African Christmas Eve

Pictures from Uganda.

Today we talked to Andrew at length. All 5 of us huddled around the phone and heard him quietly talk about
his battle with malaria, killing a cobra,
riding on a two story bus at crazy speed, killing his first chicken for dinner,
seeing elephants and giraffes up close,
living in a hut,
and for Christmas he will be bungee jumping and whitewater rafting on the Nile River.

(Left: Christian, Andrew, and Evan.)

In all of that, something was evident. He is being deeply changed. He has words to say about God that I don't even recognize as his own. He says that life in Uganda given him a new understanding. His voice came out of the tiny speaker on the phone, and Andrew said, "I know what it means when God says, 'I've got my hand on you -- you don't have to worry.' And I don't have the same fear anymore." He went from asking "Why am I afraid? If God promised, why am I afraid?" to saying boldly, with a new sort of freedom "If God wants me to die, I will die. If He doesn't, I won't."

Hmmm... maybe I need to go to Africa and learn those things. In any case, today's phone call was the perfect gift for a far-away Mom. Here are a couple pictures of their adventure.

Merry Christmas Eve.

Their Hut Home @ Canaan Farm (below)

Christian and Andrew teaching a Bible study on the book of John, with friends.

African Sunset.

Word at Christmas

Finally. Word from the other side of the world! Andrew and the traveling team are in a new spot in Uganda, and connected to Internet again. His quick Facebook words made my day. Many days of long hard African silence, were finally ended. I had written this message, and it sat on Andrew's wall, waiting for a response:

Merry Christmas Andrew Leigh!

Your red stocking is up by the fire... and you are on the other side of the globe... and that is exactly as it should be this time, but it still feels strange. There's a big gaping hole in the place where you fit here. And I have come to hate that song "I'll be Home for Christmas" because you won't be. But, it's also a huge delight to think about all the things you are doing and seeing. And I am so amazed and proud of all that God is unfolding for you, with so many great people, all around the world. Everybody in this house thinks about you every day. I pray for you, and love you, every picking day, of every picking week.

You are loved and missed and celebrated.

"Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given..."

Merry African Christmas! Celebrate well!


Then... word out of the silence onto my Facebook wall (excerpted) :

"Hey Mom!

i miss you all a ton. we are living with five Americans in a house with running water, flushing toilet, and electricity. a Christmas miracle!

God is so good and is keeping me well i hope everyone is good at home. there is so much to say ... i love you mom talk to you soon.

God bless. Your loving son,


Those words felt like getting good news from the moon! And lately, communicating with Andrew on the other side of the world makes me thinking about astronaut wives who literally sent husbands to the moon. In the early years of the Space Program, Apollo missions were sent out into uncharted frontier. Loved ones watched their husbands and sons propel into the unknown. Then, they waited; no pictures, no discoveries, no new insights, no news. Just waiting. And it's not nearly as historic or dire, but I kind of relate to the unknowns and absence.

There are other people, like astronaut wives, who understand the launch of departure and long absence better than me. I have friends who are seasoned mothers. They are wives and mothers of soldiers deployed to Iraq; mothers of lost and homeless children; empty-nested mothers who have adjusted to permanent absence. And my perspective is put right by my friends who live waiting for reunion with a child who has left the planet permanently. The lives of wiser friends help me keep my reality in check. My son is just gone until March. In better moments, I get that. But the dull void of absence, and waiting, is still there to be reckoned with.

On the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, astronauts actually moved into the darkness, shut down all power, and floated with the moon's small gravitational pull, until they were thrown back into sunlight. On the far side of the moon, there was no radio wave -- no way to speak back to Earth. When the ship miraculously powered up and was able to sent word back to Houston, the teams and families exploded with joy. The travelers were still alive and well!

It's not the same exactly. My son did not go to far side of the moon. He went to the far side of the world and there weren't any explosions. Ours was a calmer "lift off." But, given the last weeks of 'radio silence' from Africa, I have gained empathy for astronaut wives and mothers separated from children. In a new way that is similar only in the tiniest sense, I get it. I now feel a small part of what it means to wait in the silent in-between during necessary journeys. And, I now know the joy of a son's word that comes home.

In this place of letting go, a larger story lingers with me. It is a familiar tale, and true. But I have different empathy for it now. It's that one about a Father who released his son to go far away, into a dark world. He intentionally sent his baby son, into a dangerous land; into harms way, for a universal & sacrificial good. It's the story of an unlikely hero, who saves humanity in the largest way possible. It's the story that floats around this time of year. And, if I really stop to take it in, I remember how much that story changed mine. It's the story of Jesus morphed into flesh and sent to this world. And the part that freshly resonates with me this year, is the letting go; the Father's release of a son to live out his God-ordained purpose on the planet.

Christmas was launched with angels singing to shepherds, and stars, and kings, and an eternally cosmic new frontier for man. But it was first birthed with a release, and a dull-void; a painful absence ... and waiting ... waiting for The Word to come home.
"And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us..."
John 1
"Unto us a Child is born. Unto us a Son is given."
Merry Christmas Friends.

"A Blue Christmas without You."