Christmas is Wednesday? Are you sure?

There is a little boy with a small homemade broom sweeping the dirt in front of his tiny home across theIMG_4842 street from us right now. His mother is hanging lots of colorful laundry on the line, and his father appears to be mashing up something for lunch.

The intense Ugandan sun is beating down on the tin roofs of the shacks behind our apartment. The beautiful, towering palm trees are a stark contrast to the dirty, rickety homes surrounded by chickens and naked children.

I hear birds- lots and lots of different birds who sing their songs from the tree tops where they no doubt have the best view of Lake Victoria and the rest of Kampala.

Our day guard is sitting under his favorite tree, wearing the same t-shirt and pants he has worn for the past few weeks. My friend’s little boy approaches him with a stuffed Sponge Bob and hands it to him. The guard, who appears to be only about 15, just kind of looks at it and hands it back. He speaks no English so we know absolutely nothing about him… except that he likes to climb trees.

IMG_4847I get a whiff of the familiar nauseating smell that so often permeates around our apartment. From our second-story balcony I can see piles of trash in the nearby field. Chickens and goats rummage through it to find something to eat, and a handful of Ugandan children play soccer, dodging the hordes of garbage people have dropped off in the field.

A rooster crows and someone turns on their radio. A local radio host gives the morning news report in Luganda. The sound of it is temporarily interrupted by a big truck driving by, carrying policemen in the back who proudly hold their rifles as if to say, “Don’t mess with us.”

It is hot. It is smelly. It is dirty. It is beautiful. It is Uganda.

And it is Christmastime.

You would never know it.

Sure, inside our apartment we have nativity scenes, a small Christmas tree, even stockings hung. But other than that, it’s life as usual for most people around here.IMG_4844

I don’t want to go off on the whole, “Christmas isn’t about all that commercial stuff anyway” tangent that so many people seem to go off on. While that’s true, I don’t think God has any problems with decorations and festivities that celebrate Jesus’ birth. And I’m not going to pretend that I don’t miss all of that. For me, it’s a big part of what makes Christmas special.

Christmas is different this year. For 32 years I’ve spent Christmas day with my mom and dad, and this will be the first year that I don’t. However, it’s also the first year that I’m 100% sure that I’m exactly where God wants me to be. I am blessed, I am thankful, and I am humbled by this experience. I am thankful for a Savior who loves me enough to send me here.

For some reason, God didn’t want me around the glitz and glam of an American Christmas in 2013. He wanted me in Uganda… surrounded by chickens and goats, and a group of new friends who have become like family.

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