Yesterday we hosted our first Thanksgiving dinner since we’ve been married. We enjoyed a delicious American-style Thanksgiving with some of our friends here in Jos, 31 people total, which included 13 children, 2 babies and 2 visitors from the U.S. It was so much fun!
In preparation for our meal, I was experimenting with pumpkin recipes and explaining American Thanksgiving to Sarah, for Nigerians, too, have thanksgiving. Thanksgivings here, though, typically take place at churches on a Sunday – or even throughout an entire weekend – after the harvest. People will usually bring offerings of money (or even a tithe of their crops) in thanksgiving for the harvest, though I’ve also heard of thanksgiving services for someone having a job.
Though Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, talking about it with Sarah and some Canadians here who told me that at home they often go to two church services when celebrating their Thanksgiving did, however, make me think about how Americans typically celebrate. I love a good turkey as much as the next person, but I couldn’t help but wonder why a holiday that centers around gratitude tends to be void of worship and church (not that you need church to worship, of course, or to express gratitude) as a “tradition.” The symbols for Thanksgiving are usually turkeys, Pilgrims and Indians, but it is God who deserves our thanksgiving.
So what are we grateful for this Thanksgiving?
The prayer of a 16 year old young man last year when I was subbing at Hillcrest has stayed with me and made me even more aware of the things for which I am grateful. Each morning before class I would ask one of the students to open the class in prayer. One morning this young man prayed, “We are thankful to be counted among the living.” It is a prayer that many Nigerians pray, something that always catches my heart in my throat, but when this young man prayed – and sure, it was probably something that he had heard his parents pray, but even the fact that he thought to repeat it – it struck me even more.
This is a country where death is, in many ways, much more in your face – where the infant mortality rate is quite high, where diseases that we wouldn’t think much about in the States (either because, like malaria, they’re not really problems in the U.S., or because they are things that we have medicines for) result in death…. Emerging from this, though, is a people acutely appreciative of life.
And so each morning when we wake up, we thank God that we are counted among the living.
We are grateful for two amazing, beautiful children whose way-too-fast growth urges us to slow down and savor the moments.
I am grateful, too, for a sacrificial husband who exemplifies the love of Christ in ways that I don’t deserve.
I am grateful for our incredible families and for the days when the phone networks or Skype works well enough that we can have a fairly uninterrupted conversation. I am aware, sometimes painfully so, that though it is hard to leave them behind and go to another country, sometimes it is harder to be left behind, and so I am grateful that, though a phone call and a cd of pictures in the mail will never make up for lost time, they support us in spite of their loss, our loss.
I am grateful for my best friend, who has endured incredible heartbreak with a strength and dignity that could only come from Christ and who is teaching me to trust Him even in the midst of questions and pain.
I am grateful for my best friend’s mom, who, in the midst of battling cancer dismisses her own health and asks how others are doing, who stands firm because she kneels in prayer in a way that I can only hope to emulate.
I am grateful for electricity, hot water, high speed internet, reliable phones, water that comes out of the tap ready to drink and public bathrooms in ways that I wasn’t before moving here.
I am grateful for a people who, for the most part, live without these things and yet have taught me so much about gratitude.
I am grateful for all the stories we hear about Bible translation going on in this country, for the people I have never met but whose excitement about receiving the Word of God in their own language remind me not to take His Words for granted, though far too often I do (and so I am even more grateful for His grace and patience with a girl who is still, always, learning).
I am grateful for the friends that God has provided us with here, people who, like us, are away from their family and friends and so, in some ways, become our family here… people with whom we share babysitting, life and Thanksgiving.
I am, we are, grateful for so many of you – those who support us with your prayers, your hard-earned finances, that quick e-mail or message on Facebook, that package in the mail….
I am grateful that God has called us here to this place where He is using all of these things and more to teach us, to show us more of Himself.
…Oh, and we’re grateful for a delicious Thanksgiving dinner. (We’ll post pictures and a recipe a la Foodie Friday next week!)
Our cups overfloweth!