"And if you SPEND YOURSELVES on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday."
"The Lord will continually guide you. He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."- Isaiah 58:10-11
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Christmas - 3 Unexpected Gifts
We expected Christmas to be different this year being in Kenya, but not only were our expectations different, but our plans were as well. As I reflect back on Christmas day, I can’t help but marvel at God’s provision.
The first gift came in a snafu with our visitors. The plan was for some friends to visit the Hill a few days before Christmas, and then spend some time relaxing with them on safari over Christmas Eve and Christmas day. But as God would have it, they were delayed in London for 7 days. Their initial thought was to turn around and head back to the States. Disappointment flowed on both ends. However, after some praying and re-scheduling of appointments and travel plans, they decided to come even though they only had 3 days to spend here. And so our first gift came in the form of their actual decision to come here instead of turning around to return to the U.S! There was no relaxing safari but their gift of relationship was priceless to us in this first Christmas away from home for our family. We didn’t realize how empty we were of good connection with others, especially those who come from the same cultural reference that we do. It was wonderful to see them catch a passion for the same people we already love and to hear them begin to dream of the things that could be accomplished here as well!
The second gift for me came in a message. On Christmas morning, before we headed to Nairobi to pick up our friends, we went to church to hear Rick teach. He preached from Luke 2 and Philippians 2 about the miracle of God coming to earth in human flesh as a servant. He asked the question, “Why would God chose to come to earth in such humility when He could have come as such a powerful reigning king?” For some reason, this hit me in a new way this year – the God of the universe, coming to earth wrapped in human flesh, as a servant king. Living in this rural cultural the redefinition of what is valuable and worth striving for, pointed me towards the fact that for all time what man has considered respectable and noteworthy and important is not what God considers valuable. From the world’s perspective, He came through an insignificant young girl who was engaged to a poor carpenter boy and was born in a filthy, animal’s cave with only a handful of people aware of His coming. Yet, here we are, 2000 years later, awed at the fact that God’s ways are not man’s ways and His ways are higher than ours. And that He values a relationship with us more than anything else! What an incredible gift!
The third gift came in the form of an unexpected meal. We spent the bulk of Christmas day in the car driving to Nairobi with our children. Originally, only Rick and I were going to pick up our friends so the kids could stay for the celebration on the Hill, but we decided the night before to travel together. We relished the time listening to American Christmas music and just being together. We all arrived at the Mennonite Guest House early enough to get a shower and dinner in before we had to go to the airport. The shower was a gift in itself for all of us. As we entered the dining room, we were greeted by our host who had reserved a table just for our family. “Silent Night” was playing in the background and the room was decorated with beautiful red and green flowers and greens from the gardens. We sat down together and were served a sumptuous meal of beef tenderloin, turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes with brown sugar, and rhubarb crisp for dessert. As each part of the meal was brought to our table, tears began to fill my eyes. I could not believe it, but this was the exact meal we would have eaten in America if we had been with family – down to the rhubarb crisp. I sat there and cried that God would care so much about us that He would give us the incredible gift of having a few moments alone with our family on Christmas day and would provide us with a meal that felt like home. I still tear up at the thought of this gift.
So on Christmas day this year, we were without extended family and had no presents to unwrap and but I do believe it was one of the richest Christmas experience I have ever had because the gifts were so unexpected and straight from the heart of God.