The Christmas season is my favorite time of year. I love celebrating with family and friends, decorating, looking at lights, watching Christmas movies, bundling up by the fire, and going to church on Christmas Eve. Yet, as much as I enjoy all of these things, this is no longer my reality.
I will wake up this Christmas morning to a humid day in Kisumu, Kenya, with temperatures well over 90 degrees. There will be no warm fires or cider. I will visit with friends and spend time with my Ndoto family. We will feast on goat, kale, and rice. We will not exchange presents; instead, we will go for a long walk. We will window shop and admire all of the beautiful things the stores sell that are for most, only a dream. Then, we will go home and tell stories, all the while preparing for the day after Christmas when life as we know it returns.
I’m embracing these new traditions and making the most of them. Instead of struggling to think of what I want, I will step into the shoes of our kids whose eyes are wide and bright and for whom a new shirt on their back is reason to celebrate. I will eat with my hands while sweating, and thank God for the treat of meat. I’ll spend it with our students, some who have lost parents in the last year and have fought great battles. We will watch Home Alone, and for those brief hours, students will laugh until they are literally rolling on the floor and crying (It’s a kid favorite here. They especially love all of the pranks!). I’ll wear a Santa hat in the increasingly hot summer weather and turn on the lights on my small tree. This Christmas, it won’t be about me and my traditions but about making sweet new memories with these students I love.
Kenyans love Christmas! Their celebration looks different, but it’s still a beautiful time where families spend the day together, eat a feast (which is rare), take the day off work, and for some even travel to visit extended family. Those who are believers will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and the hope He brings!
From the nearly 300 students, 10 staff members, and more than a thousand family members affected by the gospel of Jesus Christ and the work of Ndoto here in the Obunga slums, Merry Christmas!
Joy to the World; The Lord is Come.