Advice for spending Xmas on the missions field
Photo by Rebecca
Last week we shared Nine ways to bless your missionary this Christmas to give friends and family ideas of what they could do for the missionary in their life this holiday season.
Today, we're talking to all the missionaries out there.
Let's be honest. Being in a foreign country during the Christmas holidays can be a challenge. It's a different culture, you might be away from your family and it's probably not the Christmas you're used to. That being said, it can also be a lot of fun. Making new friends, experiencing how other parts of the world celebrate (or maybe don’t celebrate) the birth of Jesus and starting new traditions.
Spending your first Christmas overseas or looking for ways to avoid last years disaster? We've asked missionaries from all over the world for their advice on how to enjoy the holidays.
Beat loneliness by inviting others to celebrate with you
Last year, as Christmas neared, I realized I would be spending the holiday by myself because my flatmate was traveling out of the country. Unfortunately, nobody asked what my plans (or lack thereof!) were, and a week before Christmas, I was feeling quite lonely. At the last minute, I decided to stop waiting for someone to include me in their celebration and, instead, invite some of my other single friends over for a Christmas dinner. Being proactive sure beat feeling sorry for myself, and, to my surprise, they all accepted! As it turned out, I was so busy preparing the food on Christmas day, that I didn't have time to be lonely. My friends blessed me by coming over, and I was able to give them a delicious meal. - Nicole serving in the Middle East
Cook your favourite dish/meal to share with friends
You may not be able to find all the same ingredients, but try and recreate something special that you enjoy and share it with others – I’ve been making my family’s recipe of devilled eggs for the past five years overseas. It’s a small part of Christmas back home that I’m able to bring here; giving me the chance to remember special times in the kitchen with my family and also sharing some of that joy with others as I’ve taught them how to make the dish. - Ellyn serving in East Asia
Keep your traditions, but also make some new ones
This is important especially in families because it helps connect everyone with who they were as well as who they are. It helps us blend our past with our present life, especially when we compile the new traditions from the culture that surrounds us. One tradition we keep with is making gingerbread houses during the school break. WE LOVE doing this and have even invited the Portuguese people to join us. They love it! And in just one night they get a glimpse of who we might have been had we stayed in the USA. We tell stories and also get to hear about their past as well.
A new tradition we started is including traditional food in our Christmas meal…. Here in Portugal that means Bacalhou (cod). So now instead of turkey our Christmas dinner is served showcasing a new food… Bacalhou!
- Michelle serving in Portugal
Take the time to remember the reason for the season
December 25th is just another day in the post-soviet, Central Asian country we live in. There is nothing special about the day; people catch the bus, go to work, the trash is collected and the kids go to school. It’s hard living in a country where most people have never even heard the name of Jesus, let alone celebrated His birthday. But as parents living in this Central Asian city, it gives us an opportunity to define Christmas for our kids the way we want to – without the commercialism and hype. - Beth serving in Central Asia
Living in Western Europe, we are pretty much surrounded by reminders that Christmas is coming – Father Christmas, lights, presents, foods...things that are quite a distraction when trying to help our kids think about the TRUE meaning of Christmas. As a family we decided to instigate an Advent tradition: every night during December leading up to Christmas we light a candle during our evening meal and take the time between dinner and dessert to work through some child-friendly advent devotions which encourage us to re-focus on Christ's coming. It takes a little extra time and effort but it's well worth it and the boys seem to enjoy it too! - Paul serving in France
Allow yourself time to miss your family and engage with them
My family always opens our stockings in front of the fireplace on Christmas morning. Even though I’ve spent Christmases abroad it’s always been important for me to ‘see’ my family too. Thanks to a 10-hour difference, my family wakes up on Christmas morning after my evening Christmas festivities have finished in the Middle East. I enjoy watching my parents, sister and brother-in-law pull little presents out of their stockings over Skype. Even though I am far away, I get to be part of a precious tradition and end my day feeling a little closer to home. - Nicole serving in the Middle East
In my family we always draw one name to buy a gift for on Christmas – like Secret Santa. My first Christmas on the ship I had visitors who were able to bring me my gift from home and take a gift back to Switzerland for the person I drew. - Anja who previously served on the ship and now serves in Switzerland
If you want to decorate, than decorate!
One evening on the ship anyone who wants to can participate in decorating the whole ship for Christmas. It’s a great way to do something with friends and help make the ship more ‘homey’ for Christmas - Anja who previously served on the ship and now serves in Switzerland
My first Christmas overseas a friend and I realised we had no Christmas tree and none were available for sale. We ran around our neighbourhood looking for a replacement and managed to find a tall pine tree and cut off a few small branches. Returning home we tied the branches together and stood them up in a pot to create a small two-dimensial Christmas tree. We then decorated it with strung popcorn and cutout paper decorations and made hot chocolate for our flatmates and invited everyone to sit around our “tree” and share their favourite Christmas stories. - Ellyn serving in East Asia