This article was written by Ann Hibbard. Ann is a missionary kid, pastor’s wife, second generation homeschooler, editor, and mom of three. She loves encouraging and equipping others, especially women in the ministry and homeschooling communities.
For many of us, the six or so weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day represent a full and busy season. But in many cultures, the Christmas season represents a time of rest, even in the midst of celebration.
Bryan and Dana Bullington have discovered this to be the case in their adopted country of Namibia, where they have served for over 27 years. Rather than making much of the Christmas holidays, Namibians prefer to take advantage of the opportunity to rest by enjoying a camping trip or traveling to the ocean to escape the heat.
As the Bullingtons adjusted to the new culture of their southern African home, they created new family traditions to help them celebrate Christmas. They had to adapt not only to the different ways Namibians approached Christmas but also to the fact that now that they lived in the southern hemisphere, Christmas fell in the middle of summer! When their children were all still living at home, one of their favorite Christmas traditions was to escape the heat by going for a Christmas Day swim.
The Bullingtons still enjoy the more American Christmas tradition of hosting a big Christmas meal, but in their African home this is enjoyed out in the yard sometime before Christmas. Now that their children are grown, Bryan and Dana also like to follow the example of many of their Namibian neighbors and head out to the Namib Desert to camp over Christmas. During the day, they watch gemsbok (an African antelope), zebras, giraffes, kudu, cheetahs, and elephants as they pass by their campground. In the evening they bask in the glories of the spectacular night sky.
And what about that traditional turkey dinner? Well, turkey can often be hard to come by in the Namibian market, but for the Bullingtons, nothing tastes better than gemsbok and coal-roasted potatoes cooked over an open campfire.
For Dana, Psalm 19:1-4 represents a clear picture of how a Christmas camping trip can draw not only her and Bryan but also their Namibian neighbors to the truth of Christ’s incarnation.
The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world.
The Bullingtons can point to the beauty of the Namib Desert as an example of God’s mighty presence, using that truth as a springboard to help their neighbors understand the amazing gift of God at Christmas. Whether in the heat of a Namibian summer or the crisp chill of an Arkansas November, the Bullingtons know that nature itself proclaims the miracle of Christ’s presence with us.