Pamoja, or are we in this together?

Christmas brings about many thoughts. I have to admit, I felt a bit odd seeing photo after photo of Christmas gifts on my facebook feed. Please don’t read that as condemning, this was just a very different Christmas.

Christmas has made me think about sacrifice. After all Christmas is when the Word became flesh and lived among us. Experienced life as fully human, fully God. Then he went on, in the ultimate sacrifice, and died on the cross, not out of His sinfulness, but for OUR sake.

My Christmas was not filled with much sacrifice. Yes I am halfway across the world. Yes I am away from friends. Yes, I am away from the comforts of America that I have known so well. I didn’t wake up to a Christmas tree laden with gifts. I didn’t wake up knowing I had the day off (or any length of time off). I didn’t wake up to friends and family all around. But I woke up. I woke up covered by His love and grace.

To be honest, Christmas day was very very busy, but what I really want to talk about was a special part of the afternoon. Me and Hannah, another volunteer here, were invited to visit two of the Nannies houses on Christmas. So around 3pm we set out to find Jackie’s house. I had been to Jackie’s once before so I felt fairly confident I could find the way. After a few minor detours we found our way there, its about a 30 minute walk, on the other side of “the wall”. Jackie was overjoyed to see us, it seemed as if she wasn’t quite sure if we would come. She gracious offered us Pilau (traditional holiday meal of rice and meat and spices) and fruits and veggies and soda. We were already so full from lunch at Neema but knew this was her showing hospitality, offering to share what little she had.

My favorite part of visiting Jackie is seeing beautiful Jennifer. Jennifer, who I wrote my last blog about, is 12 years old. She is full of life and spunk. (Please be patient, details regarding Jennifer’s schooling are in the works). I was able to bring gifts for Jennifer and Beny (Jackie’s son who is 4 years old). For Jennifer, I had found a beautiful pink dress with light blue polka dots. She put it on right away and just beamed with joy. I think she might wear it for days. We also brought jeans and a shirt for Beny. After spending a bit of time here, Jackie, Beny and Jennifer walked with us to Rehema’s house.

The walk to Rehema’s was especially beautiful. We walked along a small stream the whole way. Since we just had the short rains season, everything was so green and beautiful. Rehema’s house is even more modest than Jackie’s, and obviously under construction. We sat in the small sitting room, which was also Rehema’s bedroom, and enjoyed yet another meal of Pilau. By this time we are feeling so full, but ate some to show our appreciation. We brought some clothes for Rehema’s children as well, which is her two sons Noel (10) and Freddy (3). A 12 year old girl named Joyce also lives with Rehema. She is Rehema’s sisters daughter, and also is Jennifer’s half sister. They share the same father, but different mothers. You can tell the girls love each other and were so happy to spend some time together.

We went outside to take a few photos before we left. There was much laughter and hugs all around and then everyone walked us back to “the wall”. As we all walked together, the children all skipping and laughing, Jackie and Rehema saying “God bless you, the children are so happy today” over and over I got to thinking. These are my friends. I love them, I love their children. But the life I live is so different from their lives. I thought about their houses. Modest, two rooms, washroom and squatty hole in small room outside. No running water. No electricity. 30 minute walk to work every day and back. Constant thoughts of paying school fees, and if there would be enough food. Worrying if someone falls ill because they can’t afford hospital fees.

I look at my life here. Have I really sacrificed? We have running water, and electricity (most of the time). We even have internet. We live in a nice enough place to have an electric fence and a night guard. We don’t worry about food. We live on the other side of “the wall”. The wall, a physical barrier, separating the wealthy from the poor.

I love Jackie. I love Rehema. I love Jennifer, and Beny, and Joyce, and Noel and Freddy. I don’t want it to be us vs. them. I don’t want our lives to be so different, but am I really truly ready to sacrifice to live like they live? Would it change anything?

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Joyce and Jennifer and their new dresses
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Beny, Freddy and Noel
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Jackie and Rehema and the kids
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Me and Hannah with Jackie and the kids
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In Rehema’s sitting room/bedroom
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