December 20, 2004
The Christmas Party
After weeks of preparation, the big day had arrived! The invitations had been handed out –the families who had a handicapped member were dressed in their finest and began to assemble. We loaded up the truck and made four trips to Ndirande with bags of food, clothing and decorations. Heather, Brooke and Aukje spent an entire day making ornaments and paper chains for the tree. I spent many afternoons with the other ladies sorting out clothing and assembling gift bags for each family.
For instance, Janette and James’bag had a dress for her, pants, a shirt and sweater for him as well as a skirt and blouse for their mother. There were socks and underwear for each, as well as towels, soap and toothbrushes for each person. We also included a few special items in the bags, such as toys or stuffed animals for the children, hats, scarves, or belts for the women, and neckties for the men.
There was also a treat bag for each family as well. We bought mangoes, rolls, hard candy, donuts, cheese curls, and animal crackers for them. The Malawian diet is rather bland and unvaried, so it is really an event to get sweets. We packed up these items so the party goers could take them home. For the party itself we had cheese rings, buttered bread and orangeade. After all, what is a party without “junk”food?
We decorated the hall with balloons, colored toilet paper and a Christmas tree. Once everyone arrived, we read the Christmas story from the Bible, sang several songs (they could have been Christmas Carols, but they were not any that we were familiar with).
Then Santa, or Father Christmas, as he is called in Malawi, arrived. He had a bag of toys which he handed out to the orphans in another building on the church grounds. (The handicapped children had toys in their family bags.) Then refreshments were served.
Finally, the moment that everyone had been waiting for arrived. Santa called out names and everyone came up and got their gift bags, sweet treats, and an extra bonus, a brand new blanket! This actually took a long time because there was such a buzz of excitement that it was hard to hear the names being called. Unfortunately, in all the hubbub, one family’s bag was stolen. We will make up a new one for them.
In the meantime, the girls went around and painted stars and Christmas designs on the children’s faces. At first they were a bit frightened by the paint, because they had never seen it before, but once a few brave boys got “decorated”the others were eager to have it applied to them as well.
The afternoon’s festivities ended with a few more carols sung with joy, and a prayer. Some very happy people filed out of the church hall!
We, of course, were thrilled that the party was such a huge success. About 80 families had a special Christmas experience. It is always easy for us to say, “giving is better than receiving,”but I think that this year, as the Merrys saw those happy, painted faces, we realized that a little bit of giving really is what Christmas is all about.
As we left though, we noted the families at the gate, who were not invited (no handicapped family member), but would have liked to come to the party.
I was reminded of the parable of the banquet, where everyone was invited to come and celebrate. Jesus wanted us to know that everyone is invited to his feast, and into his Kingdom.
As we celebrate his birth this year, we will try and remember that.