Timothy hands out the certificates and a small gift of office supplies to each student, and then they give me the shirt that the tailor has made, as well as a surprise—a chief’s smock, this one all white. It’s very impressive looking, if I do say so myself. I believe I will wear it every day for the rest of the trip, and have all the students call me “Chief, Sir, Most Beneficent.”

Timothy asks me to close in prayer, and I pray for the ministries in which each of these men and women are engaged—for courage, for progress, for peace of mind, for persistence. I close with the great Aaronic blessing:

The LORD bless you, and keep you;

The LORD make His face to shine upon you;

The LORD lift up His countenance upon you

And give you peace.

On the way back to the house Timothy tells me that the rest of the team was quite disappointed that they weren’t going to Wed night prayer meeting at church, to get a chance to say goodbye. With the closing of the class, Timothy needed to be here and so didn’t drive the bus. Ivy took pity on them and drove them over. That’s a really good sign; they’ve formed friendships here, and they feel an obligation to handle those relationships appropriately.

So anyway, the house is dark when I get home. So I swipe myself a Fan Ice Vanilla out of the freezer and snack down. What they don’t know won’t hurt ‘em.

And then I grade papers. I’ve received 16 of the 26 already, and I manage to get through all of them before the crew gets back. A quiet house will do that for you. There are several for which I suspect plagiarism—the English style intermittently improves dramatically—and I’ll have to do a little work with Google tomorrow morning to see whether there’s actually something up or not.

Eventually the Crew shows up. Some rode back with Ivy; some with Aquila; and some with Simon. We hang around with Simon and Aquila for a bit, saying our goodbyes. When they leave, I tell the girls their dresses are here for a final alteration check, and they tear into the plastic bags, pulling out theirs and heading to their rooms to try them on. Soon we have a fashion parade and a photo session. Everybody looks just great, as you can see for yourself.

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It all takes quite a while, as the girls discuss one another’s choices and the guys just try to keep their mouths shut.

Then devos, the last in the house here. There are several good testimonies, and the singing sounds good. In the middle, Rhoda and Matilda, Timothy’s 2 “adopted” daughters who have been doing most of the cooking for us, drop by. They sit in on devotions for a while, and when they have to leave, we say our goodbyes. The girls all hug. They do that.

The team is realizing that they’ve made some friends here, and that leaving will be unexpectedly difficult. I probably don’t help any when I tell them that this will happen at every location. When they’re done, they’ll have new friends all over the continent.

And so ends the last full day. What’s left is final adjustments to the girls’ dresses, packing up, cleaning the house, not overhydrating, staying healthy for the bus trip, and getting to the terminal by 3 pm tomorrow. By God’s grace, we can do that.

A word about communication over the next few days. We get on the bus here in Wa on Thursday afternoon and ride all night to Accra. There we stay at the guest house (Friday night) that we used on the way in. Saturday around noon we fly to Mwanza, TZ, via Addis Ababa and Dar es Salaam, arriving early Sunday morning.

I don’t expect to have internet access during any of that time.

I might grab a little airport wi-fi somewhere and get a post up, but it’s also possible that you won’t hear anything for several days. Fret not thyself. We’ll be in touch as opportunity presents itself, and when we get to Mwanza I’ll let you know what the posting frequency will be there, once I’m able to determine what kind of web access we’ll have while we’re there. Don’t be surprised if it’s less frequent than it has been.

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Dan Olinger

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

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