The old song is true when it says, “There’s no place like home for the holidays.” Missionaries aren’t usually in their own culture to celebrate these special days. It can be lonely, but being in another culture at Christmastime also gives them the opportunity to experience new traditions. These traditions can often enhance the celebration of Christ’s birth.
Here is some information about the Christmas traditions where our teams are serving.
This week I am in Bucharest, Romania, with my friends Phil and Scottie Rice. Their family is the newest on the field for our organization, having arrived about 8 months ago.
It is really fun to see how their story has come around because Phil visited my family in Mexico City when he was in college. I have seen God lead him through the entire process, and he is finally here, living the dream!
Right now, that dream includes learning Romanian. On top of all of the other cultural stresses they have right now, they are knee deep in conjugating verbs and learning vocabulary. While difficult and stressful, it is necessary and key to their success in their new home.
If you follow along here, you already know that we were in desperate need for a new van. Last year, we started a campaign to try to raise some money to purchase a van that we could use everyday in Mexico City. We were overwhelmed by our friends as they poured on the support of our family. So when we returned from the USA in early December, we started the hunt for our new ride.
After many “downs” and very little luck, we finally found a van that suited our family’s needs. In fact, it is so much more than we could have asked or even imagined. The van is well taken care of, has all of the service receipts, and everything checks out great. Our lawyer friend who was helping us check it all out was extremely enthusiastic about this van. It is perfect.
We always joke when we rent vehicles that it would be nice to have a radio that told you what was playing. That might not be anything new to you, or you might not even consider it a blessing, but as I pulled away in our new van and put on the radio, I realized that God takes care of little things as I could read the artist and song that was playing on the radio at that time.
God takes care of us, and we have seen it time and time again in this journey on the mission field. As one of my friends told me, “See…it was worth the wait.”
On August 27, 2003, Janell and I boarded a plane at the Miami International Airport with 7 bags. We had sold or given away almost everything else that we owned and were ready to take a leap of faith and move to Mexico. In the next days we would leave 5 of those bags in Mexico City and move to the unknown city of Cuernavaca to live with a family we had never met and try to learn a language we barely knew at a school we had only visited one other time.
Those were very exciting and scary times. When I look back at it, I realize that it seemed crazy to most people and even to us at times. But as I reflect on what has happened in this decade in Mexico, Latin America, my own life, and my family, I can definitely say that it has been worth it. Despite the trials and uncertainties of support raising, recruiting students, teaching classes, searching for housing, and all the other things that come along with missionary life, God has always been faithful.
He has provided at the right times, both financially and materially. He has brought us great friends who have helped make the journey great. Many of them are no longer in Mexico, but they were always with us at just the right time. Financially, God has provided for us when we least expected it. Even in the months when support was low, He has always made a way for us to see His provision.
When we first started here in Mexico, youth ministry seemed to be so new, and we had to ask what we were doing here. Now we see certificate programs all over the country, students and graduates from the Bachelor’s degree program that are doing incredible work in their local churches, 3 Seminaries in Cuba with thriving Centers for Youth Ministry, a new Master’s program launching in Mexico in January that will help plant 3 new CYMs in different Seminaries in Mexico, and a plan to open 60 new Youth Ministry programs in Latin America in the next 15 years.
If you’re reading this, you probably have known us for these 10 years and have been supporting us and praying for us for at least that long. We thank God for you. He has proven His faithfulness to us through your constant support and prayers. I can’t believe that so many people have been a part of this journey alongside us. You are very special to our family. Thank you for your continued prayers. They have sustained us throughout this decade and will continue to push us forward for the time to come.
I write this as I’m sitting in the Greenville airport waiting for my flight back to Clearwater. I just left the Chevy Venture minivan we have been driving for the last few months. Maybe I’m just emotional about this week, but even as I got out of the van for the last time I couldn’t help but think about how incredible it is when God’s people come together to support each other in His work.
We get vehicles when we are in the States from one of two places: a ministry in St. Pete, Florida called Missionary Ministries or one in South Carolina called Macedonian Call. Each time we work with them it is incredible to see different parts of the body of Christ come together to fulfill His mission.
Our family is grateful for both Tom and Mitch, who are faithfully concerned about missionary families and their need to move around while on stateside assignment. It is such a relief to know that God has placed it on their hearts and the hearts of those involved in their ministries to provide a need for us when we need it.
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