This year feels much different without the usual traditions, comforts and familiarities that mean more to us than we ever realized. The weather is certainly different than anything we have ever experienced at Christmas, though we understand it is for many of you as well. Beyond just the weather, this year, we are trying to make new traditions in a new house with new friends in a new country. While admittedly, there are parts of that experience that are very lonely, we have also been blessed to experience Christmas in a different and no less meaningful way. Even though it looks much different than what we are used to, we are still celebrating our Savior's birth. We thought it would be fun to share with you some of the Christmas events we experienced and participated in.
|Irises in our front garden at Christmas|
Our first obstacle was decorating our apartment here. In traveling to Kenya, we were fairly limited in the amount of luggage we could bring. And perhaps because we'd just finished celebrating Christmas, we thought we wouldn't really need or want much. So, we packed our stockings. As Christmas neared, we realized that we really wanted to enjoy Christmas decorations. Thankfully, a couple of missionaries who were leaving Tenwek gave us a small Christmas tree and some lights. From there, it's amazing how many decorations can be made and how much fun it can be to do. Between the homemade decorations and the cute ornaments we were given as gifts, our home ended up looking more Christmas-y than ever. It was also the first time our "stockings were hung by the chimney with care."
|The stockings were hung by the chimney with care....|
|Apple-cinnamon and clay ornaments by Madison|
We had the opportunity to celebrate with all of the WGM missionaries on the Kenya field, a celebration complete with great food, a cute play by the kids and plenty of Christmas songs. Although a bit strange that a Santa was walking around Tenwek Hospital and our Kenyan friends thought we were crazy, it was good for the kids to have a familiar Christmas. But, cross-cultural celebrations do highlight what is important and what is not so important.
|Kids' Play - What if Jesus was Born in Bomet|
|Nativity Scene from Kids' Play|
|WGM Kenya Field Missionaries|
A very new experience that will likely be a yearly tradition for us, especially when at Tenwek, was making gingerbread houses. Our only experience of gingerbread houses prior to coming to Tenwek was the kits that come complete with the pieces, icing, and decorations, those that just require assembly. Gingerbread houses here involve making, cutting, and baking the gingerbread pieces, making the icing and then assembling and decorating the houses. A pretty time-intensive and somewhat stressful but altogether enjoyable process. We were pretty happy with the outcome of our house, but definitely have some ideas for next year (perhaps a mansion, a church, a castle, or an entire village).
|Works in progress|
|Putting on icing|
|Rudolph the candy-nosed reindeer|
We spent Christmas Eve day at a local orphanage where we told the Nativity story, did a craft with the kids, played outside in the beautiful weather, and, through the Tenwek orphan ministry were able to provide a new outfit for each child and a bag of some small necessities and fun gifts.
|Madison helping with the Nativity story|
|Looking smart in their new outfits|
|"Praying surgeon" by Madison|
After experiencing the love of receiving gifts, we felt the joy of giving gifts later on Christmas day. We had the incredible opportunity to pass out gift boxes from Operation Christmas Child to each of the kids admitted to the hospital. After putting boxes together in the States in prior years, being on the side of passing them out here was quite meaningful. It also brightened up the day for a lot of kids.
|Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes|
|Getting ready to deliver the package|
|Discovering the contents|
|Not sure what to make of all the excitement|
So, while our Christmas celebration looked far different this year than it ever has, we are grateful for God's gift to us, His son Jesus and for the opportunity to experience that gift through a different lens. We were not sure what to expect with Christmas in Kenya, but we are encouraged that God's gift transcends culture and amazed by how He sometimes uses us to show that gift to others.
*All pictures were taken with permission of the orphanage or parents.