Friday, July 01, 2016

We’ve known all week that it was going to rain on this last day of VBS at Eindhoven. When I walk across Keurboom Avenue to the girls’ house, it’s sunny and dry. When we come out to get in the van 10 minutes later, it’s raining. Halfway there, the rain stops. By the time we arrive, it’s raining again. This is typical for Cape Town.

But what’s not typical is the gloriously bright full double rainbow spread out before us as we take the exit for Delft. One team member says she’s never seen a rainbow so perfect and so beautiful.

We arrive a minute or two before the Paynes, with a couple dozen children already waiting for us. We set the table up inside the school building—the rain and wind make outside registration on the plaza completely impractical—and we get the children checked in and sent to their classroom for songs. As usual, Jojo and Lora lead the singing, with all those old-time children’s favorites, plus some we’ve imported from the VBSes in Ghana over the last few years. Then Jojo tells the Bible story to one group while Cathy Payne does the memory verse with the other, and they switch and do it all again.

The rain stops and starts every 7.35 minutes. It’s just weird. We have game time inside the classrooms—we just can’t bring ourselves to dirty that newly cleaned assembly room floor. It gets a little crazy, but it’s easy to see that the children aren’t rebellious, they’re just happy and excited and consequently rambunctious.

We have prayer with them at the end of game time and give them all a wordless book and a lollipop. Many of them tell us thanks and hug us, and I tell them, as I always do, that God willing, I’ll be back next year with new friends. And they walk off down the street to their homes, where we’ll find them next year and invite them to “Bybelklub.” The Paynes have a stack of contact cards that will keep them busy with home visits for the foreseeable future.

The rain suggests some indoor entertainment for the afternoon; I suggest Tyger Valley Mall, which until recently was the largest mall in Cape Town. In recent years the new Century City Mall has eclipsed it, but it’s been completely renovated in the last couple of years, and it looks really good. We decide to go over there, have lunch, and then explore for a couple hours.

It’s a diverse food court, with an Ocean Basket, another seafood place, pizza, sushi, steak. The team opts for Alamo Spur, a South African chain of steak houses with a Western theme. One of the team comments that it seems odd to go to a cowboy restaurant in Cape Town, but I note that we have Chinese restaurants all over the US and don’t think anything of it.

Our waiter is Xhosa (that’s the language with the clicks) and a really good waiter. We all order steaks of one kind or another. I get filet with mushroom sauce, and it’s as good a steak as I’ve ever eaten. Eight bucks. To my immediate right is a T-bone; across the table is a sirloin. Everybody’s having a really good time.

This is Africa too.

But they want to get some shopping done. I send them off with a reassembly plan and linger over my rooibos. I don’t need to buy anything, so I can just relax.

After paying the bill I wander the mall, ambling, looking at what’s interesting—mostly the people, not the stuff—and ruminating on the meaning of it all. This mall is four stories of Western consumerism, bigger than pretty much any mall I’ve ever seen in the States. The customers dress Western as well, for the most part, with the occasional Muslim headscarf along the way. This is not Wa or Mwanza—on the surface. But the people are essentially the same. They follow their traditions, do their business, love their families. Most do not really understand their higher purpose; they just do their daily tasks and seek their satisfaction in the here and now.

At 4 I meet Beth and Rachelle at the Pick ‘n’ Pay, which is a supermarket. We buy food for the next several days and then meet the rest of the team, as previously arranged, at the Mug ‘n’ Bean, a coffee shop. Load everything up and head for home.

Several team members cooperate to put together supper of stir fry. We finish in time to head for a multi-church youth activity at Eersterivier. This is the first church that Tony Payne planted, now pastored by Kevin Simpson, a South African whom Tony discipled. Kevin and I have been friends since my first trip here in 2000; it’s been a joy to see him and his family develop over the years and multiple trips.

There are about 25 young people at the activity. We mingle comfortably, playing volleyball, sharing testimonies, singing, snacking, just talking. These are small churches, and sometimes the young people get the idea that they’re pretty much alone in their commitment to follow Christ. It’s good for them to see that there are others like them.

Back to the house around 10. We do some organizational work in the van on the way home and head off to bed shortly after arriving. Long day tomorrow at the Cape.

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Dan Olinger

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

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