by Lisa M. Grover
Traditions are a big part of the holiday season. So is spending time with family. But what if part of your family is serving a mission in a far-off place? Although you’ll probably miss the missionaries in your life at Christmas, it’s actually a great time to create some new traditions and help to spread the gospel.
If your older brother or sister is serving a mission—
Start the Christmas season early in order to get gifts and greetings ready in time for the big day. If your missionary is in a foreign country, mid- to late October is probably a good deadline to get things in the mail. Within your own country, send gifts about a month in advance.
Make a tape of your family singing Christmas hymns and send it with homemade Christmas cards.
Send copies of the Book of Mormon with your testimony written inside for your missionary to give to investigators.
Send several small treats that can be eaten every day from December first until December 25 (small candy canes or other hard candy work well).
If your missionary is serving in a foreign country, read up on that country’s Christmas traditions; then try them out at home.
Giving the gift of the gospel—
What better time of year to give a friend a Book of Mormon? Write your testimony in the front and wrap it in Christmas paper.
Team up with your family, your friends, your seminary class, or your youth group and donate to the missionary fund. Even if you can’t give much, the missionary program will benefit, and so will you.
Invite a nonmember friend to attend the First Presidency Christmas devotional broadcast or other Church fireside with you.
Let your parents know, and then find a quiet moment, perhaps on the Sunday before Christmas, to share your testimony of the Savior with a younger sibling. This is a great gift whether or not he or she is a Church member.
Make a New Year’s resolution to learn or re-learn the Articles of Faith; then share a few of them with someone who isn’t a member of the Church.
When you think of Christmas, snow-capped mountains and the chill of early winter may come to mind. But for Elizabeth Turner, an 18-year-old girl who lives in Burpengary, Australia, Christmas is a summertime celebration—complete with stifling temperatures. She describes her family’s celebration of Christmas as a day that resembles the Fourth of July in America.
First, she and her sisters wake up very early (about 5:00 A.M.) and go downstairs to get breakfast started. “Already it’s too hot to sleep with my sheets on,” says Elizabeth. The family opens presents, eats, and prepares to go to the beach.
At the beach, the family swims and plays on the sandy shore. For dinner, the Turners have a beach barbecue followed by several different types of summer fruit—melon, pineapple, passion fruit, and mangos—all family favorites.
At the day’s end, the family talks over the day’s events and eats ice cream. Christmas is over for another year as Elizabeth and her family fall asleep under a sky full of glittering stars, stars in the Australian night sky that shine very much like the star that shone over Bethlehem hundreds of years ago.
It might seem like it would be hard to spend Christmas in another country, away from friends and familiar traditions, but Natalie Bone, a Laurel in the Orem Utah Lakeridge Stake, Lakeridge Eighth Ward, will tell you it can be the very best way to spend a holiday.
“It wasn’t really hard to be away,” she says. “It felt like I was really doing something purposeful.”
Natalie and her parents spent last Christmas at an orphanage in Cuautemoc, Chihuahua, Mexico. While they were there, Natalie distributed to the children gifts purchased with money that was donated by members of Natalie’s ward, her classmates, and others who are friends with Natalie’s family.
“I was impressed at how polite and appreciative the children were. They each shared their gifts with the others. I learned a great lesson about being grateful and sharing,” says Natalie.
Patrick Limoges loves to draw cartoons. The 14-year-old from La Prairie, a suburb of Montreal, is a teacher in the Lemoyne Ward, Montreal Quebec Stake. He spends a lot of time just doodling, but for him it’s a serious pursuit. He has an uncle who’s a professional cartoonist, and Patrick would like to someday be good enough to follow in his footsteps. Patrick also has another talent he’s developing. “When I talk about the Church,” he says, “there are lots of kids at school who are interested.” Patrick would like to serve a mission “in Europe” or in some other place where his native French language would be helpful.
What was the highlight of Kaonu Ly’s trip to Washington, D.C.? Kaonu and several other outstanding students from around the U.S. got to tour government agencies, visit historic sites, and participate in discussions of how government works. She also got to meet Senator Jesse Helms (shown here with Kaonu), the senator from Kaonu’s home state of North Carolina. And although Kaonu loved all of those things, she loved something else even more.
“A sight I will never forget was the Washington D.C. Temple. It was so sacredly beautiful. I felt so proud to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” she says.
Kaonu, who is a Laurel in the Albermarle Branch, Charlotte North Carolina South Stake, also used the trip as a missionary opportunity, sharing pamphlets about the Church and the Articles of Faith with the other youth she met.
Robin Bendixsen, of Kennewick, Washington, built a bird house for the local Audubon Society. It is now hanging in a park near her home.
Michelle Goodrich, a member of the Beehive class in the Lyndon Ward, Montpelier Vermont Stake, won an essay contest at the Vermont State Maple Festival. Her essay was about sugar making, a business her family has been involved in for seven generations.
Young Women in the Victoria Ward, Hong Kong Kowloon East Stake, held their New Beginnings activity high on a mountaintop! At the top of Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island, the girls flew kites with tails that corresponded with the Young Women value colors.
Young Men on the Fiji LDS College under-13 basketball team recently won the Fiji Secondary Basketball Championship. The team will now go on to compete with teams from New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji.
When youth in the Union Fort Sixth Ward, Midvale (Utah) Union Fort Stake, decided to enter a local snow sculpture contest, they had high hopes of winning the $50 consolation prize to buy pizza for everyone. Imagine their surprise when they won the $350 second prize!
And so, the prize money for their boat-eating shark sculpture did purchase lots of food. But it wasn’t pizza for the hungry youth. Instead, they voted to donate their winnings to their local Scouting for Food drive. With their winnings, they were able to purchase more than 800 cans of food.
Stephen Fairbanks and Heather Colbert have lots of experience living in different worlds. Both of them should still be in high school but left a year early to attend a special college program at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. Then, on Sunday, they cross the U.S. border to attend their church meetings in Montreal.
“We have strong testimonies,” says Stephen. “It doesn’t matter where we come from, whether we are at an activity in Canada or in New York. We are all God’s children. Because of the way we are living, it doesn’t matter.”
Heather says she couldn’t agree more.
“It’s kind of neat to know the Canadians because we get to see what they are like and they get to see what we are like,” she says. “It kind of broadens our minds that we are all members of the Church. It’s like a universal language.”
Youth in Pleasant Hill, California, decided to make their community a better place to live by painting over a graffiti-covered area on a sound wall. City leaders provided paint and paint rollers, and the youth got to work, covering about a half mile of wall before they were finished.
The youth were invited to a city council meeting, where they were presented with a certificate of appreciation for their hard work. The youth say they get a good feeling whenever they pass by “their” wall.
“Now, go forward with your lives. The best lies ahead. I believe that with all my heart. If you will stay on the straight and narrow, the best lies ahead. It is a wonderful time to be alive. It’s a great time to be a member of the Church when you can hold your head up without embarrassment and with some pride in this great latter-day work.”
—President Gordon B. Hinckley, speaking at seminary graduation at West High School in Salt Lake City