I attend a small Filipino church on Phuket island.  Apart from a handful of expats, the congregation is made up of local Thais and Filipinos, and the church adopts some of the Filipino customs such as hymns in Tagalog.

Just before Christmas, the church held Novena. That’s 5am mass everyday for nine days, before usual daily 7.30am mass. 5am????? My children’s father and I dragged ourselves to one. When we set off from home, the roads were still dark.

When we arrived in church, it was still dark.

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But when we walked in, surprise surprise, the whole place was filled with smiling, happy faces. OMG.  It was as if there was a party in full swing in there. Our sleepiness soon lifted with the cheerful songs.

After the Novena, the parishioners provided breakfast for all out of their own pockets.  They are not wealthy, not by a long shot. Most are migrant hotel workers who do not even own their own motorbikes (they came by motorbike taxis) and live in small rented rooms. But they provided food which was really so heart-warming and delicious: Filipino breakfast dish of macaroni and carrots, with a little milk added. And this cute little cupcake, lined with banana leaf.

We hung around and chatted to the parishioners as the cock crowed, though it was still pitch dark.

“We haven’t been home to see our families for three years. We’re saving up!”

“We are so grateful for the Novena because we can’t come for Christmas mass. We have to work on Christmas day!”

“We come to church for the party.”

There were two boys in the choir – the drummer and the keyboard player – who were in their school uniform. They had left home at 3.30am to get here on time to play music for us, and then were dashing off to catch the school bus at 615am.

There was so much happiness in their smiles, so much joy in the darkness. And I thought to myself, yes, here lies the real wealth and gold and all that glitters, rather than worldly wealth but empty hearts. I feel blessed to be part of this ❤