Monday, December 25, 2017

A Kenyan Christmas 2017

Christmas Eve 2017
We unwrapped this year's Christmas pajamas after our Christmas Eve service at the International Christian Fellowship of Nairobi. This is our twelfth Christmas in Africa and as always it was filled with unexpected moments that we will long remember.

This was the first year that our church organized a community choir for Christmas Eve. Erica, Tristan, and Emma all sang in the choir. It was a wonderful evening of Carols and meditation on the Gospel readings of the nativity.

Our Advent candle burning low

Life in Kenya has its challenges. It is typical that out of electricity, water, and Internet that you rarely have all three at once. Power disappeared for us early on December 24th and it has made for an unusual Christmas. Without power, we haven't had hot water or a stove to cook our turkey. Even our backup battery system which runs Internet, security lights, and our refrigerator is almost out. This is the first Christmas that we have ever had Kraft macaroni and cheese (courtesy of Emma's stocking) for Christmas dinner.

But even without power, we have had a wonderful Christmas laughing and playing board games together. We are so thankful for the blessing of being with all three of our children. The lack of electricity did not hinder the fun of Christmas.

We wish you all a joyous Christmas!

Monday, December 11, 2017

It is beginning to look a lot like...

Members of the Erica Kenny Women's Missionary Society,
New Hope Community Church, New Brunswick.

The first heavy snowfall of the season swept through the Maritime Provinces on Saturday. It was certainly a beautiful taste of Christmas in Canada. As the sky began to fill, I (Aaron) traveled back to New Brunswick to visit with our friends Patty and Malcolm Card and speak at the New Hope Community Church.  By morning, Moncton was covered in a heavy white blanket.

A fresh snowfall on Steeves Mountain

It was fun to send Ava pictures of the heavy snowfall that hit Northern New Brunswick over the weekend. Although disappointed that she hadn't been able to play in the snow before returning to Kenya, Ava was excited to see the snow clinging to the trees and filling the meadows on Steeves Mountain.  

The New Hope Community Church is an amalgamation of two Baptist churches from this picturesque hilltop overlooking the city of Moncton. We are very thankful for their generous support and commitment to the international ministries of Canadian Baptists. They, like so many of our church partners, demonstrate a deep conviction that the mission of God is both local and global.

It was also such a delight to meet some of the members of a women's missionary society named in the honour of Erica. When the two congregations merged, they not only struck a new name for the church, but the women's group also felt called to change their name to the Erica Kenny Women's Missionary Society. The group of fifteen women is working together to advocate and support the hope-filled ministries that Erica is leading among women in Africa. What a wonderful and humbling gift to have received.

Aaron with pastor Gordon Horseman

As I post this blog update, it is a snowy morning here in Halls Harbour. Tristan is studying for his final exams and I am pulling together my final to-do list before we depart next week for Christmas in Nairobi. 

Erica and I are so thankful for the hospitality and warm welcome that we have received over these past months. Looking ahead into 2018, we are thankful for the overwhelming flood of support that we have experienced from individuals and churches. May you all experiencing a joyous Christmas and the blessing of Christ's presence throughout this coming year.

If you happen to be in the area. I will be speaking at Nictaux Baptist Church, Nova Scotia, this coming Sunday morning.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

And on earth peace

Longing for Peace in South Sudan.

Early this morning, we opened a message from our partners living in South Sudan. It was news of another massacre. Along with horrific photos, there was a list of 42 names. We set the pictures aside but slowly read aloud each name. They are the women, men, and children that were killed just days ago in a village in Duk Payuel County. 

Our friend told us of other attacks a mere few kilometers from our partner churches in Narus. By all accounts, the situation is getting worse. As our friend wrote,
"Thank you very much for keeping us and South Sudan in your prayers and thoughts. The security and humanitarian situation shows no signs of improvement. Widespread insecurity is enveloping the country. Even areas/places that were relatively peaceful are gradually becoming insecure."
Over the past few months, we have spoken a lot about hope. We've reflected with Canadian congregations about how central hope is to the Gospel and mission of God's people in the world. We talked about what it means to embody hope in our lives. And we have shared stories demonstrating the powerful hope among the African Church.

