Monday, May 23, 2016

The Alarm Goat wakes me about 6:30. They’re unusually noisy today, for some reason. After some study, I plod into the kitchen, where Bethany and Rachel are getting ready to go on a hike on the property just to the north; Lora will be along as well, and Carlos will lead it.

After they head off, I spend a quiet morning, posting the blog, answering email, catching up with studies that require web access. About 9:30 Rachael comes in; I ask her how the hike went. Didn’t happen, she says. Apparently someone there saw the nasala and decided that this was a tourist site and required payment of admission. They didn’t feel all that committed to hiking over some rocks, so they came back.

It’s a cultural phenomenon around the world that the price goes up when white people, especially Americans, arrive. I’m generally not one to get very upset about it. First, it’s good old free market economics, supply and demand; when the money supply rises, prices go up. Second, we Americans do have more money and are generally willing to spend it for a good time. If you want a souvenir from a place you’re not likely to return to, then you’ll be willing to get taken for a few bucks. And if the gouging is excessive, you can always say no. Third, these are people trying to make a living, and I’m happy to help them. The 10 or 12 cedis I  might win in a negotiation will mean a lot more in the long run to the Ghanaian than they will to me. If I saw a hungry man, I’d buy him a meal; why not give the price of meal to a guy who’s working hard, even though I could probably negotiate him out of it? Previous experience has taught me that winning the deal, when you’re a lot more well off than the other guy, really isn’t very emotionally rewarding. Back in my younger days I walked away from heated negotiations with a great deal and serious questions in my conscience. I’m not going to do that again.

Mary’s cooking lunch, and it smells aromalicious. Bethany and Sarah are sitting at the dining room table getting stuff ready for VBS. Other team members are scattered around the compound, engaging the locals. Lora brings me a video of one of the resident goats, with a plastic bucket hanging around his neck and Jonathan trying to get him to let him approach so he could help take it off. No luck.

What you don’t see in Africa.

The doorbell rings. It’s a man I spoke with at church last night, bringing me a handmade keychain that reads, “Wa RBC Thanks.” And a handmade bracelet for my wife. He thanks me for ministering at the church, and he wants me to have these.

Simple gifts. Worth much more than anything I could win a negotiation for.

We talk for a while. He’s the manager, as he puts it, of the Christian school at the church (you’ll recall that with the new building unfinished, we meet for church in a school classroom). There are 500 students in grades K-9 in 18 classrooms, 90% of them from Muslim homes. They’re nearly at capacity and expect to gain a few students when the new term starts in the fall. He’s a busy man, but he makes and sells the keychains and bracelets and bookmarks to supplement his income.

You find people like him all over the world: faithful believers, working hard in their corner of the vineyard, making the world a better place while expanding the kingdom, getting little or no public recognition or financial reward. The woods is full of them. In the papers you read about the religious freaks and the crooks, but of such is not the kingdom of heaven. One day this will be clear to all, and the Lamb will be all the glory.

Lunch is steamed rice with the tomato-based stew we like so much, and a pot of fried chicken. Jojo and Prince come in from painting, and Prince joins us. The food seems particularly good today; several of us comment that returning to American food might be more difficult than we thought.

Last week, when we learned that Mary’s mother had died, Jojo suggested that we make her some banana bread as a token of our thoughts and prayers. We had some bananas that were a little past prime, so last night Bethany and Jonathan put the batter together, but because they couldn’t figure out how to light the gas oven, they baked it this morning after Ivy showed them how. They make two loaves, one of which we have for dessert. It’s really good—so when Mary leaves after lunch, taking her loaf of banana bread with her, we’re confident she’ll like it.

I figure it’s about time the blog had some pictures as well as words. I always want to do a lot more of that than I do, but in the places where we go, upload speeds tend to be lackadaisical, so each picture takes quite a while. But you should be able to see a few shots in the early posts, and I’ll add more as I’m able. Maybe I’ll even be caught up before the end of the trip.

The Kids take their VBS on the road today, to the village of Gbacha. (They pronounce it “Bacha,” and they insist that they’re pronouncing the “G,” but I can’t hear it.) This village has plenty of warm memories for me; it was the site of the first VBS for the 2013 team, where Timothy took me to meet the chief and secure his permission for a church plant. This year there’s a rainstorm midway through, and they try to take the children inside a schoolroom for shelter. The door’s locked, and no one has a key, but the windows are all open, so they toss the kids through the windows and finish the VBS inside.

Welcome to Africa.

Gbacha 102 Gbacha 047 (12) Gbacha 047 (11) Gbacha 047 (10) Gbacha 047 (6) Gbacha 047 (7) Gbacha 047 (8) Gbacha 047 (9) Gbacha 047 (5) Gbacha 047 (4) Gbacha 047 (3) Gbacha 047 (2) Gbacha 047 (1)

Back at the house, I sit on the front porch and take in the rainstorm. It’s almost musical as it rises and falls, crescendos and decrescendos, with the wind and the rain singing harmony. Fortunately, it stops in time for me to walk to the chapel without getting soaked.

Class goes well; we cover the Gospel of Mark. The data projector goes out, but there’s another one available, so we swap and keep going. Half an hour before we finish, there’s another rainstorm, and the noise of the metal roof is, um, noteworthy. So I shout my way through the last 30 minutes, moving up and down the aisle to be as close to the students as possible. We muddle through.

When class is over, it’s still raining pretty hard. Carloss (I’ve just learned that’s how he spells him name) brings me a hoodie and a bright light so I can find my way home without getting wet. Nice kid.

Because the last modem was fried by lightning, they disconnect this one when the storm starts, and the web is down for the rest of the night. The rain continues until well after 10.

Simon is hanging out with us at the house tonight. We enjoy conversing with him, and he with us. At devotions time, Prince and Carloss join him and the rest of us; our group is growing a little bit every night, it seems.

As is becoming the pattern, the Old Man turns in before everybody else. One of the really nice things about having a deaf ear is that you can just roll over on your good side, and you can sleep while they make as much noise as they want.

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Dan Olinger

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

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