Monday, December 20, 2010

Far From Home at Christmas Time

When I was twenty-eight years old, I found myself five thousand miles from home.  I had left Seattle in September to begin a two-year missionary assignment in Japan.  I had been excited to go, yet quite nervous.  How would I adjust to such a new situation?  Because of the kindness and support of both my fellow workers and Japanese friends it was not as difficult an adjustment as I had anticipated.

But, with Christmas approaching, would I manage so far from home?

My missionary friends and I busied ourselves with Christmas preparations.  An artificial tree was decorated and placed on a table in the corner.  The house was cleaned and cookies baked in preparation for numerous parties with our English classes.  We greeted guests, some who had never been in the home of Americans, and shared the Christmas story as a part of the festivities.  In Japan Christmas is not a national holiday.  It is celebrated commercially, however -- with music and decorations in the department store, gifts given to the children, and store-bought Christmas cakes.

Of course the church relishes the Christmas celebration and takes advantage of the opportunity to share God's love with all they can.   Our small house church was no exception.  We converted a neighborhood art school into a place of worship and presented the gospel through a candlelight Christmas Eve service.  We had a tremendous attendance, even if you don't count the plaster busts that peered down from the shelves around the room.

I found it to be one of my most joyful Christmases.  The scripture that best expressed my heart that Christmas was Psalm 116:12-14: What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?  I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.  I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.

The Lord had blessed my own life and was using me in some small measure to touch others.  Miles from home, God's work provided the identity and security that had always been associated with home. So "home" was not so much a location as an attitude.

My two-year assignment stretched into three years.  Twice more I celebrated Christmas in Japan.  My second Christmas was a quiet celebration with co-workers after a ten-day stint in a Japanese hospital.  My third was observed in the midst of a blizzard which knocked out electricity for three days.  The power came on just long enough for us to cook the turkey!

Of course I missed being home, but even then I knew that God was with me and I was able to appreciate my three unique Christmas experiences.

Wherever you are this year, whatever your circumstances, I pray that you will see God's hand in your life and will have a blessed Christmas!

(Most of this post is taken from an article I wrote for the Nov/Dec 1994 issue of our magazine, Family Scrapbook.)

1 comment:

Rachelle said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Ginger. Sam and I spent our first Christmas as a married couple alone in New Jersey. My friends sent us a box of Christmas decorations (we were very poor!) and we had one of the most memorable Christmas celebrations ever. Even though we were far away, I have so many good memories of me and Sam during that time. :)