O Christmas Tree

Christmas is coming, though being hot and sticky all the time and my pealing sunburn seems to be telling me differently. Reguardless, the approach of Christmas has brought up some fun stories and contemplation.

A few weeks back I was piled into the back row of a van along with several of the teens as we drove to the waterfall with students who where here for training. On the top of a distant hill I saw what I thought looked almost like an orchard. Wanting to know what kind of trees they were I pointed them out and asked the teen next to me, "What is growing on top of that hill?" He answered with a word I didn't recognize. Still thinking along the lines of an orchard, my next question was, "Can you eat it?" (I have been perfecting the art of asking questions to find out things I want to know) He gave me a weird look and then everyone within hearing started laughing. He carefully pronounced the word again, and when met with my blank stare, the girl next to him carefully said, "Christmas tree." My question was repeated through out the day and brought lots of laughter. And the question remains, can you eat a Christmas? Who knows...

Standing on the landing of the Alpha School with several of the students, we began discussing Christmas and they were asking about Christmas in America. I told them a little about it and said I was still waiting for the snow here because Christmas without snow just isn't ok. One of the students, with a big grin, said, "oh we have snow!" And pointed to the white fluffy clouds floating across and bright blue sky. "It stays up in the sky here." I am now my hopeful then ever that there will be snow for Christmas even if I do wear the coolest outfit I have for church and sweat the whole day. :)

The approach of the holiday season has not only brought about fun stories but contemplation. On Black Friday I was squeezed into the taxi be on my way to work with Haja on Malagasy. Looking out the window I saw everyone going about their lives as usual. Women sat by veggie stands on the side of the road. Men walked by pulling impossibly large loads on carts behind them. Children carried stacks of bricks on their heads. I thought of the crowds of people that I knew would be waiting outside stores in America waiting to crowd in and buy more stuff when they already had more then anyone here would ever even dream about. What does it look like to have "enough?" How can my two worlds, the one I grew up in and the one I now live in be so different? If only...if only those in America could see what I see everyday. If only the Malagasy people had enough. But then, what is enough?

One of names for God that I have always loved is Emmanuel. God with us. Each Christmas (and many times through out the year) I think back to a series of sermons at my church a few years back entitled 'He stooped to make us great.' It has always amazed me that Jesus was willing to come to earth for us. This year more then ever I can't seem to wrap my mind around the idea that Jesus left Heaven, came down here, and became one of us. Not because He had to but for love. For us. I am thankful for His example of sacrifical love more then ever this Christmas. This Christmas will most definately different then any Christmas I have had before, but one thing is for sure. More then ever before I will be celebrating Andriamanitra amsika! (God with us)


More First's

The trainings, Instructors Of Teachers II and Teaching Children Effectively II, completed, the teens and I stood staring at all the tables we had just maneuvered down the twisting staircase of the three story training location. Now to get the tables back to Pastor D's house, preferably in a timely fashion. The boys began hoisting the tables up and placing them on the girl's heads. Remembering back to 2006 and the attempt at trying to carry water on my head (which was a complete and hylarious failure), I decided it was time to try again. Hestitantly and with laughter, Tojo lifted up a table and placed it on my head. To my great surprise, and the surprise of everyone around, I was able to get to Pastor D's without even so much as a close call. I think you could almost use the word graceful. :)
Bright and early the next morning the CEF of Madagascar staff conference began. Staff conferences in WA had always been fun and I was hoping this one would turn out the same. About 30 CEF staff from all over the country were there (all Malagasy except one couple from South Africa). For two days, from 8 in the morning until 8 at night the meetings continued. Sitting and listening to Malagasy all day was a great opportunity for listening practice. I was surprised how much I was able to follow. Pastor D gave me the opportunity to share about CYIA. The staff seemed excited to see CYIA come here. I most enjoyed getting to know all the staff and the opportunity to practice my Malagasy with new people. They teased me endlessly when my fear of large cockroaches became known. I even got to participate in my first Malagasy skit. Thankfully, my group was assigned the story of Lazarus. It was unanomously decided that I should be Lazarus who was dead most of the time, didn't have any lines, and only had to come out of the grave when called. :)
As I continue learning the language and the culture, I am thankful for each new adventure.  Thank you for praying for me!