Monday, December 23, 2013

A Different Christmas

Many have asked us 'what does Christmas look like in Guinea Bissau'.  We have also heard 'it must be very different for you this year'. We want to attempt to answer these questions. First, yes it looks different, it is warm, no snow, no lights, no trees, no craziness of the commercial season. It does not feel like Christmas because every day is pretty much the same each day, in fact most days we do not even know the date. Christmas here is very low key, people cook a huge meal and then share with their friends. You can go from house to house eating food and hanging with friends. It is all about giving here, not what you get. People do get a new outfit for the festa (party), but that is not everyone. This is about the only time of the year they may get new clothes. They get all fancied up for Christmas too. Girls will get their hair specially braided and have extensions braided in as well, mainly little girls. This is a trend that has started because of how they perceive the West. They only know what they see in movies, so they believe this is the way all Americans are.  In the church we have a Christmas Eve service and we will go caroling in the village.

That is a glimpse of what Christmas looks like now for us. Yes, it looks different, we are in shorts, we have no tree or decorations, we have had no begging from the kids on what they want, but it has been relaxing. The only thing we brought was our Christmas stockings. We plan to have a few things for the kids in the stockings, read the Christmas story together, and sing a few songs. The rest of the day we will hang out with friends, eating yummy food, and serve yummy food at our house. We are excited for Christmas this year. It is simple, low key, relaxed, and the main focus is serving others. In this pagan culture the message sent is to take care of others. That is exactly what Christ ultimately came to do, be a servant. It amazes me how much God speaks through creation, traditions, and cultures even when they worship false gods. You can still see God working and it gives perfect examples pointing back to His word and showing them the truth.

This is Christmas, and we are looking very forward to it and for the next few beyond. Yes, we miss family, friends, snow, the fireplace or stove, hot cocoa, and cookies. Instead, we are starting new traditions in our time here and focusing on the real reason for the season and that we always have family as long as we are together.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What are you missing

Karen normally writes these and honestly does a better job, but I want to take a minute and share a reflection. Men or whoever is the bread winner this is for you. 
In my 3 months here I have realized what a workaholic I had become and was satisfied in my work. First this was sinful because I was not be satisfied in God and who he made me to be, second I was neglecting my marriage and spending quality time with my wife, and third I was missing so much with my kids. I have missed a lot of firsts in there life or been late because of work.
We need to work and be responsible and of course pay our bills. I am learning we can live with a lot less I mean a lot less and still be happy. Living with less means buying less which means spending less and all this adds up to less overtime or second jobs and time with our families.
I cherish helping teach my kids, walking Isaiah to school, going to the store with a kid to get bread, or taking them on a bike to get water. I am around more and a part of there life yet still working and doing the things I need to help these leaders and church grow and wean off EMM and the missionaries.
Obviously this will look different for everyone, but my children now have very little toys and yet there happy. I believe looking back at this 20 years down the road my kids will be thankful I was there and not to concerned that they did not have a iPhone or wii or something like that.
I also realized consumerism and convenience have become gods for Americans and we did even see it hit us, it snuck in on our back side and before we knew it we were caught up in it. The sad thing is that evil parts of our society are coming this way and a culture that was once grounded on family and proud of that is becoming one who needs more, needs the newest, and what you have determine who you are. 
I had forgotten I was a child of God and needed nothing, I was keeping up with the American Dream and did not even realize it. 
Maybe this is not you or your story, but I challenge you bread winners. Where are your priorities, what do you make sure happens first there your heart is, what have you missed in your kids life to make them happy, and are they happy?
Some things to think about. i have no regrets because God is always teaching and if I had not strayed I would not have learned, but I am thankful for what I am learning and the time i now have with my wife and kids. 
I realize we can live much cheaper here, but in American we can live simpler also. 
So let some things go, say no, and spend time with your family, wife , and kids. I do not believe it is a decision you will ever regret. 
Just wanted to share some things I am learning, I hope you are blessed and challenged. I know I was and it has been hard to say no and not work all the time, but I am a work in progress growing everyday, I hope to be a imitator of Christ.
In this together,