Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I have a hunch the posts are going to starting sounding the same for the rest of our time here in Wa. The schedule’s pretty simple: lunch at noon, VBS at 3.30, class at 5:30. Be where you’re supposed to be, and get your stuff done when you can. Make a lot of friends, and if something needs doing, do it.

See you tomorrow.

No, seriously, that’s how it’s going to be if things go according to plan. But that last clause is never spoken on this continent. Things never go according to plan. Military scholars say that a battle plan never survives first contact with the enemy. That’s sort of how it works here.

I have a morning tradition of First Connection to update the blog, download any emails since the previous night, and maybe get a look at some sites I visit regularly. And if I can answer all the emails at first look, that’s good too. Volume has dropped precipitously since the end of school (insert loud Hallelujah here), so sometimes I feel just a little bit bored. It’s glorious.

The kids are doing well. Health is generally good, with the expected digestive or similar issue occasionally. This group seems extraordinarily good at making friends, reaching across the cultural boundaries, and embracing the opportunities. Jojo in particular is often missing at lunch because he’s gone to some local restaurant with a college student, or alternatively, he brings a few students over to join us for our lunch. As one might expect, the girls have particularly bonded with Ivy and with Mary, as well as some of the other girls on the compound or at church. I think, frankly, that they’re much better at this than I am; they have the Waali greetings all down, while I’m pretty well stuck with saying “Thank you” (barika) to everybody regardless of the occasion. Pretty much everyone we deal with speaks English, of course, so communication is possible, but everybody loves their heart language the best, and the team’s willingness to jump into it indicates a level of respect for the people, and even a certain international sophistication, that they should be commended for.

Rice and beans and fried chicken for lunch. We don’t do rice and beans here as much as I expected—it’s pretty much the world’s everyday meal—but Mary makes a great pot of beans. She fries chicken without breading, kinda like Americans do wings, so it’s clean and direct (and delicious).

When the crew heads out to VBS—it’s at Diesi today—Carloss and Prince help Abraham fix a drain problem with the girls’ shower. While they’re digging up pipes and reconfiguring them outside the house, another wowser of a rainstorm hits—they seem to happen every day, which is unusual here at this time of year—but the guys are working mostly under an overhang, so the work goes on.

The students surprise me tonight—they’re not on time. I suppose some of it’s due to the rain, but we start half an hour late. At 8:45—15 minutes after the usual end time—I tell them I’m struggling with my conscience and could use their advice. I’ve told them, I say, that we’ll have class until 3 hours after start time, which is determined by the time most students have arrived. So tonight we need to go until 9. I cannot stop early, because they have paid for a full 3 hours of my instruction. A voice from the back calls out, “That’s all right!” And the class raucously endorses his plea for an early release. So I let them go, with profound apologies that they don’t stay around long enough to hear.

I often observe that education is the only business in which, when you give the customer less than he has paid for, he thanks you. And so it will ever be.

Back at the house I have my usual late supper of whatever the kids ate before VBS. This time it’s a Chinese fried vegetable mix over fried rice. I ask the crew how the VBS went. In Diesi they worked through the afternoon rain this time. Rachael notes that the parents seemed a little more stand-offish here; when little girls carrying their little sisters on their backs wanted to play the games, the mothers and grandmothers insisted on holding the babies rather than letting the nasala do it. Frankly, I don’t blame them. Gabriel gave an invitation after the Bible lesson, and there was some response; our Ghanaian colleagues will need to do the follow-up and determine what really happened.

Diesi 032 Diesi 034 Diesi 039 Gbacha 121 Diesi 029 Diesi 023 Diesi 018 Gbacha 126

Bethany, Rachael, Sarah, and Jonathan play Rummikub while I’m eating, and then I take Jonathan’s place for a game. Rachael and Bethany are especially competitive; well, come to think of it, so are Sarah and I. Seems to be a team thing.

We circle up in the living room, moving toward devotions, but talk freely about the day, the educational things, the funny things, the impactful things. Anyone sitting in the dark outside the house would see the lights and hear the loud laughter that punctuates the group’s conversation. We’ve learned that Jonathan, Lora, and I all have laughs that the others think are hilarious, so an outburst of laughter is typically followed by a second, louder one. We’re a team, in an odd sort of way.

During devotions I confer the first Donny Award of this trip. Donny Jacobs was a member of my first Africa team who distinguished himself as an others-centered, gracious servant. He died in 2012 while taking part in a medical trial; those treating him accidentally overdosed him. When occasion calls for it, I give a Donny Award to a team member who shows the same kind of focus on others that I remember Donny for. This year the award is more poignant, because Donny’s younger brother, Allen, a Greenville City police officer, died in the line of duty last March.

This season’s first Donny Award goes to Jojo Matchett, for suggesting that we make banana bread for our cook, Mary, when her mother died.

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Dan Olinger

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

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