Away in a Manger
by Linn Boese
That December morning the harmattan wind off the wintry Sahara kept blowing its dust across the dry grasses and through the congregation gathered beside the little church. Its chill was a welcome contrast to the usual heat of Northern Ivory Coast, and we had a larger crowd than usual. Many had just come to find out what these “followers of the Jesus Road” were about to do next, so we sat outdoors. This was the first-ever Sunday School program at the Tiepogovogo village church that my husband, Glenn, and I had planted through the long years of reaching out to the Nyarafolo people.
In the past, I had worked with a young woman to initiate Sunday School, seating the kids on the huge sprawling roots of a tree. Now two young men were doing the teaching, and the kids were eager to show what they had learned. They quoted verses from Mark (the only Gospel already translated), competed in a quiz, sang and led songs, and put on a short nativity play.
Once the kids finished their part of the program, Glenn retold the story of Christ’s birth. He was describing the stable to them and the manger where Mary put Jesus, when he noticed a log lying close to the nearby huts and realized that it WAS a manger. It was about a meter long, one side gouged out to make a feeding trough for sheep. He got some of the boys to bring it into the circle. Then he painted the scene again: how Mary and Joseph had to go to Bethlehem and were without shelter until someone let them sleep with his animals, and how Mary gave birth and laid her newborn there where the animals fed. I felt a thrill go through me. There before us was this rough, utilitarian manger, one probably much closer to the ancient version that cradled Jesus than the crib-like, decorative ones in our Western manger scenes. I pictured laying my newborn in such a feeding dish, inside a dark, cramped, smelly animal shelter. Jesus chose a very primitive time in history to come to earth, and He came as one of the poor, at that. There was no electricity, no running water, not even a midwife at His birth. And He was at home in this kind of world.
So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father. (John 1:14 NLT)
No wonder He cares so much for the Nyarafolo people who have so little. No wonder He is still in the business of getting His Truth, His Word, to them. No wonder more and more of them are being drawn to His heart, seeing in Him their Brother, their Friend, as well as their Protector and Master.
He is one of us...at home in me, an American, and at home in His Nyarafolo.
Linn Boese graduated from Michigan Theological Seminary in May of 2006, earning a Master of Divinity. She and her husband, Glenn, serve with WorldVenture in Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), West Africa.
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