This time last year I was spending Thanksgiving in America, with Rebecca, my beautiful roommate from Latvia and a couple other international students. We went to the house of a family from Bethel Church. They lived on a small farm somewhere in Anderson, California. That Thanksgiving Day was one of the best experiences I have had of community and family.
The day we broke up for the holiday was filled with so much joy. We had a dance party in worship for over an hour. We left with hope that what we had been receiving from Jesus and our pastors in the past couple of months, we would take back to our families to release the Father’s love on them. Whether that was our own families or the family that we joined for Thanksgiving. With the ministry school that I attended, bssm, there were hundreds of international students that could not go home over the Thanksgiving holiday break and hadn’t experienced a traditional American Thanksgiving before. The school has an international student department that organises for the students to be placed with a family for thanksgiving if they didn’t have plans for the holiday. This was such a great idea! So my roommate Rebecca and I signed up for that and we got placed with a family in a town just outside of Redding (where we lived), called Anderson.
For Americans, Thanksgiving Day is the start of the holiday season that extends to New Year’s Day. This is the time that families and friends gather to celebrate and to say what they’re thankful for in their lives. Some of the things that I loved about Thanksgiving last year was firstly, the sense of family. Even though Rebecca and I were strangers to them, they opened their home and welcomed us in like we were their own family. There were a few other international students that were there that day. A guy from Germany and a family from England. Not one of us felt unease or out of place in their home, which says a lot in itself. Secondly, I love the Thanksgiving traditions. Obviously, it depends on the family and preferences but turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie seem to be a staple for thanksgiving dinner. Other traditions for some families include watching the Macy’s Parade and the football game, playing flag football outside or doing a scavenger hunt. Unfortunately, it was like 4 degrees Celsius and rainy last year, so we were all huddled up inside with their dogs! It was a great time to connect with their family and friends and share cultural traditions and celebrate together.
While waiting for lunch, Rebecca and I happened to find an old upright piano in their living room. This was the first time since moving to America that I had played the piano. It broke my heart to leave my piano behind in South Africa for 10 months but God had blessed me so much throughout the year with bringing me to homes that had pianos. This was one of the things I was SUPER thankful for. We then played for about an hour, even though it was out of tune. Then it was time to gather in the living room to have a time of worship and say what we were thankful for. It took me a while to think of just one thing that I was thankful for. Jesus had done so much already since coming to America for bssm, that I was just so thankful for everything He had done. It got to my turn and all I could say, while tearing up, was that I was so thankful for this incredible opportunity to experience life in America through bssm and to adventure with Jesus.
After lunch, we played a few board games and then later packed up some leftovers, which for broke students was amazing. Just before we left the family’s house, our host came up to Rebecca and I. and said that she felt that Jesus had prompted her to bless us each with $20. At that point, we were so broke that we weren’t sure how we would eat for the week. (Hence the need for leftovers. haha.) We obviously were super grateful for her obedience to Jesus’ voice and her heart for giving. Jesus is so kind. Later that night, we ate the leftovers!
Now that it’s a year later and I am home in South Africa once again, I wanted to share what I am thankful for this year. It has been a wild adventure with Jesus this year. I have experienced and learned so much. But I am thankful for family. Last year I wasn’t with my family during the holidays and it felt strange. I am thankful that I get to share precious moments with them this year.
What are you thankful for this year?