Thursday, June 21, 2018

Longest day of the year—but that’s in the Northern Hemisphere. Here just south of the equator, it’s the shortest day—but the lengths don’t differ that much throughout the year this close to the equator.

We’re treated to a relatively late start today; with the tutoring sessions over, there’s no 9 am class, and the first obligation of the day is chai at 10—and that’s not really an obligation. I’m sensitive about staying away from the house at the beginning and end of the day, so the girls can have the place to themselves, so I sleep all the way to 7.30 and then don’t even stop by the house on the way to chai, which today is mandazi and uji.

After everybody has eaten, we ask Ferdinand to blow the air horn that signals everyone to report to the kibanda. Jana and Paige tell the assembled throng that camp is starting, and they lay out the plan. There are two teams—the lions and the cheetahs—who will compete for points in various activities, such as

  • Daily house inspection
  • Memory verses—as much of the Gospel of John as they’d like to memorize
  • Sports—volleyball and football (soccer)
  • Activities—an Uno tournament (today) and a talent show (tomorrow)

House inspection will be each day at noon, so they have time to get ready for today’s episode. And of course they can start on the verse memorization immediately. English or Swahili, but if they recite in Swahili they need to provide the hearer with a Bible.

Then we introduce the teams, one member at a time, from youngest to oldest. Rachelle has set the rosters up so that they’re as even as possible—which is tricky, since she has to consider athletic ability, academic ability, reliability, and the other activities.

Once the teams are assembled, the team leaders start teaching them cheers, with help from Olivia, who’s acting as an unbiased spirit leader for both sides, due to her experience with camp work.

Most of the children are into the spirit of it pretty well by the end of the cheering time, and several start memorizing verses immediately.

By lunchtime on Dan & Jana’s porch, the crew is reporting that a good many children are cranking out memory verses like there’s no tomorrow—and, if the Lord tarries, we’re planning for one. And house inspections went really well, we’re told.

Lunch today is tacos, but we don’t call them that, because the Swahili word tako means buttock, and that just confuses people. So we call them tortillas, fully realizing that the tortilla is technically just the shell you put all that deliciousness into. Now you understand one reason why the United Nations seems so confused all the time.

It’s been looking like rain all day; there was a pretty solid rainstorm overnight, the first precip we’ve had during our stay, but the morning has been dry though cloudy and gray. And significantly cooler, in the low 60s. The locals think it’s winter; Ferdinand is wearing a sweatshirt over a turtleneck and rubbing his hands together constantly. It’s all in one’s perspective, I suppose.

Because the ground is wet, we’re planning to play volleyball, not football, for the afternoon game; but as game time approaches, the rain starts again, and volleyball’s out too. So we reorganize and decide to move the 7 pm singspiration back to 3 pm instead of the game. Everyone gathers in the kibanda, and we sing many of the songs from the team songbook that the children have come to enjoy.

Now, here’s the thing. About 4 or 5 of the girls on this team just seem to cry a lot more than people on previous teams. All of our teams have loved the children and been moved by them, but this crew is just always on the edge of blubbering. Halfway through the first line of the first song, the tears start.

Oh, man.

The extraction phase of this mission is gonna be a mess.

All afternoon the Uno Cup has been going on, and by suppertime they’ve determined a winner, one of the older girls. (Beth, her name starts with P.) And while she was winning the tournament, she also memorized the entire 1st chapter of John.

After a supper of rice and beans, we have house devotions as usual. Looks like I’m going to wrap up the “gifts” of salvation in Ephesians 1 right on time tomorrow night. The boys have been attentive throughout.

For team devos, to my surprise, the girls don’t want to sing. They’re all cried out. So I share the Word, we enumerate our prayer requests, and I lead in prayer.

While most of the girls munch on chocolate—it seems to help—and a couple of them start taking out some of their braids—boy, does that do wonders for body—we survey logistics for tomorrow’s activities, which look good.

And by a little after 9, I’m out of their hair—pun intended—so they can decompress from the day.

Pray for tomorrow. I expect it’ll be a doozy emotionally.

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Dan Olinger

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

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