Christmas in Rwanda

Our Nativity set tour led by a joyous 92 year old Brother of Charity.

On Christmas Eve morning I woke up in Kigali, Rwanda. After breakfast and a brief game of basketball, we got in our car to pay a visit to a Brothers of Charity school for children with disabilities. We left the bustling city of Kigali and ventured out to the villages.

When we arrived at Gatagara we toured several therapy clinics. Afterwards we enjoyed lunch with two Brothers of Charity. One was Rwandan, and he spoke French and English. The other was Belgian, and he just spoke French. At 92 years, the Belgian was the oldest Brother of Charity in the world! He even remembered living under the German occupation of Belgium in World War II. The brother later explained that Belgium was occupied many times, by both the French under Napoleon, and the Germans under Hitler. He also said that it was very hard to get information during WWII, and if you listened to BBC you would go to jail. In addition to his historical knowledge, this brother also made nativity sets! My Mom liked his work so much that we bought a set for Christmas.

On Christmas morning we attended church at the Catholic cathedral in Kigali. For me, the highlight was the presentation of the gifts. A huge procession of parishioners brought up everything from bread to cleaning supplies to toilet paper!

After we returned home, we exchanged presents. I will conclude with one of my own Christmas gifts - an "adventure bible story" that I wrote for my little sister Addy.


My mom had these dresses sewn for my sisters for Christmas.

Gifts for my Sisters

Family gifts required some creativity this year... no Amazon, Target, Walmart, etc. I bought some fabric for Annabelle at a local shop before we left for Rwanda. She wanted fabric for her craft projects. For my youngest sister I wrote a story and read it to her on Christmas morning.

Addy and the Baby Jesus by RJ Carney

“Bahh! Bahh!” The sheep made plenty of noise around Addy.

“It will be tough to sleep in this racket,” said Sammy. Annabelle and Addy agreed.

“Last one to the blankets takes the first watch!” yelled Sammy. Annabelle and Sammy used their longer legs and beat Addy. She was sad, but she didn’t cry. She was brave, and could guard the sheep from… well, there probably wouldn’t be any wolves. There hadn’t been one in months. The sheep were settling down too. Nonetheless, she couldn’t fall asleep.

Addy fumed that Annabelle and Sammy had beat her. She sat on a rock and waited. After a while she looked up and saw a bright star illuminate the night sky. After 30 minutes, it happened. A great light shone, and some human figure appeared to be emitting the light. Addy gave a short, stifled, scream.

“Be not afraid,” said the figure. Addy calmed down. Maybe its intentions were peaceful, “for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people.” Addy was curious now. What could it be? The figure continued, “for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, and lying in a manger.” Then the figure, or angel, was gone. Had it actually happened?

“Addy, what happe-“ Annabelle was interrupted, as the angel, a whole crowd of them in fact, returned.

“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” The angels sung beautifully. Addy, Annabelle, and Sammy sung along, until all the angels were gone.

“What happened Addy? I heard the singing, but I was half asleep before that,” said Sammy.

“Ya, all I heard was something about God and a baby,” agreed Annabelle. Addy retold what had happened.

“Is it time to rise up against the Romans?” asked Sammy.

“The angel said it will come to all people,” Addy pointed out. They discussed the message for a few more minutes.

“Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us,” said Annabelle. Addy and Sammy agreed. The three young shepherds hurried toward Bethlehem. It took another half hour of traveling along with the sheep, but they finally found a manger. Unfortunately, nobody was in it.

“Not the one,” Annabelle announced.

“What about that one over there?” asked Addy. Addy led the way over. This one had a man, a woman, and a baby in swaddling clothes. The baby was lying in the hay trough. Addy, Annabelle, and Sammy weren’t sure what to do now that they were here.

“Uh… that is a healthy baby,” said Sammy. The woman thanked him, and introduced herself as Mary. Her husband was Joseph. He asked how they came.

“Uh… we saw an angel.” Annabelle blurted. Joseph’s eyes widened. Mary nodded. Addy went outside, and got a sheep.

“Here’s a birthday present for…” She looked inquisitively at Joseph, “Right, you haven’t named him yet.”

“We will call him Jesus,” said Mary. Jesus giggled. “He likes it,” Mary commented. The three talked with Joseph for a while about the vision. Mary listened attentively.

It had been an hour since they saw the angels. They returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard. (Based on Gospel of Luke 2:8-20)