Today I recieved an email about upcoming New Years celebrations. It included our "missionary family" gatherings and our "GSF family" meals and celebrations. I am thankful that these groups of people have grown to feel like family over the past year and a half. This past week we had many family gatherings. I thought you might enjoy hearing a little about our times with our Ugandan family.
Zeke began the day of Christmas Eve by dressing up as Santa. Esther and Ezra carried him around in a big box (his sleigh) and he gave out various things he could find around the house to the missionaries who were next door.
As I looked at the schedule of events for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I was looking for a time to have a special meal with our immediate family and David's parents. Mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve seemed to be the best opportunity. Mom, Esther and I worked much of the morning to prepare a special meal. I even made my first pecan pie from scratch with the pecans sent from our church family in Georgia. It was a tasty meal, but we didn't have quiet enough time to sit and enjoy it before needing to move on to the next thing.
After the story the children all received stockings and ice cream. It was an exciting time! I love watching all of our GSF kids open their stockings. Pinto, one of our precious toddlers, wasn't going to let go of her stocking!
Back at our house, our four children watched Charlie Brown Christmas, ate some popcorn and went to bed. On Christmas morning we were overwhelmed with the many gifts from our family in the US and our church family there. I can't tell you how happy we were to receive letters, cards, pictures and gifts from so many of you. It was a very special time!
I originally had hoped to go to a worship service with our church family in Buundo village at 9:30, but serveral things changed that. First, I still needed to cook the food I was taking to our missionary family brunch at 11. Additionally, the service did not even begin until after I would have had to leave.
At 11am, we all gathered at the Gwartneys for our missionary family brunch. We had some delicious food and then exchanged gifts. Each family drew the name of another family to give a gift. It was a fun way to still give gifts without having to buy so many things. After our missionary family brunch, we had some time to go back to our house before our GSF family celebration.
A thunderstorm delayed our afternoon meal, so we had an hour or so at home to rest before heading over to the pavilion with all of our GSF family, kids, house moms, and missionary families. We served a traditional Ugandan meal of matoke (a cooked mashed banana), rice, potatoes, chapati (a flat bread), beef, pineapple, watermelon and a soda. You would be amazed at the amount of food these kids can eat!
After the meal we had the joy of giving each child a Christmas gift. It is such a joy to be a part of this celebration and see all of their excited smiles! Soon after the gifts, we all went back to our houses.
We had considered going to join our church family in Buundo that night to help with an outreach event. They were showing a movie about the Nativity. But after the many commitments of these two days, we decided to just have the evening at home. Apparently the event did not end until after 10pm or so, at which time I was already sound asleep!
Although Christmas Day was over, that was not the end of our expanded family times. Many of the children who live at the orphanage here have extended family somewhere who they can go visit. Holidays are an ideal time for these visits as aunts and uncles may be home from work. But there are some children who live here who do not have any extended family to visit. So that these children would have some special time with a family during the holidays, we invited these children to stay in our homes for a night. Our family invited two of the toddlers to come over, but one of these boys needs his routine so he stayed at the toddler house. Moses, a super sweet little boy, still wanted to come and joined our family for the night.
As you can see, we had many family celebrations this Christmas. We still miss our family and friends in the US, and I have struggled with sadness over that this holiday season. But I am also thankful that God has given us the privilege of being family to many others here in Uganda.