I’m looking today at a letter I wrote to our family and prayer supporters in November 1992. It was our first Christmas letter, as we began service as husband and wife. We were less than eight months on the field, and had already lived in two countries. No children yet, and just a year and a half into our married life. To say that there had been a lot of change in my life was an understatement, but I was relishing every moment, as seen in the first paragraph of our letter:
His hand and body moved slightly to the rhythm of the music as he sang a beautiful song of praise to God while being accompanied by his son on the “aoud” (lute). Here was a man who had just been through a life-and-death experience because of heart trouble unable to withhold his praise to God, though the doctors told him not to sing. How wonderful to witness such a strong testimony of the Lord’s work in the life of man. Times like this are the little “perks” of being able to minister in Syria. We rejoice in knowing that God is at work here–not because we are here! He has been here for centuries working quietly in the hearts and lives of individuals. We are just blessed to be able to witness the fruits of his labor.
After sharing about the struggles and needs among believers, I share a taste of a typical shopping experience:
Everyday life in Damascus is an adventure as well. There are no “supermarkets” as we have in the States, so you have to go to several different places to buy goods. However, the good side to this is that we come in contact with more people and enjoy building relationships with our grocer, butcher, fruit and vegetable man, etc.
Learning to cook from scratch while learning a new language proved challenging in those early months, but I made strides and wasn’t afraid to share them with those who had been praying for me. My husband, a native Arabic speaker, had all the fun of getting paperwork completed for staying in country and bringing in our crate, while also negotiating apartment rent prices. These first months were full of settling in, daily routine, and the mundane of just the things of life, but they were worth sharing to remind supporters that prayer is not just for the miracles in the heavenly realm, but also the miracle of getting a drivers license or passing a language level exam.
Their prayers and financial support covered it all, and we were happy to share the importance of remembering us for both ministry and daily living matters.
One of my favorite Christmas songs has always been “The Christmas Song” that starts Chestnuts roasting on an open fire… Well, Syria had wonderful chestnuts that you could buy fresh or roasted. Raouf bought some and decided to put them in our gas oven to warm. He then got in the shower without telling me what he had done, and a few minutes later we started hearing this popping noise. I followed it to the kitchen where I found “chestnuts exploding on an open fire!” That was a first Christmas memory I’ll never forget! I still can’t listen to that song without thinking of those chestnuts.
By the time Christmas came, we had bought some decorations to put up in our bare apartment, we’d participated in a progressive dinner with other expat friends, helped in a Christmas program at a local Baptist church, and made a lot of visits. My Arabic had improved enough that I was able to share the story of Jesus’ birth with some Syrian girls who were visiting our house, as they looked at our nativity scene. Their mother also accepted Christ that day. What a wonderful way to commemorate our first Christmas overseas.
Whether your Christmas is full of the ordinary or extraordinary, may it be filled with the knowledge that God, who came to tabernacle among us over 2000 years ago, is still with us today–Emmanuel.
He has come, He will come again. Maranatha Christmas.
Grace and Peace
All The Colors In The World by Podington Bear is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License.