Our first hint of a white Christmas came with the glorious return of the Snowy Egrets to the Silla River Park. Our first sighting was a flock of nearly a dozen. They were feeding serenely right next to the path--the closest we have ever seen them; but--and there is always a but--we had no camera! We continue to see them in ones and twos, though too far away for a clear shot; but are grateful for each glimpse of snowy white.
Sunday, December 15th: We had the Bishopric over for dinner after church. There is only one counselor and Tony and Claudia Loredo are moving soon, so we wanted to thank them for their service. He was the Elder’s quorum president and then first counselor, and she has been Primary President and back-up chorister.
Since it was close to Christmas, we decided to ask everyone to share their family Christmas traditions. Much to our surprise, there were almost none to speak of—not even trees or lights or special dinners. When it was the Bishop's turn, he tearfully told of his youth on the streets of Mexico City. He left home at the age of eight to escape an abusive father. Homeless and fending for himself, he said that he never experienced any aspect of Christmas--no gifts, no traditions, no family parties, no Christ.
It was a dangerous and depressing childhood laced with immorality and addictions; but he managed to actually finish high school—paying the fees himself by begging and stealing. He said that in spite of many bad decisions, he also made some good ones. For instance, at one point his uncle was training him to use a gun in case they “needed” to kill someone during a robbery. He said, “ I knew it was wrong and never went near him again.”
He was introduced to the missionaries about four years ago—and as his wife says, “He is now a completely changed man—completely and totally different from when I met him!” We have never heard a more powerful testimony of the redeeming power of the Savior in someone’s life than the one that comes from this man who was “lost, and now is found." This new man who now helps others find themselves.
A white Christmas, as promised by the Lord: "...though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow..." (Isaiah 1:18)
Saturday, December 21st, three people from our ward went through the temple for the first time. They have all been working diligently toward this for many months and were very well prepared. I wish I had been as prepared as they were—the church has improved that process so much in the last 40 years. The blessings of modern revelation just continue to pour forth. The three people were Martha, Francisca, and Franciso. They were so happy with their day and the things they learned.
Many of the ward members accompanied them to the temple, creating a very warm and comforting environment. As they shared their testimonies the next day in sacrament meeting, it was apparent the spirit had tutored, filled, and cleansed them. So, once again, our Christmas really was a white Christmas—temple white!
One last white: In the Silla River park where we walk nearly every day, there are a few cultivated flower beds near the main office. Most of the flowers this time of year are red Poinsettias, but in the foremost flower bed, stunning white Poinsettias call out their message of hope to us all: "...though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Isaiah 1:18)