November 1st is a significant day for me. It is the official day that Christmas celebrations can begin! Yes, you read that correctly. I begin celebrating the Christmas season on November 1st. (Much to the chagrin of my family and co-workers.) Recently, a friend asked me why exactly I choose to celebrate so early and as I began extorting the beauty and wonder and fulfillment that is Christmas, I realized that my celebrations are simply an attempt to recapture the feeling I had as a child.
I did not grow up in a wealthy family. In fact, the polar opposite. My childhood was unique in that I lived in a foreign country because my parents were called to serve God as missionaries. I know I was well loved, because I never questioned it. I was not spoiled with excessive gifts or possessions and Christmas was no exception to this rule. And yet, despite the few gifts, meager decorations, and balmy weather, Christmas was always a joyous time. The excitement of decorating, baking, and family time was palpable in the air. I have wonderful memories of watching home movies while eating my mom’s ooey gooey caramel popcorn, and celebrating with church guests and friends. The feeling of ‘home’ must have been almost tangible because guests flocked to our home to be a part of the celebration. My mom would play the piano (poorly) and sing Christmas carols (loudly) and all those around would join in. My dad would read the story of Jesus’ birth and remind everyone in his firm and kind voice of the true gift of Christmas.
As my memories of holidays past raced through my mind, I couldn’t help but think about the residents I pass in the hall every day. I wondered about their Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations as children. Did they have warm memories they wanted to recapture? Maybe holidays were a time of painful memories? Or a time of no celebration at all. Are the people who walk through our doors seeking a hot meal, a warm bed, and a kind word hoping to recapture a time where they felt safe, cared for, and loved?
I didn’t know it then, but my Christmas memories with my parents were numbered. God called them home and I was left with warm memories, a full heart, and a solid foundation in the word of God. Unfortunately, most of the men, women, and children who come through the Mission’s doors are equipped with memories of a broken home, scars from abuse or neglect, and no concept of the immense love their Creator has for them. Most have been discarded, broken and empty.
At the Mission, we feel truly privileged to care for our residents and community guests who come to us broken and hurting. We feel honored to have the opportunity to be a part of their story of redemption and renewal and as we care for them in practical and necessary ways through meals, shelter, and guidance, we also diligently pray for their hearts and find opportunities to share the message of God’s transforming power.
To be a part of someone’s story and make an imprint on their lives is a tremendous gift and my hope is that when our guests look back on this time of their lives, their experience at the Mission will be a warm memory of a time they were cared for, loved, and supported in their journey.
Author: Joy Barger, Findlay City Mission
The City Mission of Findlay is a proud member of the following organizations:
Citygate Network Mission Member, and Findlay Hancock Chamber of Commerce