I’m up at 6:30 AM unless I have a nursing infant (which means I need to be up around 6:00). Seth helps dress and feed the kids Sunday mornings so we can all be ready to go by 8:30. Inevitably one of the children puts their “church shoes” on too early and tracks dried mud from the week before all over the tile that was just mopped the night before. (Tile is our flooring; no carpet.) The rest of the family walks through the dirt clumps and contributes to tracking up the house.
Around 7:00 (6:15 last Sunday) children start to arrive. They hang out in our yard, on our porch, or in our garage if it’s rainy until it’s time to go. We sometimes send them home and tell them to come back at this or that time, but most of the time we realize their difficulties with knowing the exact time and go about our Sunday morning routine.
At 8:30 we take toddlers for their last-minute trip to the toilet in hopes that they won’t need to use the outdoor toilet at church. I pack a bag with diapers, changes of clothes for whichever children might need them, drinks, snacks, tissue, and hand sanitizer. Seth loads the car up with a box of materials for church, another box for children’s church and a couple of toys for nursery-aged children, guitar, a bag of children’s Sunday school materials, diaper bag, and rugs and blankets for our toddlers to nap on.
We round up technology and place it in our study, locking and dead bolting the door. We check windows and doors to make sure everything is shut and locked. Turn off the water heater to save electricity, pull the car out of the garage and driveway, lock the garage door, shut and sometimes padlock the yard’s gate, and pause for whichever neighbor children haven’t jumped in the truck bed yet to hitch a ride.
Since it’s always rainy on Saturday or Sunday :P, two to three of my children have already gotten muddy trying to get in the truck. Some whining drones on in the background as my young’uns settle their pecking order among the squished back seat. I hold the baby on my lap. We bounce down a couple of dirt roads, passing church members walking to church, and pick up a couple of other small children or young mothers as we go.
Less than five minutes later, we pull up to a creche (a pre-school and childcare center) that we borrow on Sundays for our church meetings. A muddy single-file path between weeds and a cornfield leads to stairs and the front porch of the creche, which has two large rooms and several small side rooms. We use the second large room for our church. There is a room used as a kitchen off the back, with an electric stove and some cooking items. Down a hallway is a disorganized closet for mops, brooms, chairs that we borrow, a wheelbarrow, and other miscellanea. The hallway ends in a 9×10 room that we use for the children’s Sunday school. Outside is an ancient jungle gym and a path leading to the outdoor necessaries.
We set up the plastic chairs with help from a few faithful teens who arrived on time. One or two of the teens use a rag to wipe the dust or mud off of each chair. Children help set up the small colorful plastic chairs for their Sunday school room. I set up my Sunday school materials, and Seth sets up his stuff. Seth also helps tutor the teen amateur guitarist in any trouble spots for the day’s hymns. I take two rugs and lay them in the corner of the kitchen, place a beach towel over them for more padding, and leave the blanket sitting on top. Carson’s bed is now ready for nap time.
A comforting chaos ensues as the children who have finished helping run outside and abuse the ancient jungle gym made for preschoolers. Caleb and Colin are somewhere, usually climbing a precarious guava tree near the cornfield or tire-hopping. The playground is lined with rows of painted upright tires, and the children like to try to keep their balance walking down the row without falling off. I keep my two toddlers from heading outside by themselves.
Some neighbor ladies take advantage of the opened creche gate to “kha mati.” They have brought their jugs to get water at the dependable creche tap. Thankfully they won’t be washing their dirty laundry in the yard today during our service. The gray clouds have prevented that, as well as loud obscene music playing at the next-door homemade bar.
A child asks me for toilet paper. It’s been weeks since someone needed that–the usual roll is not in the nursery toy box. I run out to the truck to see if there is any in the glove box.
While I was gone, Carson tried to follow me out. On my return, I find him bent over on the porch, sloshing his hands through a mud puddle. I’ll have to scrub the cuffs of his white turtleneck especially hard tomorrow. Oops, he also dropped his pacifier in there. Best I can do with that is clean it with a wipe.
Colin announces that his stomach really hurts. While I am tempted to call his bluff, I recall the time he threw up all over both of us at the end of a church service; I instruct him on what to do if he feels similarly. He goes to lie down on the mats I put down for Carson’s nap.
We file in to start church, which begins with announcements if there are any, and a lengthy pulpit prayer. I sit in the back of four rows with my four kids. I scramble to wipe my children’s hands with a wipe, apply hand sanitizer, and liberally hand out South Africa’s versions of graham crackers. Eating keeps my toddlers quiet during the prayer, if I can give them more before they ask. I try not to rattle the wrapper.
I am rewarded for my efforts at contributing to contemplation with the loud clunk of Carson’s sippy cup hitting the floor when his antsy sister accidentally knocked it off the seat. It rolls to the row ahead. No worries. A church member hands it back to me. Two or three crackers die a crunchy death as they fall to the floor between chubby, white fingers. If I don’t move fast enough to pick them up, one of my toddlers will retrieve it later and enjoy its muddy frosting.
This is not a terrible distraction to my African friends. The Meyers’ hullabaloo is overshadowed by the intermittent arrival of church members arriving throughout the prayer. Three other toddlers have arrived today–two the age of Carson, around 18 months, and one slightly older than Callie at 3 years old.