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December 2020- January 2021

Passing the Faith


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All I Want for Christmas Is...

By Bobby Bowen


What happens when you allow your children to complete that simple phrase? Do immediate images of dollar signs begin to flash through your mind? Been there, done that!

I have spent the past three Christmases in Jinja, Uganda, my mission home. Christmas is entirely different in this land that values community and family. No gifts, no tree—none of the frills we think we need. Christmas is a time for families to gather in their home villages and spend time with each other, cooking and singing and visiting. Churches are generally open to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Shops are closed for the week so workers can spend time with family. If at all possible, people go “home.”

For the past two years, I have hosted a Christmas party for the kids we help in a slum area of Jinja called Works Village. On a typical day, we have between 60 and 75 kids for classroom study. We have become family. Many of these kids can’t return to the village of their extended families due to the excessive cost of transport. They spend Christmas as just another normal day. We wanted to make this day extra special for them, so we threw a Christmas party. And, because the party was open to anyone in the community, our normal 75 quickly grew to over 300 kids!

These children love dramas. The first year, they acted out the nativity story all on their own and did a fabulous job. No costumes, no props—just kids and the Word. How funny to see some of our younger kids acting as sheep, bouncing all over the performing area! Then they sang “Joy to the World” in English. I still watch the video of their singing when I begin to miss them. The day included Scripture memorization, and traditional singing and dance. It was their day to be kids.

The highlight of the day was the meal. We enjoyed the traditional rice, posho (maize flour and water cooked to a dough-like consistency), and beans. But we wanted to give the kids something to make this day extra special.

If I asked the children of Works Village to fill in the phrase, All I want for Christmas is _________, it would not be toys, electronics, brand-name clothes, bikes, or whatever else a child from the West wants. The greatest request, by far, would be meat for their meal—something they never get in their daily life. Both years, I bought a goat, and the children enjoyed meat with their meal. The kids love cake as well, so we served cake. A ten-inch cake fed 300 kids last year. All they want is a small taste.

Christmas seems real in Works Village, even in the middle of poverty and deplorable living conditions. They have not forgotten Christmas is really about spending time with family and worshiping the One on Whom this day is centered: JESUS.

Note: At the time of this publication, a new landowner tore down the entire village where Bobby served, displacing at least 3,000 people. Her team now runs five feeding programs in different parts of the city for those displaced and out of work. Bobby said, “I am busier now than I was in Uganda.”

About the Writer: Bobby Bowen served as secretary-treasurer of West Virginia WAC for 14 years. She was also the collection center coordinator for the West Virginia/Kentucky/Ohio area for Operation Christmas Child for 13 years. She was commissioned by Global Outreach International in Tupelo, Mississippi, in June 2017, and has served as a full-time missionary in Uganda since October 2017. She is now on extended pandemic furlough, but is overseeing hunger relief and food distribution programs in Uganda from the Untied States.


©2021 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists