What could make Christmas unique to an American missionary family living ten thousand miles from home on a remote island in the Philippines? Would it mean a trip home for the holidays, gift packages from friends, phone calls, or unique cards? Maybe some imported cranberry sauce or a can of pumpkin for a pie would help fill the void of not being home for Christmas. This is the time of year that we reflect upon the Christmas holidays of the past. We all have had a particular Christmas that we have stored in our memory as the “best one ever.” Whether we live or what capacity of ministry we are involved in, Christmas is still Christmas worldwide.
I had just gotten out of bed when I realized I had only one more day of teaching and Christmas break would begin. As my usual routine, I quickly grabbed a cup of coffee, took a cold-water bath, and checked the telephone to see if it was working. To my amazement, the lines were open, the modem had made contact, and our server was going to allow me to check my email. My day was going in all the right directions. Checking the email has always been exciting. I have even caught myself reading the junk email spam to have something to read from America. Today was going to be different. I had received an email from one of our supporting churches with the subject line that read “Christmas Funds.” My heart began to race as I opened it. They had sent us a nice sum of money and asked me to do something special for our bible college students.
I sat quietly at the computer, figuring out what to buy for gifts. I had worked with those guys for several years, and I knew their needs. Many of them had just enough food to eat from day today. Some would sacrifice their food allowance to pay bus fares to go to Bible studies so they could preach and teach the Gospel. Our lady students had personal needs, and many had never owned a new dress. They shopped at used clothing stores to make their allowances go farther. I could not wait to tell the students about the blessing. Finally, the last evening class was finished, so I called the students together before dismissing them for the holidays. I explained that one of our churches wanted to share their Christmas with us. I could see their eyes brighten with excitement when I told them how much money had been sent. We offered thanksgivings to the Lord for His blessings from our friends in America.
After we prayed, I asked, “How do you want to spend the money?” I explained that the money belonged to them, so I needed to know how to spend it. I wanted them to tell me what they wanted for Christmas. I have heard people from home complain, “What do you give someone who has everything” but that was not my problem. I asked myself, “What do you give someone who needs everything?” One of our lady students who worked with children in our mission church in the island’s north spoke up. “Pastor, a family attends our church whose children have no clothes to wear.” She said, “My heart is heavy because the little children come to church naked. May we buy those children some clothes and slippers for their feet?”
Another one said, “Pastor, there is a widow in my area whose husband was killed last year, and she needs us. She works twelve hours a day and still cannot feed her six children. Their house has only three walls and a piece of plastic for a roof. May we help them for Christmas?” Another one said, “Pastor, what about the two old women who come to our church? Someone told me that they have no food. May we help them with some rice and food?” By this time, something was swelling up in my soul! Of all our Bible students’ needs, not once asked for anything for themselves. They were of one heart to give their blessings away. Is that not what Christmas is all about? Jesus came to give us the greatest gift of all, which was Himself.
After classes were dismissed, I asked some of our students to go with me to visit the widow and her six children. I asked one of our carpenters to go with us to see the house that needed repair. We planned to purchase the materials the following day. Our trip took us to the backside of a nearby jungle village. We followed the road to a dead-end, where we left our jeep beside the road. We began walking the muddy trail into the forest to reach the house. It had gotten dark, which made it almost impossible to walk without slipping and sliding into the mud holes.
As we turned onto the path leading toward the home, I could hear a child singing Christmas carols. Her voice rang through the trees into the night’s silence as she sang with all her heart. Arriving at the home, I noticed one light bulb strung up between the broken house and a tree in the yard. The little girl sat in the tree and sang ‘O Holy Night.’ Her little voice was singing one of the most beloved melodies I have ever heard. Tears filled my eyes as I stood still to hear her song. I thought to myself, “This little child knows how poor her mother is. She knows that there will be no presents, Christmas trees, special foods, or celebration, yet she still sings about a Holy Night, Holy, Divine, when Christ was born.” She sang, “O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining; it is the night of our dear Savior’s Birth.” We went out early the following day and purchased lumber and supplies. Our men Bible students joined together to build the house while the lady students went shopping for food and clothes. They worked through the day until their mission was complete. Two days later, the little girl had a new native home to live in. On Christmas Eve, the students and I went to the widow’s home. We prayed, had Bible study, and sang “O Holy Night.” We gave out presents, clothes, and food to the six children while the dear mother stood by and wept tears of joy.
Throughout the evening, our students went to each place with their gifts to fill the needs of the people they minister to. The two older women of our church cried while we sang carols, and the men brought boxes of food and rice. House to the house, we saw the blessings of giving as the food was given to the poor, clothes to the naked, and comfort to the hurting. As for one missionary family living far from home, the message we preach and teach was manifested in the lives of our students. The students were blessed, Jesus was magnified, and we had Christmas, THE BEST ONE EVER. We are so thankful for those that had a part in giving to our mission in the Philippines. Think about how many lives could be changed if we not only “preach the Gospel of Christ” but also “show the Gospel and love of Christ.”
Pray about becoming a monthly supporter to help us see the Gospel going forth in this coming year. Lives will be changed, and Jesus will be magnified by your love and giving to others.
May your holidays be full of joy and stories to tell in the future about your Christmas, “The Best One Ever.”