Getting Ready for Christmas on the Field

23 Dec 2020

I love Christmas! I love everything about it … well, maybe not the Christmas carols on repeat in the shopping centres. But living in rural Mongolia, there is no risk of that! In fact, Christmas is a non-event. It’s a normal workday; banks are open, classes are on at school … just another day. 

In a normal year, by this time, I would have had our big Christmas tree up, the house decorated, and our beautiful wooden nativity scene on display. Instead, we are sitting in a temporary rented apartment in Ulaanbaatar, under lockdown, in limbo, waiting…

I was excited to be coming home to Australia for Christmas this year. Although I love our Mongolian white Christmases, this year we were going to be celebrating with our older two, Australian-based children, our new daughter-in-law-to-be and our wider family and friends. We had booked our tickets early, planning to be home in early October. Our younger son was moving back to Australia, having turned 18 years old, our eldest son was getting married in January, and we had Home Assignment to do. But we were organised and everything was planned.

And then, Covid19 hit the world.

We’d been trying to get back to Australia since September, but with so few flights leaving Mongolia, added to the tough entry caps in Australia and the 24-hour maximum transit time in airports, it had been almost impossible.

In November, we heard that some flights were leaving the country, with only one or two days’ confirmation. So we packed up our home in the countryside and travelled to the capital city, a day’s drive away, to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Two days later the first official community transmission of Coronavirus occurred in Mongolia and the government immediately put the whole country into total lockdown, cancelling all flights in and out of the country. It did not look good.

This was not how I wanted to spend Christmas. Doubts built on uncertainties. Where was the peace Christ promised? But He hadn’t left us. His peace was not dependent on our  circumstances, and we could still celebrate God’s gift to the world without a big tree and tinsel. He reminded me that sometimes we need to fight for the peace He offers – cling to His promises and “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

So we determined to keep trusting the Lord, finding joy in Him and the gift of His Son. And we decorated our 15 cm tall Christmas tree with rolled-up chocolate wrappers.

Amazingly, we found a connecting flight to Melbourne that would work, the only one we had seen in four months. It leaves in two days, but as I write this, a new Covid outbreak has been discovered in Ulaanbaatar. All flights after ours will be cancelled. Ours will be the last plane out.

-E.B., a Pioneers worker serving in Asia.

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