Friday, June 7, 2019

Late last night, after I had left, the girls discovered that the tap water was back on at their house. (It’s still out at the guys’ place and mine.) Someone took video of them running around filling buckets, flushing toilets, and otherwise rejoicing. (We conserve water by not flushing unless there’s some #2 involved. We have a snappy little rhyme to help us remember, but I won’t inflict that on you.)

It’s amazing how much joy a simple thing like running water brings. Too bad we appreciate it only after it’s been gone for a while.

Second and last full day of camp. Same schedule as yesterday, so the first scheduled activity is Bible study at 9 am. They gather into their groups from yesterday, read the story of Joseph and his brothers in Egypt, and answer questions that Blake has written up for them. The group leaders say the good interaction from yesterday continues.

Chai is chapati and tea and lots of just sitting around and talking. Most of the team members are interacting with one or more children.

At 11 they split the children into boys’ and girls’ groups for games. The boys play gagaball, which I hadn’t seen before. I call it “unfootball,” because you’re allowed to touch the ball with everything except your feet. I think it’s a good choice for a game in a football country, being so counterinstinctual. The boys gather inside the kibanda and try to hit the ball with their hand at the feet of someone on the opposite team. If you hit your target below the knee, he’s out. If the ball goes over the 3-foot-high kibanda wall, you’re out. If you touch the ball twice in a row, you’re out—but if you bounce it against the wall, you can hit it again. When all the players remaining are on the same team, that team wins the round. The boys get into it pretty deeply; I suspect this is a game they’ll continue to play after we’ve left.

The girls are on the football field playing fruit basket, which is basically musical chairs with subgroups. Halfway through the game period, the girls and boys swap games and locations. Lots of participation, lots of noise, lots of energy. It’s a rousing success.

For Bible story hour at noon, Sam leads in some singing before Peter tells the story of Joseph that they read this morning. Afterwards Michaela asks content questions of each team alternately, and they know the answers to each of the questions. I’d call that a successful presentation.

Mondays and Fridays the team is on our own for lunch. That gives us an opportunity to finish up leftovers so nothing goes to waste. Today we pull from the fridge veggie salad, potato salad, pasta salad, and cold enchiladas. Plenty for everyone. And of course there are those 2 half-kilo blocks of dark chocolate, as well as plenty of fruit. One of the girls has never cut a mango, so I give her a quick lesson on doing the best you can with that infernal seed, and she does a good job. I have a Mexican friend who cuts a small “x” in the fruit at the end opposite the stem and then peels it like a banana, but when you do it that way you eat it by scraping the flesh off the seed with your teeth, and you spend the next three days digging mango strings out of your mouth. No thanks.

Remember the “ninatako” incident from yesterday? The team member in question tells me at lunch that his/her entire family said, “That was you, wasn’t it?”

Come on, people. How about a little support from the home front? 🙂

By the way, I told Maiwe, the staff member here who was the Swahili instructor for the previous teams, and the story entertained him well. Especially when I described Faith’s reaction.

I’ve been napping more here than I normally do—not a lot, but I usually get one or two sessions of 15 minutes or so each. I’m not working exceedingly hard—this crew takes responsibility and executes well—but I suspect I’m still feeling a bit of jet lag. The rule of thumb is that it takes 1 day to adjust for each hour of time change. Since this is a 7-hour change for those of us who came in from the East Coast, I guess today should about do it. We’ll see.

At the beginning of camp we said that there would be an opportunity to help in ways that get your team points. The team wanted to include something that would be a help to the overall ministry—sort of a community-service project, you might say. They had asked Beth what sorts of things she needed done, and she came up with spreading new dirt over the pathways at the center of the compound, the ones most well traveled. So yesterday a couple of dump-truck loads of dirt appeared, one down by the office building and laundry complex, and one out on the road by the walk-in gate. Anyone who helps on the project will earn 200 points for his team. So it’s physical labor—moving dirt—but it’s voluntary, subject to a little peer pressure. Pretty much everyone participates—our team members are right in the middle of it—as they use rice sacks, cement sacks, and contractor buckets, the bigger boys carrying loads themselves, and the others teaming up two to a load—to distribute the dirt across the playground and along the paths in front of the Big House and down to the office building and laundry facility. Then they use their feet to spread the dirt out evenly. I comment to Cathryn that there’s nothing better than playing in the dirt in your bare feet (and she agrees), and to Abbie that their round of “Tan or Dirt?” tonight will be extra fun. It begins to rain lightly just as we finish.

