“Sara lay in bed, her eyes glazed and staring at the stucco ceiling while her ears were bombarded with the incessant sounds of fireworks exploding all around her. Occasional flashes of light filled her room through the same window that allowed daylight and diesel fumes to enter her flat. “Do these people ever go to sleep?” she thought as she forced her eyes closed. Sara had been told this night would be “exciting” by some of her expat friends; this level of excitement, though, she had not anticipated. She could’ve sworn that some of the popping sounds she was hearing were semi-automatic rifle related, though she couldn’t be certain… and she sure wasn’t going to get up and look out her window to find out!
It was Christmas Eve – well, it was actually the wee hours of Christmas day – and that is when, in many Central and South American countries, the Christmas celebration really happens. Fireworks at midnight announce the beginning of the holiday, followed by the opening of presents and a huge Christmas meal. Wine and other drinks would flow freely, allowing any inhibitions for noise levels to melt away. Sara tried to convince herself that, as she had been told, “it’s not wrong, it’s just different;” however, the longer she lay there, the more she was convinced that this difference was wrong!
Eventually the din subsided and Sara felt her mind and body relaxing, sleep drifting over her. Though not fully asleep, she seemed to be at home in Michigan, and all was right with her world except for the loud knocking sound of a woodpecker against a nearby tree. The knocking became frustratingly loud and eventually roused her enough to realize that someone was at the door. She regretted leaving her visions of home behind, but she shook her head to clear out the drowsiness and glanced at the clock… 2:30 AM… who could this possibly be? She hesitated, with safety issues clouding her awakening mind, but then she heard Luz calling her name from outside the door. She got up, shouted for Luz to wait for a minute, and threw on some clothes.
She opened the door to a loud and genuine “Feliz Navidad!” accompanied by the usual hug and kisses on each cheek. Luz was a friend from her voleibol club, one of the few local relationships that Sara had developed more deeply. Why on earth was she here in the middle of the night? Sara offered Luz some café and the two settled into some conversation about the holiday. Luz filled in some of the gaps in Sara’s cultural understanding about this holiday with her animated descriptions of the rituals her family enjoyed every Christmas season. As Sara began to share about her love of Christmas and the reason for the celebration, she noticed that Luz became more and more pensive. She stopped Sara midsentence to comment “Hablas about Jesύs like amigo,” in her best Spanglish.
Sara sat there, open-mouthed, for a second. Was this happening? This was why she was here. Without having to think about it, her mind jumped into the Evangelism Explosion training that she had received years ago on sharing her faith in Jesus. As a Catholic, Luz certainly understood who Jesus was and what he had done, but to trust in him alone for salvation, or to consider him a friend as well as savior, were new ideas. Sara prayed constantly as she talked, all her tiredness and frustration a distant memory. By 4:30 AM, there was a new member of the Kingdom. God had given Sara an unexpected Christmas present.”