“Hey, wait for me!” I heard from the kitchen. I smiled as one of our Kenyan neighbor boys hurried to catch up to Benji. They were all headed to the field for soccer! While that isn’t an unusual event around here, it would be totally unusual in December in Wisconsin. No gloves or hats or winter coats needed here! (although sometimes it gets down to 60 and then the locals wear stocking caps and coats).
I guess that is the main difference we’ve experienced – we missed the usual December smells of winter and pine trees, sights of houses decorated and lit up, the feel of heavy sweaters and winter coats, and sounds of snowblowers and festivities. It’s not that Kenyans don’t celebrate, they do. It’s just different. The big shopping malls did have Christmas trees and Santas and even decorations to purchase. But even with that, we did struggle a bit – it just didn’t “feel” like Christmas.
God always has a way of directing our paths, of bringing us folks to love on and be loved on while we are away from family. This holiday season was no exception! A missionary friend invited us to join her and her friend to a three day trip to Amboseli National Park in southern Kenya – right over my and Phil’s birthdays (20th and 21st).
What an amazing trip! To see wild animals in their natural habitat – places we’ve only read about until now – was thrilling. The scenery – being 25 miles from Mt. Kilimanjaro – was breathtaking and invigorating! The boys loved the wind in their faces as we bumped along the dirt roads in the park. What a way to start off our Christmas break!
On Christmas Eve we joined veteran missionaries, Denny and Sue. Denny is a retired AIM AIR pilot who regaled us with stories of Sudan, Egypt and Kenya. They just reached their 36th year in Africa – wow! They continue serving God in evangelism and discipleship to Muslims and refugees. Birthday cake for Jesus, white elephant gift exchange and wonderful fellowship rounded out the evening.
After a meaningful Christmas morning, included phone calls from the States (it was their
Christmas Eve night!), reading the Christmas story, and opening a few gifts, we welcomed our missionary neighbors, Mark and Terri, along with her cousin and family for dinner. What a privilege to host!
Phil had off from work until Jan. 4, so we were able to do some fun things as a family around Nairobi – including a mall that had a fabulous playground and splash pad! Just seemed odd to be in a swimsuit at the end of December!
Lots of food and fun with other missionary friends and neighbors.
We hosted a New Year’s Eve party for a few friends and that was also a fun time. The boys insisted on banging pots and pans at midnight in keeping with family tradition – and the noisemaker horns I found played a big part in the evening fun! Fortunately the neighbors didn’t mind! 🙂
On a walk down to the market, just before New Years, I met up with a man named Gaz, who I had purchased some artwork from a few times. He asked me to bring the boys back on New Years Day because he wanted to make them bracelets. He surprised Phil and I with bracelets too! He works hard with children and young adults in the slums, teaching them how to paint and bead. It’s been great to get to know him!
Overall, even though things “felt” different for us here in Nairobi and we truly missed our families, we had a full Christmas. Jesus is the same, no matter if we are in Kenya or the United States.