Monday, June 22, 2015

So let’s see if all this planning pays off.

The house is bustling at 8:30 am, with everyone getting final prep done for the 9 am session. I’ve targeted3 groups for special attention; not surprisingly, it’s the children who’ve been away at Crush, who don’t know these tutors, and who just might have had it up to here with tutoring anyway. I’ll drop in on them—they’re all close together geographically—and be available for crowd control if necessary.

As the first session starts, we’re all pretty vigilant. I head over to one of the sessions I think will be a potential behavioral problem, and as I come around a corner of the building I see Abeli (Ferdinand’s assistant) and Rachelle both hovering the same area. Shock and awe, baby, shock and awe. Throw overwhelming force at ‘em.

As the hour progresses, though, we begin to suspect that we were overly concerned. Gershon has half the Standard 4 kids out on the rock overlooking the lake, writing an essay about what they want to be when they grow up. Emily has presented some information on flowers to the combined Standard 5 group, and now they’re walking around the compound together, gathering samples for later analysis back at the table. Sarah has the other half of Standard 4 doing a word search puzzle, and they all seem to be engaged.

Yikes.

Either this crew is awesomely awesome, or our shock and awe campaign worked. Or both. But the first session goes spectacularly. The second session will have 1 fewer teacher—Maiwe has the Standard 7 students in the first session for Swahili class—but the only change there is that we combine the two 1-person classes (Standards 1 and 2, both special needs) to free up the extra teacher, and we’ve been doing that all week. So this ought to be fine.

But don’t get overconfident (Sun Tzu, The Art of War).

Second session goes equally well; the Crush kids seem to like their teachers, and since the honeymoon has to last only 2 days, we’ll probably be OK.

Charity has guacamole on the brain these days, so she spends the time before lunch frying more chapati chips. We’ve taken to hoarding the chai food—we take the extra chapati back to the room for chips, and we take the pitcher of chai to drink throughout the day. We’re not wasting food, and we have snacks. Win-win.

Lunch is a rehearsal for July 4th—we’ll be gone, but they want to try out the menu. Hot dogs & buns, baked beans, potato salad. All delicious. The dogs here don’t taste like the ones at home—more like a Vienna sausage, I suppose, but in some way different. We pepper Beth and Rachelle with questions about our plans for camp—what should the daily schedule be like? Will this work? Would they be able to do that? It’s a productive time; I think know the team knows what it needs to know to put the schedule together, to organize the teams, to plan the competition scoring, and so on.

As I’m walking my rounds during the 3 pm session, I happen upon Maiwe. After testing my Swahili—I pass!—he asks a question. “Did you hear about the man who shot the people at church in America?” Yes. “His father gave him a gun as a present. Why would he do that? These children tell me, ‘I don’t think I want to go to America. It’s too dangerous.’”

Well, there’s a lot I don’t know about the details. But we talk about America’s view of freedom and firearms; about psychiatric medications; about the power of the gospel to change hearts when laws won’t. And we talk about the fact that being richer does not make one happier or solve the aching problem in his soul. Across a great cultural divide, we find that we agree on the most important things. The church shooting victims are Maiwe’s brothers and sisters as much as they are mine. The gospel transcends literally everything else.

Charity, Emily, and Amber make another batch of guacamole after the session. Chunkier this time. Excellent with chapati chips.

Supper is fish and fellowship with the children. We watch them play and just hang together on the kibanda wall.

As the evening winds down, we’re surprised by the fact that tomorrow is our last teaching day. Where does the time go? Some of the children are already talking sadly about our leaving; a few are asking for things to remember us by. We generally don’t give them anything individually; if one child has a used hairband, the others will be upset that they don’t have one. So unless everybody gets something, no one does.

The lives of these kids consist of a series of brief, happy, but always temporary relationships. Teams come and go. They always go. What does that do to the child’s willingness to give his heart in friendship? And especially, what does it do to the child when the nice mzungu, who was so generous with hugs and words of affection, goes away and never so much as writes a letter? We’ve realized that by coming we’ve made a commitment; we need to write a letter, and to answer the ones they write us. Photos of us will adorn the walls of their houses; in their minds we’ll still be their friends. We can’t just move on and do something nice for the next group of children. Relationships matter.

After team devotions, we feel pretty solid for the last day of teaching tomorrow, so we spend the time in more planning for camp, which starts Wednesday. Several have put a daily schedule together, which looks good. The teams are formed up, and the competitions are in place. We’ll do some final planning tomorrow night, and then fine-tune as we go. Should be fun.

Five of us—Gershon, Charity, Amber, Kyla, and Emily—are planning to climb the east ridge tomorrow morning to see the sun rise. Best of luck to ‘em.

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Dan Olinger

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

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