In the winter weeks ahead, we have the joyous celebrations of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.

We’ll be gathering with our church families and our own families. Almost all the mission trips and projects of the year are behind us. It’s a marvelous time of renewing our faith in Emmanuel — God with us! By its very nature, however, there is a “turning inward” quality in these seasons as we focus on our relationship with God and with those whom we hold most dear.

For those congregations and individuals with mission connections around the world, a missionary or a church partner, I offer you a challenge. Even as we naturally “turn inward” in these weeks ahead, are there ways in which we can “reach out” to those with whom we share these special seasons?

As a Presbyterian mission coworker for over 13 years, I can tell you what a joy it is to receive a simple card or personal note from a congregation or an individual in this holiday season. Sometimes the reminder is signed by dozens in the congregation, sometimes by all on the

Mission Committee, sometimes it comes from a single, thoughtful person. For those who minister daily with brothers and sisters in Christ in faraway places — Guatemala, South Sudan, Thailand, Lithuania, or beyond — this gesture can mean so much.

And, what of our church partners in another country who will also celebrate Emmanuel — God with us? How will they gather as a congregation or within their families? What hymns will they sing? How is their celebration different or the same as ours? What joyous meals of fellowship will they share together? And how might we share with them our own experiences – decorating our sanctuary, Christmas Eve services, and much more? Email, Skype, even the reliable postal service still offer us ways to share our love and to reinforce our relationship together.

Though separated by thousands of miles, it is good to find ways to accent our common faith, our hope for the world as we enter a New Year together in Christ.

May the Peace of Christ be with you,


Gary Payton is a PC(USA) mission coworker serving as regional liaison for Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Poland. He lives in Sandpoint, Idaho. Read his newsletters at