We’ve promised the children a skit this afternoon. It’s the classic where one person stands behind another and insert his arms through the other’s, so it looks like his arms are the arms of the one in front. And then they get ready in the morning, washing the face, combing the hair, shaving, putting on makeup, eating breakfast. The one in back can’t really see what his arms are doing, so there’s plenty of humor potential. The children have seen this skit from several of the previous teams, and it’s one of their favorites. When they see the setup, there’s plenty of anticipation. The missionary kids come up from their houses to see it as well.

One pair is Abbie (front) and Cheyenne (back), and the other is Peter (front) and Sam (back). Michaela narrates the story, which is that they’re a couple getting ready for a date. Sam manages to get shaving cream all over Peter’s face, and Cheyenne uses bright red lipstick and nail polish on Abbie.

The plan is to have a football tournament after the skit, but during the skit it continues to rain, and it’s raining pretty hard by the end, so they cancel the football and announce that at 5 they’ll announce the winning team. On the positive side, the rain does a nice job of tamping down the new dirt without washing any of it away.

We retire to HQ to get a little rest. When it’s time to announce the winner, all 5 seats in the sitting area have sleeping people in them (and I’m one of those). Everybody else wakes up to head out, and though they opt to let me sleep, the ensuing silence wakes me up, and I join the festivities.

The scoring has been pretty even in the games, but the difference, as we had hoped, is in the verse memorization. Two of the girls memorized the entire book of James—in two days—and since they were both on the red team, that made the score not even close. Good for them.

For the hour before supper, with the rain stopping, we all just hang out together. Blake and several of the boys in the kibanda are playing football keep-away with a small plastic ball about the size of a baseball. Peter, Sam, Shelbie, Michaela, and Cheyenne are tossing a Frisbee out on the football field with several other boys. Katie is singing with some of the girls. Abbie and Kathryn and Cathryn and Rebekah are sitting on the kibanda wall talking to some girls. Looks to me like this team has bonded well with a broad spectrum of the children. I suspect that having camp first—which we’ve never done before—has helped considerably with that. Off to a really good start.

Supper is fried fish (watch out for bones!), cabbage, ugali, and watermelon. Watermelon is pretty much the default dessert here. When I was in China, I noticed that that was the case there as well. I don’t know why. Easy to serve, non-messy eating, relatively inexpensive. Maybe that’s it.

In boys’ house devotions Sam brings some thoughts from Ephesians 6, including the “armor of God” passage. The boys listen pretty well, but for some odd reason one boy is playing with Sam’s leg hair and another with Blake’s. Lunacy runs in cycles, I guess. But tonight’s not a full moon, so that can’t be it.

Back at HQ I can tell the crew is pretty well wiped out from two days of camp. I spend a few minutes recounting their victories and congratulating them on a job well done, and then a quick review of the weekend’s (reduced level of) activities, and then turn them loose. Some turn in, and others discuss the children and recount their interactions, laughing and enjoying what’s happening here. At 9 I head out to write the blog. Early night for us, and certainly needed.

Note: for those of you with Facebook accounts, Beth Roark has posted some pretty good photos and a couple of videos, including one of gagaball.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

This is the 75th anniversary of D-Day. I’m grateful.

First full day of camp. I drop by HQ a little after 8.30, and the team is there, getting ready for the morning’s activities. At 9 Ferdinand blows the air horn to assemble the children, who come running faster than they did yesterday. Peter explains what they’ll be doing in devotions: they’ll gather in groups, with a leader from the team, and read a passage from Genesis about Joseph. Blake has put together some questions from the story, some simple factual recall and others requiring more thought. The leader will help them think through and answer the questions. He reads the names of each leader and the members of his/her group, and within minutes the groups are scattered across the grass, discussing the passage. The whole thing goes remarkably smoothly.

Chai at 10 is mandazi and uji. Many of the team members find mandazi particularly delicious; it’s basically the same as a simple cake donut, but in a different shape, with a dark golden brown, very slightly crispy crust.

For the game time at 11, Peter calls the children into the dining area of the Big House and speaks to them from the far end of the room, so they’re all standing with their backs to the door. The other team members move quickly around the property, hiding brightly colored uninflated balloons. When the balloons are all hidden, Peter finishes up his instructions, and the children spread out across the property looking for the balloons. When they find one, they need to inflate it and bring it back to their team captain for tallying. Obviously, the team with the most balloons wins.

