Monday, December 26, 2016

Celebrating Christmas in Uganda

Living overseas often provides a real mixture of emotions on holidays. We miss being with extended family and our friends from the other side of the world at these special times. We miss some traditions from our years in the USA that are not possible to maintain here. At the same time we enjoy so many blessings celebrating with our missionary team and people from other cultures and traditions. 

Here in Uganda there are many tribes with different languages, foods, clothes, traditional dances, and cultures. This Christmas, our staff at GSF celebrated this variety in an interesting way. Each missionary or staff member was assigned to a group from a region of Uganda. I was assigned to the Western group, and David to the Northern group. Each group trained to do a presentation of the traditional dances from that region.
Here is David wearing his headdress from  the North. It was fun watching his group dance with a great deal of energy. 😜 The GSF staff enjoy a full day of celebrating which culminates in Christmas gifts of basins full of rice, sugar, cooking oil, soap and many gifts including meat from a bull that the GSF farm slaughters and divides into a bunch plastic bags. It is a special gift that everyone gets to have rice and meat for Christmas! Thursday was a very full day with much celebrating!

The GSF staff party was the day after finishing exams and our school Christmas party on Wednesday.  Our elementary students had their white elephant gift exchange first. 
Then our middle and high schoolers also joined in the fun. 
We have had a wonderful first semester and are thankful for the opportunity to assists missionary parents with the education and discipleship of their children. Thank you to those who support us in prayer and financially to make our work here possible! 

On Wednesday afternoon and evening, we were able to take a couple GSF kids with our family to a pool, a live nativity with Christmas lights and out for dinner. It was a day of more American type celebrations for us. This is the first year since we have been in Uganda that we have been able to go see a live nativity and Christmas lights! It was a blessing to have a larger family for these fun celebrations. 

After celebrating with our students and GSF, I planned to celebrate Christmas on Friday with the women and students in my Bible study group in the village. I always enjoy the opportunity to share the amazing love of God as we talked again about who Jesus is and why He came to earth, to be our Saviour. 

On Saturday we took the GSF kids Christmas caroling in the village and visiting several elderly members of our community. We were also able to give two elderly women a solar powered audio version of the New Testament in Luganda. They are not able to attend church due to health and family issues, and reading on their own is a challenge. Now they can listen to God's Word whenever they want (as long as they have charged the battery in the sunshine.) They were both thrilled and began listening right away! 

After caroling, we went to the Gwartney's house for a gift exchange and a delicious Christmas Eve dinner with our missionary team. It is so good to have a second family here!
After gifts, we had our delicious dinner! The kids had fun at the kids' table!
We are blessed to be able to serve together with these families! 

After our meal the families divided up and went to the houses of the GSF kids houses to read the story of Jesus birth and give Christmas stockings. We got to go to the toddler house! It was a very special time! Each toddler sat with on of their aunties, a missionary or some of the missionary kids while Claudia read to them.

After reading the story of Jesus birth, we handed out the stockings. The children were very excited! 

After our time at the toddler house we put our kids to bed and prepared some gifts for our children for Christmas morning. The highlight of our family gifts was a bunny rabbit which we have to Esther. She is thrilled to have Sweetie, aka Little Bunny FuFu. 

 We drove some of our GSF kids and one Jajja from the village to church. I got to teach Children's Church and share the Good News about the birth of Jesus with probably 80 or so kids from the village.  Even after the children left, the church was packed. I hope that many people clearly understood why we celebrate Christmas. It is so amazing that the God who created and sustains this world, took on flesh, humbled himself to be born as a baby, and lived perfectly on this earth for 33 years in order to take on himself the punishment for my sin and yours, to die for us and give us his righteousness and eternal life, to rise again showing his victory of death! What an amazing joy, to celebrate that our Saviour has come! 

After church we served a Christmas lunch for all the GSF kids, housemoms, older GSF brothers and sisters, missionary families, security guards and the few farm workers who had to work on Christmas. (The cows don't milk themselves even on Christmas Day.) After lunch we were able to give out some gifts to the children. 
The kids all got backpacks with some fun gifts inside! It was so fun to see their excitement!

In the afternoon, we went home and crashed. I even got a nap since my kids woke around 5:30am. I was exhausted and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and evening while our children played with their new gifts. It was a wonderful whirlwind of a several busy days, but we are now enjoying some time of rest before we begin our second semester of school. Our family was able to have a quick Kampala get away to be able to see a movie, do some shopping and enjoy a little family time. We thankful for the many opportunities to celebrate our Saviour and enjoy time with family and friends here in Uganda. We hope you also are enjoying this Christmas season! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!