Sunday, May 13, 2018

Up at 6 as usual. That’s a good sign; I must be basically adapted to the time change. Cam’s still asleep; I’ll let him stay in the land of Morpheus for a bit.

We’ve agreed that the girls’ house will be for them alone until 8 am as a standard practice. The guys can show up anytime after that. The girls’ house is laid out so that the front two bedrooms and bathroom can be shut off as kind of a private suite, so even after 8 the inhabitants of those two bedrooms will have privacy. The living room, kitchen, and dining room will be considered public areas.

So until 8 I have time for morning cleanup, reading, and sermon prep. I always assume that I’m preaching at any service I’m going to, because that’s typically what Timothy likes to do while I’m here. If I show up and he’s acting like he’s going to preach, then that’s fine with me. But it’s a good idea to be ready at all times.

My freshman year at BJU, my Bible teacher, Dr. Charles Smith, told us that we ought to have two sermons ready to go at a moment’s notice, without notes. At some point, he said, we’ll show up at some church, the pastor will hear that we’ve been to BJU, and he’ll ask us to preach. I’ve never had it happen exactly like that, but I’ve had late enough notice that it’s good to have something already prepared. Good advice, all those years ago.

A little before 9 Pastor Aquila arrives to drive us to church. Aquila got a Master’s in Bible from the Baptist College of Ministry in the States a year or two ago, and he’s now pastoring Faith’s sister church, Wa Regular Baptist. (That’s actually the original Baptist Mid-Mission plant in Wa from decades ago, but it has since been surpassed in size by Faith, which Timothy planted out of Wa RBC about 15 years ago.) He drops us off at Faith and heads back to his responsibilities at Wa.

We’re in time for Sunday school, so we head upstairs to a school classroom where the young people’s class meets. It’s taught, as it has been for years, by Robert, a middle-aged student of mine from previous block classes here in the college. He’s stern-looking lecturer, but the questions and opinions offered by the students indicate that he has their attention and respect. By the time we finish, the room is literally standing room only. The lesson is from the life of David, and especially the fact that his sin with Bathsheba led to negative consequences in his family. The kids engage in the discussion, and our crew later comments that they were surprised to see a fairly straightforward discussion of sexual mores in such an engaging and respectful way.

Then downstairs and across the courtyard to the church building itself for the morning service. My favorite part of these services is the congregational singing; they sing buoyantly, energetically, with that distinctive African harmony. I’m not enough of a musician to know the technical name for it, if there is one, but it’s delightful and deeply moving at the same time.

There are several congregational numbers, in both Waali and English, as well as 3 different choir numbers. The choir is made up of young people; in the Waala culture, the church faced some resistance to public singing performance in the adults, so they decided to start with the young people, and in 20 years they’ll have a choir of all ages. The choir members are well-trained by David, who though not well-trained in music, loves it and has a good musical sense. They single fairly challenging traditional anthems, and they pull them off.

Since it’s Mother’s Day, Timothy calls all the mothers to the front of the sanctuary, where the congregation sings to them while he gives each an envelope—I find out later that it contains 10 cedis, or about $2.25. Just a token of appreciation. Then, in my favorite part, Timothy tells all the children in the room to come up front and hug their mothers. The room is filled with joy and affection and appreciation.

I preach, through my regular interpreter, from Psalm 11, on finding refuge in God during trials. We work together well and have a lot of fun doing it. It’s interesting to preach in a very different culture; you have to find illustrations that will work well here, comparing biblical ideas to common elements of their everyday life. It’s challenging, but fun, to think through the material that way.

We mingle for quite a while after lunch, for two reasons: first, that’s just how it works here, and second, our ride is delayed. The crew is connecting with the children and the young people extremely well, and of course Cam is the neighborhood jungle gym.

When our ride is further delayed, we cram into Timothy’s SUV and head home. When we arrive, our cook, Mary, is hard at work. She used to own a restaurant in Wa, and she cooked for us last time a team was here, in 2016. Her food is delightful. Today it’s spaghetti with meat sauce, and the meat sauce is seriously meaty. And there’s twice as much as we can eat. We’re not hurting h ere, folks.

After lunch I lie down for an hour or so, and I think some of the others do as well. But they’re up at 4.30 for a scheduled volleyball game with the college guys. Only one of the latter shows up, but they play for an hour anyway until it’s time to get ready for evening church.

Ivy, Timothy’s wife, brings a quick meal of chicken stew by the house for us to scarf down before church. We eat some and save the rest for afterwards. We’re flexible like that. 🙂

At Faith Timothy normally does two things in the evening service: the village church pastors come into town and give a report of their morning services, and then he asks questions and makes application of the morning sermon. The village churches don’t have evening services, because it’s too dangerous to travel on the motorbikes after dark out in the bush. And it helps the mother church to hear what’s going one with each daughter congregation. Since I preached this morning, I do the application session. It’s fun to see what the people have learned and what kinds of insights they can bring to the theme of the message.

Back at the house we eat some more—the stew was in the thermos pot, so it’s still hot even though we put it in the fridge during church. One of the girls says it’s the best thing she’s eaten since we got here.

This is Ruth’s last night in the house; she and Carlos take the overnight bus to Accra tomorrow afternoon, from where Carlos flies home to Ethiopia and Ruth flies home to Scotland. We’ll miss them both; we’ve developed friendships with them even though the team’s been here only 2 days.

So Ruth goes to bed early, and we have our evening devotional time quietly, foregoing the singing except for one song, which we sing as if we’re a Chinese church hiding from the government. We do some planning for the week; every weeknight but Wednesday we’ll be doing either a VBS or canvassing for a new church plant for the next two weeks. We’ll start with VBSes at Faith Monday and Tuesday. We decide who’s telling the Bible stories and talk through how the programs will work. The first couple of days will likely be getting used to working with the young people from Faith, who will be their guides through the process.

I won’t be able to go to any of the VBSes, since they have to start after school, at 4 pm, and I have to teach my block class beginning at 5.30. But they’ll be well directed by the folks here; our crew has no idea how much they’re going to learn and how greatly they’re going to respect their Ghanaian peers. It will be fun to hear about that in our evening fellowship times.

I leave the kids to the house a little after 10 and head home to work on the blog and class prep for tomorrow. Cam shows up about 11, still full of energy and excited about what he’s learning.

So far, so good.

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Dan Olinger

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

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