Once the balloons are all in (we don’t want litter lying around afterwards), they divide the children into 4 groups—younger and older girls, and younger and older boys—and toss a balloon into each group. The children have to keep it from hitting the ground. Every few seconds, a team member tosses in another balloon, making the game more complex as time goes on.

The first Bible story time is at noon. Sam begins the story of Joseph, emphasizing Joseph’s trust in God through unfair and difficult experiences. These children will relate well to that theme.

While that’s going on, 2 of the girls and I leave for town. One of the girls has a relatively minor medical problem that will require some medication, and we want to jump on it early to keep it simple.

A word about health issues. For privacy reasons, I’m not going to report sickness or injuries on this blog. The team members are able to contact their parents individually, and they will report any health issues at their own discretion. If you haven’t heard about this situation, it’s not your kid. 🙂

So for privacy reasons, I’ll call this girl The Patient. I tell her to bring along a female team member of her choosing, and we jump on pikipikis for a quick ride to the pavement, then catch a daladala the rest of the way into town.

At the daladala terminal it’s a couple of blocks to the chemist. (There are several shops available; we start with the one we know best, which is most likely to have what we need.) The Patient explains her symptoms, and the chemist returns with a medication that she can use. And in ten minutes, we’ve gotten what we need.

Nothing ever happens that fast here.

Assuming that we might have to visit several chemists to get what we need, we had allowed a lot more time than this. We’re supposed to meet Katie at the mall at 3.30 to return to Tumaini together. (Katie’s in town on another errand.) We got done so fast that it seems silly to wait 2 or more hours to connect with Katie. I try to contact Katie by phone, but for some reason the call isn’t going through. We’re thinking about heading directly back so we can go on the hike, scheduled for 3pm. But we had agreed ahead of time that Katie would wait for us at the mall unless she heard otherwise, so we need to contact her first.

Because we’re missing lunch back at the compound, I suggest we get a bite at a pizza shop nearby while we try to solve the connection problem. Good idea, they say. Off we go.

The pizza shop is essentially in an old vacant lot that that they’ve covered with awnings, and in which they’ve built a few minimalist structures for toilets and a kitchen. The Patient has a cheese pizza; her friend has an egg sandwich; and I have a cheese omelet. All of them are good.

By the end of the meal we’ve been able to contact Katie, and it’s late enough that we wouldn’t be able to get back in time for the hike. I ask the girls if they’d like to go to the mall just for fun. Sure.

Out of the pizza shop, looking for a taxi. I see a taxi driver who looks familiar—it’s the one who brought our luggage to Tumaini from the airport when we first arrived. Can you take us to Rock City Mall? Sure. And off we go again.

We’ve arranged to meet Katie at Café Mambo, up on the fourth floor. They have a full menu; it occurs to us that this would have been a better place to eat lunch than the pizza shop, but at that time we didn’t know for sure whether we’d be coming to the mall. I order a decaf latte; The Patient orders a fudge sundae, and her friend orders banana fritters with strawberry ice cream. All three are just delightful.

As we’re eating, Katie arrives. Connection completed. When we’re finished, we hire pikipikis to take us over to the daladala terminal, then reverse our course out of town, arriving home just as the team and the children are returning from their hike, glowing, panting, and smiling.

There are two destinations for our hikes here. The easier, and the one they did today, is a ridge just across the road to the east. It’s rocky (everything here is rocky; it’s the rockiest place I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been through the Rocky Mountains more than once) and steep, but not too high. There are some nice overlooks at the top, and there’s a second ridge just to the east if the hikers feel like tackling it.

The second hike destination is a taller hill just to the northwest of the property, which is further away but accessible by a less steep gravel roadway—or you can climb straight up the steep sides if you want to. I’m sure we’ll do that hike at some point.

As I return to my place to write up this portion of the day for the blog, I realize the power is out. Not sure when that happened, but during the day it makes pretty much no difference at all—as long as your electronics are charged up.

The boys are playing football, as they often do in the afternoons, and our guys are in there with them. It’s good to see that our guys are good enough that they have the respect of the children.

Supper is rice and beans, cooked spinach, and watermelon. In boys’ house devotions, Peter comments on the verses about ants in Proverbs 6. The boys listen well during these times.

With the power still out, I bring the ice cream back to HQ so the crew can have some more before it’s all completely melted. I ask them to fill in the parts of the afternoon that I missed due to the town trip. You’ll recall that they were in the midst of the balloon game when the 3 of us left. When I ask for details, The Patient’s friend speaks up and start describing the hike; I’m listening intently until she starts laughing and says, “I was with you this afternoon.”

