By Christina Roberts

On Christmas Eve in Gambella, Laura and I were invited to attend the annual Christmas Eve Machin, which is basically a church parade through town. Each Nuer church in Gambella formed a group, complete with drums, flags, and wooden crosses. Everyone then proceeded to sing, dance, and march through the streets of town.

Hundreds participated, so many that the crowd of people stopped the traffic of the local Bajaj (rickshaw) taxis. As we danced down a dirt road, there was so much dust in the air that had been stirred up from the ground it was as if we were caught in a dust storm, and it was difficult to breathe. At one point while crossing a bridge, there were so many people dancing at once that the whole structure was shaking (this was slightly terrifying).

After dancing/marching/singing for about three hours, I was so tired, sweaty, and covered in dirt. Laura and I went home, but our Nuer friends went on to church to pray and worship late into the night. In fact, we later found out that many spent the night at church so that they could take part in the Christmas morning church celebrations.

It was a very joyous time as we celebrated the birth of our Lord and Savior with our Nuer friends. It was so great to experience how different cultures worship God—with their enthusiasm and loud singing, drumming and dancing. As much as I love Christmas and the traditions I have with my family, it was refreshing to see how Christmas is celebrated outside American culture. The main focus of Christmas was not the decorations, food, or gifts, but one of joyful worship, reflecting on the gift of Jesus.

I now know that I definitely want to be a part of the Nuer celebrations in heaven!