Saturday, June 1, 2019

I wake up after less than 2 hours of sleep but feeling surprisingly refreshed. A couple of the others are awake too, but the rest appear to be sleeping fairly soundly. Our $35 gives us the run of the place until 6 am, which is about the time we’d want to head out for the 8 am flight anyway.

I get my daily Bible study done and starting wrestling with the wifi as the others begin to come to. I can connect with my phone and tablet, but not with the laptop, which is where all the blog writing and posting software is. Never do get that issue solved, which is why you haven’t seen the initial posts yet. They’re written, if that helps. 🙂

There’s fresh food out for breakfast, where the crew queues up as they become reasonably aware of their surroundings. By 6 am everyone’s ready to go, with the toilet necessaries done (no showers here, unfortunately) and the place looking as good as when we found it. Excellent.

Down the semi-circular hallway to the security check-in for our gate, which goes routinely. I go through last, which is my practice; in case any of the others have a problem, I’ll be available to help. A man behind me says, “Dr. O!” And wonder of wonders, it’s my old friend Sandala (Sandie) Mwanje, who was a student at Central Africa Baptist College in Zambia when I took a team there in 2010. He’s still there as part of the school’s administration and faculty. He’s in Nairobi with Tim Murdock, who has joined the CABC faculty since the team was there, but he’s been a missionary in Ghana as well, so we have plenty to talk about. I’m in Nairobi going to Tanzania, and Sandie’s in Nairobi headed back to Zambia from Uganda, and what are the odds we’d run into each other in the security line at 6.30 on a Saturday morning? Especially since his flight isn’t until 2 pm, but he came in early because a colleague, Andy Matoke, is heading out to South Africa for a conference this morning?

I mean, really?!

I introduce him to the team, and we all stop by Java House for a cup of coffee and fellowship. Tim in particular spends quite a bit of time talking with Peter, Sam, and Shelbie. (And no, he’s not Dave Ramsey.)

All too soon it’s time for us to head to the gate next door to board our 8 am flight. We say our good-byes and head down the hall, through the abusively priced “duty free” shop (why does anybody buy anything there, ever?) to Gate 15. Since there’s just a short line, we’re checked in and seated in the waiting area in plenty of time. Soon enough the agent calls us to the doorway, where we descend a flight of stairs to the waiting bus for a ride across the tarmac to our plane for this, the shortest two legs of the trip. I say two legs because our flight is making a stop at the Kilimanjaro International Airport to let off a few passengers and pick up a few others. We’ll have a chance to see the Big One.

The plane is an ATR 42/72, a high-wing, twin-engine turboprop. Some of the kids express a little nervousness about riding on a propeller-driven plane, but I tell them that that technology works just as well as a jet, though usually not as fast.

Just two seats on each side of the center aisle; we’re clustered together in the middle rows. Soon the props start turning and then become a blur, and we leave the ramp a half-hour late. Runway 6, on which we landed last night; wheels up at 8.35. So long, Kenya, until we catch you on the way back.

Double layer of overcast today: a very low broken ceiling, then a solid ceiling at about 5,000 feet or so. Above that, it’s clear—so we should get a good look at the Mountain. And half an hour later we do, the massive cone rising off our left wing, still sporting its fabled snows here in summer. The tallest mountain in Africa, and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. It’s an impressive sight. We all lean against the port windows and snap away.

We descend into Kili airport, landing on runway 9 at 9.15. Through passengers—that includes us—stay on the plane while about half the passengers deplane and about an equal number come aboard. Then a short taxi, the roar of the turboprop engines, and away we go again, departing at 9.55. Just an hour later—actually 11.05a—we touch down in Mwanza, our final destination. Runway 30. Straight ahead is Lake Victoria, the largest-area lake in Africa. You really can’t miss it.

MWZ is a much smaller airport that Nairobi, or even Kilimanjaro; the contrast is stark. As the bus drives up to the terminal and disgorges us, it all feels a little like Podunk, North Dakota, with that fashionable ramshackle vibe. But appearances are deceptive, in a couple of ways. First, this field is surprisingly busy, being the closest airport to the western Serengeti National Park, which has a global draw. And second, the staff here are really quite eager to help. After we fill out the usual immigration form and get scanned for body temperature at the health department, the customs guy waves us on, and we’re immediately surrounded by porters eager to get our luggage for us (and the consequent tip, of course).