I’m too old for this, I tell you. Too old.

Several of the crew fill me in, especially on the hike. They saw a crocodile in the lake—from some distance, which is the only way you want to see them—and had a number of stories about the interworkings of the children and team members on the hike. When a drunk man approached them as they were just setting out, the Tumaini boys got between him and our girls and disarmed the problem. Apparently this guy is something of a regular. Later on the hike, when some of the girls fell behind the rest, several of the Tumaini boys ran back to ensure that they were OK and then accompanied them. Over the years, the Tumaini boys have been very protective of the girls on our teams; I’m not sure they’re the same way with the Tumaini girls, but I do appreciate their attentiveness.

As the evening wears on, the crew gets sillier and sillier. They’re laughing and telling several stories at once and getting louder and louder. I can tell that they’re really tired, especially since everything they say strikes them as funny. Boy, have they bonded. We have a brief time of prayer, and I ask what needs to be done for tomorrow. It’s relatively little, so I encourage them to get on it while I return to my place to write this little missive.

Executive summary: Team doing a great job. Tired. One slightly sick, but medication in hand to address that. God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the world.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Up at the normal time today; didn’t hear any roosters, but then I might have been sleeping with my deaf side up.

I drop by HQ around 8.30 to see how last night’s planning went. Almost everybody is there, and Peter gives me the report. They’ve done a good job; the schedule and program structure look good. There are a couple of things we’ll need to check with Beth, but overall good for them. I ask how late they were up. 10.40. Excellent.

(Last night they had asked if the 10 pm curfew on guys in the girls’ house could be waived so they could get this work done. I said fine, and I’m delighted that they buckled down and got the work done at a reasonable hour.)

We meet with Beth at 9 for a few final things from her, but mostly to show her the plans for camp. She likes what Peter lays out, and gives us some advice on potential trouble spots. I think we’re ready to go.

Chai is chapati and tea, and the guys spend a good portion of the time kicking a football around with the Tumaini boys. The rest of the week all the children are out of school, so we have more time to make those connections.

At 11 we have our last Swahili lesson with Faith. We cover introductions: what is your name, where are you from, how old are you.

There’s a pretty funny moment. She is teaching us how to say what state we’re from:

“Ninatoka [I am from] jimbo la [the state of] ______ .”

One of the team members reverses the vowels in the verb to say,

“Ninatako jimbo la Alaska.”

(I’ve changed the state so you can’t identify the student.)

Well, I’ve already told you what the word tako means. The situation is compounded by the fact that nina by itself means “I have.” So what he/she said was essentially

“I have a butt from the state of Alaska”

or, as Matt joked when I told him about it later,

“I have a butt the size of the state of Alaska.”

Well, all the crew knows what tako means, so we all burst into laughter. And then we look at Faith, who is standing partially turned away from us, wiping tears from her eyes.

Teaching, my friends, is a highly rewarding profession. Don’t ever let anybody tell you otherwise.

Lunch is on Dan & Jana’s porch; we set up tables to make one long table big enough to seat everybody. Today Jana has prepared burgers with all the fixin’s: cheese slices, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayo, ketchup, mustard, plus pasta salad and potato salad. The patties themselves are huge, with buns to match—buns the size of the state of Alaska, you might say. That’s a lot of work. This team is exceedingly well fed. The scheduled team members take care of cleanup.

A free hour until 3, when we plan to roll out the camp program to the children. At the appointed time, one of the children gets the plastic air horn from Pius, one of the house fathers, and begins to blow it. As it sounds out across the compound, the children begin to come from all directions to gather at the kibanda. There are always a few stragglers, which Tumaini staff roust out and shoo in the intended direction. Eventually everyone who isn’t sick is here.

Peter, camp director, welcomes the children and explains what lies ahead for the next two days. (He has a clipboard and everything!) There will be two teams, Red and Blue, and everyone wants to get as many points as possible for his team. If your team wins a game, that brings points. So does cleaning your dormitory every morning, or correctly answering questions about the Bible lesson. (We’ll have a 2-day series on the life of Joseph.) But the most points—far and away the most—come from memorizing Scripture. One team member can offset his team’s loss in a game by memorizing 5 verses.

Beth and Katie have created two team rosters with a view to balancing them by age, sex, academic ability, and athletic ability. The Red team leaders, Sam and Shelbie, and the Blue team leaders, Blake and Kathryn, stand on opposite sides of the kibanda; as each child’s name is read, he goes to the appropriate team location. When all are assigned, the leaders begin teaching the cheers. I notice that the children seem to enter into the spirit of cheering more quickly than in some previous years, though as usual the older boys are less likely to throw themselves into it. One must maintain an aura of coolness, you know.

