I still remember it like it was yesterday–my first Christmas thousands of miles away from my family. The hot and sticky tropical climate took away any thoughts of a White Christmas. I was living in a small apartment on the mission compound and managed a few decorations, but it wasn’t the same.
Homesickness hit bigtime that first holiday season.
I was feeling it for sure. A young, college grad in my early twenties. I’d stayed at home during college, so it was really the first time I’d lived away from home at all. I thought about all the things my family would be doing in our old house on East Main Street in Tennessee: decorating a huge Christmas tree in the living room, hanging the stockings, baking cookies and sweets, going to church on Christmas Eve, and eating a huge breakfast meal for their supper afterwards. These were our traditions, but I wasn’t there to enjoy them.
Thankfully, I wasn’t serving in isolation.
God brought around me families and single missionaries who loved on me and included me in their celebrations. My adopted family in Ivory Coast were the Simrells. Doug and Paula had three children. Their older son was in school back in the States, but their two teenage daughters were still at home. They graciously invited me to be a part of their family Christmas. Paula had the same birthday as my mother, so I felt an instant connection with her, and she counted me as one of her own during my two years in service there.
They had their own tradition. Because it was always so hot, they spent the extra money to turn on the air conditioners on Christmas Eve. That meant they could sleep under the covers and pretend it was cold. (After living in the tropics for so long, there was no pretending to it). I slept on the couch that night, snuggled in my warm blanket and dreaming of home.
I woke the next morning to “A Tender Tennessee Christmas” by Amy Grant. They were playing it just for me, and it warmed my heart. The rest of the day was full of the usual Christmas fare, but I will always treasure that they cared enough for a single girl far from home to play that song.
Care packages sometimes took weeks to arrive, and I remember getting some Christmas gifts as late as April, but one of my mother’s letters contained a special picture of a morning Christmas wave just for me. They remembered me too.
So, whether you’re reading this on one side of the ocean or the other, think about how you can share the joy of Christmas with those your serving with or supporting in service. Thirty-four years later, my new Christmas experience has now become an old one, but oh, so treasured, still.
Christmas is meant for sharing.
Don’t miss out on the chance to be a part of someone’s new Christmas memory. You may be surprised that it becomes one of their most treasured ones for years to come.
Grace and Peace
All The Colors In The World by Podington Bear is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License.