Saturday, March 14, 2016

Now the crew starts dropping off to sleep. I try but can’t; no surprise there. Right This Minute it’s 1.43 am, and I’m working on the blog while most of the others are getting their beauty rest. (It doesn’t appear to be working for them.) Of course, it’s not quite 10 pm back home, so I suppose that’s part of my problem.

I finally drop off to sleep about 5 am, and we arrive in Wa at 6.30. I don’t recognize the place; this is a new bus terminal. Jeremiah calls Timothy, and soon we hear his voice call. It’s good to see this old friend and former student, our host for the next 3 weeks.

All our luggage being accounted for, we load it into the 2 vehicles—Timothy’s driving one, while his wife Ivy is driving the other—and drive 10 minutes or so to the compound on the north side of Wa. On the way Timothy tells us that they’ve had rain for the past 2 weeks—very unusual for this time of year—and I tell the kids that they’ll never be cooler in Wa than they are right now. I’ve never felt such pleasant weather here.

We bring the luggage into the house and figure out where everyone’s sleeping: the boys in the front of the house, the girls in the back, with both sections having a shower bathroom. This will work fine.

We’re wiped out. The college graduation is at 10 am; how shall we best steward the 3 hours we have? I decide to spend an hour sleeping, as do the others—a good choice, it turns out, but hard to wake up from. At 8 I wander around the house insisting that everybody get out of bed and get ready. We get showers—pretty much a necessity under the circumstances—and get dressed as much as necessary for breakfast, which Ivy brings over at 9—Milo hot chocolate, hot cereal, and some toast made with a sandwich press. It’s tasty and gets us going.

Things tend to run on “Africa time” around here, but I always insist that we be on time. That means that we usually have to wait for people, but I much prefer that to having others wait for us. So I call for exit at 9.45, and we walk 10 minutes from the southern end to the northern end of the compound, where there’s a sort of large open-ended Quonset hut that they call their conference center. There are about 200 chairs set up, with a small platform where the dignitaries will sit. There are only 2 other people there at the designated start time, but the place soon fills up. When Timothy arrives, we line up for the processional—I decided to bring my regalia this time, and it’s hotter than just wearing a suit jacket—and walk in as the congregation sings “To God Be the Glory.”

02a Graduation 070

The program is fully organized and carried out without a hitch. I preach a short sermon on the Big Story of Scripture, with the theme that God is bigger than anything. Timothy hands out the diplomas, and each of the graduates (there are just 2 this year) gives his testimony.

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The congregational singing and the special music are both wonderful, replete with African vitality and energy.

After the ceremony there are lots of pictures, and everyone gets fed from large pots on fires built to the side of the structure. Timothy tells us that we’ll eat back at the house. They have hired a Waala cook named Mary—she used to own a restaurant in town—to fix lunch for us every day. Today it’s fried chicken with rice and a red curry sauce. Oh, man, this is gonna be awesome.

After lunch we sleep a couple more hours—clearly necessary—but again I insist that they keep it to 2 hours. If they shut down for the evening, they’ll wake up at 2 am with the net effect of still being on US time. So we get up at 4 pm so that we’ll fall asleep again about local bedtime. I take them on a tour of the compound, pointing out the chapel, where the wifi will be when it’s working, and the mango grove beyond it. (The mangos won’t be ripe, unfortunately, until after we leave.)

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We spend the time before supper just sitting around talking, strategically positioning ourselves under ceiling fans to keep from sweating to death. It’s not even as hot here as it will be, but we’re feeling it.

Ivy brings supper by—spaghetti and meat sauce—and we eat pretty much all of it. Then a little Phase 10 game before devotions, and some more talking before bed. I turn in just before 11, but 5 of the other 6 stay up longer.

We’re starting to form up as a team, learning one another, get comfortable interacting, forming bonds. This is always an exciting part of the trip, seeing the team come together. It’s an essential part of the process, since they’ll be working together closely for the next 8 weeks.

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Dan Olinger

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

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