After the teams have established some identity, we regather for the first competition. Michaela calls an equal number of children from each team and tells them to get something. The first item is a bucket. In a flash, the 6 competitors race headlong for their dormitories. It occurs to me that since the nearest 2 dormitories are for girls, the girls seem to have the advantage; but Michaela reminds me that the boys can probably run faster, so it’s probably even. And since both teams have an equal number of each sex, the distinction probably doesn’t matter.

Six children come running with empty buckets, and the first one to hand the bucket to Cheyenne wins the round. The second item, with different children appointed, is a toothbrush. Off they go. Five of them return with toothbrushes, while one, who is one of the younger boys, returns with a bucket.

Oh, well.

It occurs to me that several of the toothbrushes look identical. How are we going to get them back to the right person? Hey. It’s camp. We’ll deal with that later.

The game continues for several rounds, and the children are into it, cheering on their teammates, who are running as fast as they can around the compound.

Play continues until almost 5, when we declare free time until supper.

This first partial day, in my view, is a complete success. The children have embraced the concept and identified with their teams; the team leaders are effectively energizing and directing their charges, a task that’s a lot like herding cats; the choice of first game is excellent, pulling everybody in but keeping each round’s competition to just a few participants, thereby avoiding chaos.

Well done, guys. You’ve pulled this thing together in a remarkably short time.

As we’re waiting for supper I ask them how they decided that Peter would be the camp director. Peter says, “I decided,” and everybody laughs. Abbie says, “Last night he took leadership, and he wasn’t a jerk about it.”

One of the things I most like about leading teams is the way they meld from essentially strangers into a real team. Typically this happens in the first few days, as they face various responsibilities and figure out who has what abilities. Last night I left them intentionally to work this out by themselves, hoping they’d do exactly what they did. This team is right on schedule.

By the way, Abbie tells me that every night she and Cheyenne play a game they call “Tan or Dirt?” They take their shoes off and try to interpret what they see.

These kids just crack me up.

Supper is beef cubes in a flavorful tomato sauce, ugali, and watermelon. For house devotions Peter brings a devotional on Gideon with an emphasis on obedience; providentially, before the boys know what the devotional is about, they ask to sing “Obedience.” That works really well. And after the devotional, they ask to sing “Gideon,” so they’re right in step with the emphasis of the night.

We gather at HQ for team devotions when house devotions are over. In the context of prayer for thanksgiving, I express my appreciation to them for how they’ve done today. When I left them last night, they were teetering between success and failure on camp planning, and I intentionally left them to work it out. (I was pretty sure they were going to succeed, based on my experience with them so far.) I told them tonight that they had hit it out of the park—and that God had done that, given that factors throughout the day involved things they couldn’t have planned.

We have some more of the winners’ ice cream—8.5 liters is a lot—with Hershey’s syrup, and runny peanut butter, and whatever else is available. Abbie likes to take a bite of passion fruit with a bite of vanilla ice cream. The possibilities are endless.

We talk through the plan for tomorrow and enjoy a little wifi before the mobile router and I head for home to write the very thing you’re reading. Home a little after 10, after a powerfully good day and with similar prospects for tomorrow.

Usiku mwema [Good night]!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

On arrival at HQ around 8.30, I find that the girls have had an exciting night. You’ll want to hear this.

About 1.30 am, Shelbie realizes that she’s knocked her phone off the back side of her bed to somewhere down below. At first she thinks she’ll just leave it, but then she remembers that she has set the alarm, and she doesn’t want it to wake everybody up when it goes off, so she climbs down from her top bunk and finds her flashlight and starts looking for the phone. The light wakes Rebekah and Michaela up, and they start helping her look. Then Shelbie drops the flashlight, and it breaks into several pieces. Then, somehow, Shelbie finds the phone lying on the back side of the bed underneath, occupied by Cathryn. So Shelbie’s leaning over Cathryn, trying to reach the phone without waking her up. Cathryn wakes up and wonders what is going on. Shelbie and Rebekah get to laughing so hard that they have to leave the room to keep from waking everybody else up. By the time it’s over, everyone but Cheyenne is awake and laughing.

And then they find the largest cockroach in the history of the world, and one of the girls (I forget which) decides to kill it—with Michaela’s sandal. Michaela isn’t too excited about that.

