Let me start by saying I am so thankful to live in Montevideo. I love that we work with college students, that we get to see their lives transformed by God and then know that they are laboring for Him where ever they go after graduation. The college students live in Montevideo, therefore I am happy to live here. However I’m also thankful that all of these college students aren’t from Montevideo. I have had the great opportunity to leave the city sometimes, the great privilege of being invited into their homes, the great honor of experiencing the culture here in a deeper way. While it’s hard being away from home during the Christmas season, the friends that we have here have made summer in December feel as comfortable as possible!
December has been FULL for two main reasons: 1. We are planning for Vida Estudiantil’s summer camp and two weeks of summer mission trips for the students. January will be soo busy and right now we are organizing and planning every detail. 2. We’ve been able to do a lot of really fun stuff!!! We are enjoying life here in Uruguay!
The first weekend in December Natalie, Berto, and I went with a huge group of friend’s from church to Rivera. Rivera is a city waaaay north in Uruguay that borders Brazil. (see map!) We started the weekend with our first Uruguayan ROAD TRIP! This trip also made me realize how tiny Uruguay is as we drove across the entire country in 6 hours 🙂 Once we got there we explored the city and spent the day talking and laughing with friends. We stayed with a dear friend who atually lives across the border in Brazil, went to a concert (we didn’t understand anything as it was in Portuguese), and spent all day Sunday at her ranch. We ate asado at 2am, sang karaoke, and spent most of the afternoon just hanging out in the shade, drinking coke and sharing time together. It was an AMAZING weekend!!
The second weekend in December we spent Saturday in Florida, another department of Uruguay. The girls on my team and I went to visit a friend who lives there for the day. While it was SUPER hot, we enjoyed the day so much! Life moves slower there, you don’t hear busses screeching by your house and it’s nice to be with a family every once and a while. We went to the feria (outdoor market), explored the city, took naps, went to a circus that was touring from Brazil, spent time just hanging out by the river, and ended the day at her youth group watching them practice for their Christmas show. It truly is refreshing to get out of Montevideo sometimes.
December brings the end of the school year here and the start of summer. We had our end of the year party for Vida Estudiantil and a party for our last Medicine Bible study. We’ve spent countless days at the beach with friends. We had a house full of Uruguayans this week for a Christmas party and White Elephant Gift Exchange! We are blessed beyond measure here in Montevideo.
Yes, I miss Christmas lights and the neighborhoods where every house looks like a tiny lit-up gingerbread house. I really miss snow (even though I definitely don’t miss my car being an icicle every morning). I miss Starbucks holiday drinks and Christmas music and fireplaces. I miss my Christmas tree and my Mama’s snowman collection and the Holidazzle. I miss danceteam season and I miss talking with my friends for hours. I miss my church and I miss my family and I really miss all of our traditions. BUT never have I ever had a tan in December and never have I ever gone to the beach on Christmas Eve, and never have I ever been to a Christmas show in Spanish (We went to one at our church last night that was phenomenal!) and never have I ever been able to experience so many new things and meet so many new wonderful people and see God working in so many different ways.
If I check my heart and force myself to realize it, I remember that December isn’t about Christmas because of snow or lights or cookies or songs or family traditions. Sure, these things are all good and have shaped me and my view of the Christmas season. But really, December is about Christmas because God loved us so much that he humbled Himself and entered this world as a baby. Love came down on Christmas Day! In the absence of all of the things that “make Christmas” how have I been preparing my heart for the real meaning of Christmas? This year more than ever Christmas has been stripped down to make it easy for me to focus on Jesus and instead of doing that, I have just been focusing on the absence of all of the other stuff. Christmas is about Jesus Christ, Immanuel which means “God is with us”. This means that God is with me where ever I go and where ever I find myself at Christmas time. Nothing can separate us from His love and nothing can change what He has done for us in sending us His son, Jesus Christ. If I cling to this truth, I obviously will still miss my family and the way Christmas is back home, but I guess December summer isn’t so bad after all!
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” -Isaiah 9:6-7