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Stories & Blog

How a stranger’s child made me feel at home

How a stranger’s child made me feel at home

There’s a sense of homesickness that settles in around Christmastime when you live overseas.

In my host country, there are no Christmas carols played to annoying disco beats. Decorations are non-existent, even at the largest and glitziest malls. Students attend school on Dec. 25 as if it’s any other day.

The only Christmas celebrations are held in the few believers’ homes, with food served around apartment-sized tables because there are no church buildings.

Back in America, I liked to criticize the consumerism and exploitation of Christmas. But come on, just a little bit might be okay! This place offers me nothing to work with.

My first Christmas in this country, my wife and I had dinner with a few other expats. Then we trudged through the cold back to our apartment, feeling very far away from our family.

We had been invited to one other gathering with local neighbors in our apartment building. We didn’t want to go, but something drew us up the five flights of stairs to the living room bustling with loud chatter in a language I did not understand. 

The neighbors’ friendliness intimidated me and heightened my sense of being out of place. 

Except for Caleb.

Caleb, a relative newborn, had been on this earth about as long as I had been in this country. His mom needed a break and plopped him in my arms.

I sang to him, danced a bouncy jig, and patted him on the back as he got restless. For the first time in months, I felt like I belonged here and could be of use to someone.

Memories of caring for my own children, who are now adults and live an ocean away, swirled in and out of my memory. Thoughts of the baby Jesus in the manger, separated from his eternal father, suddenly seemed clearer in my mind than ever before.

Throughout the evening, people offered to relieve me of Caleb, but I politely declined their help and hung on to this precious, helpless infant.

What I did not know at the time was that this little guy was never supposed to have been born. His parents were given 30 minutes’ notice before the authorities would arrive at their home and escort his mother to terminate her pregnancy. Instead, Caleb’s parents packed up their few possessions and slipped out of the house before the authorities arrived.

The family escaped from border to border, city to city, in a fashion similar to the infamous Underground Railroad. This time, however, it was Christians helping Christians flee persecution.

As Caleb’s parents later recounted for me and my wife every life-threatening turn of their journey, they sang God’s praises. “God did this for us,” they said, and, “This was God’s path for us through this situation.”

Caleb may never understand the comfort he brought me that Christmas night when I was missing my own family so terribly and wondering why God had brought us here. But I pray he will learn the authenticity of his parent’s faith and their obedience to the God they love so dearly, taking no day for granted.

I thank God for the privilege of being neighbors with such a brother and sister.

Every Christmas Day from now on, I will remember the joy the Lord gave me in holding their precious child that evening. God met me in the noise and confusion of a cramped, overheated apartment with the gift of a helpless infant. More than that, he continues to meet my every need through another helpless infant born in less-than-ideal surroundings: his own son, Jesus.

For both gifts, I live in awe and gratefulness.

Dane and his wife served with Crossworld in the Philippines for 32 years before transitioning fields to the least-reached country in this story.

The people in this story are real, but their names have been changed to protect their privacy.

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