Christmas in Africa

A couple and their 3 small children had gone to live in Africa for 3 years due to the husband’s work assignment. They held Church meetings in their own living room with just each other – there were no other LDS people in the area. By their third Christmas, Jan, the Mom, was very homesick. She confessed this to a good friend who was a Mennonite. Jan told her how she missed her own people, their traditions, even snow. Her friend sympathized and invited her to go with her the next month to the Christmas services being held in the only Protestant church in the area. She said there would be a reunion at that time for all the Mennonite missionaries on the whole continent.  It took some talking for Jan to persuade her husband, but there they were, being ushered kindly to the front of a small chapel. It felt good being in a church again at Christmas time. The minister gave a poignant sermon on Christ, and the congregation sang familiar carols with joy. Then, at the very end of the meeting, a choir of Mennonite missionaries from all over Africa made their way to stand just in front of Jan and her family. Without a word, they began singing. Without a leader, without music, without text, they sang ‘Come, Come Ye Saints.’ Every verse. Totally taken by surprise, Jan and her husband wept while being carried home on Christmas by these wonderful missionaries singing this beautiful hymn. When the choir finished, Jan’s friend said simply, “for you. Our gift.” This dear friend had sent to Salt Lake City for the music to the Mormon hymn that she knew Jan loved. She duplicated it and distributed a copy to every Mennonite missionary in Africa. All the missionaries had learned it perfectly, and they used it to bring the spirit of Christ to their reunion, where [a little Mormon family] would be so grateful to hear it. (Emma Lou Thayne, “The Gift,” Exponent II, Fall 1986, 6) (The Heart Of Goodness, A Radiant Path To A Richer, Fuller Life, Jo Ann Larsen, Shadow Mountain, Salt Lake City, 1999, pp 285-6)