Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Our First Christmas in Ghana

I'll never forget my first holiday season here in Ghana. All the trees were green and full. No leaves to crunch through and jump in. No apple orchards or pumpkin patches to visit. No smell of burning leaves in the air. No Halloween candy. No turkey sales. No Christmas music. No bell-ringers. The only Christmas lights were those worn by the bars all year long.
It was bright and sunny, hot and getting hotter, and definitely not feeling like the holidays were fast approaching.
John and I had come to the field with ten cardboard boxes and two suitcases ~ all the meager possessions we had to start our new life in Ghana. I'd decided to leave most of our Christmas decorations back in the States, as we didn't have much space and I was quite sure that we wouldn't need those "sentimental" things as we started on our newest adventure. We were missionaries now! What would we need Christmas decorations for?
When October arrived, I dug out my three straw pumpkin decorations I'd stuffed in the top of a box. I left them out for November, too. As Thanksgiving approached, I wondered what we'd do to celebrate. All our money was being saved to pay for our baby's birth in January. The missionary we'd been planning to work with had left after being with us for one month. We still didn't have our own place to live, and I had an electric tabletop burner and one kerosene burner to cook with. I finally came up with the idea of cooking a roast. I bought a chunk of beef and put it in a pot with an envelope of Lipton's dry soup mix that John's sweet Granny had included in the last letter she'd sent. We scrounged together enough money to buy a box of UHT milk, Cornflakes, potatoes, canned marrow peas, chocolate biscuits {cookies}, and a few packets of ice cream. It was the biggest feast we'd had since our arrival in August.
I boiled that hunk of beef for two hours to get it soft, I tried to layer the smashed biscuits and ice cream into some kind of ice cream pie, and we made handprint turkeys and Indian head-dresses. I remember swallowing down tears with every single bite of that tough meat and those funny tasting peas.
On December 1st I set out our nativity, the only Christmas decoration I'd thought to bring. John found a tailor nearby and tried to describe Christmas stockings to him. Hubby asked if he could sew us some from his scrap material. About a week and a half before Christmas, we found a store selling Christmas trees ~ three of them! We picked the biggest one, which was about 3 feet tall, some racing rice lights, and some silver plastic bells. With the few hand-sewn ornaments the missionary had left us, we now had our Christmas tree! We put it up on several boxes so it looked a bit taller, and when two Christmas boxes arrived from our families, we finished it off with the candy canes they'd sent. {Need I tell you that they melted into very sticky bug catchers after a few days?}
John picked up our stockings ~ they looked a bit like Tetris blocks instead of socks. We pulled out the wrapping paper rolls my smart sister-in-law had cut in half and stuffed into the sides of one of our boxes and realized we had just one small gift for each of us........and no more money. So we decided to hunt in our boxes. As we had no home yet, and no place to unpack, our boxes had been mostly untouched since we'd arrived. John began to find me "presents," and I found "gifts" for him ~ things that both of us had mostly forgotten about.
On that hot Christmas morning, with the sun pounding in on us, we sat and shared Christmas together.
And I realized on that day that I could make Christmas anything I wanted it to be.
The holidays had been like nothing I'd ever experienced, and yet I'd been able to celebrate them.
They didn't look the same, sound the same, smell the same, or feel the same.
There was no snow, no family, no friends, no traditions.
But I still had much to be thankful for and I still had Jesus.
And in the end?
I found out that He was enough.


  1. I remember hearing that story and seeing pictures of those "stockings"! LOL :) I am so glad that you found a way to celebrate, even if it was different. We miss you most this time of year, and we love you and can't wait to see you all in a few years! Looking forward to making "gingerbread" houses again! :D