Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Our First Mission Christmas

Today is New Year's Eve. It is a great time for reflection on the past year and for looking ahead to the coming new year. For Terry and I, this has been a very event filled year. One of the most significant events for us has been our first Christmas with our missionaries.
President and Sister Berrett on Christmas Eve
We decided that we would conduct a Christmas Devotional with all of the missionaries. This meant that we made a rather intense trip around the mission, visiting the districts in about a one week period. We did conduct the devotional for Visak and Rajahmundry Districts as a combined event and we met with the Bangalore District on Christmas Eve Day here in the mission home.

Visakhapatnam and Rajahmundry Districts
 At each gathering we showed the First Presidency Christmas Devotional. Then we sang some Christmas carols, showed a portion of one of the Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concerts - portraying the history of the song "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," and Sister Berrett and I each delivered a Christmas message.

Singing Carols with Hyderabad Zone
We distributed a Christmas gift with each missionary - tie for the elders and scarf for the Sisters.

Elder Oraon and his gift bag

We also gave each missionary a small bag of Christmas candy and a Christmas card. Much to our delight, the Christmas card featured a painting by Al Rounds of First Ave in Salt Lake City. It was the very block where we live - though the painting depicted the street long before our condo was built.

Luggage space and weight were limited, so we could not take the four large boxes of decorations Sister Berrett would have enjoyed taking. Instead, we "decorated" with a single nativity set from our collection.

Coimbatore Zone with the Nativity
Chennai Zone with gift bags and with candy
With Bangalore Zone, we were able to invite them to the Mission home, where they could enjoy our tree and some additional decorations.
Bangalore Zone listens to the Mission President
For lots of reasons, our Christmas tree was much more of a reminder of the Spirit of Christmas than a collection point for myriads of Christmas gifts. We did, however, find a few presents under the tree.

Presents on Christmas morning

Our children send us perhaps the best possible gift - a picture book with pages and photographs of each child and grand child. We love it. We will be taking it everywhere to show our family to our new Indian friends.

A few weeks before Christmas, Terry commented that she did not have any Christmas music. So, being a person with a firm grasp on the obvious, I gave her an early gift - an iPad, loaded with several hours of Christmas music and a speaker to make nice music. We really have enjoyed the sounds of the season. Then, on Christmas day, Terry gave me a new lens for my camera.

Christmas Day we were invited to join our two senior couples for Christmas Dinner. They also invited the Bangalore Zone, so we attended a rather large gathering for dinner.

Christmas chess

The Tiefenbachs and some of the missionaries
Christmas ties
While we love and miss our children and grandchildren, we are grateful for the opportunity to be here as full time servants of the Savior. Christmas seems a bit more significant when you are set apart as a full time witness of Him whose birth we celebrate.

My First Baptism

On the first weekend in December, Sister Berrett and I attended the District Conference for the Bangalore District of the Church. In attendance was a young woman who had just started meeting with the missionaries. We had a chance to meet her and visit with her for a few minutes.

Apparently something I said during one of my talks connected with her. So, a few days after the conference the missionaries called me and said that she was going to be baptized and wanted me to perform the baptism. With a little bit of scheduling work, we were able to agree upon 22 Dec.

While the baptismal clothes were a bit tight and not quite tall enough, I was happy to perform the baptism. I had virtually nothing to do with teaching her, but I still enjoyed the opportunity to be part of her decision to come to Christ through this sacred ordinance.

Elder Gotopotti, Elder Porthula, Shruthi Sarah Joseph, Pres. Berrett, Elder Pilli, Elder Anderson
Shruthi's older brother was baptized about a year ago and currently attends BYU-I. The baptism service also was attended by her parents, who are active members of another Christian church. Nonetheless, they came and were very supportive of their daughter's decision. We have been invited to visit in their home next week.

Shruthi, her parents and the Berretts
It was a wonderful day for us. We look forward to visiting with the family.