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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Thanksgiving, Missionary Style

Illustration by: debspoons

Thanksgiving isn’t even a holiday in Spain, of course. It’s just another day. Work, school, play. No special foods, no giving of thanks, no special emphasis, and certainly no fall decorations.

Thanksgiving for your missionary (anywhere) requires big-time effort. 
  • I've never seen cranberry anything in Spain.
  • Turkeys aren’t sold until the following week--for Christmas.
  • No sweet potatoes, either.
  • No pecans, for sure.
  • Pumpkin, yes thankfully, whole. We bake it and puree it ourselves. They're the best pumpkin pies ever!
  • No Crisco shortening. We use real butter for pie crusts. 

Sometimes, we get together with other missionaries for a big, traditional feast. Each person makes something delicious, and for one day, we’re Americans again.

Sometimes, the missionary is all alone, in his home. Sometimes the children are in school. The homeschooling missionary family takes the day off, teaches the children about Pilgrims and Squanto and Jamestown and uses the unique foods as an educational opportunity.

You see, here, a meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, and whatever you add to them is extremely strange . . . especially the pumpkin pies! Our kids only see those things when Mama makes them. Spiced cider? No, thank you. Pumpkin spice anything . . . hmmm, let me think about it first.

While Mom and Dad are chowing down on the rarest delicacies (including the prized cranberry sauce, brought overseas in valuable suitcase space for just such an occasion), the children sit wide-eyed, wondering why such fuss. After all, the neighbors . . . .

We try to have a real Thanksgiving on the foreign field. It’s fun, and we laugh and enjoy our time with family and friends. But, let’s face it: it’s foreign. Only ex-pats and missionaries will understand how important it is to us. Only they will understand the gratitude. Only they will understand our heritage. 

Thanksgiving for the missionary is maybe even more special. 

It also rips our hearts out. 

Our families are all together--without us. They are having a crazy time around the table with enough food to feed a small army, while we tried to make a chicken look like a turkey and served it with our hoarded can of cranberry sauce. They probably miss us, but they got used to it--twenty years ago. How we’d love to hug our parents, siblings, children, nieces and nephews, grandchildren (including a new one), and grandnephew! How we’d love to be included in the family photo, crammed around the table with all the others!

We can’t be there, and at Thanksgiving time, we celebrate our blessings from afar. We do our best to make it a happy, special day for our little family here, and we are truly thankful that we made this choice, this sacrifice.

Because it’s for Jesus. 

This life we chose is because we wanted to serve. We wanted to make a difference for eternity where we are. We want others to know Jesus as Savior. That’s more important than anything.

Even though our native holidays cannot be the same, we make an effort every year, because it’s important to set aside a day for Thanksgiving.

Your missionaries thank God for:
  • Their families, many miles away.
  • Technology (Skype, FaceTime, etc.) that helps them feel closer to their loved ones.
  • The churches that support them, without which they couldn’t be where they are, doing God’s work.
  • Their home country, wherever they’re from.
  • The young churches on the field and new believers.
  • Faithful Christians.
  • The Holy Spirit’s working in their own hearts.
  • Material blessings (including the hoarded can of cranberry sauce).
  • Thanksgiving Day itself--a day set aside for reflection, for a special meal, and for thanking God for blessings, including our unique mission field.

 To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. 
O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever. 
(Psalm 30:12)


  1. I think this one may be the hardest, since it is uniquely American and not celebrated in other countries. Thanks for the picture of a missionary Christmas!


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