This is the first of two orientation days before we start tutoring on Wednesday, and we’re firing the day right up at 8 am. I check on the boys next door at 7, and they’re able to hear and speak through the door, so that’s a hopeful sign.
We gather on Beth’s porch for an orientation session with Dan, the senior missionary responsible for the church planting and Bible Institute effort. He’s a graduate of Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, IA, and I’ve enjoyed working with him over the 4 visits here—except for one when he was on furlough. He talks missiology with us, leading a highly interactive discussion about motivations for being here and about our obligations to various stakeholders. It give us all a lot to think about and freshens our perspective on what we should be concentrating on. He also tells us a little about the work he and Matt Gass are doing on the church planting side; they’ve segregated the orphanage and church planting efforts pretty clearly so they can concentrate on one while Beth and Rachelle focus on the other.
Chai at 10. They serve a lemon-grass tea here that earlier teams have thought tasted like Fruit Loops. It’s less sweet this year—sugar prices have doubled—and that’s fine with me. And we have mandazi, a fried sweetbread similar to a cubical donut with no hole. It’s a little confusing for us; the Twi word for “thank you” is madasi, and now our languages are starting to bump into one another.
Speaking of languages, we meet Maiwe at 11 for our first formal Swahili lesson. He has only 2 hours with us in total, over today and tomorrow, and he wants us to be minimally functional, so we have a lot of ground to cover. Today we learn greetings, introductions, noun classes, and a few verbs, and we practice forming some elementary sentences. The Kids are drinking from a fire hose, and they know it. But we want to do this; speaking basic things in the heart language of the people you’re ministering to shows respect for their identity and culture, and it’s really a basic courtesy. Remember what happened with that Waali song at Faith …
Mondays and Fridays we’re going to be on our own for lunch—or more correctly, we’re going to heat up and eat leftovers so we keep basic food management under control. We have half a pan of enchiladas left, plus some potato soup from Saturday night—which only gets better with time—and we cut up a fresh pineapple (have I mentioned African fruit?), so we’re in good shape.
With HQ right next to the kibanda, it’s a simple matter to step outside and engage the children any time we have a free moment. Jojo’s a popular football buddy already, and the kids are crazy about Jonathan; I hope they don’t wear him out the first week. At home Jonathan works in activities at a resort, so this is kind of like that, except he doesn’t get paid for it, and the clientele are more completely out of control.
Naturally the Tumaini girls like to spend time with our girls; each of us will have a circle of girls around her, talking, asking questions, and who knows what all. (I don’t try very hard to listen in.)
At 2 we drop by the administrative offices to start gathering materials for our tutorial sessions. We’ll have 11 days of teaching, with 2 hours each day, so that’s 22 preps. We’ve told the Crew that they’ll be moving much more slowly than they expect; a single math worksheet can take a whole hour. One of the challenges is the diversity of ability; many are woefully behind academically—yet in the top half of their class at school—while others are really sharp and thus spend most of their time at school bored out of their minds. One boy is a genius with his hands but cares little for academics. And so on. Since no tutor has more than 7 students at a time, I think this will be workable, but since 4 of the 6 team members have had no education classes at all, they’re going to need wisdom and creativity and patience and resilience. Please pray for them.
I’m sure some of you have heard of a US State Department security alert of credible evidence of a terrorist threat in South Africa during Ramadan, which is currently underway and ends July 5. We are watching the situation carefully and communicating with the parents of team members. We have a settled philosophy and a tentative plan to adapt to the situation as it’s been reported to us, and we will refine that plan and make a final decision when we need to. We would appreciate your prayers for wisdom in the meantime.
As supper time approaches, I head up to the kibanda and count heads. Jojo is playing football with the older boys; Lora is playing an informal game of football inside the kibanda with a bunch of the girls; Bethany is surrounded by girls who are working on getting her braids out; Rachael has another cluster around her; Jonathan is at the far end of the compound surrounded by another cluster; and Sarah is inside the house doing some reading.
Me? I’m petting the dogs.
There are a lot of dogs here. In 2013 there were Simba and Nala, the parents of Silver and Dog Samuel. (They call him Dog Samuel because they wanted to name him Samuel, and in TZ you just don’t give dogs human names, so they decided it would be OK to call him Dog Samuel.) In the intervening years Simba and Silver have died; Nala is fairly decrepit, and Dog Samuel looks after her. I wonder if they know that they’re mother and son. (I wonder about stuff like that.)
But more dogs have come. There are a couple of adolescent dogs, Bruno and Clifford, and a pre-teen named Goldfish, and a couple of puppies, Snowball and Ginger. The adolescents are constantly wrestling and snarling and snapping at each other but never seem to do any real damage. I think they really like each other and enjoy rough-housing. The puppies are usually kept fenced in behind the kitchen, so we don’t see as much of them. But they’re really, really cute.
Ferdinand likes to drill us on our greetings; whenever he sees one of us, he’ll greet us in Swahili and see if we respond correctly. As we get better, he uses more and more arcane greetings; he gets quite a bit of joy out of stumping us. This afternoon his greeting completely puzzles me, and I can tell he’s really pleased with himself. So I ask him, “So, Ferdinand, have there been any serendipitous circumstances today that you’d like to relate to me?” He says, “Whaaaat?!” and Beth and I laugh. Turnabout’s fair play. A few minutes later he takes me aside. “What was that word you used? What does it mean?” I explain it to him, and now he has a new word. His appetite for English knowledge is insatiable.
Supper is rice and beans. John gets a small rock in his beans; that happens sometimes. No dental damage done.
For house devotions I do a straight gospel presentation with the boys. Unbeknownst to me, one of them has come to Jojo this afternoon and asked him some serious questions about salvation. Jojo consults with Beth and Ferdinand, and the boy has already made a profession of faith and been baptized. We’re obviously going to have to let Ferdinand pick up the matter with him; he knows all the children well and shares their culture and heart language. But the evening devotion reinforces a lot of things that Jojo said to the boy earlier. It’s serendipitous, in a theological sort of way.
We fight our way through the usual chaos of bodies outside the houses after devotions, telling the kids to get where they belong. They will routinely ignore what we tell them, especially at first, to see whether we’ll go easier on them that the regulars. We take no prisoners.
Back at the house, it’s around 8, and we decide to have devotions now so we can have some individual options as to bedtime. The Crew has been thinking about Dan’s thoughts this morning, and they’re arriving at more clarity about their purpose in being here and in their obligations to their stakeholders. Progress.
Sarah and Rachael work on lesson plans; Lora and the guys drop by Beth’s for some wifi; and I head to my place to do some laundry. Just before 10 there’s a knock, and Jojo calls, “Hodi.” (That’s how you ask to enter a house here.) He and Jonathan need some potable water. I have a filter system in my place, so I’m their supplier. I ask if he’s ready to hustle through the door. Ready. So I throw open the door and he jumps through. (We’re obsessive about not letting all those pesky little gnats in.) I give him a pitcher full and tell him I’ll handle the door. I throw it open again and he leaps into Jonathan, who’s standing on the front porch right outside the door. “Get outta the way!” he cries; I slam the door; and I can hear them laughing all the way back to their place.
It’s been a productive day but not a hectic one; some of the time we’re drinking from a fire hose, and other times we’re just sitting with the children, talking or playing or doing whatever they’d like to do. What a delightful mix of calm and accountability, of effort and simple, unhurried service. One more day like this one, and then The Serious Work starts.