There comes a moment in every missionary's life when he realizes, "Holy cow. I done didn't write last week." Well.
Merry Christmas! How are things back wherever you all are? Things are mighty fine here in Espaillat. I got through my first official transfer! I'm staying in Espaillat with Elder Miller for my second, but there was a change in housing. We lost an Elder Osorio but we gained an Elder Barlow. Now we have three Americans and I've taught them to play Five Crowns.
Elders Osorio and Johnson
Turns out, there's actually an American food place here in our area called Cesar's Fast Food. Now, it's not really American. They do have hot dogs and hamburgers, but it's.... different. The hot dogs have corn on them. The burgers... Hmmm. They're like raspberry Jolly Ranchers. A raspberry Jolly Rancher tastes nothing like a raspberry, but it does taste good. So yes. These burgers only taste vaguely like a burger. I don't know the words for half of the stuff they put on it in Spanish. Or English. But they're good, and if you show up on a Tuesday, they'll give you a burger, fries, and a drink for only 100 pesos. The cultured American within me is wondering, "Why for the love of everything holy am I putting this in my body?" But the raging capitalist is crying, "YAS, GIRL, YAAASSS!!!"
Last week in church, I was talking to a fifteen-year-old lad who's a recent convert. I asked him how the Young Men meeting was. "It was good, but I had to give the closing prayer and I was super nervous," he said. "Why were you nervous?" I asked. "Well," he said, "because I wasn't sure if I could follow up the opening prayer. It was really good."
I MISS CHRISTMAS MUSIC! Ah. Okay. Just had to get that out of my system. Moving on.
So, time for the serious part. It's Christmas time. Cliché and easily expected enough, I'm going to say a word on being thankful for what we have. I've had eighteen Christmases in the United States. I know what it's like there, specifically in Logan. First is the snow. I've always loved the snow. Hated it, but loved it. Y'all understand. There is perhaps no more peaceful and existential moment for me than the feeling of being outside in a perfect snowfall at night. I think you've all seen the kind. It's when there's already a foot or more of snow on the ground. The sky is orange, and the snowflakes are big and fluffy. There's no wind. The air is quiet, and it's like the earth is holding its breath. One could almost believe the rest of the world's asleep. And it's just you. Silence. Perfect peace. Maybe it's just me; I love that. Of course there's also sledding or having a snowball fight till your nose turns pink and your cheeks sting and then you come inside and warm up with a mug of hot chocolate. Also, the food. Heaps of potatoes and gravy. Turkey. Ham. Ice cream. Salad with croutons. Plenty to drink. The feeling of going running in the snow because you feel gross from being a lazy eggnog drinker for a week and a half. The excitement of waking up on Christmas morning and opening presents. Singing Christmas songs. Spending time with family. Playing games, watching movies, and after Christmas is over, going to all the after-Christmas sales. It's a time of happiness and family and it's more or less a time of goodness.
In this area, the people don't have those blessings. The best houses are cobbled together from painted cinderblocks. There's no insulation. Most people have only two or three sets of clothing and couldn't afford heavy clothing even if it was available. If snow fell here, people would die. Christmas music isn't even a thing. The streets rumble with bassy Denbó. Street preachers dot the sidewalks, shouting hellfire and damnation. In order to have enough to pay for Christmas food and one or two small presents, the honest people go out early in the morning and don't come back until late, working in whatever capacity they can possibly find to earn just a little more money. As for the dishonest, you have to watch your back during the day and avoid everything except for the main roads after dark. You hear stories during the day and gunshots to back them up at night. The things you see in the streets this time of year are both sad and humbling.
Now, I want to be clear that I'm not saying this for my own benefit. As missionaries, we have rules to protect us and we get money automatically put into our accounts every two weeks. We get invited over and we eat off of the grace and goodwill of the countless people who we are privileged to know. We don't suffer in any meaningful way.
But the point is this: as you open your presents on Christmas day, as you throw that first snowball, as you dig into your pile of mashed potatoes, remember. Remember that there are people out in the world who don't have what you have. Be grateful. Give thanks to God. And then do something. I don't care what. Help a neighbor. Donate something to DI. Be that person who leaves a mystery envelope with a little something extra inside. Give away money to help at home or abroad. I don't care. Just DO something. Make a little sacrifice. This is something that of course, sometimes we do. But all too often, we don't. We hear stories like this every Christmas. We give thanks for what we have. We feel bad for the poor. And then we do nothing about it. I know this. Because like I said, I've lived through eighteen Christmases in the States. It's practically tradition.
Anyway, I don't mean to Johnny Raincloud on anyone's Christmas. By all rights, I do hope you all get to participate in the wonderful above listed activities and have the grandest of times. But remember, and be grateful.
The elders in our house around our little tree. Yes, I'm not smart enough to look at the camera.
Love you. Hope you all have a cheerful Christmas. Say your prayers. Read your scriptures. Remember that the Chargers just beat the Niners at the Niners by three points in overtime after overcoming a twenty-one point deficit.
Peace on earth,