To all of you,
The Christmas season is very different from the season of years past for these missionaries. There are few Christmas songs, the stories of Christmas that they heard before their missions are only in their memories, there are no pageants, I have yet to hear anything about the birth of the Savior from the pulpits, nor Sunday School classes, and none in Relief Society nor Priesthood. Likewise, I have not heard a seasons greeting. Last Sunday I visited with a Branch President and told him what Christmas was like at home. He said that they don't know the hymns nor songs of Christmas. He hadn't thought about the Christmas story as a possible subject for talks. I think that somehow these marvelous people will get something from Christmas the next two Sundays.
The current make up of the mission is; 20 sisters,half of the Elders are from the states & Europe half of the elders are from Africa. Your sons are very diligent in their work and they are glad the Christmas season is here. They are teaching by word, deed, and example the reason for the great Christmas message to the world. ...For unto us a child is born....
They remember the sweet times of home. They remember their families and friends. They are happy.
Their work has changed their lives and you will be so surprised when they return. They are surprised at themselves! One of our soon to be released missionaries made the following comments: Said he; As I reflect upon my mission I contemplate some scriptures and quoted from Mosiah 2: 20-24, I am so blessed because of the change that has been wrought in my life. I want to just bawl. He expressed in such a humble manner that he hopes that he can continue to do what is asked of him and expressed a willingness to do so. He expressed gratefulness to the message he was privileged to deliver and thankfulness to his family, friends, leaders and others who helped him along the way." I know his sentiments mirror what your sons say and think.
Not that this work is easy. I look at their shoes, dirty and worn out from walking long distances on dusty roads. I look at their yellow colored collars. The creases in their trousers are almost non-existent, they are stained. Their meals are scanty but sufficient. The heat takes a lot out of them. On P-day their wash tubs turn to mud as they put their shirts, socks, underclothing into the water to clean with their hands and rub the dirt out until the the skin on their knuckles are nearly worn off. They sleep with a fan on hoping to be comfortable. Can you imagine this? And they then say, most of the time, "today is the best day of my life". I reverence their love and devotion.
They love to teach, they love the people. They wish that everyone would come a partake of the fruit of the tree of life. But, they have the disappointments of people not being able to come to the table and feast at the Lord's table. But, they know that the message delivered will resonate into the lives of those who are just not quite ready. They rejoice with those who come into the waters of baptism and begin a new life.
The language and customs can be very challenging as well, both of the people here and their companions who they grow to love as they mature in the nature of their missionary call.
We are grateful to all of you for your love and concern for your valient sons, the Lord knows them, and he takes care of them. Just as he took care of our forefathers. Through the trials of living we are prepared to receive great blessings. Blessings that we can't even begin to imagine.
Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season,
Elder & Sister Semken