Then some of them can’t get back to sleep; Rebekah decides she’s hungry and goes out to fix something to eat.

Makes me wonder how they’re going to withstand the rigors that lie ahead for the day.

We meet with Beth again at 9 for more preparatory information for our interaction with the children, including some guidance about counseling matters.

Chai today is mandazi and tea, followed, as usual, by our Swahili lesson. Since we’re going shopping in the market today, we need some very specific verbal skills to get the job done, and Faith addresses them thoroughly. The major topics are fruit and vegetables, numbers, and money.

Lunch at Beth’s. Katie has prepared enchiladas with fixin’s—salsa, sour cream, guacamole, ranch dressing—and Laura has brought another of her rainbow salad trays. We’re eating in a hurry to get going into town; seems a shame we can’t linger over this food.

Then a quick run to our residences to get what we’re going to need: backpack, hat, water, sunscreen, medical insurance card, photocopy of passport. Soon the pikipikis roar up to the front gate, and 9 of our 10 jump on the back of a bike and disappear in several consecutive clouds of dust. Cathryn, Faith, and I pile into Beth’s (air-conditioned!) van to bring up the rear. I like to come in behind the pikipikis so in case there’s a problem we’ll find it and have the ability to transport the injured. By the way, there’s never been a problem. These drivers are skilled and responsible.

When we arrive at “the pavement”—that is, the spot where the road becomes paved—Cathryn and I get out and join the pikipiki riders in climbing into daladalas, or vans functioning as buses for the rest of the ride into the city. Often these vehicles are uncomfortably crowded—I once counted 27 passengers in a 15-passenger van, and I stopped counting only because I couldn’t see anymore how many were getting on. But today it’s a pretty light load—all the seats full, but no one standing—all the way into town.

The team was split among several daladalas; we rejoin at the terminal, where I rejoin Beth for a trip to a Forex while the team heads off to the market.

We’ve arranged a little competition. The crew has been divided into 2 subteams, each team given identical shopping lists. They need to visit vendors in the sprawling, chaotic market and purchase the items on the list, speaking only in Swahili. The Eadses’ 2 oldest children, Grace and Silas, are each accompanying a team and are available to give hints, but each hint involves a penalty. (Katie and Faith are also along just to ensure that everything’s OK.) The team that gets the most items with the money they’ve been given wins; if both teams get all items, the team with the most money left—after hint penalties are figured in—wins. And the winning team gets ice cream.

I wish I could go along to watch, but several of the kids need Tanzanian money to shop for fabric after the market competition, and to save time I’m taking their US money to a Forex and delivering it to them when they bring us the fruit and vegetables from the competition. Beth has to do some business at a bank, so it’s most efficient for me to hit the Forex—and an ATM, for my own cash needs—at the same time.

I get the needed cash fairly quickly, and even have time to drop in to a chemist—you colonials call them pharmacists—to pick up some medicine. I made a rookie mistake coming over last week; I grabbed the wrong bottle of prescription medicine, the almost empty one, when I was packing, and when I opened it here for a dose, I thought, “Well, now, that was stupid!” But the cool thing here is that for many meds that require prescriptions in the US, you don’t need one here. I catch the chemist’s eye, ask for my medicine, and he steps into the back and brings me what I need. (OK, I use the generic, and he brings the brand name, so it’s a little more expensive, but I’m happy to pay it under the circumstances.)

I cross the hall to Beth’s bank. She’s in an office, waiting for the officer to return, and she motions me over to the window with a concerned look on her face. She holds her phone up to the window. She’s received a text. I squint. It’s a little too small for me to read. But I can tell it’s all in Swahili.

Why, Beth, are you showing me this?

Turns out it says that Katie’s had her phone stolen in the market. The text is from Faith.

Well, the good news is, stolen smartphones can be tracked. Maybe they’ll catch the guy. Last year’s Ghana team had an interesting experience in that regard; you can read the story here.

Beth finishes her business successfully, and then it’s back to meet the kids, let them offload the produce, and give the ones who asked me to get them spending money what they have coming. We do the transfer by the side of an extremely busy city street, and the crew heads back into the market while Beth and I head off to buy supplies. Since I knew I’d have a chance to buy some groceries, I asked the crew what they’d like to have around the house, and they gave me a list: milk, bread, cinnamon, and syrup (for French toast), and peanut butter and jelly (for sandwiches), and cheese. And chocolate—please, chocolate.

We’ve been doing quite well against our projected spending so far, and over the years I’ve found that kids in this situation get really happy about simple comfort foods—and happy kids tend to hold up better and consequently get things done better.

