We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Home for Christmas

The school backpacks, lunch bags, school uniforms and rather tatty black shoes are now finished with. It was sad today saying goodbye to Aldermaston CE Primary School, but they gave the girls such a lovely farewell and have been so kind to us all.
It is a strange muddle of emotions at the moment, while feeling a little torn for time. We would love to be able to share a little more time with so many people! Leaving and arriving, sadness and excitement. And then there is the question, “will you be at home for Christmas?”  
We no longer worry about where “home” is. Home is where we are together. But the question still throws some confusion! Does that mean staying in the UK for Christmas, returning to Tanzania, or going to Canada? In the next few weeks we will be in the three places we have called home: UK, Canada and Tanzania. And as Christmas dawns, we’ll be somewhere mid-Atlantic!
Yesterday afternoon I heard “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” play for the first time this year. This song always makes me cry and it didn’t fail this time. It’s thinking of all the soldiers that won’t make it home for Christmas. And this goes back to an old Hallmark commercial that always made me cry, in which a young boy bravely but sadly sings alone for his family without his big brother in the army, who can’t get home for Christmas. But then to everyone's amazed delight, the big brother walks in and joins the singing (actually singing “Oh Holy Night”, but it makes me cry as much as “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”).
But this Christmas, it’s also thinking of all those parents in Connecticut whose children, children just like our 6 year old, Louisa, won’t be home for Christmas this year.
It’s also fondly remembering Christmas in past years, in different homes, but knowing that home is where we belong, wherever that is. And that means that we can be home for Christmas in the UK, Canada and Tanzania. Many people won’t be “home” for Christmas. For many people, there is no home or no sense of belonging. Yesterday, as a Christmas present from Tim's brother, Steve, we really enjoyed going to see "The Hobbit" at the cinema. Here we met the dwarves who lost their kingdom (as their love of gold became greed) and then wandered as exiles, belonging nowhere. But here enters Bilbo who joins them and says " You don't have [a home]; it was taken from you. But I will help you take it back."
I know that I have a home. That I belong somewhere. For now, I know that I belong in Tanzania and so that is home. (Although at the same time it has been wonderful being "home" in the UK for these months, and yes, it will be so wonderful to be "home" with my family in Canada for Christmas!)  I am so grateful for home, for belonging. Appreciating home, finding home, sharing home, showing people "home." Can't we all do more of this?
When God sent His son to the earth, he offered everyone a home. A place to belong, a relationship with Father, a family, a future hope and inheritance. He's given us a home for Christmas.

Friday, 14 December 2012

A Christmas Recipe for Advent

I love this season of Advent! I love the theme running through these weeks up to Christmas of light coming into darkness. Hope coming. Emmanuel: God With Us.

Today we did our last assembly at Aldermaston Primary School (which I suddenly found quite sad!). They have been presenting their Christmas Nativity this week: The Christmas Recipe. What are the ingredients for a good Christmas? Father Christmas, robins, snow, presents, angels and shepherds ... the list can go on. But really, what is the Vital Ingredient? And that is JESUS! We picked up on this in the assembly this morning. We know that in Tanzania, the recipe for Christmas is very different, definitely no snow or robins and for those in Magozi village, no presents. But the vital ingredient is there and that is the reason that people of all ages and nationalities all over the world celebrate Christmas!

So today we remembered with the Aldermaston pupils here in the UK, that Jesus is the Light of the WHOLE world. He came as light and hope for a world in darkness. We talked about Baby Lightness born to our friends, Ezekiel and Bora last Christmas. That little baby was wrapped in khangas and lay in the darkness without a fancy crib or baby toys, just like another baby we know born so many years ago. And we see that with all other "ingredients" gone, the vital ingredient truly is Jesus! And so to remember this, we lit Christingle candles this morning just as we did in Tanzania the past two years, using potatoes instead of oranges!
Lighting the Christngle candles for the Assembly

Louisa narrating for the Christmas Recipe Nativity
We do still see darkness around us, in sadness, despair, wickedness, war, hopelessness and pain in different places all over the world, but the Light has come to bring hope to all and what an exciting privilege we have to carry that light! Wherever we are in the world!

We are coming to the end of our time in the UK now. And realise it will be hard to leave! I went shopping to stock up on all those things like shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant etc as well as a funny list of things we miss (like marmite, certain spices and mixes, dried fruit and of course the oats!). And suddenly in the Christmassy aisles of inviting food, there I was all emotional about Sainsbury's! You have to chuckle at the things that suddenly hit and make one all emotional (well me anyway, Tim wasn't too bothered!). But at the same time we are looking forward to getting back to Tanzania, very much looking forward to seeing friends there again, and very excited to be starting up the stoves project in our new village.

Light of the World from Rachel Monger on Vimeo.