As you have probably figured out by now, things in Africa don’t always go according to plan. As they say, the three most important qualities in a missionary after faith in God are flexibility, flexibility and flexibility.
Wednesday was my last day at Arebaokeng. “When are you going to bring the children some sweets?” I was asked. My last day seemed like a good time.
I went to the local grocery. With 200 children in the two programs, I could easily spend a small fortune. One of the girls had mentioned marshmallows a couple weeks ago. They were among the cheaper options so I figured, why not. I picked up 6 packages—pink, white and coconut—and took them to the till. When I explained to the manager what they were for and asked if they ever gave discounts, he told the girl to charge them to charity and gave them to me for free! (Should have gotten chocolates!)
The usual classroom at Arebaokeng had been taken over for a business seminar. I usually take the children to the steps outside where there is a nice breeze, but we couldn’t meet just outside the open classroom door on a hot day with others studying inside. We ended up sharing an echoing room where the high school kids were doing homework. There was also an open passage to the pre-schoolers’ room with no door to close between. The noise was like the school gym the night of the basketball tournament finals.
The library books I had brought went quickly. Even some of the high school kids picked them up and flipped through. (I explained to them that we had been talking about life as a journey and how important it was to make right choices along the way. Who knows? Maybe one of them would get the message too.)
Someone handed out the marshmallows, and some of the books no doubt got sticky. I figured I should at least try a lesson. I handed the words to Proverbs 3:6 to a girl and to Ephesians 5:15 to a boy. My idea was to have a competition, boys against the girls, to see who could arrange their verse first, but no one could hear my instructions over the hubbub. The words got handed out indiscriminately, and I ended up with children milling around waving their bits of verse proudly at me. As I tried to arrange them into two lines (rather like herding cats), I could hear someone behind me saying, “In all your ways… In all your ways…” but he never got farther than that. Eventually, I had two lines facing each other (although half the word signs were upside down or otherwise unreadable), and we read the verses a couple times.
I gave up on the rest of the lesson. When I went to retrieve my things, I found one of the little boys pouring over the fine print of my travel Bible, our ‘guidebook for the journey’ from which we read verses every week. He wanted to wear my glasses too. I let him, and the little knot of boys laughed. I showed him 1 John 3:11 (part of the planned lesson), and told him to read, “We should love one another.” The blur of the glasses didn’t matter; I don’t think he could read anyway, but he said, “We should love one another.” We passed the Bible and glasses to the next boy who “read” too, and so on.
I said my good-byes and left, feeling a bit sorry for the young, shell-shocked-looking volunteer who had just arrived for two months, which I presume she will spend daily in this confusion. I have to trust God that something from my month of visits will remain with these children and help them to make wise choices tomorrow. Next year…
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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