Maybe it was finally taking down the Christmas tree that finally inspired me to write a little about my first Peruvian Christmas. And what I mean by "taking down the Christmas tree" is really, "let my roommate take it down. She's such a blessing!"
I wasn't sure what to expect in my first Christmas away from my family, and truth be told, when it came time to watch White Christmas and decorate, I certainly missed them. It really is the time of year we most appreciate family. Even though the weeks preceding were very busy with the mission trip and end of San Marcos classes, there wasn't a day that went by without missing all those I care about back in the U.S.
But sometimes it's through these perceived losses that we are given something we never imagined we'd find. As Christy (the amazing roomie) and I were both spending our first Christmas away from the U.S., we decided to spend it with those other "loners," the youth who help us all year, yet at Christmastime have no family to spend it with, most often through neglect and abandonment.
Here in Peru, they have a huge meal the night before (the meal doesn't even start until midnight!), and Christy and I were invited to celebrate with the Arimborgos, the other pastors and missionaries at the church. At the beginning of the meal, each person shared what they were grateful for, and when it came my turn to share, I looked around the table and realized that though I was far from family, I was still close to people who love me. We spent several hours eating, laughing, talking, and celebrating the love of Christ, and went home to sleep just a few hours before Christmas morning...
After a quiet morning, Christy and I spent all day cooking and preparing to serve dinner for these youth. Unfortunately, we forgot to go shopping the day before!! And all the grocery stores were closed. So we quickly scrambled through out kitchen and found what food we could (thanks to my parents for sending stuffing!), and searched all over the city for anything open. This really required our most creative cooking skills.
Finally, the youth showed up, very excited to be sharing Christmas with each other, and most importantly-not alone. After our fabulous, if not somewhat random meal (fried rice with cranberry sauce?), we enjoyed each other's company by exchanging gifts and watching Elf in Spanish, which I highly recommend!
All in all, I was privileged to experience the provision of God in a completely new way. Although far from family, I never felt so clearly that we are part of a larger family, and when a community is really moving in God-relationships, you can't help but feel loved!