Thursday, June 7, 2018

First day of tutoring sessions. The foot’s not ready for prime time yet, but I need to be at HQ when this all gets started. I head over about 8.30 to find everybody up and feeling good enough to teach. There are 7 sessions at 9 am, with 2 team members, Paige and Jana, serving as floaters to help anybody who needs it.

Three of the crew have each bought a can of coffee, similar to Starbucks, that they’ve had in the fridge overnight. They open ‘em up as a special treat and enjoy the taste of good coffee, first thing in the morning.

Tumaini has recently constructed a small building between the kibanda and the administrative building that contains 2 classrooms. That’s a great addition to the facility; it’s enclosed, and each classroom has a whiteboard. So now we have 3 groups meeting in classrooms, 3 on porches, and 1 in the kibanda. That works pretty well.

The reason we have 2 floaters in each of the morning times is that Tumaini has hired some tutors to teach the oldest kids for the 2 morning sessions. In the afternoon, when the tutors are done, we’ll be fully deployed, and I’ll be the floater.

So sessions at 9 and 11, with chai in between; then we take a break while the children have Bible study in Swahili, followed by lunch and then chores at 2. Afternoon session at 3, followed by free time for games or reading; we encourage our folks to read a book with one of their students each day to increase their reading comprehension. Then dinner, house devotions, and done. That’s a pretty productive day, without being overwhelming.

As the 9 am session is starting one of the canned-coffee tutors suddenly feels an earthquake of sorts and has to run for the toilet. And the fountains of the great deep are broken up. Then she feels fine. Well, that was odd. The other 2 don’t have any problem.

After the 9 am session I grill the crew as they return. All went well; the students are generally cheerful—so far—and things are good. Over mandazi and chai they compare notes and give ideas and encouragement.

The 11:00 session is similar, with an expected level of problems but nothing major. It’s fun to listen to the crew as they come into HQ, share their stories, and help one another out with ideas. They’re working well together.

I sit in HQ and watch the team decide what to do next. Unbidden, they get to work cleaning up: a couple of them wash the dishes, which is sort of a pain without tap water, and another one sweeps the floor, and others carry water from the kitchen supply tanks to refill their barrel (while I sit and do nothing, to my great chagrin), while others wash and cut up fruit for the lunchtime fruit salad—mango, orange, pineapple, and watermelon, all fresh and ripe. As they work, they’re thinking about one another, how to make life easier for those around them. It’s a pleasure to watch. One of my favorite parts of these experiences is watching a team come together as a team. It’s an important part of what they’re learning here.

I join the crew for lunch on Dan & Jana’s porch, for the first time this week, but by the end of lunch I can tell that I need to get back to my room and take pressure off the foot. This thing is agonizingly slow, and it drives me nuts.

They bring me supper of rice, beans, watermelon chunks, and then it’s off to devotions with the older boys. Afterwards, a boy comes up to me and asks how long I’ve been a Christian. Since I was 6, I tell him, so more than 50 years. How about you? Seven years, he says, without hesitation. Are you walking with him? Reading your Bible? Spending time in prayer? Getting to know him better? Yes, he says with a smile. I tell him that if he will follow Jesus, he will not be disappointed in the end. And off he goes to shower before bed.

Many of the children here have made no profession of faith, and we see our share of kids trying to game the system. But there are some who are the real thing, whose hearts God has touched. We’re here to serve all the children, but we’re here especially to encourage them. It’s worth it, for them and for us.

Thanks for your prayers.

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Dan Olinger

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

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