“My Last Christmas in the Mission,” Ensign, Dec. 2000, 54–55
It was my last Christmas in the Brazil Rio de Janeiro North Mission. I would soon be returning home, and I was happy about the Christmas season. My companion, Elder Barney, was an American who had been in Brazil for only a short time. He was fighting homesickness.
We had been working hard, but we still weren’t sure how to celebrate Christmas. We hoped a family would invite us to spend Christmas with them, and eventually one family did. However, I wondered about some of the other missionaries in our area. On our next trip to Vitória, my companion and I learned that Elder Jones and Elder Junot didn’t have any Christmas plans. I thought, These elders are my family while I’m on my mission. We can’t leave them alone on Christmas. The four of us decided we would spend Christmas together.
We made plans for a special dinner on Christmas Eve. Although we didn’t have much money, we felt the Lord would bless us.
On Christmas Eve I recorded my feelings in my journal: “Today is the twenty-fourth of December. It has rained a lot, and I see that my companion is sadder. He says he misses the symbols of Christmas he is used to seeing in his country—snow, music, trees, and decorations. I can imagine how hard his Christmas will be since he is so far away from his family, his people, and his customs. The rain continues to fall, but it is lighter now.”
Looking at my companion, I sensed his homesickness and wanted him to be happy.
On the bus trip to Vitória, we could see people hurrying to make their Christmas purchases. We went by a house illuminated with colored lights. Children played in the gardens. Tears filled my eyes, and I could not speak to my companion because I knew I would cry. He seemed to be crying silently. For Elder Junot, Elder Jones, and me, this Christmas was our last on the mission. But it was Elder Barney’s first, and I didn’t know how to console him. During the trip, I cried several times but concealed it. And my companion concealed his tears from me.
We got off the bus and went to the other missionaries’ apartment. We put our money together, and Elder Junot and Elder Jones went out to make the purchases. After they returned with the food, we set the table with a white tablecloth and napkins and placed Christmas cards on it for decoration. But even this didn’t seem to lift our spirits.
Seeing this, Elder Jones suggested we get out our hymnbooks and sing hymns to the Lord. We sang one, then one more, and then another. And we sang louder each time. I wanted the neighborhood to hear our singing and know that we were worshiping the Lord. We started to feel the Spirit of the Lord.
After the singing, Elder Jones shared a scripture about the birth of Christ. Then everyone read from the scriptures. We bore our testimonies about our Redeemer.
When Elder Barney shared his testimony, he explained, “I was missing the things that are familiar to me—the snow, the Christmas tree, the turkey, the Christmas music of my country. I forgot to be concerned about the Son of God born in a manger.” We had tears in our eyes, for the Spirit testified in our hearts that we had worshiped the Creator of the day. We thanked the Lord for all He had given us.
It was my last Christmas in the mission, but it was the first true Christmas I ever spent.