Being out of the ebola zone is a respite and a sorrow all at once, a relief to be safe and yet an ache to be away from home, especially for Christmas, especially when leaving behind others who have no respite options. My heart is in Bundibugyo with Scott, yet another part of my heart needed these days to hug my children and absorb the care of living in the community of our team, to weep over Christmas carols and corny Christmas movies, to sleep deeply and eat well. Yesterday most of us attended the Kampala Pentecostal Church’s Christmas Cantata, a 150 person choir, a couple of dozen dancers, a live band, actors, costumes, color, sound, vibrant life and Gospel truth. I sobbed through the first half hour, just the reality of Christmas joy washing over me in spite of the bitter losses of the epidemic, the African life beat of dance and song bringing the familiar story into a new focus. The Spirit is so clearly present at that church, if there was advance seating in Heaven I’d want to be somewhere near the KPC section. Then today we visited a local church, the other side of worship, not the exciting music but the solid rock of truth. The preacher told me after the service that he was a little 10 year old boy who met Jack Miller 30 years ago when he was picking up trash in the Owino market and doing evangelism! Now Gerald is a gifted preacher, and today he looked at Mary’s story. His message: God brings change, His plans are never straightforward and simple, He chooses ordinary people and gives them grace, always calling forth faith, sometimes risky and painful. Mary could have been stoned for adultery . . . But God favored her, chose her, and brought redemption through her flesh and blood. I found that reminder tremendously encouraging as our ideas about our future in Bundibugyo, gradually giving all our work over to Jonah, were clearly not God’s plan. Like Mary, here we are, in an unexpected shelter, with many miles of trials still ahead, and much sorrow already around us, hanging by faith to the character of God, holding on no matter where He takes us.
Tomorrow we will pick up Scott and Pat from the airstrip, the last pre-Christmas act of MAF kindness to fly them out. We will sing and cook and thank God for reunion, open gifts around our little team tree. The list of gracious people who have loved us in concrete ways this month is absolutely amazing. Dan and Gini Herron dropped their lives as Europe field directors in Granada and flew in to shepherd the team through crisis, MAF connected us with a house to rent and the practical details of life in Kampala as well as flying all the responsible organizations in and out of Bundibugyo, our mission’s office staff sent money to treat us to a day off of fun and swimming at a resort, Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC let us know they will fund the Kwejuna Project food for pregnant HIV positive women for the next year, 50 people have bought goats, over ten thousand dollars (with pledges up to 20) has come into the Africa Response Fund (goal 100K), people whom we’ve never met send us encouraging words. I’m not sure I’ll be able to post for the next few days, so let me close with a deep note of thanks, and a wish for a fresh encounter with the living God this Christmas, be it merry or crushing, I pray that we would all cling to Him.