Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Alarm Rooster doesn’t seem very active this morning, but some dogs are whining pretty loudly and constantly behind the guys’ house, so getting up is easier than it might be.

With church at 8, Sunday is our earliest morning. I drop by the girls’ house at 7.45, and everybody’s up, looking pretty glum. Apparently some of the girls were up until 1 am talking—you couldn’t get me to do that—because they didn’t feel tired at the time. Peter’s scrambling some eggs, and 3 or 4 of the crew is actually going to get them eaten before we head out in, oh, 8 minutes or so now. I distribute the 1,000 shillings each for offering money, and as we hear the canned music come up on the loudspeakers, we head across the compound. Children join us along the way.

We’re the first people in the church building except for the boys who are playing the music. For several years, they routinely started 20 minutes late; if you left the house at 5 after, you’d still be the first ones there. But last year I did that on the first Sunday, and they’d apparently started at the stroke of 8, and I was late. So now I’m a little gun-shy and feel compelled to be there at 8. Yeah, I’m one of those people.

Soon enough we start singing. As usual, all of the songs (and everything else) are in Swahili. Some of the tunes we recognize (“Are You Washed in the Blood?”) and some we don’t. When I know the tune, my practice is to sing the English words, since I figure it’s better to be singing something than to appear to be refusing to participate. Fortunately, they give visitors a lot of grace because they know we don’t know what’s going on, and our ignorance isn’t limited to the language.

The church service is similar from week to week. The moderator announces a welcome to the visitors—I hear “wageni” (visitors) and “karibu” (welcome)—but nobody stands, so I suppose there aren’t any today. (They had well above their quota last week, of course.) Then there are testimonies, with several men and women, including our own Ferdinand, sharing things.

Then several choir numbers. I haven’t told you about the choir, have I? Essentially it’s a dance troupe; one man and woman do most of the singing with microphones (and they believe that if you have a PA system, you ought to use all of it; none of the people who use microphones needs one, but they crank it all the way up), while the choir, consisting of both men and women with a strong contingent of young people, dances along with choreographed moves. The dancing is not offensive or sensual as much of the dancing in the US is; it’s mostly shifting weight from one foot to another and doing things with the arms, and some bending over and straightening up again. A couple of years ago 3 or 4 of our team participated, and the locals enjoyed that immensely. It’s viewed as evidence of cultural respect. I mentioned that Abbie and Cheyenne went to rehearsal yesterday, but they kinda chickened out when the time came. This week the choir has matching shirts and dresses, and they look really good.

Before the sermon we sing a couple of prayer songs, slower and more meditative, asking for the Lord to open our hearts to the Word—similar to what many American churches do with “Speak, O Lord.”

Then Pastor Samson preaches. This sermon seems to be a continuation of last week’s sermon on the church covenant. He begins with the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 15 and then compares that to the covenant that binds this church together. He has a church member stand and read the covenant, interrupting to comment along the way.

He doesn’t need a microphone either, but he uses one, and it’s all the way up. 🙂

After the sermon is more music to accompany the offering, at which we go forward and deposit our thousand shillings.

Then a prayer, and we’re dismissed. We all shake hands and greet one another on the way out. I get lots of “Shikamoo”s and give out several too. It’s interesting to me that age is very much respected here—so if you’re not sure whether or not a lady is older than you, go ahead and “Shikamoo” her, and if she’s younger than you, she’ll still take it as a compliment. That sure wouldn’t work in the States. 🙂

After church we gather at HQ for chai—remember, we get a boiled egg on Sundays, in addition to the mandazi and uji. Since we’re getting pretty low on water, the guys lug buckets from the kitchen cisterns to fill the tubs at HQ, the guy’s house, and mine, while the girls clean up HQ—dishes, sweeping, etc. Good use of time while we’re waiting for lunch.

