December 27, 2003
In a desert land he found him,
in a barren and howling waste.
He shielded him and cared for him;
he guarded him as the apple of his eye,
like an eagle that stirs up its nest
and hovers over its young,
that spreads its wings to catch them
and carries them on its pinions. (Deuteronomy 32:10-11)
To be the apple of God’s eye is an astounding thought isn’t it? How confident we can be when we know that His love treasures us in the way that these verses describe. I think these children here must be the apple of God’s eye!
Christmas was different but it was a “good” different. In many ways, it was more like Christmas than any I’ve ever experienced. So, while it was not familiar, it was deeply meaningful. The mamas and the children were wowed and their reactions made my Christmas! Christmas morning, I arrived at the dining hall to put on the turkey. I took your recipe book with me to show the cooks who had never roasted a turkey how to manage this new treat. I was so thankful that I had packed that treasure. I prepared the dining hall for worship, and then had a sweet time of prayer with the other ROS. We were so glad that our friends from Wakiso Central Baptist were coming to the village to lead us in worship. Pastor Fred planned not only to preach but to bring a choir to make the services very special. They were 37 minutes late (my old time conscious self was keeping track) and the children were becoming a little squirmy. I decided that we should begin, so I followed the African custom of opening worship with a praise and thanksgiving time. How glad I was that the group was late! It gave space to two our mamas who were eager to stand and proclaim that this Christmas they had something that they didn’t last year. They spoke not only of the blessing of having a job and a reliable salary but of having a call and a sense of purpose in their lives. It was a deeply emotional time and one that ministered to my heart so much. I found myself longing for this personal sharing to be part of our worship times back home. With time still available, Mama Jenipher then shared a song that she says strengthens her soul called “Stand by me Jesus”. God was already moving in our midst when our friends from Central Baptist arrived. The Junior Choir sang 3 wonderful, spirited songs which captured the children’s attention. Pastor Fred delivered a sermon that asked and answered this question: “Here in Uganda where there is serious illness, poverty, death, war and pestilence, what is there to be merry about?” He led us in considering that in the midst of all that is difficult –the difficulty is swallowed up in the blessing of knowing and being known by Christ–the Light of the World. I was fed once again on the miracle of the Light breaking into the darkness and the darkness not being able to overcome it. It was a great morning of worship!
Afterwards, we had a huge buffet with roast beef, turkey, Kaloo (hamburger and millet flour), Matoke (a banana type staple), white sweet potatoes, green beans, chapati (thick tortillas), jello, macaroni and cheese and soda. The children ate until they were sick and the mamas mounded food on their plates like field hands. Jenipher’s family knew that she was spending the day with Mzungus and so they told her not to forget Nehemiah 8:10! I had to go home and look it up and was astounded that they knew it! That verse says, “go and enjoy choice foods and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. For the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Isn’t it interesting that we well-fed westerners only remember the last part of that verse? Hungry people see great hope in the first part!
One of our little boys named Jovan could not get over the privilege of being allowed to get up from the table and get anything he wanted off the buffet line. He is a stocky little guy who will win your heart in a minute. Today, he ate and ate. Finally, Teopista told him he must stop or he would be sick. With his most determined face and firm command of preschool English he responded, “For me, I want more!” When he said “more” it sounded like “Mow-wah”. Casey and I have rolled with laughter over that moment. Now whenever we want something, we say, “For me, I want more!”
I broke the normal schedule and announced that we were going to nap until we woke up rather than making everyone wake at 2:30 for a snack time. They were thrilled. We took pictures of our friends piling into one truck and heading back to Wakiso for their next worship service. I thought it would be a great idea to get all the children in one shot–that was a hoot–it took 5 tries to get one with all of them sort of facing forward!
I too came home and napped and then got up and made some rough curtains for Casey’s room out of material that Christine Miller had left here in our home. When we cleaned out cottage #5, Stu offered me the treadle machine that had been stored there.
Sarah gave Mom a phone card and she called on Christmas Eve which was sweet–she was so proud of herself for being able to dial all those numbers and then to have success in being able to reach us. God graced the call and it was not interrupted or ended abruptly as sometimes happens with international calls. She cried some and my heart was very heavy with homesickness then. Jane, that is enough to get a flavor of what happened here on Christmas. I am anxious to hear of your time.
There are sixteen children in Uganda who now know that Christmas is “Happy Birthday, Jesus” and that he was born to Mary and Joseph and that shepherds and wise men came to worship this glorious little King. I pray God will use those meager beginnings to grow the heart of worship in them. I feel as though I neglected my own family to make Christmas for these here–but they insist that they do not interpret this Christmas as loss but as gain. We opened the gifts you sent during a 15 minute window that I had before returning to the dining hall to do the next thing. I am so grateful for those gifts my friend, you have fed our souls and satisfied our need for the rustle of tissue paper–Casey was thrilled and Mike spent the time I was napping watching the race tape! James is becoming a little sullen with us all and I pray that that is just his way of expressing uneasiness about returning to school. I pray that God will make this releasing easy on both our hearts. He did say, “It doesn’t feel like Christmas” and wished that it didn’t have to be celebrated so early in the morning!
I enjoyed pondering verse 17 of our Psalm today, it says, “when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness” — Psalm 17:15. May it be so for both of us today dear one–I cannot describe all the ways I miss you right now.
Rejoicing in our Savior’s birth,