This list is a trifle. This I’m happy to supply.

We hit a couple of grocery stores, including U-Turn, and I get everything they’ve asked for and a little more—3 kinds of jelly, and a small bottle of hot sauce (who can’t use a little hot sauce?), and a couple packages of cookies. I go a little nuts on the chocolate—3 smaller bars of Cadbury Dairy Milk in different flavors (they break up into little sections so everybody can sample them) and 2 large bars (like 2 pounds each) of dark chocolate, for the serious connoisseurs. And the cheese is a big ol’ wheel of Gouda. And since they said they wanted syrup, and they wanted chocolate, I throw in a bottle of Hershey’s™ syrup for the pot.

Oh, and 8.5 liters of ice cream for the competition prize.

That’ll cheer ‘em up.

We get back to Tumaini about the same time the crew is coming in. Supper is being served, so we eat quickly and gather on Beth’s porch for the competition judging. Both teams got all the items on the list. One team had more money left, but they had 4 hints, so the other team won. After heated discussion, they decide that everybody should get ice cream. Peter mutters something about the biggest problem with America being the fact that every kid gets a participation trophy, and he doesn’t have any ice cream, but most of the others do—after house devotions, since the children are expecting us at 7.30.

In the boys’ house, Blake brings a devotional from 1Cor 13, emphasizing that love isn’t about being selfish as a man, but using your strength to care for others, even as Jesus did. I’ve asked the guys on the team to try to set an example of strong, committed Christian manhood as an encouragement to the boys. I hope we can make some progress on that.

The singing is a little tenuous tonight; the boys don’t seem to be into it. But by the end they’ve picked it up some.

At the house afterwards, after the ice cream, the crew rolls out what they have for the camp schedule. I point out some areas lacking—we didn’t expect to have everything done by tonight—and make a few suggestions, including examples from previous years. They get to work while I head back to my place to work on the blog.

I don’t know how long they’ll be up working on this. I’ll have to find out in the morning.

Monday, June 3, 2019

[Happy 71st birthday to my sister!]

This is the day when we’ve had time to recover from the trip, and now we need to get to work.

To begin with, I finally get the wifi router to work and am (finally!) able to post the first few days of blog entries. I’m hoping that the problem is solved and we can do daily updates now.

We’re on our own for breakfast; we have bread and eggs and fruit and coffee at HQ, and last night Michaela offered to scramble eggs for everybody, and the guys promised we wouldn’t show up until 8.30. Win/win.

I drop by a little after 8.30, and everybody’s eating, and they’ve even saved some eggs for me. Everybody’s chatting animatedly—well, except for one, whom I won’t name, but she says she’s not a morning person.

We have a meeting with Beth at 9 to talk about the children here, as preparation for our teaching. Their stories are difficult; there’s nothing romantic about an African orphanage (or any orphanage, for that matter). These children bear the scars of difficult lives, and though each one is unique, and some are more positive personalities than others, they all carry the effects of the sins of others, and of their own as well. Beth tells us some stories to give us a sense of the community mind here—how the children are thinking, what they’re worried about. This will be helpful.

Chai is late today—a scheduling mix-up—but I assure Ferdinand, the manager (and a man I esteem highly for his works’ sake), that these kids haven’t been here long enough to get used to chai, and they won’t mind it being late. We have chapati and lemongrass tea, and several team members express shock at how sweet the tea is.


At 11 we have our first Swahili lesson; Katie’s longtime Swahili tutor, an animated and gifted teacher named Faith, starts getting us ready for a trip to the market tomorrow by teaching us pronouns, verbs, and numbers. The crew has different skill levels with language, but they’re all doing well.

Weekdays we’ll be eating lunch with the missionaries and supper with the children. Today’s lunch, which we take care of ourselves at HQ, is leftovers. We’ll do that on Mondays and Fridays.

We have another meeting after lunch to get down to the nuts and bolts of the teaching schedule. First we have to make a significant decision. Because the Muslim holiday of Eid, the end of Ramadan, falls this week, the schools will be closed, and all the children will be here all day Wednesday through Friday. It occurs to me that we can hold day camp, which we usually plan for the end of our stay, on these three days. But that means we have to have it ready to roll by noon Wednesday. I ask the team, “What do you think? Can you put together an entire day camp program by then? Teams, cheers, point system, competitions, games, skits?”

Sure! They both unhesitating and eager.

OK then. We’ll have camp this week and start tutoring a week from today.

