A letter from Paul Matheny in the Philippines
Dear Friends in Christ,
Christmas and New Year celebrations are a very big deal in the Philippines. The villages are brightly lit at night and every moment possible is taken to celebrate the season. Filipinos love to celebrate. They love family and friends. During the holidays family reunions are held, where family members and close friends gather to share, play games together and feast. These are the best times of the year, when the most trusted and appreciated friendships can be renewed and enjoyed.
In a country where few have gifts to exchange, this is a moment that is remembered the entire year. At our church, we celebrate most of the evening together just before Christmas. There are activities, songs, games, gifts and worship for long, wonderful hours.
The children of the neighborhood are invited. Many of them are homeless, impoverished and from broken families. They come alone, without parents — they have had to become accustomed to striking out on their own. This time of sharing marks the high point of the Christmas season for many of them; for many, it is the only celebratory moment they will know at Christmas.
I love Christmas here. It is not only about being with family for Christmas. It is about being with Christ’s family. The welcome and the friendship in Christ, so much a part of a Filipino holiday, release the Holy Spirit in our midst. During the rest of the year, poverty and the fear it breeds can sometimes be too much for people. During Christmas there is no time for fear, only time for fellowship.
Paul Matheny, Mary Nebelsick and Rachel Marie Matheny
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 151