Sunday, December 27, 2015

Merry Christmas from Kenya

It is hard to believe as we have celebrated our first Christmas at Tenwek Hospital that we have been in Kenya for nearly a year. When we left last January, we had had the great opportunity of being able to celebrate with much of our family during the holiday season. We are so grateful to have had those times.

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

Finished product

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.

Angel craft

Madison helping with the Nativity story

Playing outside

Looking smart in their new outfits

We were also able to celebrate around the hospital with a time of caroling and spending time with the patients on Christmas Eve eve. On Christmas morning, we woke up to unwrap our gifts. Our favorites include a chess set (Bob), a sculpture (Andrea), and a hammock (Madison).

"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

Successfully delivered

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.