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  • Writer's picturetimothy martiny

A Christmas of Generosity: Our Children's Heartfelt Gifts, Christmas 2017

My kids made me so proud this Christmas.

Like every parent, I hope that my kids will not just know or understand my values but embrace them for themselves. For my wife and me, who have served as missionaries in Guatemala for over 15 years, service, kindness, compassion, and generosity are foremost in how we choose to live out our Christian faith, and we have been blessed to see our children embrace these principles for themselves.

The end of the year is a busy time for us. Not only are our children out of school, but we are busy wrapping up our programs for the year, planning for the coming year, holding graduations for students, and, of course, doing outreaches and having Christmas parties or "convivios" for those we serve.

We have always encouraged our children to get involved in these activities and tried to make them a family affair. Not only is it a fun time together, but it also gives our kids a chance to truly see the lives of the people we serve year round.

Casa de Libertad, our local church, is planting a church in the small town of "Los Chilitos" about 25 miles outside the city; currently, about 40 people come by bus every Sunday to worship with us until they start their own service.

They are simple people from some of the most economically challenged populations that exist. Many of them are sustenance farmers who survive on the corn they plant. A good or bad harvest can be the difference between having food on the table. Traveling so far to attend church is not easy. Yet, they come because they understand and are hungry for the truth they hear preached in a church that is committed to teaching the whole truth of God's word.

Jamie Waller, a missionary I work with and a member of our church, has demonstrated a wonderful example of Christian brotherhood and community by reaching out to them when they come, buying lunches, and offering employment when possible. He asked me if we could help throw a Christmas party for these children and their families, and I readily agreed.

While I booked the location at Burger King, ordered the food, and bought the cake, Sharie talked to our kids about helping with the event. After explaining what we were doing, the budget we had to work with, and what we needed to accomplish, our children decided, of their own initiative and free will, to pitch in from their money to buy nicer presents for everyone. They then spent the day diligently shopping for personalized gifts and doing a beautiful job wrapping them. Some of them gave as much as 1/2 of the funds they had.

When my wife told me what happened, it brought me such joy.

You see, we have often had very limited resources over our years as missionaries. There were times when we lived in a room in other missionary's houses, holidays when we had a branch as our Christmas tree and gave our children handmade presents. Our kids never suffered, but they have never had much personal spending money; the only cash they usually have is Birthday or Christmas money from relatives or the small amount we give them for getting good grades; they have their needs met, but giving them an allowance has never really been possible.

So, seeing them step up and give from the little they had was such a beautiful thing and one of my proudest moments as a parent. To see that my kids, of their own free will, were choosing to live out the values that I have based my life on is itself the most powerful proof of those values.

The party ended up being a huge success. Hamburgers might not seem special to you, but they were to them. My kids helped with the whole thing, Audrey, our second oldest, was in a cast with a broken leg, but she still came to help pass out the gifts. They loved the cake our kids served, and we closed off the event with the most important thing in every Latin party, a piñata. They had so much fun; even the parents and grandmothers were laughing and screaming as they hustled for the candy on the floor.

As Thomas S. Monson said, "Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others." It is the remembering of Christ's last commandment in John 13:34: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another and To love one another as God loved us. That was especially true for us this Christmas."

Once again, we wish you a very Merry Christmas.


Tim and family

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