Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas 2012

Our first Christmas in Africa has come and gone and although it was different, we found lots of things to enjoy.  I had sort of convinced myself that it shouldn't be too bad since it was sandwiched between our Kenya trip and my mom coming to visit, so I was a bit surprised when I found myself in the dumps.  When we had been home long enough from our trip for me to realize that December was going to be really quiet and totally unlike our normal holiday hustle and bustle, I sort of tanked.  I took a day or two to feel sorry for myself and talk myself in and out of packing up and going home and then I decided to put on my big girl panties and seize the month..  In the end, it was a fun and special time and I believe we could do it again.  Here are some pictures and commentary of December.

 We did a Christmas Around the World Unit.  Here are the kids with masks they made on the day we learned about Christmas in West Africa.  The funny thing was, one of the books we used had a section on Nigeria.  We read it to one of our Nigerian friends who agreed that the customs had been true during her childhood, but weren't practiced as widely now, especially in the cities.  We really chuckled when the Christmas greeting they listed for our country was a phrase that none of our Nigerian friends found familiar!
 Here is our "Buche de Noel" that we made on France day.  We've decided that the Europeans know how to do Christmas and that we would prefer to celebrate with a lovely combination of their traditions, oh wait a minute, we do!
 The kids had some free time that they don't have during the normal school days.  Isaac decided to create a torch, which he enjoyed burning with his dad.  10 year old boys get the kicks out of some interesting stuff!
 Here is our little friend Mary who came and played with the girl's one day.  When they handed her a baby doll, she immediately grabbed a scarf and expertly secured him to her back.  No strollers in this pretend play!
 Cookie decorating definitely made the traditions list.  I have to say they are getting much more skilled in their efforts.  We had many less sprinkle blobs and lots of nice finished products than we used to have.

 The week before Christmas our family hosted about 20 of our Nigerian Baptist Mission employees for lunch.  My house helpers worked hard to cook up a Nigerian feast.  I spent the morning showing my cultural ignorance with one mistake after another.  I wanted to provide forks instead of spoons, I suggested we chill the drinks, and I had the nerve to suggest that we have the meal ready at noon since that is the time we invited everyone to come.  In the end, we scrambled to find enough spoons, served the drinks warm, and sat down to lunch at 12:30.  We had way too much food, but everyone was happy to "pack" the leftovers home.  
 Jolof rice, fried chicken, and salad (cabbage, carrots, eggs, and baked beans) were on the menu. 

We enjoyed all of our decorations including the ones we packed on the crate and the ones that we purchased in Africa.
 Here is our banana leaf nativity
 This one is made of rosewood.
 Of course, we still had presents and stockings.  Many of the presents had been purchased 18 months ago and put on the crate.  Some were purchased in Kenya and others were carried in by volunteers who have traveled in over the last few months.  We were thankful for everyone who helped us provide a special Christmas morning.
 One happy girl!
 Snickers was worn out by all of the excitement.
 The kids decided to write another Christmas play to share with daddy and I.  The characters included the narrator,  Elf 1 and 2, Sophie the reporter, and Santa himself.

Ryan convinced me that we should throw a Christmas Eve party so that we would have a project to focus on rather than fretting over all of the things we were missing.  In the end, it was  a really good idea.  We had fun preparing and the actual event was fun as well.  We had about 8 or 9 missionary families from other organizations.  We had folks from all over America, Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, Denmark, and Canada.  It was fun to compare traditions and we enjoyed games and fellowship.

Christmas Day, we hosted lunch for the other Baptist Ms who were in town.  We had 3 guests and enjoyed sharing Christmas Dinner with them.   We decided to go with fried chicken and cheesy potatoes instead of trying to pull of a traditional meal.  We had a yummy meal and a great day.  

We are thankful for all of the memories we made and for seeing how faithful God has been to us over the last year.  While we still have so far to go, it is a blessing to see how much we've learned in the last 11 months.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Here Comes Santa Clause

This Christmas season has certainly been different.  The weather, sights, sounds, gatherings, decorations, and pretty much everything else is new.  One thing that was the same was that Ryan had the opportunity to interact with a group of children at a local church.  That’s nothing new for him.  But, what the church wanted him to do was very different.

The day we got back from our Kenya trip, a local pastor came and asked Ryan to come on Sunday and be the Father Christmas for his church.  He explained that all Nigerian children know that Father Christmas and Baby Jesus are white and they had already promised the children the “real” Father Christmas.  

Now, in a decade of children’s ministry, we have never brought Santa into a church celebration.  We haven’t done Santa with our kids and we certainly haven’t done it with our ministry.  So, we were not really sure how to navigate this request.  In the end, we decided to just play along.  We decided that building and maitaining the relationship was more important than winning our cultural battle.  

When the day came to play the part, it was interesting.  We needed to be at the church at the start of their service so that Father Christmas could be a part of the children’s processional.  He and the children danced up the aisle and made their way to the choir area beside the stage.  They sat there for the 2.5 hour service.  The children sang a few carols during the choir time.  One of them was the 12 days of Christmas.  That was pretty entertaining.

After the service ended, it was Ryan’s turn to play the part and hand out the gifts.  First they lined up the children whose parents had given 200 Naira (about $1.30) to have a special present.  Those children received a hat and a bag which contained a hot meal of rice and a drink.  The children whose families had not given the money received only the meal.  That is something that our brains still don’t comprehend.  We struggle with seeing a group of children watch another group of children get a special gift while they don’t.  We don’t like it, but it really is the culture here.  There does not seem to be any sense of trying to make things fair or protecting the feelings of others.  It’s hard for our American minds to process.

The best part of the whole thing was having “Santa” drive our van to and from church.  We always draw attention because we drive a big van and we fill it with 7 white people.  You cannot imagine the looks we got when Santa was behind the wheel.  People were literally stopping and staring and pointing.  We laughed and laughed at all of the shocked faces.

Here's "Father Christmas" dancing with kids.

Happy with her hat!

This little guy plopped right down to eat his rice and green apple flavored milk drink.