the best gift I ever received (& the boy who changed my life)


I am weeping on this Christmas night, a day in which our Jesus was born, a day in which we celebrate life with one another, a day in which Africa perhaps knows no different then the day before. I cry for Africa. And I cry for myself.

I cry because I have forgotten what I vowed to remember - the desire to create an impact in a world so desperately longing for hope. I cry because I have forgotten Africa. In this hustle and bustle of festivities and chaos, I have forgotten Africa.

I sit here tonight, among presents and gifts and treasured memories that have been created today, and there’s a sadness in my heart that sinks deep inside me.

I sat on the stairs in my home, and thought of my friends in Rwanda. Christmas is such a North American thing - isn’t it? The stockings and gifts and Santa Claus and turkey and carols and snow and reindeer and elves, and as I sat on my stairs, I wondered to myself, “What are they doing in Africa today?”. And for the first Christmas in my life, I really thought of other people besides myself.

I had wanted this Christmas to be special. I decided this year I wanted to give gifts that “gave back” and was able to give a scarf and necklace and tank top and t-shirt and framed prints that went towards enabling sustainable business for HIV women in Ethiopia, providing a meal for the homeless in downtown Toronto, and giving more shoeboxes out this Christmas for Operation Christmas Child. They were wonderful, and gave a deeper meaning knowing they were helping someone else in our world.

And then my sister and brother-in-law presented me with a gift. They gave me a card which said, “Ashimwe will be receiving a present this Christmas” - and as I read those words the little six-year-old boy that stole my heart this past summer imprinted himself into my mind, and tears streamed down my cheeks, the same way they’re streaming now. (You can read about Ashimwe and the impact he’s made on my life here.)

My sister and brother-in-law sent money to a missionary in Rwanda, who is making sure Ashimwe is given something. I’m overcome with joy, and I ask Jesus to hold Ashimwe tight for me tonight. I wish I was there to hold him myself.

So tonight I cry, a mix of joy and sadness. I miss Africa today. But tonight, in my heart, I know a difference has been made - in the lives of Ethiopian women who create scarves and necklaces, in the life of a homeless person in Toronto, in the lives of children who have received shoeboxes filled to the brim with toys and candy and love, and in the life of dear, dear Ashimwe. In my life, too.

I want to thank my sister, my brother-in-law, and Jesus. This gift for Ashimwe... it’s the greatest blessing I could ever imagine.

Thank you... Thank you.