Dec. 26, 2007
Dear Family, Friends, and Beloved Supporters of this sojourn to Zimbabwe.
This is actually our 5th email to you but 2 did not get through…Sorry..
Happy Christmas to you all, as they say here.
Christmas is not celebrated as fully here as in the US, but we are still enjoying the pleasure of company with our friends and Masses. Most of the people only give or get a new set of clothes for Christmas…that is it…along with a nicer dinner than usual. We have brought with us many “treats” anyway for those we are staying with and those who help them. Many of these, we are happy to say, you helped us bring. They have been so grateful for these small things…which are big to them. Foodstuffs, soap, tea, and some special things from the US have been warmly received. We purchased some flour and butternut squash here and offered that along with cucumbers, too. These things are really appreciated.
We attended Christmas Eve Mass at the Arrupe College Seminary here run by the Jesuits and there was lively music, dancing and delight. We absolutely LOVE that aspect of Africa… It stirs our hearts to see this, especially when many struggle. It really is amazing that local people can celebrate with such vigor when the resources are so limited. It is inspiring. There was a dinner for all who attended afterwards with Christmas songs and time to meet up with people. Karen really rejoiced because she linked up with a seminarian, Isaac Fernandez, who is a Jesuit whom we met in April. He is doing very well and we sat with him and they caught up since the last time. Nicki, too, met Fr. Lawrence Daka, SJ, who attended Weston Jesuit School of Theology when she was there. He was delighted to see her again and he is now beginning his work teaching and acting as Academic Dean here. Hopefully, we will get a chance to see everyone there again before we leave on Jan. 23 for Nairobi.
On Christmas Day we had dinner with the RSHM Irish and Zambian sisters and then rode upcountry to Chinoyi (90 kilometres from Harare). The countryside was magnificent. We have been surprised, though, by the abundance of rain and the cool weather. We did not come as prepared for this weather as we thought. While it is refreshing and very helpful to the farmers, we would love a little more sun. But this place, Chinoyi, is northwest of the capital and lovely. Quiet, pastoral and we really love these sisters (which is mutual from them). It is so nice to be wrapped in this affection at the holidays. They are treating us so well.
Karen and I have both been wrestling with some stomach issues. Karen is resting today, recovering from it. There is a bug going around and it affects people differently, so her’s is stomach. We are fortunate to have a sister-nurse in the house who helps us along. We trust she is on the mend and will be up and going strong soon.
We return to Harare tomorrow Dec. 27 and have a little time before the next retreat. We have been invited to the Final Vow ceremonies for the Dominican sisters and the Little Children of the Blessed Lady Sisters (isn’t that a charming name?) The first on is Dec. 29 and the next retreat starts the next day and runs over New Year’s…so we have brought things for a little New Year’s celebration, too, with the sisters. Gotta do it!!
There is so much to tell that is is almost overwhelming when one sits at a computer and tries to relate it. We are happy to be here with all these good, hardworking people and in many ways they are our joy more than anyone here. Their humility, their gentle acceptance, and their gratefulness really strikes us.
Yesterday, when we were waiting for our ride to Christmas dinner, the guard-gatekeeper named Witness, came down to stand with us while we waited. Our hostess, Marie, had made one of the muffin mixes we brought for Christmas breakfast before she went to her husband’s family’s home. We had enjoyed several and were taking some to the sisters up country. But Witness, standing there in his tattered and torn clothes, grabbed Karen’s heart. She pulled out the tupperware container and handed it over to him. He was radiant. There were about 5 left and I think he ate 2-3 right away. We cheered him on and wished him Happy Christmas. It was one of the warmest moments in the day.
That’s it for now. WE love you all and thank you for your ongoing prayers and support. Literally, we depend on them to sustain us, especially when our stomachs get uncomfortable or we feel in need of care. We are doing what we came here for, caring for caregivers….thank you for caring for us.
Happy Christmas and a Blessed New Year!!
Peace, Nicki and Karen