While her parents and siblings lived in the bush of Malawi, this 21-year-old girl grew up alone with her uncle in the city. When she met the missionaries she spoke broken English and couldn’t attempt to read a full verse in the Book of Mormon.

She spent her days washing, cleaning, cooking, and going to market for her uncle. She joined the Church, still with little knowledge but a great desire to grow in truth.

Ever since her baptism she worked with the missionaries multiple times a week, improving her English but not helping her living conditions. On Christmas day we went to visit her in her concrete house that seemed to be sagging in the rain. As we handed her a small gift, she was overcome, holding in her hands the only present she had received for Christmas.

Tears filled my eyes, thinking of the package I had just opened that morning from my family, filled with such a generous offering.

What a heart-changing season Christmas time is. This is a season when hearts and hands are opened to one another in love. Something in the very air we breathe influences each of us to become a little more forgiving, a little more generous, and a little more compassionate to the needy.

Many families take the time to serve in their communities and some even donate money or goods to humanitarian efforts. As we bustle around town picking up last minute gifts and musing about how people will react to our best-laid plans, our hearts naturally feel a greater sense of gratitude for the blessings we’ve received and feel in greater debt to the Lord for all that He has given us. Both our literal and emotional houses are decorated with lovely things.

Amidst the quintessential joy of Christmas our hearts can also ache for those that will not experience such a privileged Christmas as we will. Tremendous pangs of guilt sweep over me at times, knowing so vividly how others are living while I am experiencing relative pomp and circumstance. At least, that was once my perspective. My Christmas last year in Africa changed my outlook.

To read the full article on Meridian Magazine, click here