While our friends and family sleep in America, Thanksgiving Day has arrived and is in full swing here in Kisongo, Tanzania. No, the Africans don’t celebrate Thanksgiving 😉 but that does not stop us missionary families.
This morning, while Samantha and I peeled potatoes in the kitchen I was reflecting on celebrating this holiday in a foreign country and I thought I would take the time to share my thoughts with all of you.
What does Thanksgiving mean to you? Well, I’m a history geek so let’s not cover that side (ha!) but just breaking down the word, thanks – giving. What are you giving thanks for this year? I was going through my “memories” that facebook shows me every day and there were so many pictures of past Thanksgivings. My family has a tradition of going to Saint Simons Island (our home away from home) to spend time as a family. This year the things I am thankful for have changed a lot. They are much simpler than in years past. Here is my list of 5 things I am thankful for this year:
- This year I am thankful for power (electricity). Sure, often times we mention this around this time of year. We are often aware that many families around the world go without. But this year I am thankful not just for consistent power but for the moments that we have power. Power is far from consistent here and so I am learning to be thankful for the 5 mins when we have power and I can nuke my kahawa (coffee). I am thankful for the 20 mins of power when I can take a quick, warm shower. I am thankful for the 2 hours of power when I can communicate with friends and family. And on those rare days when we have power for 12 hours or so – I am so grateful to be able to wash clothes, shower, (maybe) blow dry my hair, watch netflix (ha!), and facetime family.
- I am thankful for family that understands; family that sees the bigger picture. Our time on this earth is fleeting and our entire purpose while we are here is to serve God. Missing 1 or 20 Thanksgivings is but a tiny blip on the agenda of eternity.
- I am thankful for friends who come together as family. Friends who see that we are a part of God’s family and Thanksgiving/Christmas is not a time to shut our doors and celebrate with only our blood family but a time to swing our doors open wide and bring in our friends and family from our Church and community.
- I am thankful for butter (despite it rivaling gold in cost), sweet potatoes brought from America, cheese (even though it also costs as much as gold), and turkey that takes every missionary pitching in to purchase (they went down this year – only $90!!).
- I am thankful for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I am thankful that His love has no borders – just as ours should have no borders.
There are so many more things we can be thankful for this year – like our health. When you count your blessings today – think of those small things. The things you often forget to be thankful for.
But there is one more part of the word Thanksgiving and that is – giving. While we are to be giving thanks today (and every day) what are you doing to give back? How are you giving back to God and your fellow man? This is the thought that struck me most today as I thought about how all of us here were giving in some small way to make today happen half way around the world. Everyone is contributing either financially, in food, or in time to make this day like home. But more than that we are coming together not as a family related by blood but by a family united by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Who are you opening your home to today? Who are you taking time out of your day to serve that isn’t your family?
Growing up my family did go on vacation many Thanksgivings. But if we did not, we spent them at the soup kitchen serving our community. We also spent every Christmas Day at the soup kitchen. Personally, I think it did more for us than anything aside from the Bible could possibly do. Putting aside a day when we usually think of ourselves, what we want, we put others first. Today – my prayer is for you all to do that. Open your homes to someone that is not your family by blood. Someone who has no where to go or no family near by. My sister Ty is bringing home an exchange student from Scotland who needed somewhere to spend the holidays. Just open up your eyes and heart – there are people all around.
While we give thanks here in Africa and give of our time and selves to others I pray that in America my friends and family do the same.
(October 2015 Africa and Thanksgiving 2014)