You can probably recognize by the title of this blog that this post may not be filled with the cheerful, warm-fuzzy words that tend to be associated with Christmas. I am going to be brutally honest and vulnerable in this post, so only read on if you are ready for that.
The truth is that the holidays can be extremely difficult for international missionaries. We are away from our friends and families. The traditions and cultural customs surrounding the holidays aren’t quite the same here. The climate is different, and it doesn’t “feel” like Christmas time. It can feel very lonely. We don’t usually tell you that. Sometimes, we are too busy to recognize the feelings ourselves.
This holiday season has been difficult for me. I am not really sure why this season is different than the others. It certainly isn’t our first holiday season in the Dominican Republic. We have, in fact, spent more holidays here over the past 6 years than in the States.
I have been trying to combat these feelings by focusing on all the joyous things around us. We have been attending the holiday concerts and we have been surrounded by our Dominican church family and Solid Rock family. I have also been reflective about the meaning of the season, and the gift of Jesus that each one of us has received.
. I read a recent article about how to best “survive Christmas as a missionary”. Here was their advice:
- Acknowledge that things will be different.
- Establish new traditions.
- Something Old, Something New (find a tradition that you can replicate from the States, and find new customs as well)
- Find community.
- Use technology. (Talk to family and friends back “home”)
I think that these are all great words of advice and I think that by writing this blog, I am acknowledging that things will be different. I am asking you to pray for us during this season. Remember all of those that are far away from their families this year. Pray that we would find joy in the season and that we would enjoy our new traditions. Pray for us to be surrounded by our community here and feel their love and friendship.
Ministry has felt a bit more personal over the past several weeks as we haven’t had as many North American teams on the ground. I’ve had several one-on-one conversations with my Dominican friends and have tried to help each of them reach their “life goals”. Sometimes, that involves simply helping them read and decipher a document in English and other times it is much more involved. I was able to complete home visits for our Child Nutrition Program 2 different times over the past few weeks. This involves going to each family’s home, asking them questions about their living situation, educating, and checking in on the child/children. We wrapped up our culture learning group last Friday with group presentations about countries around the world. I learned so much over the past 12 weeks in this class! Ethan and Miriam continue with their studies at Freedom Project Academy. They will have a break for the holidays starting this weekend. They also finish up their ballet and music classes this week and are looking forward to a break.
Jason continues to keep his hands busy with projects at the guesthouse. He recently had the opportunity to do an agricultural demonstration with a thresher machine in Los Toros. There were representatives from Nigeria, Spain, Haiti, USA, Colombia, South Sudan, and the Dominican Republic present at the demonstration. Many of the representatives were very interested in the thresher prototype. I think some of them already have invited Jason to their country with hopes that he can help them build a thresher. After the demonstration, he also traveled to La Vega to learn more about a syntropic farm there. Last week, he went to Euclide’s farm in Hondo Valle and together they planted avocado trees. All the avocado trees that were planted, Jason started from the avocado seeds that we save after consuming avocados at our home and those that are consumed at the guesthouse. It’s fun to watch them grow from a seed to a mini tree.
I wish each one of you a Merry Christmas! May you cherish every moment that you get to spend with one another, and may you reflect on the true meaning of the season through every tradition that you participate in.
- Pray for the upcoming ministry season. January through Easter is our busiest time of the year.
- Pray for emotional strength through the holidays.
- Continue to pray for discernment in decision making processes.