Monday, December 19, 2011

Blessed

Christmas 2011

Common questions about  food, climate, and culture are given a rest during the month of December. Instead people usually express their curiosity about Christmas.  "What's Christmas like in Uganda?"

ANSWER:  It's the same and it's really different.

That's the short version.  It's the same because it celebrates the coming of Jesus Christ to the earth as a baby in Bethlehem.  It's also similar as there are some traditions of this holiday, from developed nations, that are beginning to be copied.  But, Christmas in Uganda is really different as well.

I was born and raised in a developed nation ... one that has been a primary leader in material prosperity.  Nearly everything eventually turns into an economic opportunity.  In terms of holiday celebrations, retail sales move from Back to School to Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to reap as much financial success as possible during the last four months of every year.  Christmas decorations and traditions begin to stimulate the five senses nearly six weeks before Christmas day arrives.  It truly is a season in the Western world.

Pacific Ocean view from our balcony
A third world nation doesn't have the material resources that would make their Christmas resemble what is commonly associated with the season of Christmas in the West.  While Christmas is weeks, days, and hours, of special foods, programs, music, events, and family traditions in the United States, I like to tell people that Christmas is only "a day" in Uganda ... a day when people go to their churches and usually get treated to hours of music and have a meal that day which may include the rare element of meat.  There isn't really a middle class in Uganda.  There are the very very rich who compose a single digit percentage of the population and the very very poor ... people who don't usually own even a bicycle for transportation, but who walk or use public means; people who don't pay taxes because there is little income and no system in place to collect them; people who can't afford to buy a Christmas tree, much more put lights on them ... or anything electrical for that matter as most of them live without electricity.

With our first born Janelle
Pam and I have spent a couple of Christmases in Uganda and we are amazed at the contrast.  It is simple there while it can be complex and complicated here at home.  It comes and goes in a day there while at home it can involve a year long savings program and detailed planning in coordinating all the ingredients of a "good" Christmas.

All of what you have read to this point is simply background ... just an opening to transition to a personal sharing of our 2011 Christmas ... and to wish all of you, who are somehow connected to Next Generations Ministries, a Merry Christmas!

Our lives are not all about our work, although it's hard to draw lines of distinction sometimes since the foundation of our work is relational and follows the relational model of family.

Second born, Stephanie, with husband Jethro
We confess that living 10,000 miles away from our family ... our kids, grand kids, and our parents ... is the only significant sacrifice that we make in working for Next Generation Ministries in Uganda.  We miss them and time with them has an increased value when we are home.  Each trip back to the States develops a more sophisticated plan to spend as much time with them as possible.  This year we began early to save money and arrange to spend a full week at an Oregon coastal resort with as many of them as could arrange their schedules to share it with us.  We wanted to do something extravagant to communicate to them that they are worth it.  It may appear foolish and a poor use of financial resource, but, just one time, we wanted to do something that would expresses our deep love for them.

Our last born, Dawson, with his wife Anna
We reserved a room for Janelle and her five kids, a room for Stephanie and Jethro and their four kids, and one for Dawson and Anna with us.  The amazing Pacific Ocean was just feet from our balconies to the west and a swimming pool and spa were just feet from our rooms to the east.  Christmas decorations Pam brought from home helped create the seasonal atmosphere.  Our hub gave us access to the beach, trips to a light house, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and some other special experiences we shared, but it mostly gave us time to experience life, complete with silly and significant times, together.  It was special.  It was memorable.  It may never happen again.  But, Pam and I have no regrets.  There is a link below to a 4 minute video I made  to commemorate this amazing week.  This is what our Christmas was like this year in the United States.

Grand kids out for coffee with Pam
The families have all returned to their "normal" lives back in the Willamette Valley.  Our Christmas experience with them has come to an end.  Pam and I have remained on the Coast for a couple of days together ... hoping to put the finishing touches on FINDING FAMILY ... From a Scary Place to A Caring Place, the book I'm attempting to write featuring the stories of Sera Kasonga and the 20 sons she is mothering at Sera's Caring Place in Jinja ... and enjoying the blessings of family, both spiritual and biological.  On Christmas Day while our kids are with other members of their extended families, Pam and I intend to be at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution to share that day with our incarcerated friend Matthew.

Merry Christmas to each of you as you celebrate it ... however you do ... and may God use you to discover and display the glory of Jesus in 2012!

Family Christmas 2011


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