“Missionaries on the Metro,” Ensign, Dec. 2004, 62–63
The first Christmas I experienced on my mission in France was very enjoyable. We were invited to celebrate with a wonderful member family, and I felt comfortable and at home. But the second Christmas stands out in my memory and will always be precious to me.
The thrill of the holiday season was in the air in the small French town where I was serving: Christmas music in the stores, advertisements everywhere, and Christmas cards in the mail.
A few days before Christmas the missionaries in our zone went caroling in the buses, metro stations, and shopping malls. We tried to share the joy of Christmas with our French brothers and sisters by singing carols, handing out brochures, and presenting copies of the Book of Mormon wrapped in Christmas paper. We wished the people a very merry Christmas. Just like the previous year, we were planning to spend Christmas Eve at a member family’s home. My companion and I had received an invitation and were looking forward to a wonderful homemade Christmas dinner.
On 24 December we worked hard the entire morning. When we returned home for lunch, we received a call from the family who had invited us for dinner that evening. They had to cancel the appointment because of a death in the family. We couldn’t go to their home because of their family commitments, so we tried to comfort them as best we could over the telephone. After we hung up, I realized this was going to be a very lonely Christmas Eve. The other elders in our apartment had been invited elsewhere. We ate our lunch and left again to work.
The evening fell, and a cold wind blew. As I looked at the Christmas trees lit up in warm homes—homes filled with happy faces—my thoughts wandered home to my own family in the Netherlands. They would be sitting together, singing Christmas carols, and reading the story of the Nativity. Then they would listen to Christmas music while my dad lit the candles on our Christmas tree. All of a sudden I felt very homesick.
We returned to our apartment, and I sat down at my desk, feeling very sorry for myself. I turned on a Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas tape and started to write in my journal.
One of the many things I learned on my mission was that those I served with were always my companion for a reason. Such was the case with Elder Wagner. After a while he got up from his desk and said he had a plan. “Why don’t we take some of our wrapped copies of the Book of Mormon, go down to the metro station, and talk to those who also feel lonely on Christmas Eve?” he suggested. I said I would join him, although I was pretty reluctant about the whole idea. I just wanted to sit in my chair and feel sorry for myself.
We left our apartment and started walking toward the metro. The closer we got to the station, the more I felt this wasn’t such a bad idea and might possibly turn out to be a good experience. When we boarded the metro, it was nearly empty. A few people were scattered about. I approached a man who was sitting alone by a window. Introducing myself, I asked if we could join him. He agreed. We started talking about families—his family, my family—and Christmas. He told me he was a refugee and had had to leave his country and his family. He told me about his wife and child and how much he missed them. Though our situations weren’t the same, I could sympathize because my family was also far away. Then I started talking about Jesus Christ, how much He meant to me, and how much Christmas meant to me. “The Savior came to earth,” I testified.
Instantly there was a fire burning in my soul. I felt the same burning sensation later that evening while I talked and testified of Jesus Christ to other people on the metro. When my companion and I finally left to return to our apartment, I was filled with a wonderful sense of appreciation. As we discussed the events of that evening I learned that my companion was feeling the same thing. We had truly felt the spirit of Christmas, and I felt as if my heart would burst with joy. The Savior was born in Bethlehem for me and for the entire world! How blessed I felt to have the gospel in my life and to have felt His love for me that night.
It was a Christmas I will always cherish, for it was on that Christmas Eve I finally learned what Christmas is all about. It is about Christ and sharing my precious testimony of the living Son of God.