A rural Nigerian Christmas

by Tina Gibbs, missionary
Dan and Tina Gibbs

This year will be the first year we will not be celebrating Christmas with our church family, family and friends. We are in very rural Nigeria. There are no Caucasians for hundreds of miles. In our area, Dan and me are the only ones. When we are going to church or traveling occasionally in our town of Gembu, we hear, “Hello white man!” We laugh about this, as it is impossible to blend in here. Young children cry at times when they see us because they have not seen white people before.

We are not affiliated with any particular church in Gembu. We go to a different church each Sunday, to connect with as many congregations here as possible. We will go to a Christmas Eve service to connect with part of our Nigerian church family and have some sort of “normalcy” to our Christmas season here. We may or may not sing familiar songs, some of the language we will not be able to understand, but we will be with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We will celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior here on earth.

Fortunately, God has made both Dan and me the type of people that can be flexible. The mission field can be a very hard place for inflexible people. I asked Dan what he wanted to eat for Christmas. We decided we would see what we felt like eating; we are kinda low key that way. There are many items we don’t have in Gembu unless we bring them from Abuja, which is a two-day journey. We only go about every three months for supplies. We enjoy making and eating homemade tortillas and tortilla chips. We also enjoy cutting up chicken and making chicken fingers and gravy. Potatoes are out of season now, but we do have sweet potatoes, so we may have those. Who knows! Dan decided he wanted no-bake cookies (the kind with oatmeal, peanut butter and cocoa) as a sweet treat. Christmas baking done!

We do have Christmas decorations here, but I will not put them up this year. I used to be such a Martha Stewart at Christmastime when our children were at home. The house would look, feel and smell like Christmas. After the boys left and no longer wanted to help me decorate, I decided I would rather spend decorating and clean up time with friends and family. If we were not doing any celebrations at our house, we didn’t decorate.

Gembu, Nigeria

It doesn’t seem like Christmas here in our very rural Nigeria. The temperature is 79 degrees, there is no snow, there are no stores to see the Christmas “goodies,” there is no Christmas music on the radio. We haven’t even sung any Christmas songs at church yet. The things I used to do--buying gifts for family, Christmas parties and celebrations, teaching our preschoolers about Jesus’ birth each Sunday of December, bringing out our Fisher Price Little People Nativity Sets, the Ho Ho Mint Mocha I used to enjoy at this time of year occasionally--all are a million miles away in a different life.

Don’t get me wrong, this is the reality right now and “It is what it is.” When we are back in the States, we will have family time and enjoy that time even more preciously than before. Time spent with family or friends is not taken for granted by us, not anymore.

This year Dan and I will take the day off from any work. We have not taken an entire day to ourselves since we got to Nigeria. We will read the Christmas story from Luke, call family, watch Christmas movies, play Farkle or Hand and Foot and enjoy each other and the gift that God has given us in his Son, Jesus. We will celebrate the gift of each other and that we get to be here in Nigeria and share Jesus’ love and compassion with so many and the joy and the wonder of how he works here through us.

I guess you could say we have a new Christmas normal for now. We will embrace it and celebrate what it has taken to get us here, and the many partners who give and pray so that we can be here doing what God has called us to. We will also celebrate the many blessings we have experienced along the way and dream together about what next year will bring about in our little area of Nigeria.

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    Point - September 2018

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