On Saturday, we had a Christmas party for our neighborhood. And, really, a few more surrounding neighborhoods.
We had quite an ambitious plan: a dinner for around one hundred people, a raffle with twenty-six gifts, a few games, and 140 presents for children, adults, and babies.
But yet again, plans schmans should be our mantra here.
We spent the day in the kitchen: pumpkin curry on the charcoal burner, green beans on the indoor burner, cookies in the oven, and rice in a too-big-to-describe (and borrowed) rice cooker. Before we opened our doors at four, our living room was set.
By about 4:30pm, it looked like this:
We were quickly aware that we didn’t have enough rice or gifts. We also didn’t have enough fans; or sanity, for that matter. The difficulty with such parties is that once you invite your friends, everyone comes. People from roads over, different neighborhoods; people we’ve never seen before are streaming into our home. There is water on the floor and chicken grease on the walls, and it is very, very loud.
What can I say? We throw a good party!
Since we didn’t have enough presents for the gathering crowd, we decided to just do the raffle for this group; and the games were cancelled all together. The raffle was well-recieved to say the least, but the excitement nearly squashed mom, myself, our translator, and our loud-male-voice helper in the middle.
We then said our goodbyes and gave cookies at the door. We went to get our own dinner at a local shop, and took a moment to breathe.
At this point in the evening, we were thankful for the opportunity to serve masses. It was a good way to meet new people and invite everyone into our home, especially so many adults that we see day-in and day-out, but are too shy to visit.
There were also two significant highlights to this part of the evening. First, in the midst of over a hundred people eating rice, chicken & curry in our living room, I heard a little girl’s voice calling, “Kelli! Kelli!” I looked over to see Musana, devouring a huge serving of rice and a chicken leg. She looked up to my eyes and said, “Thank you,” in Burmese, with a huge smile.
Second, as I was calling out the raffle numbers, I saw there was one present left for the kids. It was a set including a coloring book, colored pencils, a pencil case, and a butterfly pen. I thought of Yuh Meh Oo, one of our favorite friends who loves to color at our house and stay long past the others. I looked up to find her and saw her squished in a corner, almost looking a little scared of the crowd. I said a quick prayer for her, that she might win this raffle, which I knew she’d love.
She did! Number 8 was called, and I looked up to see her face light up as she pushed forward. Stephen saw her skipping home just a few minutes later.
I suppose I love those small reminders: that God loves these families more than I ever could; that all the chaos is worth those momentary connections.
And it was. Particularly after a good night sleep and a cleaned kitchen, I can say it was worth it.
However, we still needed some way to deliver 140 presents to the families we know best. About 8pm, we snuck outside with a few small gifts, and went to our translator’s home. We told her thank you for all of her help during the previous mayhem, and presented her little family with presents. We explained that we had presents for these neighborhoods that live near us, and she agreed to help us.
For the next hour or so, we trekked around the community around our home, hand-delivering packages to every person in each home.
It was wonderful, and really far better than we could have asked for; what a privilege to deliver each present with a smile and Merry Christmas wishes.
The Friday morning before this party, we sang O Holy Night at our office. The line, “And in his name all oppression shall cease,” has been ruminating in my mind. Particularly as we planned for this party, it became my prayer for this community.
All they know is oppression. They are oppressed in the market, by the police, at the hospitals. They are always in fear and without defense.
But as they entered our home, I wanted them to feel welcomed and honored; I wanted them to feel valued and cared for. Even if just for a moment, I wanted them to feel the oppression cease in the name of Christ and Christmas.
I’m not sure if that’s possible in one loud and chaotic Christmas party. I’m not sure that’s possible with one meal of rice and curry. I’m not even sure that’s truly possible through a million bandaids,countless trips to the hospital, and hours of play. How can any of us grasp the glory of the day when all oppression shall cease?
We can hope for it.
And we can surely serve chicken, host raffles and pass out presents in the dark of night to the truly beautiful community that surrounds us.