A Christmas Carol
by Diana Fish
his time of year, when I’m with my students in the Junior Sabbath School class I teach at Holbrook Indian School (HIS), I like to ask the question, “What do you think of when you hear the name Ebenezer Scrooge?” If they know who he is, they often say, “Humbug!” “He hates Christmas,” “He is a stingy old miser!” They never seem to remember the end of the story when Scrooge is a changed man—born again, if you will.
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” This is the conclusion that we all seem to forget. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol demonstrates how Ebenezer Scrooge responded to God’s love and mercy in giving him a second chance.
At HIS, we seek to help our students see themselves in the light of God’s love for them—a love that stays the same, regardless of the harmful choices they’ve made or the horrific things that have happened to them. Often, our students are weighed down with past regrets, wounds caused by people who were supposed to be looking out for their best interests, and broken hearts caused by abandonment.
But there is hope! When our students open their hearts to the possibilities of a loving God who created them with a purpose, a change begins to happen. When they begin to see themselves through the eyes of our merciful Creator who truly wants what is best for them, they begin to come to life. It is a miraculous thing to witness.
No student has impacted me more than Quentina, who came to Holbrook as a fifth grader. She was a wild child—some might even say feral. Once I tried to take a group picture of the elementary class with our principal, Mr. Ojeda. She was everywhere: under the table, behind the students, jumping back and forth. I couldn’t get a good shot with her in it. Then in the last picture, there she was in all her glory: a big blur leaping right in front of Mr. Ojeda and all of the students.
She once yelled at a teacher who was trying to help her, “Just give me an F!” Trips to the principal’s office were a daily occurrence. However, over the four years she’s been at HIS, a transformation has taken place. She is now on the honor roll and cares very much about her grades. She loves to read. She dreams of going into law enforcement so she can help people. And recently, she was baptized. When asked why she made the decision to follow Jesus, she said it is because she wants to help her family.
Like Ebenezer Scrooge, Quentina experienced rebirth. She doesn’t fully understand what that means yet, but she is truly a new creation. "Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV). She has responded to our God of second chances.
Quentina is why we keep doing what we do at HIS. When we see her, we are filled with a renewed sense of purpose. Many of our students do not respond the way she has—it can be terribly discouraging when we see our students reject what God has to offer them. But then we remember the end of the story. In the famous last words of A Christmas Carol, "God bless Us, Every One!”
New Years in
by Olivia Hale
When you think of of celebrating New Year’s Eve, what comes to mind? Is it getting together with friends and family? Is it trying to stay awake until the countdown? Or is it relaxing with fellow missionaries after a day of serving in a Central American community? I never thought of spending the holidays with other young adults on a mission trip to Nicaragua—but now I wish I could ring in every new year with such an adventure.
I was on a travel job in Vermont about seven years ago, when an old friend sent a fascinating Facebook message to me. Joy was raising funds for a mission trip to Nicaragua, and she was set to leave in less than two months. This wasn’t some large group being led by an established organization. Joy was planning and leading the whole trip for herself and for a group of friends.
After donating, I had this conviction to ask if I could join. Without hesitation, Joy invited me along, and a mixture of feelings came over me. I was excited, but I also didn’t have another travel job lined up for after the holidays. I had just enough money for the trip, but I would need to start a new job as soon as I got back if I wanted to pay bills in January.
Over the next few weeks, I went back and forth with Joy, telling her I wasn’t sure if I could manage it. She told me, “Just have faith.” Despite my shaky faith and short funds, God knew where He wanted me and He had plans to grow my faith.
My current travel job ended, and it was less than a week before I would need to hop on a plane to Nicaragua. I still had no job lined up. On the drive home just before Christmas, as the snowy Northeastern scenery turned into the green and grey of the Southeast, I asked God for guidance.
I prayed aloud in the car, “God, if you want me on this mission trip, I need a job lined up by today.” Normally I don’t put God on a time schedule, but I was desperately paralyzed with indecision and I wasn’t sure what else to do. I continued my journey amidst the traffic of other travelers headed home for the holidays, when suddenly, my travel recruiter called. He told me that he didn’t have one job lined up for me, but two.
