“As Christ Comforts Us,” Ensign, Dec. 2011, 66
It was our first Christmas on the North Island of New Zealand—a beautiful and fascinating land. Yet despite the sunshine and the kindness of the Church members, I felt deep pangs of loneliness for my parents and siblings. We had moved from the United States earlier that year, and I felt homesick.
In our new area my husband and I became friends with the Wilsons, a young Irish family of another Christian faith who had also recently arrived in New Zealand. Noleen Wilson was my co-worker, and we soon became good friends, sharing experiences of immigrating and of our love for our new home. As our friendship grew, I became aware that their family was also struggling with loneliness as well as feelings of being overwhelmed. They had three young children and a fourth on the way.
One evening when I was feeling particularly lonely and sorry for myself, I had the impression that the best way to overcome my loneliness was to serve another—specifically the Wilsons. My husband and I decided that night to begin celebrating the 12 days of Christmas with the Wilsons by anonymously leaving messages and small gifts on their doorstep. Each night my loneliness was replaced with excitement and anticipation as we sneaked up to their home, left our message and gift, knocked on their door, and then ran away with big grins on our faces.
Each day at work Noleen would tell me about the mysterious “Christmas elves” who had visited the night before. She would relay stories of her children anticipating the arrival of their visitors, who were making the family’s Christmas a happy one. On several evenings the ward youth joined us in our fun.
On the final night, Christmas Eve, the Wilsons left a message and cookies on their doorstep, asking that they be able to meet their elves. When we arrived with the youth to sing carols as our final gift, the children were ecstatic and our friends embraced us with hugs and tears of gratitude. The loneliness in my heart was replaced with love and joy, and the bond of friendship between our families was strengthened.
Later we received an e-mail from a man in the Wilsons’ church who said he was so touched by what we had done for the family that he asked about our Church and the acts of service we provide for others. The congregation had never heard of the 12 days of Christmas and now associates this tradition with Latter-day Saints.
I will never forget that first Christmas in New Zealand, where I learned an unexpected way to forget myself, go to work, and “comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9)—just as Jesus Christ comforts us in our times of need and loneliness.