But it's fine, I'm here now, and what better week to start up again than Christmas? I know, I could'nt agree more.
Christmas in Korea, however, is....well.... as I've already hashed out before.... not really Christmas. There might be a lit up tree or two in front of the Macy's-esque department store, and there might be Christmas songs playing on the streets, but the overall feel and ambiance is definitely not the same. I'm sure as a normal person in Korea, you can watch holiday movies and decorate the tree and do all you can to bring the spirit in, but as a missionary, those opportunities are almost non-existent. At first, the season was seeming to come and go without much fanfare and nothing we could do was going to stop it.....
So we got to work.
Step 1: Decorate with what we can. I whipped out the little one foot tall Christmas tree and miniature lights, garland, and ornaments that came with it and plopped it right on my desk surrounded by the pre-wrapped presents my wonderful mother sent me. The other Elders in the house also made their makeshift decorations using things also sent to them from their families.
Step 2: Sing Christmas songs only. Each day when we start companionship study, we sing a hymn. For the entire month of December, we sang only Christmas hymns. Yes, the less than 10 songs provided in the Korean hymnbook got tiring - but we still sang them!
Step 3: Get the band back together. Elder Tischner (violin), Sister Jensen (beautiful vocals), and I (piano) once upon a time performed "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at the stake talent show. We slapped together our own arrangement and everybody loved it so much that the ward requested for us to perform again for the Christmas Party. The song? Oh Holy Night. And the outcome? Standing applause ;) Oh, and Christmas Spirit.
Step 4: Hold a zone caroling activity. A new transfer comes new meetings, and we were required to hold our zone conference on Christmas Eve. As horrible as it sounds, I did all I could to make both the meeting exciting, but also the post-meeting time as well. Once it ended, all 24 of us missionaries went to the downtown shopping area and ate Christmas Eve Dinner (sushi) and then caroled the night away. It was such a hit, that not only was everyone that passed by recording and taking pictures of us, but the Daejeon news also came with their big camera and reporter and blasted us onto the big screen in the shopping district (think times square). It was crazy and tons of fun - and after we finished, a missionary turned to me and said "hey - it really isbeginning to look a lot like Christmas!"
Step 5: Skype the family. Christmas morning came, and while their wasn't anything special about the morning in Korea, the second the webcam turned on, I felt the season blast through the computer and pour out into the little room in the church I was skyping from. While I had done all I could to brighten up the atmosphere over here in Daejeon, it became crystal clear to me that Christmas, simply, is family. While we weren't together in reality, it was still wonderful to talk and see each other. Best Christmas Present ever.
Step 6: Share the joy with everyone else. So the build up happened, Christmas came, the joy was high! And it became time to spread that joy to everyone around us. On the night of the 25th, we went from investigator house to member house to less active house to investigator house, caroling and sharing the true message, and gift, of the holiday.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son" is the story that sparked everything that Christmas is, was, and will always be. A gift to the world - a gift of love, hope, and peace. These are things that Christmas is truly about, and these are the things that my mission has revolved around. Things might be hard, and unfair at times too, but with the concepts of love, hope, peace, service, kindness, friendship, family, and giving in our lives, life all of a sudden becomes more than worth living. And Christmas, on both sides of the world, is a wonderful time to cherish these wonderful attributes and reasons to live for.
Merry Christmas Everyone!