And all I really want to do
Is sing songs for you,
Then it's been a perfect day,
Yes it's been a perfect day.
de Burgh, 1977
wasn´t a perfect day. It was hot and sticky as only the tropics can be. We
missed the people we love as much as we do every day. It´s lonely being
the only Europeans in West Africa. It´s frustrating having to communicate in
French and lacking the wherewithal to express all the nuances a language
deserves. And when we finally sat down to relax, and started to share our
feelings, we were once again emotionally overwhelmed by the vast divide between
what should be and what is.
the phrase kept coming to mind: at the
end of a perfect day.
broiled fish, buttered peas and carrots, rice with mustard sauce, and fresh rucola
salad (from our own garden), with a mango-pineapple fruit salad for dessert.
Was that at least not the perfect end of a day? Temperature inside has
dropped to 33.2, outside has just reached 30.0. Dishes are done and in about
half an hour we will tune in to the same (Dutch) news broadcast we regularly
watch at home.
morning was meeting of church council. When I arrived at 9.45, the brothers were meditating on Romans 12.1,2: “Je vous exhorte donc, frères, par les
compassions de Dieu, à offrir vos corps comme un sacrifice vivant, saint,
agréable à Dieu, ce qui sera de votre part un culte raisonnable. Ne vous
conformez pas au siècle présent, mais soyez transformés par le renouvellement
de l’intelligence, afin que vous discerniez quelle est la volonté de Dieu, ce
qui est bon, agréable et parfait.” The beauty of the moment was that they we doing
so in Adja. Normally, the meetings are conducted in French, for the benefit of
the Pasteur Missionnaire, who is
also usually asked to lead the Bible study. But since Romain has returned to the
Mono-Couffo, after recently graduating from the Bible school in Bangui, Centrafrique,
there is someone who can lead the elders in devotions in their own language. And
behold: Victor and Guillaume, for the first time in my memory, were actively
participating! I sat and observed, understanding not a word, but enjoying every
meeting, I was pleased to be able to announce the decision of DVN-GoWa that
there would be a contribution towards the present food problem. It being the time of
the year that the harvest is still some way off, the people of the region are
dependent on what they have been able to store up from the previous season. And
because the harvests at the end of 2012 were meagre, there are many people who
aren’t able to 'manger à sa faim',
that is to say: eat to their fill. True,
said Pasteur Théophile, when I asked him. Look
at the pale reddish hair colouring of many in the villages, a sure sign of
malnutrition. Two years ago, there was the same difficulty. And it seems to
be endemic. Too many people living off too limited productive capacity of the
land. The dilemma: what does it help to provide food (short term) when it is
not possible to provide real productivity solutions (long term)? But when all
is said and done: malnutrition kills faster than you might think. Long term is
too long. I was happy to be able to offer help.
were more happy moments. For instance, as the brothers were discussing a
pastoral problem in Ayomi. There was an issue between a man and his wife. One
of the elders (not the elder from Ayomi, but a teacher at the school there)
knew more about the situation. This elder had invited the woman to meet with him at
school, alone, in order to look for a solution. General approval around the
table, it seemed. But then one of their number spoke up: not a good thing, he said. For
you to speak with someone’s wife without her husband being involved. You need
to respect the relations within the family unit, and you need to protect the
woman against gossip. I’m not really sure of all of the complexities
involved in African family relations, but I was impressed. This was seriously
well thought through, and properly addressed, I thought.
afternoon we went to Kpodaha. Twenty-three young people, from 16 to 27, eager
to be trained in church work, have been attending our Saturday school.
Faithfully, actively, and decidedly with an un-African determination to be
there on time. We begin with a Bible study or sermon outline, then we have two
lessons in a program covering the various aspects of church life: worship, mutual support, community service
and evangelism, church government and administration. Since the start of the
school year, we have covered General Introduction to Theology, Knowledge of the
New Testament, Church History, and Principles of Worship. And today we started
with two new modules: Christian Family Life and Church Education. As an
educator in my previous life, I have been really, really enjoying setting up
the program, working with the teachers, and teaching the students. And once
again, today it was a real joy. The sermon outline was based on Deuteronomy 6.
4-9: Teach my children well… Romain,
in his first lesson, surveyed the rather complicated extent of the African
family, and its various possible permutations: with still hugely common polygamy,
exceptionally high mortality rates, and the ever-present pagan/Christian divide.
And I explored the Scriptural foundations, the distinct purposes, and the
general contents of Sunday school and of catechism class. Okay, at this point, you’re bored. But for us
it was a rewarding and worthwhile afternoon.
very tiring. Which brings me back to the possibility that it was a perfect day
after all. But then in the Biblical sense of ‘made perfect’. That is to say: accomplishing its intended purpose. No, it’s
not at all easy to be here. For all the reasons I have enumerated above, and
plenty more. But there are moments when, hugely tired, we have been so energized by the day’s events that there just needs to be a blog.