A Christmas Message from West Africa

By Esther Schaeffer, serving in Burkina Faso

Many years ago our family lived in a very remote part of West Africa. Christmas was approaching, and we knew that there would be no packages arriving until long after December 25.

To help make Christmas special for our children, together we crafted snow flakes out of construction paper and strung popcorn around the living room. I took down a mirror and made it look like a skating pond; we then built a little Christmas village with our Legos™.

I also colored some plain white paper and carefully wrapped cookies for the children’s stockings. Later, I placed their presents—a few books and school supplies—under the tree.

A Precious Gift

On Christmas morning we gathered to open our meager gifts. Under our humble tree I was surprised to discover a small present that I had not wrapped. It seemed to be covered in more tape than paper. Looking closer, I found one of our sons’ names scribbled on the small package.

When the tape and paper were torn and the gift unwrapped, I was overwhelmed. My young son was giving his older brother a medal that he highly prized. He had won the medal at Vacation Bible School a couple of years before, and he hardly let it out of his sight.

He proudly wore it around his neck, and he was careful to keep it under his shirt so it wouldn’t get dirty. He even wore it to bed at night.

As I watched my son give this cherished gift, I had to fight back my tears. I wanted to say to him, “No, don’t give that away. You have so many other things; don’t give what is so precious to you.”

The Greatest Gift

But I realized that my young son had managed to understand the true spirit of Christmas: God has given to us what is most precious to Him, His only Son.

I wish I could tell you that the older brother cherished the medal as much as his younger brother had. For a while he was thrilled to have it and wore it proudly.

But one time he forgot to take it off when he got into the tub, and the colors smeared and ran together. Another time he left it outside, and the dog had a good chew on it before we could pry it away from him. Eventually it was lost for good.

Most of my ministry is among Christian women whom I disciple, encourage, and teach to help them grow in their faith. I want them to understand the great love God has for them, the high cost He paid for their salvation.

It is of indescribable value, this gift He offers them and each one of us. This wonderful truth my young son illustrated so beautifully to me, those many years ago in remote West Africa.

May you have a very Merry Christmas, one filled with wonder as you reflect upon the indescribable gift God has given you in His Son.


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