It was a Christmas we will never forget. How can we forget good friends, happy missionaries, missing home, and remembering the birth of Jesus Christ while serving a mission.
We want to tell you about our 2013 Christmas celebration. A good place to start is the Monday before Christmas.
Family Home Evening
Janice A. is one of our many new friends. We met her in our Friday morning, sisters institute class. She invited us for a meal several weeks ago and we had a great time together. Returning the favor is just something Sister Ware does, and so we made arrangements to take a meal to Sister A. and have family home evening in her home. We brought food, a lesson and another friend, Zola G.
We met Zola two weeks ago. She came to the YSA ward and we were captured by her smile and cheery approach to life. In a short time we learned Zola is from Mongolia; an attorney serving in the Mongolian military; a visitor to this country since last summer, who will return to her home in February; and on assignment by her government to learn the English language and U.S. military law, while studying at the JAG (Judge Advocate General’s Law School) on the University of Virginia grounds.
Zola is also a relatively new member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She tells us she met two missionaries while walking in a public place in her homeland. She talked with them, came to church, and felt the spirit through the kindness of the people. She felt this church could help her become the best person possible. She was baptized despite opposition from her family, including her mother who is a talented physician educated in Moscow. She has been faithful, despite some opposition from her military superiors who show some hesitancy to grant her deserved promotions. She loves reading the Book of Mormon.
We had a pleasant meal together and enjoyed reading the story of Christ’s birth in the New Testament. We enjoyed teaching Zola about our Christmas traditions. She is fascinated by the lights on many of the homes. Sister A. has numerous nativity sets in her home and Zola was interested in representations of Mary, Joseph, and the Christ child, along with shepherds, wise men and animals.
Zola taught us about one of her Christmas traditions. Although not common in Mongolia, there are some Christmas trees. Visitors in homes place money on the family Christmas trees as a gesture of friendship. With Sister A.’s permission, Zola placed Mongolian money on the tree. It was a note worth about $5, and prominently featured the most famous Mongolian, Genghis Kahn. Western historians describe him as a barbarian, but not Mongolians. He is a respected, ancient, national leader.
And so it is. A new decoration, Genghis Kahn, now adorns Sister Janice A.’s Christmas tree.
Sister Ware was tender. Elder Ware should have recognized it sooner. The food for Elders and Sisters visiting on Christmas day was prepared. The dishes were washed. Decorating a small apartment takes very little time. Our family was far away and, in our absence, was about to begin the exciting annual observance of Christmas Eve. What can you do to avoid thinking about it too much? Sister Ware found the solution, clean the bathroom. Time will tell, but my prediction is this Christmas tradition will not last.
The mood improved greatly when we were visited by the sunshine smiles on the faces of our missionaries. They brought music, fun and games. When you serve the Lord he blesses you. The youthful missionaries are blessed and our blessing is youthful missionaries.
More Elders arrive and Sister Ware produces a variety of treats. The sugar high soon has everyone in a frenzy. It rivals the merry atmosphere any of us would have felt at home. We are not with our families, but we are with good friends who share the same commitments.
Some missionaries continue Christmas Eve traditions despite their absence from home. Elder C. and his extended family get a similar gift every year from their grandmother – pajamas. In new matching pajamas, the children are nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar plums dance through their heads. Elder C. knew the pajamas were his when he saw the tag in the back, inscribed with his grandmother’s pet name for him, “Brucey”.
The evening progresses with a feisty game of “5 Crowns”. Just when it appeared the evening would tumble out of control the Elders realize it is 9:30 pm. Mission rules dictate it is time to be in their apartment and they head for home.
Christmas Eve was not all fun and games. It included other blessings for us. We picked up a larger than usual donation of Panera Bread and prepared it for a Christmas Day delivery. The Boys and Girls Club is closed, but through some prior arrangements, the bread will be delivered to the residents of the trailer park surrounding the club.
Phone calls and video conferences were on the minds of every missionary today. Our apartment was a beehive of activity. There were often three calls going on at a time using our Mac computer and both iPads. We tried to set up areas with privacy, usually the two bedrooms and the laundry/bathroom.
Every call was the same. A little fumbling with nervous excitement to make the internet connection. Next, a squeal of joy from both sides of the connection as the faces of loved ones appear. Later, a companion is invited to the screen and introductions are made. Finally, there are good-byes, the connection is dropped, and, for some, there are a few tears.
The smiles started at 7 a.m. with a call to Nantou, Taiwan.
The smiles subside at 9 p.m. as the call to Tulare, California is completed.
These missionaries are seeking to bring forth Zion. This is one of their scriptures:
“And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.” (1 Nephi 13:37)
Christmas 2013 is now in our past.
Sister Ware has experienced her first Christmas away from home. She survived it well by getting to know new friends, and serving missionaries and residents in Charlottesville.
All of us are much more familiar with the Skype app.
Finally, in the future, whenever we see decorations on a Christmas tree, we will remember Genghis Kahn.