Action Team Christmas: grief, refugees and family
What’s it like to experience Christmas in a different culture? Most of us can only imagine. BMS World Mission Action Teamers from Thailand, Italy and Uganda share what they’re learning about a cross-cultural Christmas.
Sawasdee Pee Mai. Boun Natale. Webale Krismasi.
Those are all Christmas phrases the Action Teamers in Thailand, Italy and Uganda will be familiar with this holiday season. But, beyond those Christmas greetings, what’s life really like in these countries this time of year? And what wishes made it to the top of the Action Team Christmas lists this December?
A Thai Christmas: shining light in the darkness
Sombre – that’s been the overriding feeling for Action Team members Matt, Jenn, Annie and Ollie this Christmas season in Thailand. The country is in an official period of mourning after the death of the beloved Thai king, Bhumibol Adulyadej in October.
It’s challenging to be celebrating Christmas with people who are grieving, but the Thailand Action Team have managed to find a silver lining.
“It’s our hope that in this time of mourning that Thai people will be able to seek refuge in God,” says Jenn. “That would be really great.”
The team is also using the hope they have as fuel to build relationships and do good work. They spend their time working with disabled children at Hope Home, live and build relationships with Karen people and teach English at Siloam Bible College.
One of their biggest wishes this Christmas is for more doors to open to share the Christian faith.
“We would appreciate prayers for more opportunities to share our faith with others,” says Annie. “We want to be a blessing to the people we are working and living with because we’ve been so blessed by them.”
An Italian Christmas: gifts from refugees
Learning lessons from refugees – it’s not something Action Teamers Jess, Sarah, Finlay and Laura would’ve expected to be such a big part of their Christmas in Italy. But, their experiences working with refugees have reminded them about what really matters during the Christmas season.
“One thing we’ve realised is how important it is to give people time. A lot of refugees and guys we see begging on the streets find it really hard when people ignore them,” says Sarah. “They just really appreciate you standing there and having a conversation with them.”
In addition to giving people time, they’ve also found the faith of many refugees to be very inspiring.
“The amazing thing we’ve seen with so many of the refugees is that despite what they’ve been through, their faith seems unshaken,” says Laura. “If anything it’s gotten stronger and they are thanking God that he has been protecting them on the journey over to Italy.”
The Italy Action Team has the refugees on their hearts this holiday season and they’re praying for social equality and opportunities.
“We hope that they will not only be welcomed by people, but the state as well,” says Finlay. “We hope that it will get easier for them to get official documents and carry on.”
Keep refugees in mind this Christmas by giving to Syria’s Forgotten Families.
A Ugandan Christmas: people, not presents
With temperatures hovering around 30 degrees, it’s fair to say that the Uganda Action Teamers Isaac, Sophie, Stefano and Amy won’t be walking in a winter wonderland this Christmas.
The temperature is just one obvious contrast when comparing Christmas in the UK and Uganda. Beyond the heat, the team has noticed one of the biggest differences is that their African Christmas seems less materialistic.
“It’s refreshing,” says Amy. “There’s less of a focus on giving. In the UK you get used to having loads of adverts trying to con you into buying stuff, but there’s none of that here.”
Instead of focusing on gifts, Ugandans focus on relationship and families. It’s inspired the Uganda Action Team to do the same. They are making relationship the heart of what they do as they teach English and do Bible studies at Remand Home, a youth detention centre and as they work at a kids club.
This Christmas their wish is to continue to strengthen those relationships and be able to share Jesus with the youth.
“This Christmas we are praying especially for the youth at Remand Home,” says Isaac. “We’re getting to know them really well now and we’re hoping that we can find ways to introduce them to God.”
Please join us as we pray for our 34 Action Teamers this Christmas. Pray that their lives will be enriched as they spend Christmas in a different culture and that they will continue to be a blessing to the people that they encounter this year.
This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission.