Sitting in a circle, a group of about 12 or 13 people were discussing something of great importance. As always the normal basket of beetlenut and lime were available, as well as a pack of cigarettes well within reach of each adult man. On this particular occasion there was the addition of coffee and rice. The rice had been made special for this occasion, freshly cooked in bamboo, with pig fat, and coconut milk. This kind of meeting is not out of the norm for these simple people in a small village on the Jelai river.
From a distance you may look upon this small group of people gathered together talking in someone’s house as the commonest of events. Yet as you take a step closer and listen in on the conversation you realize that what is being discussed is no ordinary village gossip. No it is the story of stories, the coming of the promised King that is holding the attention of these dozen villagers. Far from being a common- place meeting this kind of remembering together has not happened in this river system, perhaps ever.
Don’t get me wrong Christmas and New Years are well known in this area. There is a huge gap though between how Christmas is celebrated by the majority and how it’s celebrated in this simple meeting. Christmas has become known for a time to hang out, drink, and inevitably get drunk. Before Christmas was known popularly, there was kembaaruan and sapat taun. These were and still are village ceremonies which happen around this time of year. As Christmas has come into this area with little to no meaning for people in general, it eventually got combined with these other ceremonies.
As we sat with these brothers and sisters in Christ remembering together the narrative of an angel visitation, and an unplanned journey. The wonder of delivery and a baby’s soft cry, signs in the heavens to the rich and poor, to those near and far. Those who worshipped the child and those who plotted to kill. The wonder and power of the transforming good news of great joy for all people, was on display.
For me the highlight was when one brother concludes, “it’s not only that we have received eternal life after we die, but we have also received new life right now.” For me this moment epitomized what we celebrate each Christmas. Jesus is the gift beyond gifts!
Just as an update on our little man’s paperwork, we did not have to leave the country to get another visa because the process has been started for his long-term one. We are thankful for less travel but will probably need to head out to town sometime this month when notified, in order to sign for his visa. Thanks for praying the process through.
We had a very nice and quiet Christmas and New Year’s in the village here. Tim and the girls participated in the annual New Year’s tug of war game, always a fun event! We enjoyed several special evenings with our partners of games, singing, poem writing and recitation and fun goodies to help us celebrate. We’re very thankful for good health lately and that Titus (almost 5 months) is adjusting well to village life and heat! He even received his first machete that was passed down from our partner’s little boy. Don’t worry it’s just a wooden/play one!