Happy New Year! This last week has been full of many blessings. My house (well, my boss’s house that I’m housesitting for a month) has turned into Grand Central Station for friends coming in and out of Kampala for the Christmas season. I’ve washed more sheets and baked more cookies in the last week than I have in three months! But I’m not complaining; I’ve loved being able to welcome people into “my” home for this month.
Christmas weekend started off with a candlelight service at All Saints Cathedral, one of the biggest Anglican churches in Kampala. Silent Night by candlelight was great, the Christmas tree in the front of the altar was great, but the sermon was a highlight – focused on Jesus as the Prince of Peace, and how our identity as His people means that we enter into places of conflict with confidence, knowing that the Prince of Peace is alive in our hearts and has come to reign in the world. In light of what I was thinking about in Rwanda, it was completely inspiring and just what I needed to hear this Christmas season.
A few days earlier, we went to Watoto Church’s annual Christmas cantata, a gorgeous production with a choir of more than 200 people, celebrating the Christmas season in true African fashion. I’ve heard it’s the biggest Christmas event in all of Kampala! They presented a creative version of the Nativity Story which involved the three wisemen “returning home by a different route” through Africa, of course. Check out a clip of the performance here.
Christmas morning began with breakfast with my dear friends, the Carroll family. We had a good old American breakfast of baked oatmeal and hot chocolate, and then headed off to downtown Kampala to participate in their family’s Christmas tradition. Every Christmas, the Carrolls pile into their car and cruise around Kampala with small gifts and encouraging notes for people they find on the streets… beggars, security guards, lonely police officers, etc. It was definitely a highlight of my Christmas this year.
What made it most interesting was the reaction of people as we approached them. I have to admit we made a funny sight – a horde of young American kids all piling out of the car, running eagerly up to the stern security guard, whose questioning, disapproving look turned quickly into surprise then sheepish happiness as we gave him just a small gift of a soda, doughnut, and card. Inside the Christmas card was a letter the Carrolls had printed out, a love letter from the Father to his children – beautiful words taken straight from the Bible. It’s available online and has been translated into many languages – you should check it out! (Click here to see it in Luganda, the local language).
In true holiday fashion, I continued the day with more eating, going to lunch at one of my Ugandan co-worker’s house. His family is perfectly wonderful, and welcomed me into their home with open arms and lots of hugs and delicious food, some of the best traditionally Ugandan food I’ve had while in Kampala. His dad is the Bishop of Kampala, and was the one who spoke at the Christmas Eve service the night before. I have to admit, I was a little star-struck, and have a new dream of being an Anglican clergywoman when I grow up. You get to wear purple shirts and big silver crosses! How cool is that? 🙂
Christmas evening finished back at my house, with a group of young American friends all working at NGOs in the East Africa region. This meal was traditional American fare, complete with roast chicken, green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes. We all joked about how impressed we were with ourselves that we were able to pull off such a cooking success even without our moms!
I’m quite proud of how we managed to pull off a full day of fun and festivities. And I feel really thankful for my odd assortment of friends and family that I’ve developed while here in Uganda. I missed having a White Christmas, but then I remembered, that relaxing on the rooftop deck in sunny sunny sunshine on Christmas Day is not such a bad deal after all. 🙂