The last Friday of the month is the school’s “chapel program”. One 12-year old girl was the emcee and very professionally invited various individuals or small groups to come forward. Some joined everyone in prayers, others recited memorized Bible verses, some either led songs or sang solos, and still others came forward to share a joke. It wasn’t exactly what I expected when they said “chapel” but everyone tried their best and was respectful.
During lunch, I was surprised to see Emmet sitting on the porch with a ledger book, a height chart, and a bottle of pills. Apparently CB Dunbar Hospital in Gbarnga is spearheading a deworming initiative throughout all schools in the area. Emmet was recently trained as both the first aid resource and the community health representative for Deanville. He came to GLTC to record student information and give the proper dosage for children from age 5-15. After eating their school lunch they swallowed anywhere from 1 to 4 pretty good-sized oval pills. The process will be repeated, I think in 3 months. This is something Kathy had looked into in cooperation with the Bong County Community Health office (and they never even mentioned this program through CB Dunbar). Good thing our plans didn’t go very far.
Late in the day I spent some time just talking with Deanville people. I’ve found if I just hang out for a while with no particular agenda, some interesting topics — and occasionally tough questions — come up. Today I had questions about GLTC school fees, our sponsorship program, and “Is it easy to get into America?” I didn’t want to say it depends what country you come from and the perspective our president has about your worth to the US. Unfortunately, the entire continent of Africa is on the bad list.
I took the next question as a compliment, “Are all people good like you in America?” while skirting the dirty truths about white supremacist groups, antisemites, domestic terrorists, and other hate-based factions of America’s ugly underbelly.
A senior member of Deanville, Esther (also part of our GLTC kitchen staff), approached me with great pride asking her question, “Can you take my picture?” She wanted a photo of her by her corn garden. We walked to the edge of the village by the swampy area where she showed me a small garden with scattered corn stalks of varying height. I recently learned this is a characteristic of “local corn” versus hybrid corn seeds which grow with more height uniformity. Esther shared how she prepared the ground, planted and tended the corn crop by herself after her daily shift at GLTC (her primary responsibility is washing dishes). Though blind in one eye, she clearly selected the tallest and most impressive stalk with a large plump ear to be photographed next to.
The final question of the day was sad. I’ve been making dinner each evening with a bit of extra rice or spaghetti or chicken so there would be food for Moses to share. Some nights he would take it home in a plastic bag, probably sharing it with his brother or cousin. Most times he simply pulled up a chair at the porch table and ate dinner with me. He usually peppered me with questions on various topics or wanted to share something in his school notebook or reminisced about past events like the most recent visit by Auntie Kathryn and Sis Marsha. Upon finishing his portion of tonight’s classic “La Choy chicken chow mein” from a can (over rice of course), he looked up from his plate and asked a question he already knew the answer to, “When you go back, who will I eat dinner with?” The plate of rice and soup he eats at GLTC is his only meal for the day when I’m not around. I’m not sure what he does on weekends but the hours must be long waiting for Monday’s school lunch. Though food intake for a 16-year old is important, his question felt weighted by a loss of companionship rather than consumption. Pray for both food and family for Moses.