When God waits until the last minute to give you an answer, you know the answer is from Him. Maybe He is waiting to see if you will hang in there and trust Him, or if you’ll abandon ship? I’m so glad I waited, because it was an early lesson on trusting God’s promise from Ephesians 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (NKJV).
Jump forward to New Year’s Eve; there I was in the heart of an adventure with God. My fellow missionaries and I slept in bunkhouses with iguanas running above the ceiling tiles, painted a school, made meals for local villages, taught dental hygiene, put on Bible plays, provided medical care, and even taught balance and fall prevention for senior citizens. We also witnessed poverty—unspeakable poverty.
Though I have travelled all over the world, I never knew true poverty until I visited La Chureca. La Chureca, in Managua, Nicaragua, was once the largest landfill in Central America. With over eight square miles of burning garbage heaps, it was toxic to all five senses. Picture one thousand people living and working in a dump, half of which are children, and you can imagine La Chureca.
How do you teach health and hygiene to people living in a garbage dump? We spent only one day in this community, but it was enough to show me that everything is a matter of perspective. I went from being thankful that I had another job lined up in time to go on an exciting trip, to just being thankful for clean air, for grass in my yard, and for a job that didn’t involve digging through burning trash.
The compound where we were staying felt opulent after that, even when washing our clothes in an outdoor sink and listening to iguanas run through the ceilings. Our residence was surrounded with scrubby greenery that looked like the Garden of Eden compared to the landfill. We had local cooks preparing three delicious meals for us every day, and after La Chureca, I heard fewer complaints about how each meal consisted of rice and beans. (I secretly loved having this for every meal!)
After worship, our small team gathered on couches pushed together around a tiny television set and watched a lighthearted New Year’s movie. We relished the simple luxury. I don’t think many of us, if any, made it until midnight. But that New Year’s Eve wasn’t about the countdown, the new year, or personal resolutions.
I looked around and smiled in gratitude for the people I had the honor of ringing in the New Year with. I couldn’t believe I had almost missed that great adventure with God by my lack of faith and financial fear. On that mission trip to Nicaragua, it wasn’t just about a New Year; it was about discovering what adventures God would lead me on next.
Memories of Christmas in 1988
by Daniel-H. Woywod, Germany
he year 1988 was very special. Almost in the midst of my life, I decided to get married. Since my bride came from Latin America, all kinds of preparations had to be made. We would be getting married at the end of the year in 1988. I was ready to travel and start a new part of my life.
I approached Christmas with feelings of excitement, counting every single day. Happiness, love, joy, hope and thankfulness filled my heart on December 21, 1988, as I drove back home from a company Christmas party. I was ready for a three month vacation and to become a husband and start a new life with my beloved one.
Amidst those happy feelings that evening, I turned on the radio to listen to the news. All of a sudden, I froze. What? What happened? Did I listen correctly? The radio speaker reported about a horrible air disaster: PANAM flight 103 traveling from Frankfurt via London Heathrow to New York crashed at GMT 19:02 in a Scottish village called Lockerbie. All passengers died.
I rushed to my desk where I had all my documents from my travel agency. I looked at the details from my tickets and was shocked. Yes, there was PANAM flight 103 that I had booked a couple of months before. No doubt! The copy of the ticket was in my hands. Deep and indescribable feelings flooded over me as I fell to my knees and thanked God for sparing my life. By His providence, I had canceled that ticket a month before, choosing to travel just a week later.
Almost 31 years later, in August of 2019, I had the opportunity to visit Lockerbie, the place of the air disaster. My son accompanied me while visiting the memorial site for the 270 victims. We saw the place where the wing of the airplane had fallen down and destroyed three houses with an exploding fireball. Not one of the inhabitants were found. The cockpit had crashed eight miles away, near an old country church. We talked with several people at Lockerbie’s city hall and at the memorial site and saw the list of the names of 270 dead people—names engraved in stones at the cemetery.
Today this is an unforgettable historical life experience for me and my family. There is a God who cares and rescues us, even in a world of evil. By His providence, a marriage, a new family, and a new generation were born. God rescues and gives comfort to the bereaved. Thanks and praise be to His holy name.
– Pew Research Center