Thursday, June 30, 2016

Day 3 of VBS at Eindhoven we have about the same number of children to work with—about 75—and the morning goes well. Bethany does the Bible story, on Saul’s conversion, and the kids cooperate well in the games.

The key difficulty every day, it seems, is the cold. If the sun is shining, the wind is blowing, and it just chills you through. And some of the kids are running around in shorts and T-shirts, some in bare feet or flip-flops. I don’t know how they do it.

Tony notes that rain is forecast starting tonight and through tomorrow night. We talk about some options in the rain. The school has a large assembly room where we could play games, but the echo in there would make instructions difficult to hear, and the school custodial staff has just spent several days giving the floor a deep cleaning. They say it would be all right to have the children inside, but I’d hate to see mud all over that beautiful floor. I suggest having the children take their shoes off; Tony says they’d freeze to death; I think about all the ones I see running around barefoot already.

We’ll see how tomorrow turns out.

Today is our first day with a free afternoon, which means we can do something time-consuming for lunch. Back in 2013 Eric Graham, one of the missionary pastors here, introduced the team to the Hillcrest Berry Orchard, out just beyond Stellenbosch in a remarkably picturesque location. There are jagged mountains, reminiscent of California or southern New Mexico, and slopes of vineyards and orchards. We pick up Beth and Rachelle at the house and make the half-hour drive out there. The restaurant has plenty of room on the veranda for our group of 10 (one of the local youth, Salvin, we’ve invited to join us).

Our waiter is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a French-speaking country, so he and Rachelle, who grew up an MK in Quebec, engage in some conversation. This makes the umpteenth language we’ve communicated in on this trip: English, Twi, Waali, Amharic, Swahili, Afrikaans, Xhosa, and now French. (Granted, we’ve just briefly touched Twi, Amharic, and Xhosa.)

We order scones to start. They’re a semi-sweet biscuit of sorts that you eat with butter, then jam, then clotted cream, then some shredded cheese. Seriously. They’re really good. And Hillcrest, as you might imagine, has all kinds of jams. We have a time sampling and arguing over the best flavor combinations.

For drinks there’s berry juice, and various berry-flavored lemonades. I get a pot of Rooibos, because it’s just so authentic, and because a warm pot of something appeals to my cold old bones.

Then the meal. This is a high-class place, with a menu that presents all kinds of possibilities. I get the brisket, which is delightful, and everyone else is pleased with his choice as well.

No room for dessert. And the whole experience comes to not much more than $10 per person. I love this country.

There’s a store where you can buy some of all those jams, and teas, and frozen fruit, and cheeses, and whatnot. We buy a lot of stuff.

There’s a tourist town about 20 minutes away called Franschhoek, a French settlement from the days when the Huguenots were expelled from France at the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. (You remember that, right?) There are lots and lots of relatively high-end art shops and restaurants, and some gift shops that mere mortals can afford as well. We spend a couple hours cruising the main drag, including the Huguenot Chocolate Shop, whose chocolates are spectacular. But the town really needs a good coffee shop. Really. Someone should do that.

Lora notices the name of the town spelled out high on the mountainside overlooking the town, and there seems to be a road cut up through there. I ask around and confirm that we can get up there pretty easily, so we drive up to what turns out to be Franschhoek Pass, with a gorgeous view of the town and valley, which we hit right at sunset. The GPS tells us that we’re about the same distance from home whether we go back the way we came or go down the other side of the pass, and we vote to explore new territory.

So off we go, down through the ragged mountains, decorated by a storm front draping itself over the mountaintops and just obscuring them. The front is moving pretty fast in our direction, and it gives the impression of active and roiling air masses all around us. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The visual is really spectacular. We drive alongside mountain lakes and a river, through a moonscape and into a small forest just as daylight fails. Eventually we connect with the N-2 and head back toward Cape Town.

I’m a little disoriented until we see a sign indicating we’re at Sir Lowry’s Pass. That’s really good news; the pass is a major landmark east of Cape Town, with spectacular views in both directions. We’re traveling west, so I comment that we’re probably going to see some pretty nice lights. The sentence has barely escaped my mouth when we turn slightly west and are presented with a panorama of the lights of greater Cape Town, sparkling against the dark background of night. It draws verbal responses from us almost involuntarily. Well, from them; the deal we have is that they look, and I drive.

Down into the bowl of Cape Town’s eastern suburbs and home a little after 7. Now that was a wonderful circuit, delighting the palate, the eyes, and the spirit.

Tuna melts and a couple of kinds of leftover soup for supper. A handful of our friends from the local churches drop in and join us. These are good kids, young men who have decided, as the song goes, to follow Jesus, and who are encouraged by the visible reminder that there are others like them. Mutual edification is the order of the evening.

The whole crew plays a set of Signs, and as usual, the play is punctuated by outbursts of laughter. Joy is a wonderful thing.

At 10.30 I call for devotions, which our friends stay to join. We share what we’ve learned, what we’ve thought, what we’ve realized. And we pray for success in our efforts scheduled for tomorrow.

Now it’s 11 pm. Better get to bed; success generally requires that we be awake for said scheduled efforts.

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Dan Olinger

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

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