With hardly any of the usual Christmas trappings, we made up for it by really celebrating His birth with each other and some special friends, including our missionaries:
· Our mission office purchased some nice chocolate from Costco and gave boxes to the various agencies and businesses which support us. As we gave them gifts and wished them a Merry Christmas, they were really taken aback. In some cases they seemed uncomfortable not knowing how to respond. However, American chocolate is becoming very popular in Taiwan.
· Our small branch of the Church sponsored an orphanage and each person purchased individual gifts for the children in the orphanage.
· The “all Mission” meeting this year included a photo at Sun Moon Lake in the mountains close to Taichung. (see photo) It was great for 167 missionaries to be together with former companions and great friends. The day included an “all you can eat” dinner and a wonderful devotional with music and President Bishop speaking about the Savior.
· The Taichung Stake outdoor Christmas concert was well received by visitors and passers-by shopping at the many stores adjacent to our chapel. This was the first time for this event which the Stake President wants to do each year now.
· We decorated lights on the mission office. Nothing like Temple Square, but still quite festive.
· We had our best ever investigator meeting with our Russian family on Friday night before Christmas. We took a DVD with the six vignettes of Christ’s birth provided by the church. (If you haven’t seen it, you need to. It is very good.) We watched this together and then each person spoke of what Christ means to them individually.
· We purchased some Costco chocolate on our own and gave to our neighbors and exercise friends, along with a “thank you” for their love and support of us.
· Our five Elders who are with us in the office came by late Christmas Eve and sang a beautiful Christmas Carol for us.
· We invited five missionaries over to our small apartment for a Christmas dinner of Ham, baked potatoes homemade Pecan Pie. As the two sisters walked into our apartment, they looked at the Christmas tree, breathed in the Christmas dinner aroma, and said to each other, “it seems like we are not in Taiwan, doesn’t it?”
· We “skyped” with our entire family and shared our annual Christmas Eve dinner, nativity, and gift giving with them. We were afraid this would be a little too emotional for us, but our prayers were answered as we thoroughly enjoyed being with them via the internet.
· We enjoyed reading Christmas stories, including out of the book of Luke.
· One of our highlights was receiving a special nativity set from Alisa. This little nativity set (see photo) spent two Christmas seasons in Venezuela with Eric and two seasons in Sacramento with Andy on their missions. It also has been a favorite of Landon Liston as it spent time in his room at home when released from the hospital following his first of three surgeries.
We love Christmas. Being on a mission, and away from the commercialism of the states gave us an opportunity to really feel the Spirit of Christ at this time of year. Our testimonies of Christ, His life, His Atonement, and His love for us have grown during our mission in Taiwan. We are sure this part of Christmas will shape us as we return home next year.
We are also very grateful for our children and grandchildren who continue to give us such great love and emotional support. We are truly blessed.