Sunday, June 2, 2019

There’s nothing like being completely exhausted to help you sleep. 🙂

One of the things I like about being at Tumaini is the way we wake up. We do it the natural way.

Oh, you can use an alarm clock if you want to, but there’s really no need. Nature wakes us up.

Sometimes it’s just the lightening of the room. Sometimes it’s the birds. Maybe the cows. Or maybe the people who get up very early to begin the day’s tasks. But this morning, like most mornings, it begins with the crowing of the roosters.

The first one today is at 3.45, then at 4.30, then again at 5. I don’t find this troubling at all; it brings you up to consciousness in stages, progressively, naturally. I normally get up at 5.30 and often wake up a few minutes earlier than that. Today, with help from the Alarm Rooster that God’s providence has graciously provided, I get out of bed at 5.20, refreshed and (temperamentally) ready to get going.

Of course, going to bed around 8 pm will do that for you.

As you know, our days typically begin with the morning ablutions. Here too, but the process is a little different, for a couple of reasons.

First, as in most of the developing world, the tap water is not drinkable, and while some will use it to brush their teeth, we recommend the safe route. Your drinkable / brushable water can come from two sources. You can buy it bottled (least expensively in those 5-gallon jugs that you see on office water coolers), or you can filter it. We’ve used both sources here, but filtering, which is less expensive, is a better regular choice. We have a filtering system at my place, which all the guys use, and at HQ, where the girls live. It’s a simple siphoning system; you put tap water into a 5-gallon bucket, like the ones contractors buy their plaster and paint in, and run a hose through a filter into an empty cooler jug, which sits lower than the bucket, and physics does all the work for you. At regular intervals you clean the filter by forcing filtered water through it in the opposite direction.

From the filtered water in the jug we fill our water bottles as well as pitchers that we keep in the fridge, and we have to remember when we brush our teeth to use the water bottles rather than the tap. (That’s a lot harder than it sounds; people are usually on autopilot when they brush their teeth.)

The second difference in the ablution ritual is that the tap water is less reliable than back home. We’re using city water from Mwanza, the second-largest city in Tanzania, but every so often the taps go dry, and we have to rely on collected rainwater or have a truck come by to fill our rainwater collection cisterns if they’re empty. Right now the city water’s down for maintenance, but they say it’ll come back on Monday. (Historically, their promises have been … unreliable.) One year, we had no tap water for the entire 5 weeks that team was here.

So in each residence we have large tubs—similar to the trash bins many of you put out on the street on trash collection day—that we fill with unfiltered water from our cisterns. For however long the outage lasts, you use a contractor bucket to dip out water for bucket showers, for flushing the toilet, and for transfer to the filtration system for drinking.


You know, the whole world lived this way for millennia, and much of it still does today.

Anyway, the day begins with brushing your teeth from your water bottle, and taking a bucket shower.

Refreshing. The bucket water is obviously unheated, and even when the tap water is on, the water is only as hot as the sun heats it while it’s sitting in the cisterns (some of which are black plastic tanks that sit above ground).

And no, I’m not complaining.

After the ablutions, I do my daily Bible study and devotional time.

Today’s Sunday, of course. Church is at 8. I’m glad that this first Sunday here we’ve gone to bed very early Saturday night. Most of us don’t do an 8 am church service at home. 🙂

The church building, on the northeast corner of the compound, seats maybe just over 100 people on its backed wooden benches, but we always squeeze in considerably more than that. Men on the right, women on the left. We begin with singing, some of it to canned music, and some of it a capella, much of it with clapping. The people sing beautifully, in vocal patterns I’ve not heard anywhere outside of Africa. Our kids spread out around the room, sitting with the Tumaini children. There are testimonies, prayers, several choir numbers, and a sermon from Pastor Samson on the church as a covenant relationship, followed by the offering. (You know why the offering’s after the sermon? So that the latecomers will be there. 🙂 ) The offering box is at the front of the room, and each person goes forward and places his offering into a slot in the top of the box. We each give 1000 shillings, about 50 cents.

