If you ever want to experience Christmas caroling taken to the next level, do take a look at Tenom. Someone was incredibly ambitious and scheduled the youth to go caroling at approximately 80 homes over the span of a week. We’ve practiced songs weeks in advance to the point that BM lyrics for traditional songs jump to my mind before English ones. We’ve ordered polo shirts for the occasion (very classy). And, we’ve gone everywhere (across the creek and through the jungle). I had no idea that the church bus could handle so much off-roading. I also had no idea that we could squeeze 25 people inside, but hey, everyone just yells “BOLEH!” (can) and makes it happen. So as Extreme Caroling day 5 comes to a close, I wanted to share some thoughts.
The youth have brought an incredible amount of love and enthusiasm to every house we’ve gone to. And we do manage to go many places. No house is too far out or too isolated for us to reach. If it’s on the list, we find a way to make it there. There have been some times I didn’t know how we’d make it, but we found a way whether it’s through rain or rough roads (kudos to our amazing bus driver). At every house, we share a mini-program with the family complete with a greeting, prayer, a couple of songs, a Bible passage, and “Selamat Hari Natal” (aka “We Wish You a Merry Christmas) in Bahasa Malayu, English, Chinese, or Murut. Even though we’ve done this routine at least 8 times each of the past 5 nights, the youth come and share as if each house is the very first house. Just because we happen to be at the eighth house of the night doesn’t mean that the family there is any less important. This incredible love has been met each time with an incredible welcome. Some families live in neighborhoods where everyone has AC, a couple of TVs and spacious homes. Some families live in kampungs with homes that have floors of bamboo or wood. Some places have electricity while others are lit by lantern. But all the people receive us with joy. In the village, children stand on their porches and listen as we go from house to house, gradually getting closer to theirs. People invite us inside and sing along to the music.
Tonight, one instance stuck out to me. At about the fifth house, we climbed up inside the common room of a home where at least nine people lived. The place was lit with just one electric lantern and we needed our flashlights to see the music. During the first song, I saw one woman sitting with her eyes closed, singing along to the music and swaying to the rhythm. The look on her face showed she was savoring every moment. When we shook hands to leave, she held everyone’s hand just a bit longer. It hit me then that this was far more than just a ten-minute program for her. She was holding each second and fully taking in the time we spent there. I can’t speak for her and say what that moment meant, but there was something in that time where the love of the carolers met the love and welcome of the people we visited. It’s one of those times when you put every ounce of love into what you do and leave the rest up to God. My hope is that as we’ve gone out this week, we’ve been a blessing to everyone we’ve met. I know the people I’ve gone with and the people I’ve met have been blessing in yet again helping me experience those God moments.