Last year we were in Arusha on Christmas morning and Max and Elly got to open their presents with all of our U.S. family tuning in via video Skype (Christmas morning in Tanzania is Christmas Eve in Wakefield, Nebraska). This year we spent Christmas in the village and hoped that Santa Claus would find us there on Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Actually, I was the only one thinking about Santa Claus, as Max and Elly had no idea who he was. Without exposure to the commercialism of Christmas that is so prevalent in the States, Max and Elly were really clueless about Santa. I actually felt a little sad that there wasn’t the anticipation of Santa coming that a lot of my U.S. friends’ kids were enjoying. So when we stopped at a hotel in town to use the bathroom before driving to Uswaa, I was thrilled to see they had a Santa standing in their entryway.
This is the closest we got to photos with Santa. Max and Elly were both a little hesitant at first but Elly warmed up to Santa enough to hold his hand for the picture.
Christmas morning started with church. We were actually 30 minutes late getting there, but when church services last the better part of three hours (or more), missing the first half hour isn’t so bad.
The church was decorated with palm fronds, flowers and shimmery mylar decorations.
And a Christmas tree was placed at the front of the church.
The challenge of going to church with Max and Elly is that the service starts at the same time as their nap. So it wasn’t long before we needed to take them out of the church to sleep in the car. (Okay, I admit it, I dozed off a little while in the car, too.)
After a while I could hear some commotion coming from inside the church. There was clapping and cheering, and a voice that seemed strangely familiar. It was Kakasii and whatever it was he was saying, it was inspiring the congregation to applaud.
I went inside and found Kakasii at the front of the church. He was rallying the congregation in an on-the-spot fundraiser to raise enough money to buy a new set of speakers for the choir.
This is how fundraising works in Tanzanian Lutheran churches: a need is expressed and a member of the congregation is identified by the pastor to head up the fundraising effort. In this case, it was Kakasii. Then it was up to Kakasii to come forward and inspire the crowd to open their wallets and give. Someone would raise their hand, Kakasii would collect their donation. Then he would hold the money up and announce how much was given. (Or announce what the person had pledged if they didn’t have the cash with them.) The church treasurer would record the donation and Kakasii continued to the next person.
In just a short amount of time, almost enough money was raised to cover the cost of the speakers. Kakasii will follow-up with others who weren’t at church to raise the remainder. Then he and another member of the congregation will purchase the speakers and deliver them to the church at a later date.
In their excitement and gratitude for such a successful fundraiser, several women in the choir ran forward to hug Kakasii and the pastor when the total raised was announced.
As the service neared its end, the congregation processed outside for the usual auction of the in-kind offerings that had been presented that day. Because the service was well-attended, there were lots of things to buy at the auction.
We bought a few bunches of bananas.
You may not be able to tell, but these are two distinctly different types of bananas. Both taste sweet, but the slightly more greenish bunch on the left need to be cooked–either roasted or fried in oil. That really brings out the sweetness. The bunch on the right can be eaten fresh; they are similar to the bananas you can buy in the U.S., only way better.
This time there was a goat given as an offering to the church. We were tempted to buy it but decided it was a little too big to have at our house in Arusha.
After the goat had been sold, Max and Elly had fun petting and feeding him.
When we got back home from the church service we discovered that Santa had managed to find us! And not only did he bring presents from himself, he also delivered the presents from Grandma and the rest of the family back in Nebraska!
Max and Elly got to look in their stocking right away. And a little later in the afternoon they helped hand out the other presents and we took turns opening our gifts.
Brenda and Godson both got quilts that were made by Lutheran quilting groups in Nebraska and donated to Nebraska Lutheran Outdoor Ministries for their annual Quilt Auction fundraiser (an event I used to manage when I worked for NLOM in the early 1990s). Ombeni got one, too, but he wasn’t able to come home for Christmas because he had just a couple days break from school.
Kakasii got a new pair of binoculars so he won’t miss any good wildlife sightings while on safari.
What did I get? Kakasii gave me exactly what I asked for: a 30-hour kids-free getaway the following weekend. (Ironically, the only other guests at the hotel was a family with five kids!)
Our second Christmas together in Tanzania was really nice, although I did miss the chill and snow of Christmas in Nebraska. Fortunately, Mt. Kilimanjaro provided a little snow for our Christmas.