Malawi Christmas

2010 December 30
by Cindy House

Greetings from Esther' House

This holiday season has been a whole new experience for me. Watching the way another culture celebrates the Christmas season has been exciting. The feeling of excitement was definitely in the air for the past few weeks as Christmas approached. Families were looking forward to the gathering of loved ones and hoping to have enough money to buy food for a special meal as they celebrate the birth of Christ. There was an increase in shopping, but on a much smaller scale than what I am accustomed to seeing. People here just do not have the funds to buy presents for everyone. On Christmas Eve the town was really bustling with people going about everywhere picking up last minute items. If a Christmas bonus is given at all here, it is usually given on December 23rd so there is not much time to finalize preparation for the holiday. Since Christmas I have already had people mention to me that unfortunately they did not have any money to buy rice to make their meal a little more special. That was a sobering thing to hear. Our staff even said that we have had a Christmas that started something new because each one of our children and widows received a gift this year. We were blessed by some people back in America giving money to buy presents so each one would have a Christmas gift.

Widows receiving their gifts

Matching chitinjes

New blankets and book bags

We have no intention of trying to westernize this culture, but it really is tough to hear of the lack of material blessings knowing that there is so much wealth in the world and excessive wealth, at that. I have been here 6 months and grown accustomed to Malawi in many ways but the extreme poverty always gets to me. I want to be clear that we made Jesus birth the focus of our Christmas celebration and NOT the receiving of any gifts.

The preparation for this season began a long while back. For weeks our staff member, Bruce Chilijembumba, has been working with the children to practice songs for our Christmas program. They also created a drama depicting the birth of Christ starting with the moment Mary tells Joseph that she is pregnant and going through the death of Herod and their return home. It was several acts long and they were so creative with their costumes, stage set up and use of actors. It was such a thrill to watch them perform so well, from the oldest down to some of our youngest. They were very professional the whole time and the drama was right on target with the scriptures.

The cast of the drama

Singing Christmas songs


The stage was decorated with flowers and greenery cut from our own gardens and placed in paint buckets at four different places and a string of balloons strung across the ceiling just above the front of the stage. Several children had colored the nativity scene and we hung their artwork on the walls around the chapel to add to the seasonal effect.

Final comments to our guests

The audience was filled to capacity with our widows and several family members of our non-residential orphans. What a blessing we all received as we witnessed the program carried off to perfection by our hard working children and their director, Bruce. He has worked with a drama troop in the past that put on dramas teaching Secondary School children about HIV and AIDS and also with church programs teaching Biblical lessons and he is very talented. He made me so proud for him and the children.

Making Jesus' Birthday cards

During the morning time before our program the children all wrote a Christmas/Birthday card to Jesus praising him and telling him what they were going to give to him this year. They were all gifts of the heart and it was so sweet to read their cards. Stacy made a wall hanging from bamboo poles for the top and bottom with the cards strung from top to bottom in seven different columns with some string. It is now hanging in the classroom to be a reminder to the children of their gifts to Jesus. Stacy also made cloth book bags for all of the children sewing them all herself and we filled them with different items and gave them as their Christmas presents. I have been so blessed to have her here with me for this holiday season. We have both had a new experience this year that we will remember for years to come. It was difficult to be so far from all of my family but God gave me so many blessings and showed me a new Christmas spirit that I pray will always be a part of Christmases in my future. Strip away a lot of the things that we all really don’t enjoy about the holidays and you have a very sweet, pure celebration of the birth of Christ. Enjoy the rest of your Christmas and holiday season and may God Bless you all.

Stacy and me with our 9 residential orphans

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Sharon Doyle permalink
    January 3, 2011

    A very beautiful and touching account of your Christmas in Malawi. Praise God.

  2. Marge Hicks permalink
    January 6, 2011

    Cindy! We miss you in the cardiology clinic! Remember you set Francis Hicks up on doing his own protime checks. We just saw Deb Walker on Monday and I asked how to get in touch with you. At that time, they turned off his defib on the pacemaker. Deb told us just before Christmas that they have done all they can do and hospice is now in control. Said it could be 1 day or 6 mos. Looks like you are having a good time too. I read all about you and am very impressed with your blog! PTL
    Just keep up the good work! God is good!
    Marge Hicks in Lowell, AR

  3. Mary Esther McCully permalink
    January 17, 2011

    We are preparing for our Acts 1:8 Global Missions Celebration at CrossChurch, Springdale. Through this preparation and concentration on The Great Commission, my passion and I believe calling by God to take my turn to serve on a mission trip to Esther’s House I believe is coming true! My precious husband is retired but works part-time and is making the sacrifice by working more assignments in order for me to fulfill this calling and dream! God willing, I will be seeing you in March. I told Doug tonight at church that my husband’s “thumbs up” tonight was a miracle for me!

    May God continue to bless you and keep you and all your charges safe.

  4. Lisa Dunnam permalink
    February 2, 2011

    Your Christmas blog brought tears to my eyes! Cindy I am so proud of you! I sat here looking at your picture remembering you at that round table across from Mike and I at a breakfast one morning in the youth building, as you sat telling how you felt God calling you to do this, and the excitment as you shared about it… your doing it! I can see that God as grown you and I know your not the same person that left, but better (if that could have been possible? ha). I miss you and can’t wait to hug you when you come home!
    As I read this blog I felt so guilty of all things here we take for granted! (like rice!)
    I LOVE the pictures! The kids look SO sweet!
    Praying for you my friend!

  5. Nilda Tuazon permalink
    December 24, 2011

    Thank you for your blog. It’s is beautiful and I miss Malawi!

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