The nurses from clinic came to me, excited because they wanted to put on a Christmas party for all the staff at the clinic. I'm okay with that, I can go to a party, sounds good. Only as the plot was further revealed in the days to come did I realize what that actually meant. I was the one putting on the party. My house, which is big enough for me, but not big enough to entertain more than 3 or 4 others, was going to be the spot. So I cleaned the floors and bathroom, went home from work each day to cook and bake, and finally it was party time.
Now, it was at my house, but I wasn't the one coming up with the "program". It is hillarious to me to see how Cameroonians need a program for everything. And how it needs to be read aloud to transition from one activity to the other. This one went something like the following:
1. Opening prayer, 5 minutes - John
2. Greetings and purpose of the meeting, 10 minutes - Christy Lee
3. Worship songs, 5 minutes - Mercy
4. Prayer time, 10 minutes - Elizabeth
5. Christmas carols, 10 minutes - John
6. Eating food, 15 minutes
7. Dance, dance, dance, 10 minutes
8. Closing remarks and prayer, 5 minutes - Mercy
My part only lasted about a minute and a half, which helped get us back on the mandatory schedule. And thankfully during the "dance, dance, dance" portion I was washing dishes. Cameroon isn't ready for my dancing, in fact almost no where in the world is ready for that. It is a rare event.
I've never been to a choreographed party. Nor do most parties I have gone to have so much prayer time scattered throughout. I thought it was going to be sort of corny, but actually it was pretty neat. Though totally written out step by step, we had good, and spontaneous worship together. And as we sang local worship choruses, one person would pray with all of their might for the prayer requests. I've been part of lots of prayer times with all sorts of believers joining together, solemn Baptists throwing in extra "wherefores" and "hithertos", Pentecostals breathing heavily and sweating, folks praying in tongues, children seemingly listing out thanks for every creature and person God ever made. But never have I experienced it like that. It was powerful and moving in a refreshing way. You couldn't actually hear what anyone was praying, but it was like a sweet sounding praise lifting up their prayers all around.
And then finally came the food. There was a bunch, but there could never be enough in Africa. Plenty was left, but then came the napkins. Napkins aren't used to wipe your hands with here, they are instead used to wrap any extra food in to stuff in your purse for later. "For my kids" I kept hearing. One of the guys giving that excuse has kids that live 3 hours away, and he won't see them for another week. I finally broke out the all too valuable ziploc bags to help them shove in more cookies, peanuts, cakes, etc. As they jammed them down into their bags, they said, "We have had dinner in America, we have visited America, and now we will take America back to our families". I had to hide a couple cookies in the kitchen to keep them for myself.
They left to their houses. Surprisingly, I was refreshed, rather than tired. And I was happy to have brought a little "Merry" to their Christmas.
I left in the darkness after the dishes were washed to head back up to the hospital. Pus was waiting to be cleared out of a belly. Sick patients were needing to be checked on one more time. The party is over, back to the grunge of daily life. But that is what Jesus did. There were bright stars, and angels in chorus, and wise men coming from far - spectacular things. But then, after a short-lived celebration of the newborn King, here came Herod, and fleeing to Egypt, and leaving the makeshift home that the stable had been. Back to the paths that shaped His early life, that made His little feet dirty, and left Him sweaty and tired as He grew into a young man. These are the paths that formed Him and shaped Him into what was well-pleasing to the Father.