Out in the parking lot we’re greeted by Beth Roark, Tumaini’s longtime director, and Katie Roukes, her assistant. Beth usually has two assistants, but the senior one, Rachelle Miller, is on furlough at the moment. They’re here with 3 vans. The third one, a taxi, will take all our luggage to TMC immediately, so it will be waiting for us when we get there. Half of us will go with Katie to do one errand, while the other half go with Beth for a distinct mission. I end up in Bath’s van with Blake, Abbie, Rebekah, and Kathryn, and we do some last-minute supply shopping at U-Turn, Mwanza’s favorite grocery for expatriates, since it has a whole bunch of things from home that you often can’t get anywhere else. We pick up some produce, some toilet paper, and other stuff we’ll need.

We arrive at Tumaini a little after 1 and gather on Beth’s porch for a light lunch—pasta salad, veggies with ranch dressing, and various fruit.

I say this every year, but it’s worth repeating. Once you have eaten African fruit, you will never be satisfied with American fruit again. We pick our fruit unripe so it will ship with less damage, but tree-ripened fruits have a sweetness and complexity of flavor that the mass-produced stuff just doesn’t have. When you pick just what’s ripe today and sell it at the local market the same day, you get something many Americans have simply never seen. It’s delicious.

After lunch we take our bags to our houses, get a quick tour of said houses from Beth and Katie, and then get busy unpacking and moving in. As usual, the girls are in the Big House (at the bottom center of the link above, south of the round gazebo), which is the west end of Tumaini’s main building. All 7 of them will sleep in a single bunkroom next to a hall with 3 showers and 3 toilets. The front of the house will serve as team HQ, with a sitting area and a kitchen. Since it’s right next to the kibanda, or “gazebo” that serves as the compound’s social center, it’s perfect for a headquarters.

The guys will be in a small dormitory building closer to the lake on a rocky outcropping (at the center here). Their room on the west side has two bunkbeds, a bathroom, and a sink. My mirror-image apartment on the east side has one bed, plus some kitchen appliances such as a propane stove and a refrigerator.

We need to stay awake until bedtime—that’s how you beat jetlag—and I’m having a terrible time with it. I guess I’ve had about 4 hours of sleep in the past 48 hours, and most of the others are in similar condition. We have a meeting at 4.45, just before supper, to discuss Sunday plans. Beth keeps it very basic, but I’m having to fight to keep my eyes open (it’s not you, Beth), and I know others are too.

We have supper at Dan & Jana’s house. (The missionary housing is just north and a little west of the men’s apartments.) Dan is the team leader here; he and his colleague Matt Gass oversee the Bible college here on the compound and the network of churches pastored by its graduates. Dan & Jana were on furlough last summer when the team was last here, so it’s nice to see them on the field again.

Jana, Dan’s wife, has prepared a high-volume feast for us: self-serve tacos with ground beef, beans, white chili, guacamole, fresh salsa, and shredded cheese. I have two large helpings before I even know what hit me. (By the way, we call them tortillas, not tacos, because the Swahili word tako means “buttock.” Cross-cultural ministry is always interesting.)

While we’re eating, Dan catches me up on news from the local church network and related successes. It appears to me that very good things are happening.

After supper we have a quick introduction meeting with the children. They’re always a bit shy at first, but that’ll change very quickly once they start spending time with us. One special factor is that Rebekah was here before with a group from her church; the kids are delighted to see her back.

By 7.30 we’re all pretty much done. The girls lock up and go to bed; the guys head for home and presumably do the same; and I putter around my place a little bit to do some final organization. But I’m in bed by shortly after 8.

I should mention security here. The compound is surrounded by a fence, which has never been breached. Each house has iron bars on the windows and a barred iron gate outside the wooden door. There’s a night watchman who patrols with a pack of dogs that like us a lot but are hostile to intruders; anyone coming on the compound uninvited will be leaving of his own volition, and a lot faster than he came in.

There are other security measures as well, which I won’t describe here. In sum, your kids are safe.

Good night. 🙂

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Dan Olinger

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

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