If you’re a foreign missionary, you may find yourself away from home at Christmas. Since my family left for Taiwan 35 years ago, my husband and I have spent only 9 Christmases in our native country, the US. Our youngest daughter left home in 2000, and since then we’ve spent 12 Christmases without being with any family at all except for each other. This is not unusual for most foreign missionaries.
It’s normal to miss your family and friends at Christmas time, but here are some tips that will make the separation easier:
Avoid going down roads that are going to lead to self-pity and resentment. These things are sure to give you a miserable holiday:
- Listening to sad songs like “I’ll be home for Christmas.”
- Thinking about how beautiful snow is, what beautiful decorations they have in your home country, and how your host country doesn’t make you feel like Christmas.
- Focusing on Christmas memories that depress you and make you feel sorry for yourself.
- Resenting relatives who don’t call, write, send packages, or communicate in any way.
- Wasting time thinking about how much you miss your family.
It might help if you remember these things:
- Missionaries aren’t the only ones far from home at Christmas. Miles or kilometres divide many families for many reasons.
- When your furlough time comes, you may have more extended time with some of your family than many families have with theirs.
- Many families who live close to each other are divided by family squabbles or faith differences. If your children or other family members are Christians who are living for the Lord, count that as a precious gift.
- Many missionaries from the past didn’t see their families for many years and had very limited connections with them. Today phone calls, Skype, Facebook, and email make it much easier to stay connected to family.
- Some families put immense pressure on family members at holiday time that make the season more hectic than enjoyable. Being far from family, though sad, frees you from excessive family expectations that some people face.
Work with what you have to connect to your family:
- International postage may be sky high, but you can order things online from your home country and have them shipped directly to your family at home.
- Send a memory to your family. Write your parents and remind them of a lovely Christmas you had in years past. Cut a snowflake or draw a picture and send it to your grandkids. Take photos or videos and send them to family.
- Instead of resenting your distant family for not communicating better, take the initiative in connecting. When they do connect, thank them for taking the effort. They have busy lives and many people to keep up with, just as you do.
Wherever you are this Christmas, I hope you will take time to reflect on Jesus and the salvation he brings. That is certainly the best Christmas gift ever. Besides that, God gives each of us wonderful gifts every day. May you find joy in God’s gracious gifts and in the ministry God has given you.
[image courtesy of iofoto/Deposit Photos]