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I’ll Be “Home” For Christmas


It might seem obvious that for a cross-cultural missionary serving in South Sudan, Christmas away from their family and home in the U.S. could be difficult. What might seem less obvious is the fact that when that same cross-cultural missionary returns to the States after some years on the field, Christmas “at home” can be equally challenging.

This year one of our missionaries, Justin Huston, will be on Home Assignment while he transitions from one term of service to a second term with his sending organization, Serge. Due to the escalating violence in Mundri, South Sudan, where Justin was originally assigned, he has had even more transition than normal for a missionary. His time in Mundri was cut short with an evacuation, and he has served the remainder of his term in Kenya and then in Ireland. As Justin said, he has had to say more goodbyes in the past three years than he can remember, and his heart is torn between different continents, even as he returns home to the States.

I asked him to share a favorite Christmas memory from the field for two particular reasons. First I wanted us, as his church, to have a small sense of his experiences overseas so that we could better understand and consequently care for him while he is home. Second, I wanted us to be reminded that “[t]his world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come” (Hebrews 13:14). In that sense none of us will be truly “home” for Christmas this year. Our longings for permanence, belonging, and peace are only met in our Savior, who left His heavenly home so that He might give us an eternal home that can never be taken away. One day we will celebrate the Son with believers from around the world, so read closely—your Christmas might look a little more Sudanese someday!

A note from Justin:

“I loved my first Christmas on the field. I was in Mundri and things had been calm and steady for at least a month. In the weeks leading up to Christmas the team and I made several trips to local families to deliver Christmas packages sent to me from my former students at Westminster. In each home we gathered the children and told them the Christmas story, and why the students in America had sent these gifts. We talked about the greatest gift God has given - sharing the gospel everywhere we visited in words and deeds. 

On Christmas Eve our team piled into the Land Rover affectionately called Brown Sugar and headed into the community. We stopped at several family compounds  throughout the evening to sing carols by candlelight to the delight of our Moru friends. Christmas Day our team had a small celebration and exchanged some local gifts. The clothes market is the popular place at Christmas, often a gift of a new piece of clothing is the standard for locals, and the clothes come pouring in a month before tied in huge bundles. They are all rejects from charity shops in other countries but treasures in Mundri. Crowds gather around a new bundle waiting for the cord to be snapped and they descend upon the pile like vultures. I once jumped in just for the fun of it. My favorite gift I gave was goat-hide quivers for Will and Shawn. We each had local bows and were itching to go on a bush hunt with our local friends.

I was preaching the message at the Cathedral for Christmas Day (one of seven services we did that week Sunday service, St. Stevens, New Year’s, etc). The cathedral was decorated in gaudy garland hanging from the rafters. After services the whole community came together to feast. Funds had been raised in church starting way back in the summer so that we could slaughter the not so fattened cow and eat together; well over a thousand people came out to the feast (not near so many came to my service).
 
Three days later a gun fight and the assassination of a major official in town marked the start of a steady decline towards violent anarchy. I never got to celebrate Christmas in Mundri again. I don’t think I will ever celebrate Christmas again without thinking of that time thanking God for that day of Joy and praying someday He would bind the wounds and restore shalom.”

—Justin

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Supporting Justin while he’s “home”:
1.) Pray that God will use this time to draw Justin closer to Himself as he processes his experiences and communicates with his supporters.
2.) Pray that Justin will have clarity of call as he seeks a second term of service with Serge.
3.) Pray for Justin as he pursues his Doctorate of Divinity through RTS. Maybe give him a gift card for a coffee shop as he dives into a pile of reading.
4.) Come hear Justin share personally about his time overseas, as well as where he is headed next. (Details for these events are still to be determined; we will send out announcements when they are finalized.)