By 22 December, we had purchased and wrapped over 150 gifts for the community! Better yet, we did this secretly. We snuck in huge loads of purchases, hid bags in the studio, and wrapped behind closed doors and closed curtains for over a week.
Some of the kids did see us bring a few bags in and see a few wrapped presents, but we had a gift exchange at the church Christmas party on Sunday, so all of them thought we were preparing for that. We finished up the rest on Monday morning, hid them away, and went off to Chiang Mai for a couple days of rest!
As we were leaving town, the kids were pretty sad that we were leaving, since that meant we had the dinner and no gifts came with it; we felt a little mean. But we also knew Christmas morning would be so fun for them!
Chiang Mai was absolutely wonderful. We were were there for just two days, but we had such fun shopping around to buy each other Christmas presents, seeing huge Christmas trees and holiday sales, & enjoying some delicious Western food!
We also planned this trip so we could see the third installment of The Hobbit, which Stephen wasn’t going to miss.
Our hotel was pretty great for the $16 per night we paid for it, but this was the doorway to the parking lot. It felt a little weird when someone held the door for you and then you jumped up inside, but whatever! It’s just a good thing I packed dresses with leggings.
Due to a small car breakdown (that Stephen fixed roadside in under thirty minutes!), we were a little delayed getting back to Mae Sot. We pulled into town about 9pm, and still needed to wrap all the Christmas gifts we had gotten each other (since we had just purchased them in Chiang Mai) and put all the community Christmas gifts into families. This second task took far longer that I would’ve guessed, and we loaded up the car with the first set of presents at 2am on Christmas day.
We then went to sleep for just a few hours, but set the alarm for 5:20am to start handing out presents. Since most of the community is up by 6am or earlier, we wanted to get the presents out as they woke up. Now that those we know are spread out into multiple little neighborhoods and complexes, we don’t purchase presents for everyone there (since we don’t know them all), but this can make it awkward to give out gifts. We thought we’d start early and make it as least awkward as possible. It also gave us a chance to give the community a traditional Christmas experience of early morning excitement!
This didn’t go exactly as we had planned.
(How many times do I say that? It seems to be a part of every story…)
The first house was very clearly sleeping, and we quickly decided it wasn’t as fun as we thought to be the first thing they see on Christmas morning–simply confusing! We ended up sitting in our car on the side of the road for half an hour playing Ticket to Ride until everyone woke up!
So much for our ambitious 5am wake up.
We delivered presents for over three hours and had such fun. One fourteen-year-old girl ran to the door, grabbed my neck and gave me a kiss on the cheek, repeatedly saying thank you. When we went to the house of another man that we’ve been taking to the hospital regularly, he quickly got dressed and apologized he wasn’t ready to go to the hospital! When we told him we were just here for Christmas presents and he saw we had one for each family member, his face lit up. At another house we delivered presents and then heard a little ten year old boy yelling with glee as he opened it while we pulled away.
And now, it has been so fun to see the women in sweaters we bought them or wearing a new shirt. Some little girls have new little purses at their sides, and a group of boys now have their own football–now bearing their name! There are new headbands and longyis and nail polish and polo shirts floating around the neighborhood, and its so fun to see their joy.
We are so thankful that our home church made it possible for us to do this again this year. It is one of the highlights of being here and such a great opportunity to love on the community!