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First Christmas in Zambia


As we wrap up the Christmas season, our missioner Sandra Bradford shares how she and her husband Bryce spent the holiday. In Zambia, they serve as high school teachers and help run the retreat center for the St. Francis Friary.

Our liturgical Advent celebration was a wonderful preparation for Christmas. I made new banners with the Alleluia verses for Mass from December 17 through December 24 (the “O Antiphons” of the office) and hung them one-by-one on the stand of the advent wreath on the proper day and sang the correct verse of “O Come, o come, Emmanuel” at the Alleluia.

The friary chapel with its African creche that Sandra decorated for Christmas.

Bryce helped me decorate the public areas of the friary—real greens over windows, Christmas tree with multicolored balls, and shiny garland on grates of doors and window. We put a small crib set on top of the TV and another one on the serving table in the dining room. Everything looked great.

Christmas morning we went for  the 9 a.m., three-hour Mass at the parish. There were baptisms and first communions of school age children, including Justin, the 10-year-old son of our cook Jane. We gave him a card with K5,000—enough to buy a soda. The whole service was in Bemba—good thing we knew the readings and guessed at the content of the sermon. The singing was lovely, but I’m not sure what the specific meanings were. No Christmas hymns sung that I recognized the melody.

The rest of Christmas day was very quiet. The Zambian priests were at the mission stations until late in the evening.With very simple meals, no gifts, cards or holiday music in the house, I was lonely for family. Thank goodness we were able to talk some on Skype with my mom, dad and brother George in Florida, but the reception wasn’t great so it was fairly short call.

Monday, December 26 was truly joyous! The Baptistine novices came over. They helped prepare for the “American” Christmas dinner I was cooking for the noon meal: ham, turkey, mac and cheese, green bean casserole, pineapple and cream cheese, cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts, squash, carrots with raisins, puff pastry appetizers (found at the grocery store in the freezer section by accident while I was looking for frozen green beans), with stuffed dates and an English style fruit cake for desert.

Our community was all in a festive mood, as were the guests. The friars had forgotten to tell me that they invited the Principal of our St. Francis High School and his family to join us. We needed to set up another small table at the last minute, but there was plenty of food for all twenty-two of us.

We received gifts of a live white rabbit from our mechanic Martin (we’ll eat it after the leftovers from Christmas dinner are gone), and a homemade Christmas cake and bottle of wine from the sisters—we re-gifted the cake to Martin’s family since the friars also received a cake and we helped them eat that one.

Not being clergyman’s wife, I didn’t realize that it’s common for family celebrations to be delayed until the day after the Feast Day if you have a parish to care for—and obviously that included our priests as well. Next year I’ll be better prepared for the contemplative December 25 and a celebratory December 26.

Sandra and Bryce will continue to serve in Kitwe, Zambia through 2013. You can support their mission with a gift to FMS today. 

We prepare and support lay Catholics for two-year international, one-year domestic and 1-2 week short-term mission service opportunities in solidarity with impoverished and marginalized communities across the globe.

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