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The Christmas Challenge: Getting Creative and Simplifying


Our missioner Kitzi Hendricks shares how she challenged herself in her Christmas preparations and hopes you’ll do the same.

As the Christmas season approaches, I find myself contemplating the best way to prepare myself for it during my first year on mission.

I have found myself turned a little bit upside down without the sounds, the sights, and the feelings that used to tell me that Christmastime was coming. There was no Thanksgiving to set the stage, there will be no school-work or finals to prepare for, no returning home to spend the month with my family, no Christmas lights around the city, no Christmas music on the radio, and – most definitely – no snow or cold weather in Cochabamba’s approaching summer.

So, what will move me towards mental preparation during this important time of the year? After reflecting on this important question on what makes the Christmas season so important in my life, I came up with an idea.

I love decorating and creatively reusing materials, so I created a Christmas Challenge for myself. As a steward of the environment, my Christmas Challenge is to use things that I already have to create a beautiful depiction of what Christmas means to me. The term “simplicity” has become an important part of my life as a Franciscan Lay Missioner, so I really wanted to incorporate that into my holiday.

I decided I wanted to recycle and reuse the following in my project:
• Left-over cardboard
• Left-over yarn
• Paint
• Scrap paper
• Tissue paper given to me in a gift on my birthday
• Pictures that I had in my apartment
• Used pages of notebook paper
• Ribbon from a previous gift

I also gave myself a budget of $15 to start off with a few of my holiday favorites that many people already have—a garland, a set of lights, one gold piece of paper, and a little set of ornaments—and then let my imagination go from there.

Kitzi’s creation

What does Christmas mean to me?

I started my mural with the most important part of Christmas: the birth of Jesus. I created the manger out of cardboard painted dark brown. I then found used paper and painted it black to create the silhouettes of Mary, Joseph and the three wise men. Leftover yarn scraps made up the hay and the wise men’s path.

Underneath the Christmas tree of reused tissue paper I put “gifts.” These photos are of the people who I have been blessed to know in Bolivia…the people who keep me going each day and who bring “Hope, Faith, Love, Light, and Joy” into my life. These are the true gifts of Christmas.

My Christmas Challenge for You:

I challenge you to really open yourself up to the true meaning of Christmas this year. How can you incorporate the Franciscan values of simplicity, caring for the environment, and living in solidarity with the poor, into your Christmas celebration?

I challenge you to come up with a way to put these values on display in your house, in your office, etc. Encourage your children to use their imaginations to create beautiful decorations this year out of recycled goods. Teach them about the environment and the importance of simplicity.

I challenge you to really think about your gifts this year—both the ones that you will receive and the ones that you will give. What type of gifts are they and why have you chosen them? How are your gift choices affecting your local community, your national community, and your world community? How are they affecting your spirit and your faith?

Take a few photos of your challenge and send them to me (email kitzi.hendricks@gmail.com) or share them Franciscan Mission Service on Facebook. We would love to see your Christmas spirit!

May hope, faith, love, light, and joy prevail in your lives this Christmas,

Kitzi served as a lay missioner in Cochabamba, Bolivia from 2012-2014. During her three years on mission she worked with teenage girls at the Madre de Dios shelter and at the Instituto de Terapia e Investigación (Institute of Therapy and Investigation) to accompany people who had experienced torture under the Bolivian dictatorships. Originally from Northern California, Kitzi is a graduate of St. Francis High School in Sacramento and Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, where she earned a bachelor's in psychology in 2011. She is currently in graduate school at Santa Clara University.