Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Day in Lira, December 26th

By Ben

Today I played with the neighbor boys for most of the day. Before we went to Kenya the boys asked if we could make a pigeon house together, naturally I agreed. In Lira the boys raise pigeons (called “amam”) for both eating and selling. We gathered some scrap metal, stripped an electrical cord for binding wire, and began making the birdhouse. Our backyard had a constant stream of boys who wanted to help with the project, or just hang out and play. Their resourcefulness never ceases to surprise me. They make games out of rocks, and slip-n-slides out of torn up cardboard boxes.
This evening Holly and I attended a worship service for a friend who was involved in a serious car accident three years ago. Every year he calls his friends and family together to celebrate God’s goodness in keeping him alive. After a lengthy sermon we gathered around the vehicles present and prayed for them. The prayer session ended in starting the car and making the sign of the cross over the hood.
It had just gotten dark when we left to go home. As we rode our bicycles home, a girl ran past me in the tall grass on the side of the road. A couple hundred meters later, she was still running and Holly heard her sobbing. Holly asked her if she was okay. The man accompanying us home spoke with her and found out that her father had just beaten her, and she was running away from home. She was about 14 years old. The man we were with advised her to go home, and assured us that it was the best thing for her. I wish I knew if he was right. The risks of being on the street for a girl her age are tremendous, but her home is no longer a safe place. During this time of year so many men celebrate the holidays by drinking together and come home thoroughly drunk. When we got home we did all that we knew how—we prayed.

Boys in a Box

Advent Longing

by Holly
This season would best be characterized by longing. My soul is longing for so many things. Some things selfish like less dust, cooler temperature, more flowers, others bigger and in some ways less attainable, peace in Northern Uganda for example. I read a passage during advent about how Anna, a prophetess who was in the temple when Jesus was brought there as a baby. She spoke to all in the temple who, like her, were longing for the redemption of Israel. Advent is a time of waiting, anticipation. A time when we all long for redemption from all this brokenness. I feel like that, like Anna, like those in the temple who listened to her, like all of the earth and creation that groans waiting for the fulfillment of promise, the coming of a Prince of Peace.

It’s good to be stripped of all that is usually Christmas to me. There is no winter. No presents to buy. No stress. No parties to attend. No services to plan. No family or friends to celebrate with. No consumerism. It’s good. Some of that, like the friends and family actually help me to be in a place of worship but it is truly a blessing to experience the day without any of those things and to note the difference. There is space in my life for a time of expectant wonder—waiting to celebrate the fulfillment of promise and the longing for redemption.

African Christmas

by Holly

On Christmas Eve we were on an overnight bus from MCCs annual regional meeting in Nairobe. It was a wild night beginning with the bus leaving about 5 hours late and the ticket office taking pity on us and giving us yummy samosas. On the bus we went from huddling together to stay warm, to sweating, sticking to our seats. We were stopped at police checkpoints so many times. I had an upset stomach so for most of the night I concentrated to make it from one pit stop to the next which was usually several hours. At one of the police checkpoints in the middle of the night a semi inebriated officer pulled a fellow MCC worker off the bus. Ben elbowed me and whispered “put your seat belt on now—they kicked Esther off the bus.” I was quite groggy so none of this made any sense. Apparently, all those without seatbelts were outside with the bus driver and the drunk Kenyan cop arguing about who should pay fines. After half an hour they agreed and the 20 some passengers got back on the bus and we lurched our way on down the road. At one of the pit stops I was taking too long and Ben came to check on me. We were almost left behind but fortunately, Ben went back out just in time to chase the bus down as it pulled out down the street. We got into Kampala and met up with CPA colleagues who were running last minute Christmas errands. In the end we got home to Lira 8 hours after we intended to, hadn’t slept or eaten in what seemed like forever and we felt horrible with a migraine and stomach aches. The house was a mess and there were bugs everywhere. I went to take a shower and a spider crawled up my naked inner thigh. It startled me and I screamed and smacked it really hard. I still have a hand shaped bruise on my leg. Then just as we discovered we were almost out of Toilet paper and candles I dropped the last bit of toilet paper in the toilet and the electricity went out. There was nothing to do but pray so Ben did and asked for electricity. 10 minutes later it came back on.

Christmas was as perfectly memorable as Christmas Eve was unfortunate. Our morning was so “normal” with Christmas carols, little presents and a yummy breakfast complete with our first real coffee (we brought a coffee maker home from Kampala) since we’ve come that we almost forgot we were in Africa. Then we looked out our window. We spent our afternoon baking star shaped Christmas cookies and then taking them to delighted neighbors and friends. We were ambitious, thinking we could visit 7 homes in one afternoon. At the first neighbors house we spent over 2 hours. They gave us soda, and then after we tried to refuse a second round they told us we had bad manners so we agreed to stay. We had to rush the rest of our visits. Each of them fully intended for us to spend the rest of the day with them. When we had delivered most of them the sun was sinking low and had turned everything red. In front of most homes there were children playing, women cooking and huddles of up to 30 men blasting African dance music and sipping from the same bucket of local brew from 6 foot long straws. One of the huddles next to the huts behind our house invited us to join them and cleared two chairs. I was the only woman and they all waited to see how I’d react as they handed me the massive straw in the bucket of what looks like mud. Of course I told them in Lango it was very good (even though it was warm and chunky—definitely the first beer I’ve had to chew). Our last stop was to our favorite boys who play soccer in the yard. I got the smiles I hoped for. In the evening we cooked and ate together and got calls from our family. It was a good Christmas.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Roasting Peanuts

Sandra lives with her family in a series of little huts. The family has adopted us. On the left is "Ayaa" the true matriarch of the family. We spent the afternoon trying about 20 different national dishes, playing witht he kids, and learning to roast peanuts on a charcoal stove.

Climbing in the Mango Tree

If you watched Invisible Children you might remember the part when one of the night commuters talks about how he used to climb mango trees without fear. Ben and Sandra's son Leviticus are climbing their mango tree.