At the end of October 2020, we arrived on the mission field in Southeast Asia after a long wait.
Starting our first term as cross-cultural workers was a dream come true after several years of preparation and prayer. And this was made even more special because we were with our children, aged 3 and 1. There would be many “firsts” for this Christmas: the first away from the extended family, the first in a different country, the first when it was just the four of us.
We realized we had the opportunity to incorporate new traditions into our family Christmas traditions, which we could create together with our children. And the first “new tradition” arose like this: from within our very own family. As we told our children the Christmas story, going through every detail of Jesus’ birth, we noticed our daughter (our 3 year old) was very attentive. Connecting the dots in her little mind, she asked:
“Mummy, if this is the day Jesus was born, then is it also his birthday?”
“Yes, my little one!”
“So let’s buy a cake and sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus!”
Thus was created a new family tradition. Singing happy birthday together reminds us that Jesus is the main reason for this celebration.
So we decided to order a decorated birthday cake (something that is very common here) and then came the reality check: we asked them to write “Happy Birthday Jesus,” on the cake, but the shop assistants didn’t understand the name. They had never heard the name Jesus! Neither in English nor in the local language, Khmer. We wrote it more than once until they understood and then we got (more or less) what we wanted.
On this first Christmas spent just the four of us together, we had the joy of creating a celebration of the One who is the greatest reason for joy, the Prince of Peace, and we will be able to tell this story to our children when they grow up. At the same time, however, we were faced with the reality of the spiritual darkness in which most people in this region of the world live, not knowing the true Light, and, in many cases, not even knowing a single Christian through whom can shine the light of Jesus as they carry His Name.