A Very Special JBFC Holiday

February 2, 2015 3:00 pm Published by

Editor’s Note: Guest Blogger, Ron Gates, is the father of JBFC’s founder. It’s been seven years, since he’s visited the Tanzanian campus. In his blog, he shares how JBFC has changed and tells why a JBFC holiday is so special.

It has been seven years since my last visit to JBFC’s Kitongo campus. Needless to say things have changed a bit since the last time I traveled to Africa. There were only two houses on campus and only seven girls. The conditions were a lot rougher than what I experienced during my recent visit. The seven girls are now women, too!

I’ve been asked why it took me so long to get back. I have no good answers. Each year I wanted to find the time, the money, but then another year would pass. My son would come home two or three times a year, which satiated my need to see my son. He would bring JBFC girls to America, which gratified my wish to stay connected with them (at least some of them). However, it has been ten years since I’d spent Christmas with Christopher. It was time…this was the year.   

Christmas at JBFC really started on Christmas Eve. There were five adults wrapping presents for 50 children. It became an all day affair. Our JBFC girls (and a few boys) were the recipients of numerous gifts (which all needed to be wrapped). Getting gifts from America to Tanzania can be somewhat problematic. The problem isn’t really associated with transportation…it’s with the wrapping. You can’t wrap the gifts ahead of time – security and custom officials frown on wrapped gifts. This little ‘security’ issue caused five adults to spend all day wrapping gifts.

The day was finally upon us – it was Christmas! The look on all the girls’ faces when they entered Christopher’s house and saw the ‘mountain’ of presents under the mango Christmas tree was magical. Controlled chaos was how the morning played out. Laughing, giggling girls were in abundance. Joy, cheer and love filled the room. Our day of wrapping labor was worth every minute – just to see the anticipation and excitement on the girls’ faces when a gift was handed to them.

The girls call me Babu. This is a Swahli term for grandfather. I’m not too thrilled with the translation, but I like the name. It reminds me of the Disney movie – Jungle Book and its main character Baloo. Being the oldest on the campus did afford me some luxuries; I got to stay in the very nice bungalows, everyone thought I was too old to carry anything and I guess they thought I was too old to help prepare food and drinks. It was nice to be waited on hand and foot. 

I grew up with a lot of music. We had to play at least two instruments and if we didn’t practice, we didn’t get to eat. No one missed a meal, though – we enjoyed playing and singing. It was part of the fabric of my youth. I wanted to bring some of my ‘music’ to JBFC. I brought seven ukuleles – one for each house. They were all wrapped and opened on Christmas. I entertained the group with a few songs on the ukulele. 

The other musical feat I wanted to achieve was singing with the JBFC choir. The girls have magical voices. I brought a CD, which contained a song called, “Angel in Blue Jeans.” This is a song by the group ‘Train’ and I thought it would be a perfect a capella song for the girls.

 We practiced and performed on Christmas for the group. The girls were fantastic. I was clearly the weak link in the performance. At least I added some levity to the rendition

They had a party for me on my last night. It was heart warming to put it mildly. There was more ukulele playing, singing and tears. Did I learn the correct pronunciation of all of the girls’ names – no. Did they all touch my heart – yes. Will I wait another seven years to go back – absolutely not!  

Guest blogger Ron Gates is a JBFC board member in addition to being JBFC Founder Chris Gates’ father.

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This post was written by Mainsprings