by Jerri Savuto
As I am in the US for the first time in many years, I find myself longing for the simplicity of Maua, Kenya, during Easter time. There Easter has none of the commercial trappings we find here. As I enter grocery stores, discount stores, and department stores I am shocked at the amount of space taken by the Easter candy, bunnies and stuffed animals, baskets, decorations, and new spring clothing. These items take more space than any grocery store has for all their goods in Maua.
I recently read that an estimated $2 billion will be spent on Easter candy this year in the US. Two billion dollars to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who asked us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give water to the thirsty, house the homeless, care for the sick and imprisoned, and welcome the stranger.
Easter in Maua didn’t include Easter egg hunts or Easter candy, gifts or new clothes bought for Easter Sunday, or even for spring. Ash Wednesday is celebrated with a morning service, ashes, and prayers. Palm Sunday involves the children bringing in branches of a variety of trees available to celebrate Christ’s journey into Jerusalem. There is much singing and dancing.
It is difficult to have any nighttime meetings or services as most people walk, and it is dangerous to walk to and from church at night. Thus Maundy Thursday is celebrated with a service at 5:00 pm. Friday and Monday are national holidays, so from 12 noon to 3:00 pm businesses close, and most people attend a service to pray, sing, and thank God for His most incredible gift to mankind.
On Easter Sunday the three usual services--English, Ki-Swahili and Ki-Meru--are combined with a joyful service that will last three to four hours and be filled with songs of praise and thanksgiving, dancing for the joy of the Lord that permeates the people and the service, drama, prayer, sermon, communion, and testimonies to God’s goodness and love. Often the service will include the youth and adult choirs from each service and dancing from the Girls and Boys Brigade members.
At the end of the service, we all know that Christ died for all of us and has risen; joy and thanksgiving fill the church and the people with overflowing hope and renewed faith. Though there is no dinner with delicious vegetables, bread, salads, ham or other meat, and desserts, we all leave feeling we have feasted on the living bread and blood of Jesus Christ. One wants to dance home, for the joy lingers as we leave the church, greeting each other with a heartfelt, "Christ is risen!"
The $2 billion that will be spent this Easter for candy--let’s match every penny we spend on “Easter stuff” and send it somewhere that feeds the hungry or cares for the sick or in some way touches the least of these in the name of Jesus Christ.
If you don’t know one, let me suggest sending funds to Maua Hospital Service Fund, Advance #09613A. Service Fund pays for the hospital bills of children whose parents cannot afford to pay the hospital bill (approximately $180 for one week in the hospital) or AIDS Orphan’s Program Advance #140161: for $20 you can pay for food and education for one AIDS Orphan.
Jerri Savuto is a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church, and with her husband, Bill, serves at Maua Methodist Hospital, in Maua, Kenya.