For most Americans, the word brings to mind family and friends gathered warmly around a table, a big turkey, and a football game in the background. Traditionally, it's a day that the nation pauses to be grateful for all that we have. However, this year I've heard many complaints coming from the homeland about the fact that "Black Friday" has begun to encroach more and more on the Day of Thanksgiving. I'm glad to avoid that aspect of the Thanksgiving weekend, but I always feel a pang of homesickness as I picture my family together enjoying all the Thanksgiving traditions without us.
Moving to a new culture means giving up some very "American" things as part of the process of fitting in to a new way of life, but Thanksgiving is something we have managed to hold on to. It's a family tradition that we've established...to celebrate as a family and to invite some friends. We've introduced our Latin American friends to our traditions, and they greatly appreciate the fact that we have a day to express our gratitude.
For us Thanksgiving falls in the same week that we celebrate our "anniversary" of life and ministry in the country of El Salvador. I don't know about all of you, but the date of our arrival is forever burned in my memory. Thanksgiving week has become a time for us to reflect on the past year and the ways that God has blessed us, and also the ways that we have struggled and even hurt. We acknowledge the ways that we have grown, and rejoice in the hopes that we have for the next season of ministry.
This idea of remembering and honoring isn't something new. The book of Joshua tells us in chapter 4 that God helped His people to miraculously cross the Jordan River. After the crossing, God called them to build a memorial from stones so that future generations would know that God was with His people. For me, Thanksgiving has become more than just an American holiday that I know and love (although I do really love it!), but beyond that it is a day to honor how God has worked in our lives. It is a day to stop what we are doing, and say "God has done this." It is a day to gather our family and friends together and be grateful for what we have, but also to be grateful for the One who has given it. I hope that my children will remember what He has done, and I hope that they will carry this tradition on...a tradition of simply being thankful.
Today I will thank God for our family, and I will celebrate that God has worked beyond my dreams to move our ministry into a new and exciting direction. I thank God that I can say with confidence "God is here, God is working, God has done this."
What about you? What has God done for you this year? What is your family memorializing as this year draws to a close?