Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dec. 16-22, 2013


Let me say from the outset that Christmas here in South Africa is not the same as the Christmas we know of in North America and especially Montana. I often check the weather in Hamilton, Montana just to see what I am missing. Last week I missed 6 to 7 inches of snow, evening temperatures in the low teens and daytime temperatures in the mid-thirties. That sounds a lot like Christmas to me.

 However, here on the opposite side of the equator and Atlantic Ocean, things are slightly different. South Africa is just getting serious about summer time weather. The daytime temperatures hang around the mid-80s and the evenings temperatures are in the upper 60s. As far as the weather is concerned, you can see that there is little to complain about. The problem is, it is Christmas time and for us northerners it is as if somehow the calendar is trying to play a trick on us.

As far as the people and industry are concerned they too seem to be in a different seasonal orbit. Oh, there is an occasional Christmas tree in the mall and occasionally one may hear a seasonal Christmas song but the atmosphere of Jingle Bell Rock is definitely absent. We did see one Santa holding a black child but not one HO, HO did we hear. His enthusiasm was obviously stored in last year’s box, which was either AOL or permanently discharged. Part of the reason for the lack of Christmas atmosphere is that somewhere along the line the country has oriented itself so that during December and January it goes into vacation mode. The schools, universities and primary, are all closed. The work force is reduced to minimal staff and hence, service is at a snail’s pace on an exceptionally good day. However, the beaches, restaurants, resorts etc are all doing a booming business. People in these areas are like a milling herd (flock?) of chickens; all going somewhere but oblivious as to where.

Even the Pastors, Preachers, Bishops, ecclesiastical leaders in general, scratch their head in wonderment; it is the season to remember the birth of the Christ child but instead, for the people it the season to remember themselves – it is a time of merriment, parties, recreation, food, or just hanging out. It is as if they say, Christmas is great as long as it does not interfere with my fun and me.

On a slightly different note, last week we had the opportunity to provide meals for 36 missionaries and 4 adult couples. The Mission President wanted the main meal and setting to be something special to commemorate the Christmas season. So, of course, it was my bride’s delight to plan and decorate such a festivity. Bear in mind that there was no budget for decorations and fancy frills but she scrounged here and there to decorate the halls with festive cheer.  And the meal was so colorful with red and green stratified jello, pineapple glazed ham, potatoes and green and red vegetables. In addition, you should have seen the dessert – a 3”X4”X3” piece of chocolate cake decorated with Christmas color rossets crowned with a Maraschino cherry. Gift bags, secured with a raffia bow, greeted each missionary as they arrived at their place at the table. And, of course, the drink, served in clear glasses, was color coordinated with the meal. In order to grasp the elegance of the meal and atmosphere, you need to understand that this meal was not gotten by going through a buffet gauntlet, but rather an appropriately dressed server served each individual. Needless to say, the meal and setting was well done and well received. 



                               Festive setting

The desserts were well received!!!!

        The missionaries giving their
        "wish list" to Santa

As we are able to relax for a moment, we silently and verbally reflect on the true meaning of the Christmas season. A feeling of true gratitude envelops us as we contemplate the eternal gift of the Lord Jesus Christ given to us by our Heavenly Father. During these moments of pondering, we think about the gift that we can, in turn, give to Them – the only gift that will bring them eternal joy -- ourselves.
                                               Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

Ice cream social with some of the missionaries

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  1. We so enjoy your posts! Such a great work you are doing and we are so appreciative of your good examples. Merry Christmas and the best of 2014 to you too. Paul and June Gilbert

  2. Merry Christmas from Hamilton. We will not be having a white Christmas either, except for the view of the beautiful Bitterroot mountains. Leland and Ronda & family