I’ve spent Christmas in lots of different places: Illinois, Tennessee, Florida, orphanages in Moldova, a boat and now, Gulu, Uganda.
We’ve developed new relationships with so many people here and have listened to so many of these new friends share their stories. Tonight, one of my new friends said he had been through so much. He said he just couldn’t begin to know where to start, but sometimes he just wanted to talk. I think he’s one of the many reasons God has brought us to this place. And, there are many, many reasons.
Today we celebrated Christmas with 13 boys and girls–I’ve written about them before now if you’ll recall, or would like to go back a post or two.
We all went to church together and worshiped God in a charismatic African church with the sound speakers at full throttle as all the children of the church “jumped, jumped, jumped for Jesus” in their very best clothes.
Everyone came back home with us and we drew and colored and made Christmas cards for the couple who runs their orphanage. We had a Christmas feast and played games and talked about baby Jesus and read poems and books. We had a present for each child to open –beautiful children’s books about God, Noah, Elijah, baby Jesus, etc—that the fabulous teachers from Eagle’s Nest Academy in Franklin, TN sent along with me. There was exactly one present for each child. Only God could have known what we would be doing on this day and prepared even that for us.
There were only 13 kids, but it felt like 60. We had the little boy who liked to eat crayons, the little boy who always seemed to wander out the door when you’re busy picking a crayon out of another’s mouth.
We had the shy little girl, the little boy with a big extended belly because of his intestinal worms, the little boy who survived his life-threatening bout with cerebral malaria earlier this week, the two teenage girls who quietly helped keep up with every child and who have no idea how beautiful they are.
We had the young boy who has just come in from living on the street and still fights with the temptation of running back to that life. We had the teenage girl whose young life nobody could imagine but is happy one minute and biting at you the next.
We loved on the little girl who cried during our celebration because she thought she saw her mother on the way to church, but really didn’t because her mother has moved to another village and has abandoned her for an easier life. We had the little boy who survived a brutal attack from his own LRA commander dad and we had the little girl who was spared from such a thing.
We played with the little boy who has no story because nobody knows where he came from–he just appeared one day, small and not smiling or communicating. Today he was laughing and smiling and trying to keep a balloon up in the air.
We had a big, big, big day and at the end we were all exhausted. We packed them up, loaded them in the van and then thanked God for such an opportunity…and for quietness.
Tonight we went to dinner with our new friend whose mother owns the hotel we are staying at. They were such a pivotal and gracious part of our day. As we talked over dinner, we marveled at how his cook was able to prepare such a feast in a space the size of a coat closet. I decided I’d like to get her flowers to thank her and then, after thinking for a minute, realized I hadn’t seen any shops selling flowers like I had in every other place in the world I travel to or minister in.
I asked our friend where I might be able to find some flowers to buy. He simply said, “There are no flowers here.”
Hmmm. That little statement has been in the back of my mind all night. No flowers here. That should tell you a lot about this place.
However, if I were to look deeper, I might have to disagree. I see flowers everywhere…in the crayon eater, the arm biter, the wanderer, the belly boy, the beautiful girls and survivors. And, I see so many more flowers who will have the chance to grow here because of the seeds of love which we have planted here over the last week and a half.
That makes me happy. And because you pray for, support and advocate for our ministry, it should make you happy, too.
Here’s to all the little seeds and the flowers in various stages of blooming. Pray for them, will you?
See you in the next blog…and Merry Christmas,
Jen Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile