Sunday, May 22, 2016

Jojo puts on his funeral suit and heads off to church a little earlier than we do. We walk over to the Seidus’ house at 9.45 and ride in the two vehicles. We go first to Faith, where we talk with a number of folks until it’s time for Ivy to take us back to the Wa church. She’ll attend there with us this morning; Timothy has a business meeting after church, and he doesn’t want us to have to wait for him to pick us up.

Sunday school is on the danger of false teachers and the need to be students of the Scripture so we won’t be deceived. Like last week, the teacher plows through the class dismissal bells, and as we close in prayer we can hear the service starting up next door.

We move into the service, where a series of worship choruses is underway. I don’t know most of them, but they’re based on Scripture, so once you figure out what they’re saying, it’s pretty easy to get on board. Then announcements from the young lady who takes care of that every week. There are a number of what you might call social ones—so-and-so had a safe trip to see family in Techiman and has given a gift to the church as a token of gratitude (and everyone claps). There’s more singing and the reading of the morning’s Scripture text; then they call on me. I announce that the girls will be singing and Jonathan will play the piano; they do a good job on “Be Thou My Vision.” Then I explain why Jojo isn’t here, and I tell the story about his funeral suit. Apparently it’s not just a Twi thing; the Waala think it’s pretty funny too.

My sermon is on the church’s biblical responsibility to the pastor. I tell them that I’m glad Timothy isn’t here, because I want to talk to them about something he might not feel like preaching. And then we go through the passages in the NT on how a church should care for the pastor—honoring him, hearing him, obeying him, and so on. It’s a topical sermon, but one that demonstrates, I think, that you can preach a topical sermon and still be governed by the biblical text. I’m also careful to contrast the biblical call to obedience with the kind of blind obedience that cult leaders demand. It seems to go over well.

Back at the house, Mary is back from the funeral, and she has prepared a lunch of fufu and spicy tomato and beef sauce. We all like it.

And it apparently makes us all sleepy, since we head off for naps.

I don’t sleep much—it’s pretty hot—and eventually head up to the chapel to try to work out some problems with my internet connectivity. I work on it for quite a while, during much of which time Jonathan is giving David, the Academy principal, a piano / music lesson. David is a graduate of Wa Polytechnic Institute—his major was IT—and he has been principal of the school for this past year—and by all accounts is doing a very good job—but his first love is music. He has essentially begun a choir program at Faith from scratch, working with the young people, who are not as self-conscious about singing as their parents’ generation, hoping to use this generation to start a program that will endure and prosper. He reads music, conducts, and sings, but he can’t play the piano and desperately wants to learn. Jonathan’s been working with him every night after my class, and David does his homework, um, religiously. (I don’t know when; he’s at school all day, and in class with me all evening.) After the piano lesson he teaches Jonathan some Waali songs—Lora and Rachael join in at times—and they just do music together. It’s easy to see that David will take as much of this as he can get. And Jonathan appreciates having a dedicated student.

We’ve told Ivy we’ll do a leftovers supper tonight. The crew puts together a selection of reheated rice (both plain and fried) with a couple of sauces / soups that go well together, and we not only get plenty to eat, but we polish off a good chunk of leftovers as well.

Down the road to our last service at Wa RBC. On his regular schedule, Timothy will be back here next week, and we’ll be over at Faith, where the team has had VBSes this past week. When we arrive, there’s just one person there. He’s a man about my age, who has some sort of central nervous system disorder—perhaps cerebral palsy—and consequently can’t walk. He has limited use of his hands and arms, but enough that he can use a modified wheelchair, with a bicycle fork in the front and pedals where the handlebars would be, so he can pedal with his hands. His speech is very limited. I’ve noticed that he’s at every service, and he’s always smiling, nodding, and otherwise visually interacting during the preaching. They tell me he’s the most faithful attender. He’s the first one here tonight. I don’t know how far he pedals himself to get there. As usual, I greet him and extend my hand. He takes it firmly, smiles broadly, and welcomes me.

It’s funny how the people with the greatest obstacles are often the most faithful. At 7 he’s the only one there besides us.

About 15 or 20 more trickle in over the next several minutes. Among the first is the songleader, who has a key to the office where the switches for the ceiling fans are. We sing a number of Waali songs, including a few that I remember from previous trips. For evening services things are a lot more casual; since this is a classroom during the week, they don’t keep anything from the church services in the room permanently, and they pack up the hymnbooks after the morning service, so at night we just work from memory. After the short song service they welcome me to the pulpit. I preach on creation, a sermon that’s sort of a nod to Paul’s sermon in Acts 17, meditating on what we know about God by just looking around at what He has made. There’s a lot of science in it, and I’m constantly watching faces to see whether it’s getting too technical. Doesn’t seem to be. There’s an illustration about the symbiotic relationship between termites and flagellates, and these folks certainly know about termites; you see termite mounds all over the place. The response to the sermon is good.

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Afterwards a couple of the crew rides home with college students on motorbikes; we’re right behind one of them in the car, and the driver is very careful. And I’m not just saying that.

Simon, who pastors a church out in one of the villages, came to church at Wa tonight. (His village is far enough out that it’s not safe to ride a motorbike back afterwards, so they don’t have an evening service.) He comes by the house, and the whole group sits in a circle in the living room and talks about culture, faith, and Christian living. It’s an interesting discussion, but after an hour of it I’m pretty well out of gas and head to bed.

The rest of the evening happens while its chronicler is unconscious.

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Dan Olinger

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

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