24952_000_009Far from home and family, missionaries discover that Christmases in the mission field are among their most memorable.
Spending Christmas away from home and family in the mission field might sound a little lonely. But missionaries often look back to a Christmas while on their mission as one of the best Christmases of their lives. Here are some experiences that made Christmas in the mission field a season of joy.
A Season for Teaching
My companion and I and four other missionaries were invited to go to Camp Pendleton, a nearby military base, for a special Christmas devotional for the military recruits. This was something very special for them because they were also away from home for Christmas. We had a devotional at which the speakers testified of Christ’s gospel, and we sang hymns.
I was the largest of the missionaries, so I got to play Santa and visit everyone. Even though they knew Santa was just a missionary, they played along and it lifted their spirits.
While the recruits were eating, we missionaries did our job. Each of us had a discussion with about 10 recruits. All six missionaries had recruits who said they would like to join the Church.
Our Christmas day was “white” when three young men joined Christ’s fold. The Lord had blessed us with the perfect Christmas!
served in the California Carlsbad Mission; he is a member of the Lindon 14th Ward, Lindon Utah West Stake.
Coming to Christ
During the weeks before Christmas, my companion and I had been teaching a man of the Jewish faith. Allen already knew a little about the Church. He told us that he wasn’t looking to get baptized; he just wanted to see what “the Mormons are all about.”
In four discussions we had taught him about the Savior, the Restoration, the Book of Mormon, the plan of salvation, plus other material to help him come to a knowledge of Christ. He had finished reading the Book of Mormon and a little more than half of the Doctrine and Covenants. We had fasted with him on Christmas Eve, hoping he would come to a knowledge of Christ and be baptized.
Christmas afternoon came with an unexpected knock on the apartment door. It was Allen. He was beaming with excitement. He had come to tell us that he could testify of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. Every expression on his face showed the joy and happiness he was experiencing. He was no longer a man looking for a knowledge of Christ, but one desiring to become a member of the Church.
It was through the Book of Mormon and the Holy Ghost that Allen was able to come to a knowledge of Christ. I was transferred out of the area before Allen was baptized, but being able to see his conversion and be a part of it truly was the best Christmas present ever.
Elder is serving full time in the North Carolina Charlotte Mission.
Singing in the Bronx
During Christmastime on my mission, I was undergoing some health problems, and my companion was a new missionary. She was not happy and wanted to go home. We were walking 8 to 10 miles (13–16 km) every day, and both of us had painful blisters.
I soon became depressed and discouraged, believing that I was a bad missionary and that all of my companion’s problems were my fault. We were a miserable pair. I had been so excited about the upcoming holiday, but now I dreaded it. It loomed before me dark, cold, and lonely.
My district leader saw my struggles and offered this advice: “Keep your mind off the pain. Do whatever it takes to give your companion the Christmas spirit.” I trusted my district leader and knew he was right, so I determined that I would try to get the right spirit in both of our hearts.
I remember one dark, cold evening. We were walking down the road, and my companion began to cry. Immediately, I felt as if I had been swallowed by darkness, and I wanted to give up. But I remembered my promise and asked the Lord what I could do to help this sister. The answer that came was unexpected, but I acted promptly. I began to sing Christmas carols as loudly as I could. People kept staring at me, but I felt a strange lightness in my heart that couldn’t be subdued. My companion begged me to stop. But I told her I would not until she joined me. So she did, and we sang several songs. My companion smiled at me and seemed to enjoy the rest of the evening.
That experience was the start of an amazing holiday. It was still hard at times, but whenever the mood began to turn dismal, I threatened to start singing. That always seemed to lighten the mood.
I do not have a great singing voice, and I hate singing in front of people. But that night I was singing at the top of my lungs for all of the Bronx to hear. That Christmas I learned that we celebrate the birth of a Savior who lives today and still works for our salvation. He knows what each of us needs and how to give it to us. I will never forget the Christmas that He let me sing in His personal choir. It changed Christmas for me!
served in the New York New York North Mission; she is a member of the Snowflake Seventh (YSA) Branch, Snowflake Arizona Stake.
More Blessed to Give
It was turning out to be the worst Christmas Eve a missionary could have. All three of our baptisms scheduled for Christmas day had just fallen through. Instead of the “white” Christmas my companion and I were hoping for, it was going to be just another hot day in Chile.
To top it off, our Christmas Eve dinner invitation was cancelled. Chileans hold their big celebration on Christmas Eve, so it was like missing out on Christmas dinner.
As my companion and I walked dejectedly past the small, fenced-in chapel, the branch president stopped us and asked where we were spending Christmas Eve. We told him we had no plans. He then invited us to his home that evening for dinner.