Privately, for our own devotional times this Advent, we have been reading from a "Daily Advent Reader for Peacekeepers" curated by Michael T. McRay and Claire Brown. It is a wonderfully eclectic group of Christian contributors sharing a commitment to Christ's ministry of peace and reconciliation. Given the conflicts that we are witnessing around the world, it is an important forum for spiritual reflection.

As we pray today for South Sudan and for the Faith Evangelical Baptist Churches, who are carrying the hope and love of Jesus into the brokenness of their community, we are grateful for the broad people of faith that make up the Body of Christ in our world.  

May this short reflection from McRay, bless you as you seek to bless others this Advent. 
"Both Advent and peacemaking are experiences of hope, and hope is the stuff of survival. It’s little wonder people who live in places of suffering are often filled with great hope and joy. As one Palestinian friend said to me, “What choice do we have but to hope? The alternative is death.” 
We hope that something more beautiful is coming because we must, because the alternative is unbearable. And this work of hope is a muscular work, filled with sorrow, faith, perseverance, and resilience... 
... Part of the truth of our world is that it is broken and breaking more every day. But that is only part of the truth. Our world is also a place of beauty, love, and unfathomable generosity. There is kindness; there is laughter; there is healing. In a conversation with Bill Moyers, Thomas Cahill once said, “I have come to the conclusion that there are really only two movements in the world: one is kindness and the other is cruelty.”
I want to be part of the movement toward kindness, one where we might begin speaking to and about one another with something like love."
McRay's reflection also includes this gem from the Jewish ethical writing of the Pirkei Avot
"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."
Today as we pray for peace, healing, and comfort for the people of South Sudan, we also pray that God would work in all of our lives this Advent. May we be filled with the life and vitality of faith that drives us beyond our self-interest towards God's interest for the good of us all.

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace" 
Luke 2:14

Monday, December 4, 2017

Advent 2017

Aaron and Tristan at the Acadia Christmas Chorus
Wolfville, Nova Scotia. 

The season of Advent was greeted with a dusting of snow this weekend as Aaron traveled through the Maritime provinces. Before traveling to New Brunswick, he was able to hear Tristan singing with the Acadia University Chorus for this year's Christmas performance of Kim André Arnesen's 2010 arrangement of the Magnificat.

It was a wonderful evening of beautiful sacred music and traditional Christmas carols. 

Walking out into the cold night air and seeing the twinkling lights along the Main Street, it certainly felt like a Canadian Christmas.

Acadia University School of Music presents

Grammie and Grampy excited to attend Tristan's first University choral concert

Worship at First Baptist Church, Moncton.

As churches around the world observed the first Sunday of Advent, it was good to participate in the Sunday of HOPE at First Baptist Moncton. Families shared in scripture readings and candle lighting around the evergreen Advent wreath, reflecting on the hope of the ancient prophets that looked forward to the coming of God's chosen one.

With our family separated by an ocean this Advent, this will be the first year that we are not all together and observing the daily advent readings and candle lighting in our home. Our longing for Christmas, and reunion as a family, certainly echoes the message of Advent. Waiting and expectation for the coming of God anew is what Advent is about. We remember and we anticipate. O come, o come, Emmanuel.  

CBM Alumni, Helena and David Evans.
It was so good to meet David and Helena Evans, who had served with CBM in Dadaab, Kenya, in 1996, before ministering in Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 
Austin and Emma on their way to the 
Rosslyn Christmas Formal

Meanwhile, in Nairobi this past weekend, Emma and her friend Austin attended the annual High School Christmas banquet. As the festive season begins in Nairobi, we are so thankful for the great community that we are blessed to be a part of in Kenya.

Ava excited to be home with her big sister!