You might wonder why we give so little. That’s a fairly complex question, but let me summarize it by saying that many Westerners believe that the problems in developing countries can be solved by money, and they simply can’t. Very often throwing money at a problem only makes it worse. If you’d like to explore the subject more deeply, read When Helping Hurts and Toxic Charity.

After the offering there’s a dedication service for 3 babies, and we’re done. It’s 11.20 am; church lasted 3 hours and 20 minutes today, and that’s not even close to a record. And it was all in Swahili. Which is not to say that we were wasting our time; we talk afterward about what we’ve learned, and the list is substantial.

After church we have chai, which is our term for midmorning tea. You may have noticed that it isn’t mid-morning, but that’s because on Sundays we wait until after church. Weekdays it’s at 10 am.

You probably didn’t notice that it also isn’t really tea. At least, not always. Most days it’s a pastry—either mandazi, essentially a cake doughnut but as a misshapen cube rather than a torus, or chapati, basically a flour tortilla pan-fried in oil—and a liquid, either uji, a liquid porridge (or what Dickens would have called “gruel”), or a very sweet lemongrass tea that some teams have thought tastes like Fruit Loops™. Today it’s mandazi and uji, and for all the team members except Rebekah (who’s been here before), both are new experiences.

As we start chai, it begins to rain. This is technically the end of the rainy season, moving into the dry season, and we get rain only rarely when the team’s here in June; I can recall only 3 or 4 rains in the 5 previous times we’ve been here. This a strong rain, so pretty much everybody stays in the dining hall in the Big House rather than going out to the kibanda (gazebo) that serves as the social center of the compound.

Since chai was so late, lunch is delayed until about 2. As the rain continues, most team members hang out with the kids in the dining hall. The guys take turns arm wrestling the boys and each other, while most of the girls are getting Swahili lessons from the Tumaini girls. One of the girls braids Abbie’s and Rebekah’s hair. The room is abuzz. I think the rain providentially helps our team members to spend time with the children in ways they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Lunch is rice and beans, with watermelon for dessert. Both of those are quite common here. The beans are well flavored; some people hear “rice and beans” and think “Ecccchhhh,” but these are tasty dishes, as well as being healthful, filling, and inexpensive. That’s what ministries like this call a good deal.

By the time lunch is over, it’s time for our 3 pm meeting with Dan. He talks with the group about motivations for missions, and particularly the fact that our motivations should be larger than what benefits (educational, cultural, even spiritual) we’ll accrue; he encourages us to think through how what we’re doing here will benefit persons (including God) besides ourselves—other stakeholders in our time here—and to proceed with those motives as primary. He then talks about the history of the ministry here and the purposes and philosophy underlying it. It’s highly informative, punctuated by outbursts of discussion as various issues (e.g. polygamy) come up.

A little free time after the meeting—lots of Frisbees being tossed around on the soccer field, with the rain having stopped. (And by the way, here as in most of the world soccer is called “football,” because unlike Americans, these folks think that something called “football” should actually involve, you know, your feet.)

At 5.30 a brief meeting with Beth about policies at the orphanage, some driven by its child safety policy, and others just simple consideration of the culture (e.g. minimizing public use of smartphones). We ask lots of questions and gain a better understanding of how we can minister in ways that best help.

Katie Roukes has prepared a great supper of spaghetti and meat sauce, with a salad tray contributed by Laura Gass. Salads are a lot of work here; since it’s raw, you have to wash everything that goes into it with a solution that renders it safe for human consumption. (We use a commercial product called VeggieWash.) Nobody goes hungry. Then we retire to Dan & Jana’s house to sing and pray together. Along about 9 we call it a night. Staying up till (almost) bedtime these first two days has helped a lot with jetlag, but we’re still feeling our need for sleep.

After the crew leaves I work on my connection problem. Oh, you’ve noticed that it’s Sunday, and I haven’t posted anything? Yeah. I’m having greater connection issues this year than previously. I won’t bore you with the details, but I think I’ve made a little progress here tonight, though I still can’t post anything.

I’d assure you that I’m working diligently on it, but since I’m not posting, you wouldn’t be able to read it anyway.

Maybe tomorrow.

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Dan Olinger

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

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