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Coming from a first generation Polish and Irish family in Pittsburgh, Christmas traditions were very important to me growing up. Some of our festivities included choral music, exchanging gifts, relishing fish dinners accompanied by oplatek wafers, and of course: lots of family. Some of these traditions were so set in stone, that when I left to serve as a global worker in Cameroon, Africa, it was jarring to both myself and my extended family.
While Cameroon has a large muslim population, there are also many Christians there who are familiar with the true meaning of Christmas. However, Christians in Cameroon celebrate Christmas in far less extravagant ways—with a chicken and, if they can afford it, new clothes for the children. I learned that Christmastime in Cameroon was marked by warm weather and the dry season. If I wanted Christmas choral music, then I had to form a choir or sing in the choir at the British Ambassador’s house. Basically, we had to “make our own fun” and Christmas traditions.
In Cameroon we “assembled our own family” from the many expatriates and global workers there from many organizations. Unmarried individuals and families joined us for the special meal on Christmas Day. One unmarried missionary who missed his nephews and nieces even slept at our house overnight so that he could watch our kids open presents on Christmas morning.
Jason and Christy are Encompass global workers who currently work in Cameroon. Jason serves as director of the Grace Brethren Bible Institute, while Christy teaches at the Green House School. They share a similar story: “Our Charis Churches in Cameroon celebrate on Christmas Eve with a late night (or all-night) service that often includes food. Because many locals aren’t as wealthy as Americans, they celebrate with their families in simple ways that may or may not include a few small gifts.”
He continues with: “Every Christmas that we’ve had students in Cameroon, the Encompass staff has purchased live chickens for each family at the Bible Institute to give them a special Christmas meal. Our family has adopted some of the Cameroonian customs like having a simple Christmas together where only a few gifts are exchanged. We love the simplicity of it all.”
Similar to the way that Jesus left the splendor of heaven to bless humanity, our global workers left the abundance they were familiar with to bless communities who can’t afford such extravagant celebrations.
What can you do to share your resources and bless the marginalized this Christmas season?
Learn more about how you can serve God in Cameroon.
Photo Credit: Seth McKeever