Friday, July 08, 2016

Last day of scheduled ministry. Today, Lord willing, we complete the contract.

I drop by the house at 9:30 for a Limnos run. Everybody but Sarah and Jojo want to go. We find a table near the front door and settle in. The waiter informs us that they’re still out of Black Forest cake. And now they’re out of scones too. Ouch. It’s like they’re not even Limnos anymore. We order some things and enjoy the fellowship. But it would have been better with scones. And Black Forest cake.

Back to the house for some free time before our last VBS. It’s a pretty simple day.

There are more children than yesterday at the Bible club, and they’re energetic on this last day. We start with songs, led by Jojo and Lora, and the children are deeply into it. Then the Bible story, which Jonathan tells, about Onesimus. And the memory verse, by Bethany, who reviews all the verses for the week—they remember them surprisingly well—and then covers today’s new one, Ephesians 4:32. That’s nostalgic for me; it was the first Bible verse I memorized, more than 55 years ago. Boy, a lot has happened since then. I wonder what God will do with these children.

We send the children off with Nik-Naks, the Cheetos-like snacks, and they’re surprisingly sentimental. Many of them hug us, and as usual, I tell them that, God willing, we’ll do this again next year.

Willa and her crew have made an Africa pot full of chicken curry stew, and we take time to enjoy it—with our scheduled activities completed, we have no need to consider any schedule pressure—and talk with our coworkers, both the young men and the senior citizens who’ve been working alongside us all week. It’s a special time of fellowship.

Eventually we say our goodbyes and head up the R-102 for the last time. We hit a bunch of red lights and slow people in front of us, but there’s no need to hurry. The Crew is silent as we drive. I ask if they’re tired or sad or both. Jonathan replies, “Pensive,” and I sense agreement from the others. It’s good that they’re thinking about what they’ve learned.

At the house Rachael and Jonathan put together spaghetti and sauce from the rest of our groceries, and we even find a couple of candles to put on the table. There are some things left over—cooking oil, flour, sugar, that sort of thing—which we’ll leave on the counter for the cleaning lady to take home.

After dinner we have our last team meeting, ever. There have been so many of these that it’s always a little surreal to think that there won’t be any more. We share things we’ve learned—I tell them that we all understand that we’re just forming our thoughts at this point, that it will take time for their thinking to solidify. Everyone has observations to share. I lay out some things I’ve learned over the years about repatriation, the pitfalls that come so easily on return from a trip like this. And then we pray, to thank God for His goodness and greatness, and to ask for 48 more hours of it, to bring us safely home to those we love and have missed for these 8 weeks.

We’re done by 8. One goes to bed; others go pack; some of us just hang out and enjoy a low-key last night in Africa.

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Dan Olinger

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

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