Friday, May 20, 2016

I sleep late, waking at 8.30. I felt more tired than usual after teaching last night, so I’m not surprised. I’m also not surprised that pretty much everyone’s up and off to somewhere—I suspect painting the college buildings again, or perhaps getting some wifi at the chapel. I have devotions in the quiet house and write some on the blog.

Mid-morning Ivy comes by; she wants to learn how to make pizza for the boys, and our girls have eagerly agreed to teach her. So we’ll make pizzas for lunch. One minor wrinkle—cheese is not common here, so it’s very expensive, and I’m not sure it would be a good idea to eat it even if we could get some. So we’re having vegan pizza. Sarah shows Ivy how to make the dough, while Bethany and Rachael cut up onions and garlic and tomatoes and hot dogs and pineapple. John, being the muscle of the team, pounds the dough on the counter and scares all of us half to death. Mid-process Lora and Jojo come in from painting.

During all of this I decide to do some laundry. Can’t seem to get the agitator to work, so I ask the others what I’m missing. “Doesn’t work,” they tell me. Bethany says, “It’s basically a tub of water.” OK. The hand is the agitator. I work the clothes around for a while, and the water turns rewardingly gray. Must be getting some dirt out. Drain, refill without soap, hand-agitate some more, pull out individual pieces and wring them out, drain. Hang stuff wherever there’s room. Done.

The kitchen is filling with the delightful smell of pizza—well, sorta pizza—cooking. We’ve invited Carlos and Prince, another college student, for lunch. (I’m tempted to call him the college student formerly known as Prince, but that seems pointless now.) When all are here, we crowd around the table covered with 2 pizzas (1 with onions, 1 without), a bowl of sliced watermelon, and some Coke (!) that somebody brought from town.

It’s all good. There’s no yeast in the dough, so it seems more like pie crust, and of course there’s no cheese. But it’s tasty.

As we eat, the sky rumbles and a thunderstorm quickly rises. This is one of the hardest ones yet; the noise on the metal roof makes it all but impossible for us to hear one another. Water pours from the downspouts, and the temperature drops 15 or 20 degrees in a matter of minutes. As we gather and eat among the chaos outside, it’s a very pleasant time indeed.

The team handles all the cleanup, diligently and completely, without anyone being told to do anything in particular. They just work together to get the job done. (Yes, these are your kids I’m talking about.) Ivy comes by to take the third pizza to the boys. They’ve made many trips to America, so they’ll recognize quickly that it’s not the same, but I suspect they’ll still like it.

Today is the first trip out to a village for a VBS. Timothy has chosen the villages on the basis of the church planting work—villages where a church has just been planted by one of the WABC grads, or perhaps where someone is about to plant one. When a busload of nasala come with a church planter to play with the children and tell them stories, and the children are eager to come back the next day, the parents take notice—in fact they typically pretty much all come out and watch the festivities as they’re happening. And they also notice implicitly that the imams don’t come and play with their children.

I’m convinced that mission teams should do something that the nationals can’t do for themselves. Why spend thousands of dollars to send Americans to build a wall when the Waali know perfectly well how to build their own walls, and could benefit from the work at that? But a busload of white kids attracts a crowd in a way that a busload of other Waala wouldn’t; the children crowd around us, touching our skin, touching our hair, grasping a finger. In some of the villages our crew might be the first white people some of the smaller children have ever seen. That makes an impression that stays for a long time.

So we’ve come to attract healthy attention that focuses the thinking of the village on the work of the church plant in a positive way. We gain the chief’s favor, and if the imam complains, the chief shrugs and says the church is welcome.

One of the team members had a minor knee injury yesterday—almost exactly like mine but much less serious. Because it’s so similar to mine, I‘m able to ask key questions and make several recommendations. Within 24 hours she’s walking pretty much normally, and the pain is limited to a narrow range of positions and motions.

And here’s the thing. Because of my injury, I brought my knee brace along, just in case. I haven’t come remotely close to needing it; but she’ll be able to wear it to VBS today for a little support in case a rambunctious child comes at her sideways.

Isn’t providence a magnificent thing? Suppose I fell off my hoverboard just so I’d bring a knee brace to Africa? Worth it? You bet. God is good, even when what we think of as bad stuff happens.

Among all this, Jojo walks in with a story. He and Carlos have become close buddies, and Carlos takes him to meet his pastor here in Wa. The pastor, it turns out, knows Pastor Dyer, who founded Jojo’s church back in New Jersey. And because of that, Jojo’s preaching at Carlos’s church this Sunday.

I love watching God do stuff.

As the kids head off to VBS and I walk over to the chapel for some communication, the Muslim call to prayer goes up outside the compound, as it does several times a day. It’s more of a wail than a call, a reminder that there’s much work to do.

For this first village VBS they go to Namberi, where Gabriel pastors a small church plant. About 75 children show up, mostly little ones. Rachael and Jojo tell the stories; Simon and Gabriel lead them in Waali songs, and our crew teaches them some simple English songs, such as “Hallelu, Hallelu.” As you get out into the villages, the level of English comprehension drops dramatically, so the Waali interpreters are critical to any kind of success whatsoever.

02d Village VBS 043 02d Village VBS 036 02d Village VBS 033 02d Village VBS 057

As I head off to class, I spot two tiny kids (that’s baby goats) hanging out in the tool shop next to the house. They are just insufferably cute.

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After class Timothy comes by the house to talk about tomorrow’s schedule. There are several opportunities, including a baby-naming ceremony at 6:30 am, a memorial service for the father of one of the college faculty at 9:20, and a service to honor the pastor in Timothy’s familial home village, also at 9:20. Ivy will come by at 6:30 for those who want to go to the naming ceremony; three of the girls are interested. I plan to go with the Seidus to their home village. Timothy’s first wife, Janet (Mama J), who endeared herself to the 2013 team and then died suddenly in Greenville just a few weeks later, is buried there, and I’d like to see her grave if I can. Then there’s painting to do with the college students, and laundry, and even a walk into town if anyone wants. So we’ll see what happens.

No team devos tonight; I’ve decided to give the crew the option of going to bed early.

It’s been a good first week. I am very much impressed with this group’s rapid and eager comprehension of the culture and their mature approach to cultural differences. They’re learning the language, making friends, and making a difference without being asked. I’m proud of them.

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Dan Olinger

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

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