You’re headed to or serving in a part of the world that couldn’t be more different from the United States. Do traditional American holidays like Thanksgiving take a hiatus when you get there? Well, the short answer is no. But when and how you celebrate can vary widely from one region to another.
David serves with SIL Ethiopia. He says that while his team members are from North America, Europe and Ethiopia, “we’ve always had the tradition of celebrating American Thanksgiving, which our non-American colleagues enjoy and regard as a worthy occasion, both for the food and the idea of a holiday about giving thanks.”
As you might imagine, the menu requires some improvising. David doesn’t know of anyone who raises turkeys nearby, and the few places you can buy them charge around $100, so their team makes do with chicken. Everyone is assigned a portion of the rest of the meal, which is served potluck.
When Ross and his family served in Southeast Asia, they had similar menu challenges. “Although we usually didn’t have turkey, the meal would be either a ham or chicken along with all the trimmings of potatoes, vegetables, salad, pie, etc.”
The Ethiopian team’s Thanksgiving evening usually includes a after-dinner activity with a theme of giving thanks. “One memorable year,” David recalls, “a musically inclined staff person had everyone write a single 7- or 8-syllable line of something to be thankful for. All these lines were then compiled into a 9-verse, somewhat silly Thanksgiving hymn to the tune of ‘Christ the Lord Is Risen Today’ that everyone sang together.”
David says that, unlike other holidays like Christmas and Easter, “Thanksgiving Day, having no Ethiopian equivalent but a significant appreciation of the concept, is to me the holiday that we can most come together as a united family of Christian workers.”
As Thanksgiving approaches this year, David’s observation is worth noting. The reason you serve on the mission field—to lead people to Jesus—is the one gift that’s available to everyone, and the one for which we all can be most thankful.