Usually, I share that this time of year, specifically, is a time for us to reflect here in the US on how grateful we are to God for all He’s done for us...a time of Thanksgiving. This year, I thought I’d put a different spin on things from a US missionary’s point of view.
Shary and I spent some years in Africa but as good Americans, we still celebrated Thanksgiving thousands of miles away without the benefit of family around. One of the most memorable Thanksgivings “abroad” was with our adopted family and good friends in Kenya, the Mathenys.
We were privileged to work with Don and Amy Matheny during the 1990’s in Nairobi Lighthouse Church. They have been serving in Africa for more than 40 years now and are some of the most dedicated missionaries that I know. We talk a lot about discipleship around here but Don was one of the people that truly discipled me, had and still has great influence in my life.
Back in November 1995, I remember vividly our Thanksgiving dinner with their family. We found a turkey, made cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, and all the fixings, “African” style. You just can’t imagine what a little piece of home that was! Sometimes, we can take holidays for granted but as missionaries living abroad, these times were extra special. We sat around thanking God for blessing us so much and for the privilege of serving Him in a foreign country but for that afternoon, we were back home. As I remember, we put in a tape of an LSU football game that was weeks old. Our family would “tape” games for us and send them to us but it would take up to 6 weeks sometimes to receive them through the mail… if we ever got them at all!
We have so much to be thankful for and our American tradition of Thanksgiving, regardless of where in the world one might be, is such a good one. This Thanksgiving, especially considering all the turmoil in the world, I encourage you to not only reflect on God’s goodness in your life, but to also think about the men and women serving outside of our country and thank God for their service. You may know someone who is a missionary, someone in the military, or someone working abroad. Take time to reach out to them during this season and thank them for doing what they do. It will mean more than you know and give them a little piece of “home”!