Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas in July-Like Weather

Never had I imagined I would be spending Christmas in Africa, but these kids are now like my extended family and I loved every minute of the slightly organized chaos. It was hard to imagine that all the normal Christmas traditions I’m used to were going on at the same time at home. Everything was hot, bright, and green outside instead of dull, white, and cold so it made for a rather surreal Christmastime atmosphere, but a very unique and blessed one nonetheless.

Christmas Eve I showed them “Fred Clause” (really cute if you’ve never seen it) and then shipped the younger kids off to bed. Around 9:30 we took all the older kids out by the river to have their first Christmas Eve candlelight service. And well, it went as well as can be expected with 40 giggly teenagers with fire, haha. It was just a short little service filled with Christmas songs, a reviewing of Christ’s birth leading to a reminder of why He came. We ended with a time of personal reflection and communion before some final songs and the colossal job of getting all the candles back so we’d still have a children’s home in the morning. Afterwards I was walking down the girls hallway and heard the little girls singing in their beds, “He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake…” I paused and countered with, “exactly, he knows that you’re awake, so go to bed!” then went in and kissed them all goodnight telling them it couldn’t be Christmas till they went to sleep. But like any anxious child on Christmas Eve, sleep was still a long ways off…

Christmas morning, Nancy (my housemate) and I were shocked we didn’t have 57 kids pounding at our door at 6 in the morning, but rather they waited patiently till it was “time.” And finally the “time’ came. Once we had the van loaded, we scurried the kids off to their rooms while their gifts were personally driven and delivered to the Christmas tree by Mr. & Mrs. Clause themselves. Then we called them out and they sat in a large circle as each person’s name was called out, hugged, and given their stocking. Each stocking had 2 new shirts, a journal, candy, coloring books/crayons for the little ones, jewelry for the older girls, etc, (all lovingly donated by sponsoring churches) and all had cards and pictures from sponsors. The little ones made a good attempt, but just couldn’t wait until everyone had gotten theirs to open them.

Then they got their other gifts. The little boys got little backpacks with stickers, a little water bottle, a big plastic car, and candy in it. The little girls all got pink handbags with matching angel/fairy dresses and all the needed little girl dress-up accessories (they had quite the little fairy pow-wow out on the basketball court that night). We decided to give the teenagers the typical easy teenage Christmas gift and they all got differing amounts of money based on their age. I think I saw every kid in about 15 different outfits throughout the day as they all tried out their new clothes, and then everyone else’s new clothes, looking for their new favorite style. That afternoon, I spent about 4 hours playing Connect 4 with about 40 different people…a game they had all gotten that morning and thus the only game with all the pieces.

Then today we had our Mafuta Christmas. Mafuta is a nearby village where we have a feeding center and preschool. For Christmas we have all the staff and a good number of the kids come over to play with our kids, have a big Christmas meal, and get some small gifts. 1 overfilled pickup truck, 1 stuffed van, and 2 crammed mini-bus loads of people later they were finally all here…and they sang the whole way! As soon as they arrived they all went sprinting in different directions—some to the playground, some to the basketball court, some to the netball court, some to the volleyball court, some to the soccer field, and still others just to random corners to play in the sand. But they were all having fun and that was the important part. Meanwhile, I went back to helping prepare a meal for 153 people. We had macaroni, potato/egg salad, mixed veggies, sausage, and meat bones. Then after lunch we handed out little gift bags of puppets, a beanie baby, and candy for each kid and larger gift bags of food for the staff. Then everyone crammed back in the vehicles--just a tad more overstuffed this time as all now had Christmas gifts and very full tummies.

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