In Britain, Britons dream of a white Christmas. In La Porfia, a little village about 100 km north of the city of Santa Cruz in the tropical plains of Bolivia, the people dream of a cool Christmas. December is one of the hottest months of the year, with daytime temperatures of more than 100F. Even at night the temperature rarely falls below 80F. So Christmas is very different in La Porfia.
ALL the people in the little Methodist church in La Porfia are poor.
They live in houses made from the leaves and wood of the motacu tree and have small plots of land where they grow food for the family and to sell in the local markets. However, with the very little that they have, they celebrate Christmas with great joy.
On Christmas Eve, everyone met for the worship service at about 9 o’clock in the evening to sing Christmas songs, offer prayers and to hear the Christmas message. Then things really got started! There was a Christmas drama that included young and old and there was a real baby in the manger.
Some time after midnight the party began with games and cake and chicha, a drink made from maize. At about 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning people started going off to bed while many of the young people kept going until dawn.
The next morning, Christmas Day, there was great excitement as everyone met at about 10 o’clock for the Christmas morning service. Inside the church the highlight of the service was when every child received a gift. Not surprisingly everybody was there!
Meanwhile, outside the church a team of women was cooking the Christmas dinner. Of course, they did not have the money to buy special food, but they made sure that there was plenty of rice and chicken.
Then after the service the children played with their presents until the food was ready and everybody sat down in the shade of the trees to eat and eat and eat – then sleep!
Christmas in the small Methodist church in La Porfia expresses something essential to our Christian faith. Everybody takes part in the celebration offering for the benefit of the whole group.
The whole church shares together; those who have no food in the house, no money for presents for the children, are not marginalised or neglected. Everyone belongs to everyone else, every person shares in food, fun and friendship. Nobody is excluded from sharing in celebrating the birth of Jesus. Now there’s a Christmas message! — Mission Matters, The Methodist Church in Britain.
David and Maggie Stringer, ministers in Sheffield, were serving as mission partners in Bolivia until early last year.
STORY AND PICTURE BY DAVID and MAGGIE STRINGER