Sunday, June 16, 2019

Last Sunday at Tumaini. Last time at church. The service follows the usual pattern—which is not to imply that it’s just going through the motions. There’s a liveliness in the opening singing, in the testimonies, in the prayers, in the choir numbers, in the pre-service prayer song, in the sermon. Pastor Samson doesn’t preach today; it’s a younger man, who preaches from Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill in Acts 17.

We’re taking today as a true day of rest. Nothing’s scheduled, though of course there’s chai available after church, lunch with the children at 1 (officially, though it’s often late on Sunday), and supper at Beth’s at 6. Come if you like, but get whatever rest you need.

The team members are all different, and they get their rest in different ways. Some hang out with the children, free from the pressure of schedules. Some hang out together. Some go off somewhere and read (that’s me). Some sleep. Some really sleep. Like a rock. Which is what his name means, come to think of it.

News circulates that there’s a football game over in Luchulele at 4 pm. A couple of town teams from the area will be playing each other. A few of us plan to go. It’s a little over a mile away, and some of us walk with some of the older boys—and two of the dogs, who have no idea what the trip is about but just want to hang with us. Beth drives over later with some of the smaller children.

The field is surrounded by people standing 3 or 4 deep. (There are no bleachers.) Others are taking advantage of higher ground a few meters back. There are some particularly dedicated fan sections for each team, waving flags and blowing something close to vuvuzelas and generally making nuisances of themselves. We’re standing in a group on one sideline.

I’ve noticed that when white people show up at a public event like this, they are immediately surrounded by little African children, who want to touch them or just stare studiously. During the game Abbie becomes the center of a significant crowd of children, who all want to play that hand-slapping game.

There are what you might call concessions; a few women have peanuts for sale, and there’s some sugar cane, and a guy is walking around carrying a box of booze. A few of the spectators have apparently given him a little too much business; one of them is attracted by our beautiful wazungu maidens, and the older Tumaini boys immediately step between him and the girls and redirect him expertly every time he comes by. Good for them. The team guys and I are ready to help as well, but the truth is that in a cross-cultural situation like this, you don’t know how best to handle the situation—how to de-escalate, what onlooker reactions would be to various actions, and so forth. I have some security experience in the US, but it’s wiser here to let the locals judge how best to deal with a touchy situation.

Anyway, it’s all fine, the orange team wins (Clemson football!), and we all get safely back to Tumaini. Supper shortly afterward—chili with all the fixin’s, including sour cream and cheese, and good discussion afterwards.

This is the time in the trip when team members normally start to get on each other’s nerves, so I talk a little bit about diversity as reflected in the Great Commission and in the church (1Co 12), and how the fact that we’re different makes us a better team. We’ll see how the week goes.

Well, today’s post is a quick one. Big activity planned for tomorrow evening; be sure to tune in.

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Dan Olinger

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

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