Saturday, May 12, 2018

There are more toilet stops along the way, every few hours, but only one at an actual facility, and that’s questionable. It’s a Shell station with the facilities around back. The men line up against a wall in sight of everybody, which is not indecent but averse to American tastes. The ladies’ facility is right next to where the men are, um, standing, behind a curtain. I have no idea what’s back there, but the girls take a look and decide to wait for the next opportunity, if you know what I mean.

The only other stops are by the side of the road. Again, then men urinate with their backs to the bus. I’ve a seen a few women get out at these roadside stops too, but I’ve made it a point not to try to figure out how they manage. Our crew stays bolted to their seats at every opportunity, except for Yours Truly, because, well, I’m in my sixties, and at that point you just don’t have as many choices.

Ahem.

So it’s pretty much a sleepless night for me and Cam, but the rest seem to get some shuteye along the way. I finally doze off until one of the team members—I won’t identify the culprit—wakes me up to ask if we’re almost there.

Seriously? You woke me up for that?! And if I’m ASLEEP, how am I supposed to know the answer to that question? I believe we have the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

At 7 am we’re in downtown Wa and arrive at the VIP terminal, just west of the town market. As we’re backing in I see Timothy’s brother John, one of the local pastors, smiling at me through the window. It’s good to see old friends, and it’s good to know that our ride is here.

We greet our friends, unload the luggage, and head for John’s bright yellow van, which is big enough for all of us and all of them and all of our luggage. It’s just a few minutes’ drive to the compound. The plan is for the 6 girls to stay in what has usually been called the “team house.” Since last year a missionary couple, Dan and Karen Mapes, have arrived, and it’s now their home. Providentially, they’re in the States for their son’s graduation, and they’ve kindly made it available for the girls to use.

Also providentially, Ruth Kennedy is here. Ruth is a long-time BMM missionary; she’s served in several places, but her intersection with us is that she oversees an orphanage in Ethiopia, from which the Bible college has a student, Carlos, who is graduating. She’s come from her current home in Scotland to see him graduate. She and Carlos will be leaving on Monday, at which time the girls will have the house to themselves, but in the meantime she’s a remarkable resource, as we’ll see.

Cam and I will be living in a nearby building which has previously housed the Waali Literacy Program; since the Mapeses now live in the guest house, Timothy has decided to turn the WLP building into a guest house. It has a front sitting room, 2 large bedrooms, and a bath. Cam and I will each have our own rooms.

One problem this trip is that Wa has been in drought for some time, and for now running water is intermittent. Today we have some in the girls’ house, but not in the guys’ house. They’ve brought in large plastic barrels to hold water for us to use for washing and flushing the toilets. Though the water’s better in the girls’ house, it’s still not sufficient for showering, so it’s sponge baths for the near future. But that’s fine.

The wifi’s also down for the moment, which is why you’re not seeing this post on the day it’s being written. I hope to rectify that by Monday.

Well, no time to dawdle. It’s after 8, and we have graduation at 10. Sponge baths are in order, and enough unpacking to get some nice clothes out for the public function. Some of us even manage to get 15 or 20 minutes of sleep.

I’ve told the kids that given the sleep deprivation, they don’t need to go to the ceremony, but that it would be an educational experience for them. When I ask who wants to go, all 7 hands go up.

What great kids.

So into the van to head for the graduation, which is being held at Timothy’s church, Faith Fundamental Baptist. The team takes their seats towards the front while the faculty, students, and visiting speaker line up for the processional. In we come as the congregation sings a Waali hymn. There’s a harmony and resonance to African singing that I don’t find anywhere else in the world. It’s really good to hear it again.

The ceremony proceeds as you would expect, except that each of the 4 graduates gives a testimony of his salvation and call, and afterwards each receives gifts from various friends and ministries. It’s a festive time.

In one of the most moving moments, Carlos receives a gift of 2 smocks from churches he has served in. The smock is the most common gift at these occasions, and it’s usually given by family to rejoice in the accomplishment of their son. It’s moving because Carlos is not Waala; he’s Ethiopian, and the smocks are a public statement that these Waala consider him their family member; he has been accepted as one of them. And even more moving is the fact that Carlos is an orphan; he has no father. And here a beautiful Ghanaian tribe with a proud history has welcomed him into their family. I find the world suddenly gets a little watery, and Ruth is in tears as she rejoices for the gift to her “son.”

After the service all are served a meal of rice and meat with tomato sauce, and then we load up in the van and head for home. We stop at the market to pick up some bananas so the kids can learn the joys of tree-ripened African fruit.

We’re officially done for the day, but how we handle the rest of the day can have significant consequences. I’ve said that the best way to beat jetlag is to arrive exhausted at bedtime. Well, the worst way to do it is to arrive exhausted first thing in the morning. If you fall asleep, you’ll sleep for hours, and then you’ll be awake all night, and getting adjusted will be a real battle.

Ideally you should stay awake all day, but I can see that’s not going to happen.

I tell them to get some sleep, but that I’m going to wake them up in a little over an hour, and they’re going to need to get up if they want to make this adjustment happen. Cam and I head home to set an example. After about an hour’s nap, I wake Cam up—“Cam! Cam! Cam! Hey, Cam!—and then we head to the girls’ house. I shout at them all to arise from the dead, and, what do you know, they do.

We spend some time talking about what they observed this morning, and when I see them start to flag, I decide it’s time for the facilities tour. Time to get that blood flowing.

We walk casually along the south wall of the compound, noting the clotheslines and the compost pens and the high, secure wall and the termite mounds and the chapel/classroom and the mango orchard and the shea trees (yep, where shea butter comes from). I’m taking them over to the college boys’ dorm when we find Ruth and Carlos sitting under a tree talking, and a few of the college boys come out to talk as well. An extended conversation ensues, with Flavia in particular having a long talk with Ruth, who grew up in Brazil, with the rest of the crew and the college boys eventually starting up a spirited game of volleyball. Eventually we all gather to watch them play until dark.

Timothy’s wife Ivy brings supper about that time and we gather at the dining table in the girls’ house to eat. Ruth joins us and tells story after story of God’s grace, provision, and direction in a long and storied missionary career. Then some Fan Ice for dessert—the best vanilla ice cream in the world, in my opinion—and devotions in the living room. Cam shares his testimony, others share lessons from the day, and we all sing with surprising energy, given how tired we all are.

About 9 we head off to bed. Sunday school starts at 9 am tomorrow.

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Dan Olinger

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

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