Christmas In Costa Rica.
I remember thinking to myself what it would ever be like to be away from family on a Christmas morning. The thought would bring a lump to my throat because Christmas was a very special time of year for my family.
I grew up going between my dad’s house and to my mom’s house for the holidays. Each side would do things a little differently but it was a time that family would get together, enjoying the time we had together. Then in 2009-2010, I was in Costa Rica with the team on the first mission trip that I had been on, overseas.
This was going to be my first Christmas away from home.
The night before as a family we would go to a church service where we sang Christmas songs praising God for the birth of the newborn Jesus Christ. As kids, we would drive with parents knowing that on our mind was the question “ do we get to open presents tonight?”
It would usually come with the result of yes, and the time together with laughter, hot chocolate, a fire, and family would make the night unforgettable.
One of my favorite memories growing up was waking up on Christmas mornings. Waking up parents earlier than they would like, to open presents and the time with family around the tree. I am 25 now and still there is pure excitement for the morning of Christmas with family because it is about the time spent together. It is about the little moments when someone may open a present that they may not have been expecting and along with shrill of joy, couple tears, a great big hug.
Jeff Wilke and Kristy Wilke were my fearless team leaders who were planning out what Christmas eve and day would look like. Being overseas, sometimes an American meal can be a life-saver and just amazing and indescribable. So on Christmas Eve we actually ordered-in Pizza Hut and the team had an amazing American meal together.
Going to bed that night I wondered what my family was doing as I lay knowing that was not the case this year. It was not a personal, I am upset feeling because this will not happen, but I was thankful for the traditions that my mom and dad created growing up for us kids. I honestly in that time realized how much I truly missed my family.
The morning came with the heat of beautiful Costa Rica. I took the cold shower that cooled my body down to which I started sweating again after “trying” to dry off. We had breakfast together as a team. Jeff and Kristy called the attention of the team calling us to go to the Christmas tree sitting area. While we all waited patiently thinking that this was going to be a team meeting. Kristy and Jeff brought out a couple tubs that we had traveled with that was filled with plastic bags of letters and little presents from our families. Handing them out I watched as people opened up their packages and tears started to flow with joy.
I was actually nervous opening mine because I did not know how I would react. Men do not cry when opening Christmas cards and presents I thought to myself. Little did I know that was a false statement and as I read letters from family I started to tear up. In that time I was surrounded by a family itself, Team Costa Rica. I was so thankful for that morning and even for the time that Jeff and Kristy had taken to contact our parents to do such a special activity thousands of miles across the seas. It was a Christmas that I will never forget, my first Christmas overseas and to come, not my last.