Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Joy of Being Santa Again!

Dear Family and Friends,

Brent and I had a joyous experience this Christmas season as we met with our missionaries to "celebrate" their hard work, their faith, and their missionary spirit.  It really was just like being with a bunch of little children who were reveling in the excitement of awaiting Santa's magical Christmas Eve visit.

There is a restaurant here literally called "The Restaurant".  It is a buffet, but not the classic Chuck-A-Rama type.  This restaurant has gourmet food, a HUGE selection, and ambiance.  The food spans the entire gamut of delicacies from appetizers, salads, seafood, Creole food, a little French food, a fresh grilled section, to a dessert bar - crepes made to order right before your eyes -, and an ice cream section. Of course, you can go back as many times as you want.  Brent told the missionaries to meet at the St Denis chapel at 11:30 on Monday, December 23, their P-Day, and we would take them to The Restaurant for Christmas Dinner.  We had SO much fun watching their faces as they entered, peeking around, wide-eyed, BIG smiles on their faces, child-like anticipation.  I heard one elder, giggling, say "I am SO excited for this."  When we were all inside, the fun really began, as they walked around in awe looking at the selections and deciding what they would eat first, next, next, next, next, and last.  As always, the pictures don't do it justice and, though I took many many photos, some didn't turn out because of the lighting, but you will get a sample.  My personal favorite food eaten was octopus salad...delish!  Brent's favorite was a sweet and sour shrimp made with letchis.

After the marathon eating and laughing, we returned to the church to watch the Christmas Devotional.  One highlight was having an elder come up to us, big, warm smile on his face as he said, "My heart is just so full I feel like I can't stand it."  Christmas away from home, but Christmas still enjoyed and savored as we all recognized the blessings of celebrating Christmas, together, in the mission field.

On Christmas morning, Brent went to the park to workout, but I stayed at home doing something that made me feel like a mom during the holidays:  baking gingerbread cookies.  One of our daughters sent a package last year - that didn't arrive until February - which included a gingerbread cookie mix.  When Brent returned, spicy aromas were wafting everywhere: home sweet home!  We then put the cookies in little gift bags, along with some other tasty treats and took them to the Christmas brunch at the branch.  There were seven people who had no family with whom to celebrate, but the branch president made sure that Christmas was filled with fun, food, and "family".  His wife began cooking at 1:30 in the morning, finishing at 4:00 to provide a wonderful meal.  Brent and I provided the entrees. As the special guests were leaving, our hearts were touched, as we approached each one with our little gift bag of treats, at the expressions of heartfelt gratitude we received. It really took so little to do something that  meant so much.   It was the best part of Christmas for us, as that quality of time spent always is.  Again, a little bit of Santa's magic.

Highlight of the week:  Skyping with our family Christmas Day.  It is ALMOST as good as being there.  We are just so grateful for the blessings of technology and for a family that shares all of Santa's magic from halfway around the world!

Lowlight of the week:  We were all sitting at breakfast brunch when the branch president's wife jumped up, grabed a roll of table paper, and headed down the hall.  I heard these "whoop, whoop" sounds, so I peered around the door to see her following this fat rat down the hall, hitting the walls on each side to keep him moving forward in a straight line until he reached the door.  I have included a picture of their son and two of the elders trying to "sweep" him into the undergrowth.  I couldn't help but wonder how long it took him to return to his "home" in the church!

The Restaurant, the fun, and the food.

The sister missionaries after having received President and Sister Adam's gift.

The elders, except for those from St Pierre, who had to leave early because of the distance.

A little bit of magic that we will never forget.

Waiting for another meal.

Don't hurt him, just keep sweeping him to the trees.
The founders of the feast...bless their good hearts!

And bless YOUR good hearts for your love, for your gifts of time, talent, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you lift, serve, and are constantly "there."

We love you!

The Castaways

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