2013 Christmas Letter

December 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Greetings from sunny Florida where temperatures and gas prices just keep rising! We are in our last month of a 5½ month furlough here in the States. The Lord has been so good to provide above and beyond all we could ask or think – rent-free housing, a mini-van for $1, good friends for our children, encouraging fellowship at furlough meetings and many other blessings along the journey. We have been able to catch up with most of our family and many old friends, but sadly our short time here does not permit us to see everyone!

Twenty thirteen has been an exciting year for our family (well, actually, I don’t think we’ve ever had a boring or uneventful year!). Our teenagers went to three different summer camps in three different countries—Argentina, Uruguay, and the WILDS of North Carolina. The kids completed all of their schoolwork in 6 months (February–July) in order to be free for other opportunities during furlough. They have had a great time seeing their friends, participating in Bible Quiz Team at Hillsdale, doing various odd jobs, and, of course, traveling all around the Southeast with their parents.

Yes, our furlough meetings kept us only in the Southeast this time. Our omniscient God knew well before we did that Amy’s back problems would not permit her to travel to points beyond. Please pray that the cervical disc decompression surgery planned for the end of January would give her relief from her pain and that we would find a good physical therapist in Pilar, Argentina to help with the other issues. Staying close to home has also permitted us to spend more time at our home church, and they have received us with open arms. James has enjoyed completing carpentry projects at the church and for others in the Tampa area…keeping those skills and tools sharpened for what’s to come…

Looking ahead to 2014, we are excited to see how God will continue to work. Our hope and prayer is to buy property for the church, do some remodeling on the existing structure, move in and then begin the task of building a more permanent church building with the help of church members and work teams. We would love to have volunteers come down to help for a week in trade for some succulent steak and delicious ice cream! 

The true joy of Christmas is in the everlasting and sacrificial love of Christ who left His heavenly throne to die on the cross to save us from our sin. We wish you a joyous Christmas and His rich blessings in the coming New Year as you seek to serve Him.

By His grace alone,

James, Amy,

Jaden, Lauren and Josiah Greenwood

JLJ love

greenwood

A Golden Christmas Gift

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. (Prov. 25:11)

apples-of-gold

When you think of missionaries on a foreign field during the holidays, you may think about the sacrifice they make by being away from family during that special time. Yes, that is true!  We sorely miss our new nephews and nieces, siblings, parents and grandparents, as well as our home church family.

However, another huge challenge missionaries face is how to adjust to a climate and customs much different from what they have known the first 30 years (more or less) of their lives.  In this foreign country, many customs are just that — foreign.  Eating the main holiday meal late at night on the 24th, opening gifts and shooting off fireworks at midnight, and then sleeping in on Christmas morning are just a few of the differences.

We are in the Southern Hemisphere, so Christmas falls during the summer. Instead of the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year), we are going through the time of the summer solstice (the longest day of the year). That means it doesn’t get dark until close to 9 pm.  It goes without saying that the summer weather is a part of our Christmas as well.  (This Christmas Eve, the heat index hit 111 degrees!)  The heat alters our activities and even our menu. For example, I have learned it’s really not a good idea to roast a turkey or bake Christmas cookies, especially on a hot day, in a house with no air conditioning!  Turning the oven on for 2 to 3 hours can have undesirable effects on one’s energy level!  Instead of fighting against our circumstances, we are learning (yes, even after 7 years on the field) how to accept them and still have the type of Christmas we are accustomed to as a family.  We adjust our menu according to the heat as well as the ingredients available to us here (which usually means making everything from scratch, from the cocktail sauce to the cherry pie.)  Allow me to interject here that we are very thankful for the rich bounty Argentina offers — a diversity of fruits, vegetables, meats, and yes, even convenience foods.

Christmas 2012

Christmas 2012

Though family and food are elements of Christmas festivities, they are certainly not the motive or the focus of the holiday for the Christian.  Honestly, it’s a blessing that our scaled-down, simplified Christmases on the mission field help us to stay centered on the true meaning of the holiday. We are not distracted with attending one thousand and one Christmas parties or breaking the bank to buy “bigger and better” gifts for extended family and business associates.

One Christmas tradition we began when our children were just toddlers was to have a “birthday party for Jesus” on Christmas Eve.  I made a birthday cake or cupcakes and let the kids help decorate.  We used a #1 candle to signify that Jesus is the only way and that He should have first place in our lives.

12.24 service1

When we began a work in Pilar, we brought that tradition to the church. The idea was that most of the folks would be celebrating Christmas that night with unsaved family, and this special service would be a spiritual oasis in the desert of worldliness that surrounds us. It is always a special time of singing, testimonies, and focusing on our Savior Jesus Christ.

Of course, I love to hear the testimonies of how God is working in various ways in people’s lives. We hear of His provision, families being changed by His Word, and spiritual growth through obedience and trials. A few shared how they are thankful for our sacrifice to leave our families to minister in Argentina and how they appreciate the time and energy we’ve invested in them. Their sweet words brought tears to our eyes and will be marked down in history as the best Christmas gift of 2012. Those “apples of gold” served as a timely encouragement to keep on keeping on — despite the difficult adjustments!   Praise the Lord for the work He is doing!

2012-12-24 020

–Amy