Friendship CRC to Display Dozens of Nativity Sets from Around the World Dec. 7-8

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Friendship CRC cutline No. 1Bev Abma: “My journey started years ago when we were in language school in Costa Rica.” The public is invited to gaze at an assortment of Nativity sets from around the world at Friendship Christian Reformed Church, 190 100th St. SE, in Byron Center.

The Nativity sets will number more than 100 and will be displayed from 4-8 p.m. on Dec. 7 and from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Dec. 8.

A free will offering will be equally divided to support Growing Hope Globally, formally Food Resource Bank, a Christian nonprofit organization that raises resources to support farmers in developing countries to stem food insecurity; and Enyuaata e Maa Development Organization, or EMADO, that works in to substitute Kenya's female genital mutilation for Maasai women with more positive rites of passage.

Products from Global Gifts also will be available for sale.

Sets from around the world

Friendship CRC member Bev Abma, Friendship CRC's interim pastor Joel Boot and a smattering of others who are members of the church will display their Nativity sets. What makes them unique is they hail from around the world that reflects the culture of the countries they were made in. The materials to craft the sets include various woods and clay.

Friendship CRC cutline No. 2A Nativity set from Mali. The four women with their babies on their backs are neighbors who came to help Mary. One brought fruit, one is pounding the grain, another firewood and one more drinking water.Traveling the world made it possible for Abma to amass her eclectic Nativity sets.

She's traveled to around 80 countries throughout her life in a variety of jobs that range from registered nurse to midwife, working with AIDS patients in Africa and dying children in Canada. She formerly was executive director of Growing Hope Globally back when its moniker was Food Resource Bank.

"My journey started years ago when we were in language school in Costa Rica in a rural village in the mountains and there were wood carvings of Nativity sets," said Abma, a former Christian Reformed World Relief Committee missionary.

"We wanted this as a memory of this country rather than the tacky tourist items. We moved to the Dominican Republic and people gave us one there as a gift. And we realized how unique they are in terms of story that's portrayed and what they're made of. In Costa Rica, they're carved of wood and at the Dominican Republic, they were faceless made out of clay."

Pastor Boot will have on hand some of the 70 Nativity sets he started collecting about 50 years ago after marrying his wife.

Friendship CRC cutline No. 3 This hand-carved set of Thornwood is from the interior of Nigeria, where artists specialize in roughly-hewn wood crafts and textiles. Note the hats which reflect those of some of the local tribes. He collected them through the years because he found it significant depict Jesus coming to all nations, tribes and tongues.

Boot's collection include Bethlehem figures while on sabbatical in Israel purchased from a shop said to be just blocks away where many believe the Lord was born; cloth figures from Thailand that are simple and durable; and a wooden crèche from Honduras with figures that fit onto little pegs where each figure belongs.

"We wanted our children to see this, too, and now our grandchildren," said Boot.

'A wonderful journey'

And that's the point: While the birth of Christ and the Holy Family is central to all Nativity sets, each culture has its own way of depicting Christ's birth, through their ethnicity, clothing and customs.

"One of the few I've seen that has women in it is from Mali," said Abma. "Of course the women would be there to help with fire, wood and water. The sets are a wonderful journey to see how people present the Nativity in their own places."
     
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Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
About:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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