Friday, February 6, 2015

Xmas in Xalapa

December 22, 2007 – December 25, 2007

A nativity scene at the cathedral in downtown Xalapa.

Maybe other people have different opinions, but mine is that Christmas as a missionary is hard. For lots of missionaries, it’s their first Christmas away from family, and there’s a good chance the people in their missions don’t have a lot of the same traditions they enjoyed back home. I loved my mission, and I love Christmas, but I can’t say I loved Christmas on my mission.

The week of Christmas opened with Elder Nájera getting sick. He got a stomach bug, but he must have been feeling better by Christmas Eve because the local bishop’s family invited us over for dinner that night. Pres. Johnson told us we were allowed to stay out a little later than normal on Christmas Eve for that reason, which was nice because I don’t think we even started dinner until around 9 PM. The mission also switched P-day that week to Christmas Day, so we wouldn’t have to worry about trying to set appointments for Christmas morning.

Christmas is also one of the two days of the year that missionaries get to call home to talk to their families (the other is Mother’s Day). The week before, we asked a family in the ward and if we could have our families call their house to talk to us. Then we sent that family’s number to our families via email. I remember being really confused about the country codes my family needed to dial to get through. I think something went wrong because I remember having to use a payphone to call home and talk them through how to call us at the other number. But we finally got connected, and I chatted with my parents.

It was definitely nice to talk, but it’s also inevitably distracting. We were limited to forty minutes each, I think, so there was no way I’d be able to go through everything I wanted. I tried to make clear that I was happy and that everything was going well, so they wouldn’t worry about me. I also didn’t feel like I could talk entirely frankly about the all the cultural differences because the local family was right there with us, and I was afraid they’d understand at least bits and pieces of my English.

After calling home, we had to take Elder Nájera to the doctor, who turned out to be a member of another ward in Xalapa. Unfortunately, he wasn’t ready for us when we arrived, so we ended up waiting a long time to see him. I hated losing time on P-days because I felt like they were already too short, but Elder Nájera was really sick, so there wasn’t anything we could have done about it.

The best part of Christmas (for me, at least) was probably teaching some lessons in the evening. First we visited the newly-baptized Cadena family. Missionaries continue visiting and teaching new converts even after they’ve been baptized, to help them adjust to the new lifestyle. We reviewed some of the things we taught them the first time we met them, and they gave us some nice hot chocolate. It was fun to see how far they’d already come after just a few weeks of being members of the church.

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