Thursday, December 27, 2012

Merry Christmas from Bongolo!

Merry Christmas from the Jungle! 

Celebrating with new "family"

99.6 degrees and a Tropical Rainstorm Christmas...not the typical setting that comes to mind for your merry, jingle-all-the-way celebrations, but we had a marvelous time doing it! 
Christmas Eve we had a really fun progressive dinner throughout the mission station caroling all the way.

Bongolo's Christmas Eve "candle light"service =)

Later that night we went to Bongolo Alliance Church for their Christmas Eve service- talk about a cultural experience! Forget the candle lights! Bright lights, palm branches and loud songs of joy welcomed us into the packed out building. Christmas Eve here is sort of an opportunity for everyone to express their joy in Christ's coming to the world- whether that's in a reading or a song or a dance.
So there were small groups of older women reciting scripture, all the hospital staff singing a worship song, high school kids doing a dance number (think- scene from High School Musical, Africa style) and then there were the Americans who got up and sang O Come All Ye Faithful. Yup! That's right! Even we weren't exempt =)

There was actually a strand of lights up at Bongolo! We
were so excited!

Despite all the holly, jolly, merry celebration of it all, this first Christmas overseas has not been easy. It is difficult to be away from friends, family and a fiancé, feelings of home, snow, family traditions and everything that tells you deep inside that "Christmas time is here," but I think it has only magnified the reason we celebrate Christmas- Emmanuel- God with us. I am so thankful that He has been walking through this season with me.
Emmanuel- God with us. 
Below is a tangible account of that reality, what Christmas means for the world.

"Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people."

Thank you to all of you who have so faithfully been praying for the young woman from the previous post, "A Will to Live." I wanted to give you a quick update as to how God has been working. 

We had described the story of a young woman, newly diagnosed with AIDS, who had left the hospital to go back home intending to kill herself, but God had intervened! She had changed her mind and returned to Bongolo Hospital for medical help. Our prayer was that while with us, God would speak to her heart and bring spiritual healing as well. We asked you to pray with us that God would open her mind and heart to the Gospel. 


About a week had passed after the young woman's return to us. I was checking up on the students in the medical ward and checking to see how the young woman was faring. I was surprised to discover that she had fallen into a coma a couple days prior, and had remained comatose since- it wasn't looking good. I could see the discouragement on the students' faces as they told me, and my heart fell as that week before she became comatose, had she had enough time to hear and respond to the Gospel?

The next day she was gone.

A group of us were gathered near her room, discussing whether or not anyone had had the chance to talk through the Gospel with her. No one seemed to really know. She spoke a village language, Pounou, that was not widely spoken in the immediate area. Had anyone had the opportunity to share with her?

Just then one of my students, Zita, came up to us hearing our conversation. "Madame" she said, "I speak a little Pounou. The day before the young woman went into a coma, I talked with her. She told me a woman who happened to be taking care of another patient here at Bongolo, came into her room and started sharing with her about Jesus- in her mother tongue- Pounou! She told her about Jesus- and the young woman decided to follow Christ."   

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." 

What a God we serve! In her brokenness, in her illness, God kept this woman from committing suicide, what compassion that He gave her a willingness to come back to the hospital to receive medical help, what provision that He had her come back with enough time for the Gospel to be presented to her before she fell into a coma, what mercy that God provided someone not only to share the Gospel with her- but someone who spoke it in her heart language, what obedience that that person obeyed the prompting from the Holy Spirit to share their faith, what grace that God would orchestrate all these events to draw this woman unto Himself- right before she fell into a coma and died, what Love that God would send His Son into the World "that the world might be saved through him"....

This is the gift of Christmas - Emmanuel, God with us!

Merry Christmas to you all!

Love from the Jungle,