Thursday, June 16, 2016

The other day something horrible happened. Someone broke the French press. For this group—myself excepted—that’s a tragedy of cosmic proportions. But Rachelle has a spare, so we’re back in business again today. And I make a mental note to buy them a replacement in Cape Town to bring back with them.

Ah, yes, I should tell you about a longstanding Secret Plan. When we leave here, Beth and Rachelle are going to take a few days of holiday time (the locals, thanks to British influence, say “holiday” when we say “vacation”) and come with us to Cape Town. They’ve never been, and it just seems that missionaries in Africa should see the whole spectrum of African life.

So anyway, we’ll replace the French press in Cape Town, where you can buy pretty much anything you can buy anywhere else.

So the crew gets their caffeine boost for the morning and heads off to the first session. All is calm during both of my rounds, but when Jojo comes in afterwards, he tells me I somehow managed to miss the Explosion. He’s done really well with his group of 5 kindergarteners, but today they have a meltdown. They’re assembling a jigsaw puzzle, each doing one section, and when it comes time to put the sections together a riot breaks out. One of the little ones reaches down past South Jersey and cold-cocks another one right in the face. There’s a moment of silence while the victim processes all the electrical impulses that his face is sending to his brain, and then the wail issues forth. The others respond by wailing in something resembling harmony, and Jojo has a situation on his hands.

Jojo’s response is destined for analysis in future scholarly works on child management. He sits quietly until they’ve wailed themselves out. Then he says, quietly, “What did I tell you when we started? Don’t what?” “Don’t fight.” “What are you doing now?” “Fighting.” “How did that work out for you? Are you having a good time?” “No.” “Well, then, that wasn’t a very good idea, was it?” “No.”

I think we have comprehension. It’s retention that’s our problem.

Jojo tells me that the hardest part of it all was not laughing. He says it was a really remarkable punch.

  1. One session done. Chai is uji and mandazi, which I think is the team’s favorite. Jojo’s account of the Brawl is our chief entertainment for the break.

Second session goes well too. These older ones really want to go to Serengeti. But there’s one who’s just not gonna make it.

We have chili for lunch, and Beth even provides extra chili powder for those (cough) Jojo (cough) who like it extra hot. We spend quite a bit of time talking about individual students, their challenges, their needs, trying to get better at helping them. A difficulty for us is realizing that we’re here for just a short window of time, and we’re not going to revolutionize their lives. We sow, we water, we leave the increase up to God. He’s better at that anyway.

The singing session seems to go really well today; the kids are singing with real energy. Beth is a little peeved with a boy or two who are clearly singing badly on purpose, but I suspect that’s not going to be a problem come performance time.

A few of the children will be giving testimonies at the sherehe. Beth has asked that I meet with them to give them some pointers. Well, my freshman speech teacher, Mrs. Yearick, would be verily astonied to know that request was ever made.

I meet with the first one, along with Ferdinand, in Ferdinand’s office. He’s in Standard 4. We talk a little about ways that God has been good to him, and perhaps picking a few of those to include. He has no idea how he came to be at Tumaini—he arrived when he was 14 days old—and it occurs to me that he has no way of contrasting his life here with that of someone who grew up in a traditional home; this is all he knows. In the days ahead, Ferdinand will coach him some, selecting a few stories that will communicate clearly how God has shown in goodness in this one life.

As I return to the house, a team member walks in, tosses her materials on the table, and says, “These are just mean kids. That’s just the way it is.”

Another typical day of bringing God’s grace to the cherubic children of Africa.

At 6 they’re delaying supper for a very important ceremony of sorts. When we were here 3 years ago, we saw the oldest children get their own Swahili Bibles. Bath has ordered more Bibles, these being good study Bibles for older students, with flexible covers and gilt-edged pages—a step up in visible seriousness, if you will. The older children will get these new ones, and their old Bibles will be given to the younger ones, who are now the age the older ones were when they got them. Each of the children who has a Bible hears his name called, and he steps forward and gives his Bible to one of the children selected to receive them. When the old ones have all been distributed, Beth opens the 2 cases of new Bibles and distributes them to the ones who just gave up their old Bibles.

This simple ceremony is a remarkable thing to watch. If you have any knowledge of church history, or of the history of African missions, the profundity of this simple act of distribution is impossible to miss. People—many people—have died for the privilege of having the Word of God in their own tongue. Others have never had a Bible in their heart language. And here the exchange happens calmly, openly, efficiently, simply.

It will not return void.

We all have a delayed supper of ugali and beef, and manage to head to house devotions just 15 minutes later than usual. John continues his series on obedience by talking about the original disobedience in the Garden and the consequences all of us face because of it. When we ask the boys what they’d like to sing, they surprise us by singing 2 songs that BJU teams taught them in years past, which in turn the teams picked up from their believing co-workers in Ghana. We hadn’t sung either of those songs this year, which means the children are remembering them from a full year ago.

It’s feast or famine with these kids.

Team devotions is followed with a lively time of rehearsal for our special music for church Sunday morning. None of my previous teams has done special music here, so we’re pretty excited about it. We’re planning to do the Swahili version of “The Solid Rock,” to the tune the African believers have composed, with Jojo accompanying on a plastic bucket. I’m no music critic, but I think it sounds pretty good.

The animated conversation continues until well after 10; I turn in about then. When I leave HQ, I see 3 of the dogs—Bruno, Clifford, and Dog Samuel—waiting out front. They quickly turn, see that it’s me, and put their heads back down. They’re waiting for John; he’s their favorite. I apparently haven’t done as much scratching as he has.

Every night the moon has been moving in its orbit on the ecliptic from west to east overhead—1/28th of a full orbit of 360 degrees, or about 13 degrees, per day—and waxing from a slim crescent when we arrived to now nearly full. God’s guidance and government of the world, and all of us in it, has faithfully progressed each of these days, and the cosmic system in which we dwell gives us constant reminders and assurances of it, if we would only look heavenward.

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Dan Olinger

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

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