Today's post was written by BH member, Marilyn Day. She and her husband Gordon previously served in Kenya.
Darkness always comes at 7:00pm, no matter what the season. It was almost dark, and you could smell the smoky fires as mommas began to prepare supper You could hear the children laughing as they came from to town with tonight’s supper on their backs. The children had taken the corn to town to get it ground. Their supper would be a corn meal mush (somewhat like grits) called "ugali," which would really fill up hungry tummies.
In the distance you could hear the loud bray of the donkey, piercing the muted sounds of the evening. Since there was no competition from any bright lights, the stars shone like brilliant crystals on black canopy. Looking up at the stars was an awe-inspiring experience, like a private audience with God.
December is the hot, dry season when the harvesting of corn is done. This crop will be their main food source for the whole year. Harvesting is a 2-3 day labor intensive project with the whole family involved and neighbors often helping out.
Harvesting brings a sense of contentment to the village, paired with a sense of excitement that the Christmas break was coming soon. Families often went "up country” to visit parents and grandparents. Families would gather together for a special meal of chicken, rice, potatoes, and ugali.
No one sent Christmas cards, for there was no mail service in the village. No one baked cookies or cakes because they had no ovens or electricity. No one put up a Christmas tree because any tree was needed as firewood. Giving gifts had no part of their celebration, but what was Christmas for them was going to church on Christmas Day.
We were amazed at all the things you don’t have to do to prepare your heart to celebrate Christmas.
On our first Christmas, I tried to create an American Christmas as best I could, hoping that would assuage my homesickness, but it didn’t. After we had been there longer and had made some good friends, we began to have some rich fellowship and fun together.
Our work there was Community Health Evangelism, and one of the things we did was to help our friends with appropriate technology. The mommas there wanted to have an oven to bake cakes, so we got a group of our neighbors together and made a demonstration oven, which was constructed of mud and metal from one of their cans. Our local young pastor and his wife lived in our compound in an out-building. They were both recent Bible School graduates, very good English speakers, and lots of fun. The wife, Purity, was anxious to prepare her husband a cake for Christmas, and now that she had an oven, she could! I taught her how to make pumpkin bread.
On Christmas Eve, we invited Pastor and Purity and some more friends to our home for an American (as best we could) dinner together. I fixed a fresh coconut cake for dessert. Some of our guests had attended Bible school on the coast where coconuts are abundant, so I thought they would be familiar with grated coconut. But I was wrong. They looked at the cake and couldn’t decide what it was. Finally, Pastor, the bravest one, said it must be a cabbage on the top, and we all had a good laugh. On Christmas morning, Purity baked her husband pumpkin bread, and they were both thrilled.
Our friends there had few material things, but they were so rich in relationships. Christmas in Kenya was my most authentic Christmas as our brothers and sisters in Christ gathered to worship on Christmas Day.