With that decision made, Beth lays out the class schedule and the characteristics of each student, and each team member signs up for a section. Most sections have two team members assigned; 4 sections have just one student (all of whom have special needs of various kinds), and the largest section (roughly 9th grade), has 7. We’ll teach at 9, 11, and 3, and run a chapel time at noon. Chai at 10, lunch at 1, free time at 2 while the children do chores. Games at 4, reading time at 5, supper at 6, house devotions at 7.30, after which the children go to bed. That schedule seems reasonable and workable. As I noted before, we’ll start that next Monday.

After the meeting we gather at HQ to set all this in motion. I ask for someone to volunteer to put schedules together for several sets of responsibilities, and the hands are quickly raised. Cheyenne will coordinate the schedule for the noon chapel; Blake and Rebekah for house devotions in the boys’ and girls’ houses, respectively; Cathryn, for food prep for the meals with the missionaries (they do most of the work; we just bring some sliced fruit and pitchers of water); Abbie, for post-meal cleanup crews.

More logistics. Tomorrow we’re going into town to the market, first to practice our Swahili, and second to buy fabric for those who want to get some souvenir clothing made. Who needs to hit a Forex to turn US dollars into TZ Shillings? Who needs to hit an ATM to withdraw shillings directly from their bank account? Who wants to ride in on a pikipiki (motorbike) driven by a handsome, well-muscled African man? Who wants to ride in the air-conditioned van with Beth and the old man? We have to plan all this stuff.

But we put it all together in short order, and by suppertime the volunteers have gotten me the schedules they promised.

This team—so far—gives every indication of being one of the really good ones.

Then I take some time to explain the water system, which I described here in an earlier post. Since this is an area where one person’s inattention can make literally everyone, including the missionaries, sick to the point of incapacitation, everybody needs to understand the protocol and the reasons for all of it. When we’re done, the guys use 5-gallon buckets to refill the girls’ reserve tubs.

Remember how I said the city promised the water system would be back up today? Nope.

Aaaaand just now, as I’m writing, the power has gone out.

Guess I’ll go outside.

The power is off for only 10 or 15 minutes. There’s nothing like the relief in everybody when the lights come back on.

Supper tonight is with the children in the Big House, where the kitchen is. They serve daga, which is a tiny fish, about an inch long, fried in oil. It’s very fishy, and of course you’re eating the head and eyes and everything. Some people are put off for that reason, and others because of the intensity of the fishiness. But I like it a lot and have a couple of big spoonsful, and several others like it as well. It’s served with the classic African staple ugali, which is corn-meal paste—basically grits or polenta, but with the consistency of Play-Doh™. You pick up some in your hands and make a ball a little smaller than a golf ball, poke it with your thumb to make a cup, and use it to scoop up whatever else you’re eating—in this case, daga and cooked cabbage. Very tasty. The crew does pretty well eating with their hands.

After dinner we hang out with the children in the kibanda until 7.30, when we head to their houses for devotions. This trip the 7 girls will share duties in the girls’ house, and the 3 guys will do the same in the boys’ house. Tonight Blake MC’s and all 3 share their testimonies. We sing and pray together, and I talk briefly to the boys about George, one of the youngest and happiest of the Tumaini children, who died unexpectedly Easter night. They’re all feeling the loss, and I shared with them that when Christ rose from the grave, he defeated death and left it like a scorpion without a stinger—that one day George will live again, and forever, and so will they, if they know Christ.

After devotions, the children bathe and go to bed under the direction of their house parents. We walk back to HQ for team devotions. There’s some singing, and then I ask them what they’ve learned today. Some things are obvious—they’ve learned some Swahili, and they’ve learned about the children at Tumaini as Beth has shared their stories. What have they learned about themselves? One of the girls speaks up: “I’ve learned that I, like, freak out when we have to plan things.” I told her that I’d include that in the blog, but I also assured her that I wouldn’t include her name.

We’re using one of Tumaini’s portable cellular routers for wifi access (and, of course, paying for the data charges), so I bring it to HQ and let the crew text and email and chat and generally stay in touch with the important people in their lives. We don’t walk around here with our faces in our phones—we hardly ever even have them out when the children are around—but this generation does like to stay connected, and the fact that we can do so in real time and across an ocean is still a marvel to this old coot. Within reasonable limits, let ‘em connect.

Well, this has been a very profitable first workday. Lots of planning in place, and a clear vision for what else needs to be done before everything starts on Wednesday.

That’s going to require some sleep. See you tomorrow.