This is an excerpt from Prepare for Impact, an upcoming book from Jeff Boesel about preparing to have impact and being impacted in cross-cultural kingdom work. Sara is a single missionary in a Latin American country. Through her misadventures, we discover areas of need in our own preparation.
Sara lay in bed, her eyes glazed and staring up at the stucco ceiling while her ears were being bombarded with the incessant sounds of fireworks exploding all around her. Occasional flashes of light from the explosions 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 ex-pat friends: this level of excitement, though, she had not anticipated. She was sure 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, the wee hours of Christmas day actually, and that is when, in many Central and South American countries, the Christmas celebration really happens. Fireworks at midnight would 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 what inhibitions there may have been for noise levels to melt away. Sara tried to convince herself that “it’s not wrong, it’s just different” as she had been taught; 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 louder and eventually roused her enough to realize that someone was at the door. She regretted leaving her visions of home behind but shook her head to clear out the dullness and glanced at the clock…2:30 AM…who could this possibly be? She hesitated with safety issues clouding her awakening mind but then heard Luz calling her name from outside the door. Sara got up, shouted for Luz to wait for a minute, and threw on some clothes.
She opened the door to a loud, but genuine, “Feliz Navidad!” accompanied by the usual hug and kisses on each cheek. Luz was a friend from her volleyball 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 this and 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 Jesús like amigo” in her best Spanglish.
Moments Like This
Sara sat there, open-mouthed, for a second. This was happening! This was why she was here. Without having to think about it, her mind jumped into the training from Evangelism Explosion on sharing her faith in Jesus she had received years ago. Because she was Catholic, Luz certainly understood who Jesus was and what he had done for her. To trust in him, alone, for salvation or to consider him a friend as well as savior were new thoughts. Sara was praying as she talked, all the previous 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.
What happened to Sara in this story happens 1000s of times around the world every day. People are coming into the kingdom, and the heavens are rejoicing as if it was Christmas all over again. It is Christmas in full circle. Jesus comes to seek and to save those who are lost, and he is finding them and bringing them home. Rejoice with heaven and with us this season and remember to pray for those who have yet to hear.