Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The girls do an early morning hike again today, to the big hill by the lake. Several of the girls didn’t get to go last time, so they get a chance this time. Everybody’s back before 8:30, when Jojo and I wander by the house. During our typically casual breakfast the girls are discussing their weird dreams. That’s one of the side effects of doxycycline, which several of the Crew are taking as a malaria prophylactic, and we get some pretty good stories as time progresses.

At 9 we head out to the first class. I make a round to see that everything’s starting up smoothly—they can be slow to get down to business—but I always make an effort to be joyous and lighthearted rather than the “monitor.” Later in the hour, after I’ve finished the dishes, I go around again. I approach Jojo’s K-5 class in the kibanda, and one of the boys is upside down in his chair, his feet in the air. Jojo is telling him to sit up. I’m not trying to be sneaky, but he doesn’t see me come up behind him. “Well, what have we here?” At the sound of my voice he assumes the position, and Jojo and I both chuckle. Kids are the same the world over.

I walk up to Jonathan’s Standard 5 class as they’re discussing caves. Jonathan means to say, “Why don’t you ask Dr. Dan if he’s ever been in a cave?” But he says, “Why don’t you ask Dr. Dave if he’s ever been in a can?” As a matter of fact, I tell them, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the can over the years. Some of my most rewarding efforts have taken place in the can. The kids have no clue what I’m talking about, since the English they’ve learned hasn’t included the slang use of “can” for a toilet, but Jonathan and I have a great time going on about it. First class hour, and Jonathan’s brain is already scrambled. Looking forward to a great day.

The aroma wafting across the compound from the Big House tells me that chapati’s on the chai menu today. It’s gonna be a good one. And it is.

Second session we usually have some difficulty, and today is no exception. Some children will just ignore their teachers, acting as though they’re not even there. Lora discovers an approach that works with one boy: she’s gets right down by his face, speaks in a very soft but direct voice, and asks him whatever questions he’s previously ignored. And he answers. Correctly. One of the problems we have with the older students is on their timed math worksheets. As they’re working on them, they’ll give one another the answers in Swahili. Since we don’t know enough Swahili, we can’t prove what they’re saying, but it’s pretty clear that’s what’s going on.

At lunch the Crew runs all this by Beth and Rachelle, who have some pointers and some words of encouragement. The children are doing what they always do; they’re not being especially uncooperative with us. And in the case of the boy in Lora’s group, he’s shy and afraid of giving a wrong answer in front of the others, and Lora’s approach has probably allowed him to respond in a way he feels less threatening. We keep talking, we keep learning, we keep helping one another as a team.

Lunch is shepherd’s pie and salad. Beth and Rachelle make a real effort to prepare food that reminds us of home. Meals with the children are authentic Tanzanian; meals with the missionaries give us a bit of a break. Both are important.

Water comes back on at the guys’ house in the afternoon. That’ll make life easier.

Jonathan’s sherehe group is working on making paper from papyrus he found down by the lake. They’ve gathered a bunch of it and the boys have begun rendering it into strips, which they’ll glue together crosswise—I assume—to make a rudimentary paper. I think they’ll realize why later generations decided that animals had to die to provide the much superior writing surface of parchment.

The earlier discussion with Beth identified several problem students in Standards 5 & 6; so Beth calls a meeting. I sit in, and fortunately she addresses them in English. And she activates the Nuclear Option: Serengeti.

Each year when I take the team to the Serengeti, there are a few extra seats in the 7- and 8-passenger safari vehicles. The tour companies we’ve worked with have been kind enough to let us fill those seats with orphans at no charge, and they’ve even paid the park entry fee (about $15 each) for the children. I think it’s important that the Tanzanians get to see their own natural treasure, and so we’ve looked forward every year to taking a few of the children along, starting in 2013 with the oldest. This year several children from Standard 6 are scheduled to go.

Well, Beth tells them that it doesn’t have to be that way. If the Standard 6 children are not behaving, then Standard 5 children will go. And if the Standard 5 children are not behaving, then Standard 4 children will go. So straighten up.

Some of the children have made professions of faith, but the majority have not. They have a history of attempted, but unsuccessful, moral reformation. We’ve talked to them about the futility of reformation without the power of the Spirit. So we’ll see what happens.

Supper is ugali, collard greens, and pineapple. What we lack in variety, we make up in volume. Several team members have commented on the amount of food the children take—their plates are mounds of food, and ugali is very filling. I don’t know how they do it.

For house devotions Jonathan talks about Moses, who disobeyed God in striking the rock and had to face the consequence of not entering the Promised Land. At the core of his series on obedience is the idea of consequences; I know a few of the boys are listening intently; we can only hope some of the others are getting the idea as well.

We spend some time in devotions talking about way to increase the amount of teamwork we’re engaging in, ways to help one another to improve our education product and discipleship outcome. Of course we’re limited in how much we can accomplish in the short time we’re here, and we’re trying to be realistic, but we’d like to see some academic and spiritual growth—in at least some of the children we’re working with.

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Dan Olinger

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

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