This time of year, my heart turns to missionary friends living overseas. Christmas for Missionaries can be a mixed bag. For the first time missionary experiencing Christmas in a developing world context, Christmas can be hard. But then, it isn’t. First, you’re missing all of the trappings of Christmas in your “home country”, but then, you also get to skip all the trappings of western Christmas, which isn’t always a bad thing. You’re missing family. Loneliness hits, big time. But then, you’ve also got your new family of friends on the mission field. Folks who you bonded with over transportation, shopping or language learning woes. These people take up residence in your heart very quickly, and at Christmas, having them around makes all the difference.
When you do Christmas overseas, you’ll certainly miss some of the sights, smells, and sounds of Christmas back home. However, most missionaries have that sense of hope, peace, joy and love that sometimes are missing in Christmas in the west. If you’re serving in the developing world, or in an unreached place, all around you there are people God loves, people Jesus came for, and you’ve got a unique opening to talk about who Jesus is and what he did, because of this world famous holiday. So there’s a lot of joy and hope in Christmas overseas for folks working toward fulfilling the great commission.
This is also the time of year when families get reunited on t
he mission field. Children who are over 18 generally roll off their parent’s visa, so have to go back to their “passport country”—which is rarely home. For some missionaries this means the end of their overseas service. But for many, it means sending kids to college in the US while the parents and younger siblings remain “home” in faraway lands. Christmas has a heightened sense of waiting when you’re waiting for a plane to arrive.
So my heart turns toward these families this time of year, when many mission agencies support flying college-age kids back to the field for Christmas with family. Sometimes the planes go the other direction, though, allowing the whole missionary family to experience the wonder that is Christmas in America. I remember friends of ours delaying furlough by 6 months, because they, and their children, had not experienced Christmas in America in more than a dozen years. There are some pretty great things about Christmas here in the states—live church music comes to mind—and it’s special to let kids experience it for the first time.
No matter what stage of life, from those new to the field, to those who have just moved back to the states after years of fruitful ministry, missionaries need to be remembered in prayer at this time of year.
May your Christmas be filled with Hope, Peace, Joy and Love!