It’s served at 1.45. While we’re waiting, the older boys are playing football, as usual, with Blake in goal, as usual. Everybody else is in the kibanda in a wicked gagaball tournament. A few of the children are extremely competitive and are inclined to fudge the rules, but the other children become our best enforcers. The children especially like it when a team member goes out, and most especially when it’s one of the boys. Wild cheering all around. And when one of the little boys hits one of the team guys in the feet … oh, man. End-of-the-world joy.

Lunch is rice and beans and watermelon. You may feel like you’re seeing a trend. 🙂

We’ve set aside a couple hours after lunch to do some tutoring prep. You may recall that most of the children are in “crush” at their school during the day. Beth has divided the rest into 10 groups. Of those, the 4 secondary school groups spend the morning with hired tutors, and we’ll be tutoring them only for 1 hour in the afternoon (3pm). Those 4 tutors will join a teammate in an elementary group for the 2 morning sessions (9 and 11 am). Some of the elementary groups have only 1 student, whose needs are special. (I’m not using that term in technical sense; I haven’t diagnosed anybody. 🙂 )

By the way, they follow the British system here; elementary is Standards 1-7, and secondary is Forms 1-4. They don’t quite align with our grades, but they’re close enough to get the general idea.

Here’s the current lineup (the number in parentheses is the number of students):

Std 3-1 (2) Cheyenne (Cathryn)
Std 3-2 (2) Sam (Michaela)
Std 5 (1) Abbie (Kathryn)
Std 6-1 (1) Peter
Std 6-2 (1) Shelbie
Std 6-3 (1) Blake (Rebekah)
Form 1-1 (5) Cathryn
Form 1-2 (4) Kathryn
Form 1-3 (5) Rebekah
Form 3 (4) Michaela

At the office building, Beth spends time with each set of tutors, explaining the needs of their child(ren), turning over some academic records (grades and standardized tests), pointing out resources that are available in the educational resources room, and so on. Then the crew retires to HQ to make some plans. We’re flexible; they don’t need to have a formal lesson plan for 3 hours for each of the next 10 days, but we’ll need a general idea of what we’d like to accomplish and knowledge of what resources are available to pull into our planning. We fire up the wifi so the crew will have access to whatever they need for planning.

While we’re at the office building, several of the dogs are hanging around, looking for attention. I haven’t really talked about the dogs; I suppose I should mention them. The oldest is Dog Samuel; he’s been around every time I’ve brought a team here, and now’s he’s slowing down. When the children named him, they knew that they had given him a human name, so they put the word “Dog” in to make it clear that he was dog. Really. Then there’s Clifford and Tiger. They’re younger and considerably more energetic; they don’t hang around with us much, since they’re usually out around the compound. The youngest adult is Bunny, who has a problem with her hind legs and hops rather than the usual dog walk—hence the name. Bunny is just a year old, but she’s already had a litter, and one of the puppies, Kiara, is often hanging around with us. As I was walking up the path to HQ this afternoon, Kiara did her best to straddle the path and growl at me. It was pretty funny. She’s a tiny little thing.

There are other dogs around as well, who accompany the night watchman on his rounds. Let’s just say you don’t want to break in here. Success = failure. 🙂

Supper is on Beth’s porch. Katie has made a LOT of shepherd’s pie, with green beans as a side. We’ve contributed watermelon and mango. It’s delicious. Sam and Shelbie are on cleanup; we enjoy the sunset while they’re working, and when they’re done, we head over to Dan and Jana’s house for our traditional Sunday night sing. We wear out two different songbooks, or feel as though we did.

Along about 8.30, we decide Dan & Jana’s younger children ought to be getting to bed, so we head up to HQ for a quick survey of plans for the first tutoring day tomorrow, and a time of prayer for the effort. We’ll need energy, creativity, patience, wisdom. We’d appreciate your prayer support.

It’s been interesting this trip to have the camp before the tutoring; first time we’ve done that. The result is that we’re fully a third of the way through the time here, and so far it’s been all fun and games. The children love us when we play with them—but when the tutoring starts, for many of the children the attitude changes dramatically. It will be interesting to see how the team handles that.

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Dan Olinger

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

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