This Christmas will definitely be a different one- probably the most different. We all have family traditions and yearly celebrations that we won't be home for. We all have people that we will miss sharing this holiday season with. It is so easy for us to think about all the things we're missing, but what about all the amazing experiences we'll get to have because we're here? Instead of thinking, "well, this is only one year, then next year I'll be home again", I need to be thinking, "wow, this is one year that I get to be in AFRICA with my little Journey Corps FAMILY!"
This is yet another issue of comfort. Christmas plus 90 degree weather does not make sense to me, but it's our reality- and why not enjoy it! If I was home, I would probably be complaining about the rain and how cold it is! There will be many years of cold Christmas' to come, but a Christmas in the tropics, now that is not so ordinary! I get a little uncomfortable when I think that things may be a little different, but this year is meant to be different! It's going to be beautifully different and totally orchestrated by a God who cares more for me than I can begin to understand.
I can't even believe how blessed I've been with communication here. I talk to my parents on the phone almost weekly- and it doesn't cost an arm and a leg (I hope!)- I've heard the voices of the dearest people to me and seen far away faces smiling back at me through video chat! I even hear Pastor Al's Christmas sermon series through Clovis EVFree's podcast! I mean, what else could a missionary girl ask for?!
The answer: NOTHING.
As much as I cling to the traditions of home, Christmas is not about baking cookies, sitting by the fire, watching old movies, or walking down Christmas Tree Lane all bundled up. Christmas is not about giving and receiving gifts, eating too much ham (or tamales), stockings and Santa Clause, or listening to Nat King Cole. Christmas is not about twinkling lights, singing carols, tinsel, or little elves in funny hats.
Christmas is about God's love for the very people He created and who turned away from Him. Christmas is about this Almighty Creator finding a way to bring those wandering children back to Him. Christmas is about reconciliation, redemption, and reunion with a very personal God, who sent His son to a broken world as a baby.
Christmas is about a God who loved us enough...
to walk the earth with us,
to live among us,
to go to the cross for us,
to make sure we would never be apart again.
Christmas is about LOVE.
Unexplainable, undeserved, unrestrained LOVE.
"But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ" -Ephesians 2:13
God has been so good. He's teaching me to trust in His plan, in His will. He takes my hand and guides me. He shows me how to follow when I'm terrified that I don't know how.
So what exactly are our plans for Christmas here in Bouake? Well... we plan on joining an all night fete with the local Baptist church in Bouake. We'll be singing, dancing, praying, and eating all Christmas Eve! Then we'll have our Village Baptiste Christmas celebration and meal. The part I'm excited for.... Christmas night, when we'll all be so worn out and stuffed with too much food, sitting around our little tree with its strange bubble lights, sharing quiet moments together and exchanging our little hand made doodads. I'm excited. This is going to be a year that we remember, not just because we were away, but because we were together.
Merry Christmas from Cote d'Ivoire!