These community Christmas parties keep getting better every year. Not only do we learn how to pull them off more smoothly, but we love the families more and more. Even after two nights with three hours of sleep in preparation, I could not have enjoyed this celebration more!
We started by gathering everyone outside and giving Stephen the floor. He thanked everyone for coming and shared why we live here in Mae Sot, why we live how we live, and why we celebrate Christmas every year. We had his Burmese teacher come to help us translate, and this was such a blessing. He started by sharing that when we moved to Mae Sot, we didn’t have any friends or any family here, and this neighborhood became that for us. He told them how thankful we are for them.
In one of my favorite moments, he said we probably do many things differently, or maybe wrong. When Stephen said “wrong” in English–before even being translated–little Yuh Meh Oo laughed out loud from her seat on my lap. I smiled down at her and asked in Burmese if she understood, and she nodded bashfully. First, I love that she understood the English so clearly! And second, she knows our lives inside and out from the many evenings spent in our home and countless hours in the kitchen with me–I’m sure she sees us doing things wrong constantly!
Stephen went on to talk about how Jesus has told us to love our neighbor, and how we are so thankful that we really do love them.
This was my second favorite moment, when as he said this, Pyo Pyo–a mother that I’ve tried to get to know as best I can amidst the language barriers–met eyes with me and gave me the biggest smile.
Stephen did such a great job sharing, and then prayed for the meal before we ushered every one into the community space. We attempted to have a buffet line that went into the community space and back out to the yard to eat. The “line” was quite unsuccessful, but everyone got plenty of food! And it was helpful that the mess was contained to the community space and outside.
As always happens, when you begin giving away free food, the word spreads! We served until it was all consumed, welcoming in neighbors from who knows where. We then cleaned everything up and said our goodbyes so that things could calm down.
Stephen & I went to grab our own dinner in town and breathe for a few minutes, then we returned and started handing out presents. Chit Ne Oo, who helped with the maps from the beginning, helped us to pass them all out. We sent everyone else home and told them we’d be to their houses shortly!
The community was mapped and divided into three sections, each with a color & then numbered by house. Each house had a rainbow bag or two with their color-coded number on it. Inside was an individual gift bag for each adult and child–all color-coded by gender and age–and then household gifts at the bottom.
The biggest hit were the butterfly wings. We bought them for all the girls between 3 and 9, and every single one received a gasp of delight. What we didn’t expect was the disappointment of the 1-2 year olds and 10 to 15 year olds! I made a trip back to the 20 baht shop Tuesday morning to purchase butterfly wings for all the girls. And since those photos deserve a post of their own, more on that here.
They were all indescribably fun to deliver. The oohs and ahhs were endless fun, and the joy was evident. It was a blessing I’d wish on everyone!
We finished delivering after 9pm, just as carolers showed up to our front door. The neighborhood came out to listen, and it was a lovely end. Stephen and I decided later that was the perfect way to capture the ideals of Christmas–giving to capture the gift of Jesus, joyfulness and the hope of Christ, the community of the Church celebrating His birth. It was worshipful.
Here are a few photos of the kids enjoying their gifts the next day, including putting together little Lego-style race cars, balloons, building car puzzles, and learning to knit!