Sunday. June 3, 2018

Up at 6, devotions, morning cleanup. Ready in plenty of time for church at 8. I told the girls I wouldn’t come by the house before 8—they never start church on time—so I dawdle getting over there.

And when I arrive, we have our first mystery of the trip. Last night—middle of the night—the girls find, in the middle of their bunkroom, a suitcase. That wasn’t there when they went to bed. That doesn’t belong to anyone we know.

Now, that’s a puzzle.

My assumption is that it got mixed up with our large collection of bags at the airport. But we waited until everyone else got their bags and went through customs, since we were by far the largest group and had plenty of time. Surely the other person on the plane would have noticed that she didn’t have her suitcase?

And of more concern, how did it get into the middle of their bedroom? The house has one entrance, which was padlocked from the inside, and all the windows are barred.

About that time Rachelle shows up, and her answers make as much sense as anything we can come up with. The bag has an “Expedite” sticker on it, which usually means that it was left behind (in this case, in Nairobi) and is being sent on a later flight for delivery to the passenger. We must have just mixed it in with ours. I had told everyone to get her own bag(s), but sometimes mistakes do happen.

She also opines that in the main house bedroom we have a sleepwalker. None of the girls staying there has a history of sleepwalking, but we’ll watch and see what we learn.

There’s a phone number on the tag, in TX, but it’s 1 am there now, so calling probably isn’t the best option without knowing whether it’s a cell, which might well be in this time zone, or a residential line. Best thing to do is to take it back to the airport this afternoon, since the poor lady is dealing with Precision Air to find this piece anyway. And by then it would be a decent hour to call Texas, if that’s what we’re doing.

So off to church. Women on the left, men on the right. I tell them to spread out and sit with children rather that making a little white cluster, like the Milky Way.

About the second song, I start to feel funny—most noticeably diaphoretic. They’re standing to sing; I sit down and put my head on the back of the bench in front of me for a few minutes. Not feeling better, and increasingly feeling the need to use the toilet. So I excuse myself and walk across the compound to the girls’ house. I’m diagnosing myself along the way—no nausea, minimal light-headedness—and thinking pretty clearly; I know I have the key to the girls’ house, and they’ll need to get in there after church, so I’d better go there.

Hit the toilet and immediately feel pretty much fine. That’s odd. I lie on the couch, seeing if any symptoms recur or develop, and nothing happens. Drink some water, in case it’s dehydration. About 11 I wake up—slept for nearly 2 hours—and notice I have a slight bump over my right eye. That’s odd, too.

Rachelle comes in about the time church gets out. She says the boy sitting next to me says I hit my head pretty hard on the bench when I sat down. That would explain the bump, but it’s strange that I didn’t notice that either at the time or during my fairly lucid walk across the compound. Anyhow, I feel fine now.

I haven’t mentioned this earlier, but I’m also nursing what amounts to a large broken blister on my left sole, which has interfered with my walking significantly—and we’ve done a lot of walking in getting here. I’m keeping it religiously clean and waiting for the underlying skin to toughen up, but walking on it a lot slows that process down.

So now I feel like the sickly old man. I’ve always been healthy, and I don’t like this at all. Prayers for patience appreciated.

After church, as is the tradition here, they have chai, or a midmorning snack. (You can do that if church starts at 8.) This morning it’s lemongrass tea, mandazi (a fried donut in a rectangular shape) and a boiled egg. All very good. I feel like the kids are looking me over, so I make a point of smiling and laughing and saying hello a lot.

After chai we have a brief meeting with Rachelle, going over more cultural things (they’ve learned from experience not to pile it all on at once; early on, the brains are pretty travel-fried) and to introduce the tutoring schedule, which will begin Thursday after some prep days. There will be 3 1-hour tutoring sessions a day; each tutor will have either 2 or 3 different groups of students each day, ranging in number from 2 to 7. We’ll decide tomorrow which slots each tutor gets.

The team seems excited about the opportunity. We emphasize that this is not academically pressured; if we can encourage a reasonable amount of engagement and / or enjoyment, we’ll be happy.

After the meeting is lunch—rice and beans—and then Olivia V and Rachelle head into town to take the baggage back to the airport. We sit around the kibanda (the gazebo in front of the big house, the social center of the campus), talking with the children, learning names, starting on relationships. Soon 3 or 4 boys start kicking a football around on the pitch (more like a pasture, actually), and Janis, Jana, and Paige join in. The others are in the kibanda, hanging with the kids. We’re off to a good start.

And then 2 unusual animals appear outside the fence—a horse (we don’t see many horses around here) and a real live camel. They’re being ridden by people from a “resort” down the road (resorts here are much simpler deals than what you’re thinking). The riders bring them in the front gate and offer rides. Rachelle and Katie ride the camel (the latter with one of the smaller children), and Paige rides the horse, while everybody cheers and takes videos. That’s one for the books.

As I head out for our 4 pm meeting, I appear to be alone in the house. I call out, “Anybody here?” and don’t hear anything, so I lock the place up—padlock on the steel bar screen door—and head to the meeting. A little while later Jess shows up; apparently I locked her in. She answered when I called, but I’m pretty much deaf in 1 ear, and I didn’t hear her. She called one of the kids over, and he got someone with a key.

Sorry, Jess. If it helps, I’ve been locked in there before too.

We meet with Matt Gass at 4 to hear about the history and philosophy of the work here. It was begun back around 2000 by Rob Howell, a BJU Africa Team alumnus, who began planting churches in the area immediately south of Mwanza. Eventually the government wanted him to be doing something “humanitarian” in order to stay, so the mission board (out of Inter-City Baptist in the Detroit area) started the orphanage. There are now 7 churches on both sides of the Mwanza gulf, one of which is on the same property as the orphanage. They also have a Bible college on the property, where classes are held in Swahili and in a manner most effective for the learning styles of the indigenous peoples.

Toward the end of the meeting Rachelle and Liv return from town with the news that the suitcase is now in the hands of the airline, and they’ve left voice mail at the phone number on the tag. I guess we’ve done what we could.

A note on the “Liv” reference. Since we have 2 Olivias, one of them (Olivia V) has said we can call her Liv, since her friends do. That simplifies things.

After the dishwashing crew finishes the supper dishes, we have our first team devotions. A couple of songs—they sing well, for a team that’s still getting to know one another—and a few answers to my regular question, “What did you learn today?” I bring a very brief devotional kicking off the series for our time here, from Ephesians 1.

Then I tell them about a decision I’ve made. This foot problem is not getting better. I’ve concluded that I need to do 2 things: stay off the foot, and keep it open (unbandaged) so it can dry and heal. It would be foolish to be out and about with an open wound—the microorganisms here are different from the ones we’re used to—so I’ve decided to hole up in my room for a couple days, elevate the foot, and see what happens. I’m optimistic that that’ll make a difference and get it on the path to healing. They’ll be kind enough to bring me a plate at lunch & supper, and in the meantime they’ll be well supervised by Rachelle and Katie. For the next 2 days they’re planning their lessons and learning some Swahili, so they’re the best days for me to miss.

We’ll see how this goes.

Rachelle has supplied us with a wifi router, and we got it working today, so the girls are up at HQ wifi’ing, and I’m at home waiting for them to bring it to me when they’re done. When they do, I’ll post this.

And they do, but they don’t bring the electrical plug and the password, so I’ll post in the morning. Be patient. J

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Dan Olinger

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

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