Alicia Robey, a Vincentian Lay Missionary stationed in Ethiopia, writes to us from Kenya where she is waiting to renew her visa. I’ve excerpted some wonderful reflections on the Advent Season. . .

“Jambo from Thigio, Kenya, everyone!! Today is Jamhuri Day
(Independence Day) here, so we have had a relaxing day celebrating
this wonderful country’s 45th anniversary of their independence from
Britain. This morning I went out with the postulants (three young
women who are in the discernment process of joining the Daughters of
Charity… they live next door to us) to visit the elderly in the area.
For the first time in my entire life, I got to spend some joyful,
laughter-filled moments with a person who is 105 years old (and, I
know you’ll find this IMPOSSIBLE to believe, as I had difficulty
myself, but he has a son who is, at most, 3 years old and others in
grade school… Wow, I know, right?). Samuel was a delight… pure
delight. Even though I understood no more than 4 words of what he
said, my face hurt because I was laughing so hard. I so wished that I
spoke Kikuyu, as I wanted to ask him a million things about living the
good life (as he seems to be doing just that), but I settled with just
basking in his presence and the warm Kenyan sun.

I’m headed back to Ethiopia tomorrow night, so I wanted to share with
you a little bit about my time in Kenya while I’m still in the

. . . .Shortly after Kids’ Club, we went into Karen for Saturday evening
mass. It wasn’t until the choir began singing “O Come, O Come
Emmanuel” that I realized the purple cloth covering the altar and saw
the advent wreath displayed at the front of the church. I said (loud
enough for the family two rows in front of me to slightly turn), “Oh
my goodness, it’s Advent!”

I was surprised by how shocked I was (that sounds a bit redundant,
eh?). I knew Thanksgiving was celebrated back home just a few days
before, so why the shock? I sat through mass contemplating this, and
I found myself asking a very basic question… the theme of nearly every
cheesy holiday film… What is the true meaning of Christmas?

To the first question, I think I realized that I was so shocked
because the usual external cues that for so long have told me that
Christmas is coming were absent this year. Stripped of cookies,
carols, Christmas trees, and commercials… presents, parties, and
pageants… and without a ground covered in snow, houses bedecked with
lights, and bellies filled with hot chocolate… I have been gratefully
forced to consider the following: How do I know that Christ is coming
and how am I making myself ready and preparing the way?
Finally, later that afternoon, I accidentally walked in on Esther’s
formation class with Sr. Catherine. They kindly invited me to join
them in their discussion of Fr. Gregory Gay’s Advent letter (he is the
Superior General of the Vincentian family). He begins by quoting Luke
2:7, “And there was no room for them.” Though I’ve heard the Nativity
story countless times, rarely have I paused to consider this phrase as
it relates to the true meaning of Christmas. What does it mean on
Christmas, in our world today, in my life, that Jesus was born into
and lived a life among the rejected, the outcasts, the unwanted? When
I am preparing for Christmas, I don’t know that I have ever paused
during the frenzy to consider those I have told, “Sorry, there is no
room for you in my life.”

All of this is heightened this year, as I spend every day in a
community that was formed because its members were cast out of their
home communities due to leprosy. Though those who live in Ginjo and
Tulema make it easy for me to make room for them in my life, and they
have certainly welcomed me wholeheartedly into theirs, I know all too
often I have been one of those innkeepers turning away the Holy

How can I keep expanding my heart and never post a ‘no vacancy’ sign?

Though I know I’ll miss some of the traditional Christmas festivities
that I have come to know and love over the year and can barely imagine
celebrating without my family, I am grateful for the opportunity to
have these questions and so many angels walking with me through it