Christmas in the field – One Missionary’s Perspective

My 18 months as a full-time missionary wound around the calendar giving me two winters in France. Two winters meant two Christmas seasons away from traditions with family and friends. While the first Christmas was a little hard as a new missionary away from home, the second one was probably one of my favorite experiences as a servant of the Lord. Whether you’re a new or seasoned missionary, just try to make the most of the season!

For missionaries:

What better time to strike up a conversation about Jesus Christ and his restored gospel? No one will tell you striking up a conversation with strangers is the easiest part of the mission, but when the whole world is buzzing with twinkle lights or rumors of strange Christian customs, there’s no better time than Christmas to practice new contacting conversation-starters!

“Happy Holidays! Do you have plans for Christmas?”

Be ready to give them plans! Invite them to the nearest Church for ward pageants and nativity displays. Invite them to visit a temple for a festive stroll on the grounds. Because my ward in Toulouse was made up of so many different cultures, we came up with a “Christmas around the world” celebration. We invited all of our investigators and some even volunteered to put a Christmas activity or tradition from their culture on display. My display was simply a gingerbread house and people loved it! We also ate a delicious variety of foods and desserts from these cultures as we watched the presentations. It was a real hit! Whatever your district, ward, or stake has going on, make sure you have cards to hand out to invite people. Activities are one of your greatest tools to create member and investigator ties, and Christmas is the best excuse to celebrate Christ so both members and investigators can create ties to the Savior.

Other conversation starters:

“Do you know the story about the birth of Jesus Christ?”
“Have you ever experienced a miracle?”
“What do you think the true meaning of Christmas is?”
“What is your favorite Christmas song?”
“What is your best Christmas memory?”
“If you could give Christ a present, what would you offer Him?”
“What are your favorite Christmas traditions?”
“What is your favorite thing about this time of year?”

Another fun activity we did as missionaries, along with some members and investigators, was caroling in town squares. People would sometimes stop and listen or even join in. Standing in the frigid humidity and singing with friends about Christ in joyous harmonies really warmed my heart—and I hope others’ hearts—to the spirit of Christmas. Music has that special touch.

My companion and I also went with a member to visit people in need, which was a great way to spend time on Christmas day. We had a supply of clementine oranges with us, and along the way we handed out clementines to the homeless. A word of advice: Christmas day isn’t necessarily the best day for door-to-door contacting, so fill your day with planned visits or go get yourself as much face time with people on the streets so they can see servants of Christ busy building Christmas cheer on the day celebrating His birth! But, as always, listen to and follow the Spirit, because He may have just the place for you to go.

For loved ones back home:

Christmas is the day to call your missionary, hooray! (More on that in a second.) But it’s still really fun to have a package or letter to open on Christmas morning. My creative mother sent me a package in a box like a shoebox, where three sides of the box detach and the fourth bends where it still connects. On the connected flap she had drawn a Christmas tree and decorated it with mini ornaments. Then, in a pile beneath the tree, the box held individually wrapped gifts and treats. The happy sight made me feel like a little piece of my family’s own living room had been shipped right to my door! Anything you can afford to send will brighten your missionary’s holiday, even if it just a special Christmas letter.

For the phone call home:

Missionaries:

  • DON’T forget to arrange a call time with your family in your weekly emails home in the couple of weeks preceding the day, keeping in mind that some of you may be several hours or even a day ahead or behind your home time zone.
  • Make sure you track down any calling cards or currencies or websites you’ll need and make sure you know which phone you’ll use before the day arrives.
  • If you have a large family, being put on speaker phone will help you share the day-to-day details with everyone before you switch to personal conversations with moms or dads or your other favorite people. Be patient with possible delay in the sound if you’re calling long distance.
  • If you are in need of supplies or want to be SURE you don’t forget to talk about something, keep a list and have it ready during the call so you cover it all!
  • You’ll need to be with your companion during your call, but you can still request privacy if you need to talk to your family about anything sensitive. Arrange with your mission president and your companion to accommodate this situation.
  • If your family is spread out or somehow separated, arrange with your mission president how many different phone calls you can make and how long each call can be or use three-way calling.
  • Your missionary may need you to call them! If this is the case, make sure you have a confident understanding of area codes and phone numbers, because foreign calls can get a bit tricky. Remind your missionary to gather all the necessary information and report it to you in emails two weeks before Christmas.
  • Sometimes it can be hard for a missionary to remember everything the family already knows or might like to know. It can be helpful for you to keep a list of topics or questions that you want to talk about so conversation keeps moving for the whole call.
  • Remember that your missionary loves being obedient! The missionary handbook allots 45 minutes for each missionary phone call. Don’t push the limits; have your items of business ready so you can get them out of the way and then enjoy hearing about experiences and converts—or whatever your missionary wants to talk about. That way your missionary can get back out there and tell other families how they can be together forever!

Parents:

Tip for the “significant other” back home who feels tempted to be counted among the crowd gathered around the phone when the missionary calls:

  • Having been one who gave in to such temptation, I can tell you from my own experience, I don’t think it helped. Your missionary feels connected to you through the letters and care packages that ensure he or she hasn’t been forgotten!

Reconnecting with loved ones and hearing their voices can stir up strong feelings and emotions. Be strengthened and uplifted by the call as much as you can, focus on the blessing and privilege it is to be serving the Lord, and then get back out there and spread the “good tidings of great joy . . . to all people”! (Luke 2:10)

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14)

For more information on how to make the most of your Christmas phone call, see:
Making the Most of the Christmas Call – A Missionary’s Perspective
The Christmas Phone Call, by Emily Freeman