by Laura Forman
December is a season of preparation, of both hearts and homes. Advent stems from the Latin adventus, or coming. We wait expectantly for the most special of days. Beyond the glittering tree, gifts from Santa and even Holiday dinner, Christmas is a celebration of the moment the Word, God’s Word, blessed us in person.
So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:14 (NLT)
Christmas is particularly meaningful to our missionaries living half a world away and the new (and not yet) Christians they minister to. Choosing to spend the Holiday with brothers and sisters most in need, these special families reach out to share the love of Jesus in ways that are both selfless and inspiring.
In Jos, Nigeria, preparation for the “biggest Christian celebration” begins at least two months in advance. The Galadima family started their planning in October by joining in the purchase of a cow to be shared at Christmas.
The gift of food is an important part of the Holiday; the meat will be shared with parents, poor family members and orphans in their extended family. Rice will be gifted to widows the family is acquainted with and yet more food is to be distributed to international students remaining on a nearby campus for Christmas.
Cooking begins several days before the Holiday with Rose preparing pastries with the help of the girls living with them. The family attends church both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, culminating with fellowship and the sharing of a special meal.
“Children visit from one house to another all day long. They expect to eat something and get a gift of money. It’s like trick-or-treating.” This tradition continues throughout the day after Christmas, when Rose and Bulus visit their respective mothers, having spent the Holiday entertaining.
In Central Mexico, Chris and Kathy Gouzoules welcome many into their home, “Christian and non-Christian, [who] for a variety of reasons will not be spending Christmas with their families. Some of [them] have been ‘expelled’ from their families due to their faith in Jesus, others due to family feuds, and yet others due to living away from their families.”
The large and late meal served on Christmas Eve, and into the wee hours of the morning, is the focus of the Holiday. Traditional fare for this area is “pozole, turkey, ham, shrimp soup, hot fruit punch and plenty of alcohol.” The Gouzoules serve a cidra, or non-alcoholic cider in place of the latter. Small gifts are shared with the guests, often poor and/or single mothers, and “all go home with a plate of homemade Christmas cookies, candies and sweet breads” (lovingly baked by Chris himself).
Many years Chris, Kathy and their children participate in outreach, such as serving a meal for families of patients at a local hospital or delivering food and warm clothing to poor areas of their city of Tenancingo. According to Chris, “these outreaches are usually accompanied by a brief message on the great gift of God’s love in the form of Jesus. The kids have LOVED this part of Christmas and [it] always makes them appreciate a little more the many blessings we have.”
To read about these and other missionary families Immanuel partners with, visit http://www.immanuelhome.org/world.php
Laura Forman is married to David and they live in Gurnee with their five children. She is a fitness instructor, freelance writer and can be found at church or www.lauralisaforman.com.