Saturday, June 9, 2018

Saturday. Slower schedule, if you want it to be. Besides meals, there are just 2 things on the schedule, and one of them (home visits in the village) turns out to be cancelled, so this is a great opportunity to recoup and refresh.

But this team, like the earlier teams, is not one to just lie around. The children want to go on another early-morning hike. The boys are standing outside the door of HQ at 5 am, ready to go. The girls show up at 6. One group goes to the ridge across the street, and the other goes down the road to the larger hill northwest of the compound. Both hikes can be quite long if you let them, and the children are always excited about an opportunity to be off the compound and, truth be told, to manipulate the ignorance of the team members, so they’re out for a long time.

The first scheduled thing is chai at 10, and the groups get back for that with surprisingly little to spare. Then chai is late. 🙂

The big item on the schedule is a craft fair at 11. Three of the local artisans—carvers, painters, jewelry makers, basket weavers—sent a bunch of inventory back with Rachelle’s van on our town trip yesterday, and this morning they bring whatever more they can on their bicycles. These are top-notch craftsmen, creating genuine designs, and not simply stamping out cookie-cutter stuff that you might find in the duty-free shops at the airport. I tell the crew that this is a big opportunity to buy top-quality souvenirs and gifts at excellent prices. I also tell them that while they may be able to bargain some on price, these prices are so good that spending a little less would mean considerably less to them than the loss would to the artists. I recommend they pay what’s asked. In the city, I wouldn’t do that.

I’ve pulled a pile of shillings—600,000, or about $300—out of the bank for other stuff that turned out not to be needed, so I have considerable cash on hand. I tell the crew not to spend more than they can afford, but if they would be able to resupply from an ATM if there were one available, I’m happy to serve as a temporary ATM and front them cash they already have in the bank.

So they go to work. Shopping. In Africa. As one team member puts it, that’s the two best things ever. I usually think of myself as the team’s protector and advocate, but I comment to Rachelle that here, I find myself changing sides. I remind them that they have family members and supporters who really ought to get a little something from Africa.

By the time it’s over, they’ve bought some really beautiful things, and I’ve burned through all the ATM cash. That means those artisans may have done 800,000 or even a million shillings in business today. For them, that’s life-changing. Rachelle tells me that one of them just had a baby and needs to come up with $30 to pay the hospital bill. (You read that right.) Now he’ll be able to do it. This has been a very good day for them. I’m overjoyed. (I even bought some things. For my wife. Don’t tell her.)

Lunch with the children today—boiled sweet potatoes. These are different from American sweet potatoes—similar in shape, but the flesh is much more like that of regular potatoes. Simple, filling.

After the hike, the crew is whupped, as we say in the South. Many of them opt for an afternoon nap, which is in this case probably the best use of their time. Others don’t feel the need and hang out with the children. I hear that a pretty intense football game breaks out. One of the crew skins her foot pretty significantly—I joke that she’s following my example—and we bandage her up. Probably will be much less of a deal than mine.

Supper with the missionaries—potato soup, vegetables with dips (ranch and homemade honey mustard and guacamole), and some pepperoni rolls that Katie made. All delicious. The crew comments that it’s good to have American food along the way. I suspect they wouldn’t thrive if all they ate was what the children are eating.

The Gasses have a 4-month-old baby girl, and the team members pass her around while we’re eating. One girl suggests she should stay with them tonight, and Mom seems open to the idea. 🙂 But not seriously. I think the crew would recognize the foolishness of the idea by 2 am or so, if not much earlier.

Since it’s Saturday, it’s each group’s last night with their house for devotions; Monday night they’ll rotate and get a new set of children. (I’ll stay with the older boys.) These children make a big deal about good-byes—they get a lot of opportunities to experience them—and there are some tears, even though the team’s not leaving.

Even with the naps, the crew is tired this evening. We have devotions followed by a little chocolate, and then I head out early so the girls who want to can get to bed.

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Dan Olinger

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

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