Our first Christmas in Uganda is now in the books, and a year from now we will be receiving our Facebook reminders of the memories we created. It’s no surprise to us that this season was bittersweet, missing our families and the changes of season that we have been so accustomed to.
One of the great blessings was finding a fake Christmas tree in Kampala, and getting to use the decorations we had sent on a container a year and a half ago. Trying to preserve some semblance of Christmas for our kids may have been more difficult if not for this. We appreciated getting to drink hot chocolate while decorating our tree in our traditional way. We even ran a single strand of LED lights around the outside of the home, another blessing of that container from the summer of 2016!
The week before Christmas we made the trek into Kampala to pick up a few, last minute things. We were able to find a Christmas ham, which was another great find for us. We ran a few other errands, and then received a call from our friends in the fishing village. They had called to announce the arrival of their baby! We rushed out of the city to make our way to the hospital at Nkokonjeru, about an hour from Musana Camps. There we were introduced to this amazing little treasure. Geofrey and Harriet usually refer to Staci as momma, so I guess this makes her a grandmother?? We are so thankful for our relationship with them, and we have been placed in a unique position to be able to speak into their lives. Marriage and relationships look very different in this culture, and this has been an interesting learning opportunity for us. These two have really been through a lot, and we appreciate the amazing effort they have made to prepare to care for this little girl.
On Saturday before Christmas, the staff at Musana Camps took the time to package gifts for the identified needy in the surrounding villages. The packages were very simple, consisting of some very basic food items. We provided things like flour, sugar, rice, bread, and even a kilogram of beef. This was all measured out and divided by staff members. To get the beef, the staff purchased a cow from a neighbor and butchered it early in the morning. Our family drove out to the villages just to the east of camp, on roads that we should not have been driving with our van. We kept at least three wheels on the ground at all times, and thoroughly enjoyed serving the community in this way.
On Christmas Eve we enjoyed a usual Sunday morning church service, but followed it up by providing snacks and juice to all who came. The line was long, but so were the smiles. After church we hurried home to establish a new Christmas tradition; Christmas Eve on the beach! Our family of five had the beach to ourselves for the most part. We enjoyed floating and swimming in the warm water, making sand angels in lieu of snow, and playing some volleyball. Sugar cookies taste just as good on a beach as they do in front of the fire place. As I looked out at the islands to the south of us, I thought of how strange it must be for the people on those islands to be celebrating Christmas in the middle of their summer. I’m thankful that we are still in the northern hemisphere so that we can still celebrate Christmas in winter.
We woke early on Christmas to open presents, and counted on a good data connection to download some songs that the kids had wanted for their gifts. It is the cultural norm to attend church on Christmas day, so we ended up with church on back to back days. We dedicated the service to worship, and enjoyed the Luganda Christmas and worship music. As they usually do, things came up during the service, and Staci found herself taking a woman from the village to our medical clinic for treatment. The one thing we are still trying to get used to is the constant interruptions, and a culture that is very interdependent. In many ways I believe the interdependency is a better way of life, but it doesn’t make it any easier to adapt to.
We finished out Christmas day with our traditional meal of Kumla, altered a bit to fit our local food options. We watered our banana plants, picked jalapeños and tomatoes from the garden, and harvested our first jackfruit from the tree in our back yard. I think one of our new traditions will be harvesting and feasting on a Christmas jackfruit! With “It’s a Wonderful Life” on the iPad, we got to enjoy a classic movie to close out Christmas night. We played games with the kids, Staci enjoyed some time in the hammock, and I can’t say that we have anything to complain about this Christmas. Still, it is somehow difficult to watch our traditional Christmas pass by the screens of Facebook as we see what our family and friends are doing.
We miss you all very much, and yet; God has placed us here in this season of our lives, and we are sure of that. We are so thankful for His constant provision, His faithfulness, and for the gift of His Son on Christmas. Whether we are in Uganda or the USA, we are sojourners in this land, on our way home to heaven.