That night we went to the branch president’s house, a small structure covered with a tin roof. At the table, my companion and I were invited to sit in the chairs usually reserved for the branch president and his wife. They graciously shared their meal with us. It must have been a sacrifice for them to feed two hungry missionaries, especially with only a few hours’ notice. Then this kind family gave my companion and me each a wonderful gift of a white handkerchief.
We didn’t get our “white” Christmas with lots of baptisms. Instead, we learned from a young, humble branch president that it is, indeed, “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
served in the Chile Santiago South Mission; he is a member of the Reedville Ward, Cedar Mill Oregon Stake.
The Feeling of Giving
This past Christmas was one of the most selfless Christmases I’ve ever experienced. One week before Christmas at the ward Christmas party, the members were invited to bring clothes, toys, furniture, and other items to donate to needy families. And if that wasn’t enough, the Cub Scouts offered to give us all the food from their food drive.
Boy, did we get a response! Three classrooms were packed full. It was a beautiful and overwhelming sight! During that week, we probably spent 7 to 10 hours just sorting and separating all that had been donated. In the end, home teachers delivered 48 boxes as Christmas presents the night of December 23rd.
This experience reminded me of Jacob 2:19: “After ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.”
We not only had the opportunity to help Church members, but we were involved in helping the community as well. Another 30 boxes of food were distributed to other families in need. What a way to spend Christmas! No gifts or decorated tree can ever compare to the feeling of giving.
As we continued to visit the families who received these gifts of love, we saw the homes brighten and hearts open. These are my most prized memories—giving all that I have and am to the service of my Lord.
served in the Washington Spokane Mission; she is a member of the El Segundo Ward, Inglewood California Stake.
Our missionary district went caroling to our investigators for Christmas (and we made and delivered cookies too). When we finished singing at one house, which we thought would be the last house, a woman two or three houses down started clapping and said, “Encore! Encore!”
We were tired, and our voices could no longer be considered harmonious, but we went and sang two songs for her. It was the best performance of the night. She was truly touched and told us no one had caroled at her house for many years. A week later we went back, and because of what she felt when we sang, she agreed to listen to the discussions.
I know that we can influence more people than we ever realize if we’ll just open our mouths and let the Spirit guide us.
Elder is serving full time in the Georgia Atlanta Mission.
I was a little curious when my mission president announced we were going to have a white Christmas. In Chile, December is the hottest time of year. President Wilcox explained that some families of missionaries in our mission had donated enough money that every missionary companionship could give a set of white temple clothes to a worthy, but needy, member for Christmas.
My companion and I immediately thought of the same person. This brother came from a tough background. He had made some big changes to be able to be baptized and later receive his own endowment. He remained faithful and active even when most of his family had not.
The day we visited him and entered his humble home we could feel hopelessness and despair. A recent death in the family, along with the usual economic problems that filled their lives, had left the home void of the Christmas spirit. We had brought the temple clothes with us but didn’t want to give them to him in front of the rest of his family. I silently prayed for a chance to give him our gift in private. Almost instantly the family began to disperse, leaving us alone.
I said, “Hermano, we have a special gift for you.”
He said, “Elders, you are kind, but I do not need charity.”
I explained how some families of missionaries had donated funds so that we could give him his own set of temple clothing. My companion held out the package. The brother didn’t say a word. His breathing became a little louder, and tears began to fall from his eyes.
After a while he lifted his head and said, “How can anyone tell me the Church is not true? I’ve been saving a little money for quite a while so I could buy my own temple clothes. When I finally had enough, my cousin told me he was going to the temple, and he is even poorer than I am. I decided he needed temple clothing more than I did, so I recently gave him a set. Now here are you two missionaries giving me the very gift I just sacrificed to give to my cousin. How can anyone tell me the Church is not true?”
He stood and gave my companion and me heartfelt hugs. What an amazing feeling. I think we floated home that evening. We also floated off our seats the following Sunday when this brother came to church with five of his inactive family members.
December 25 was a hot summer day in Chile, but we had a white Christmas I will never forget.
served in the Chile Santiago East Mission; he is a member of the Dillingham Alaska Branch, Anchorage Alaska Bush District.
Christmas in the Philippines
I was anticipating a great Christmas on my mission when I began decorating a small Christmas tree with a few lights and other homemade paper decorations. But the decorations were not important to me. I really felt the reason for the season was Jesus Christ. All of the month of December filled me with love for Jesus Christ and also for the Filipinos.
I will never forget that Christmas, as I truly felt great love for all people and wished to declare, “Peace on earth, good will towards all men” (see Luke 2:14).
served in the Philippines Ilagan Mission; she is a member of the Orem Seventh Ward, Orem Utah Stake.