Editor’s note: When you’re far from home, celebrations can both intensify and improve that “fish out of water” feeling. Celebrating Thanksgiving overseas might make it feel more like home, richer in the new faces around the table.
Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine. And God associates himself with parties and feasting through all of Scripture. He establishes seven feasts for his people to celebrate and rest in throughout the year. In Deuteronomy 14:23, his people are told to eat their tithes of wine and grain before him. In Isaiah 25, he anticipates the feast and celebration he’ll prepare for his people.
And in Revelation, the Bible closes with his own wedding.
It’s safe to say celebrations are a big part of God’s heart. And we are his partyin’ people.
We’re happy to welcome back All Nations’ Peggy Spiers today as she reflects on celebrations that doubled as game-changers for some missionaries.
The First Birthday Celebration
Imagine you’re a new missionary couple. Your first child’s about to celebrate his first birthday. You’re learning the language, figuring out how to do life in this new place. You’re far from friends and family.
You get the picture, right?
Then dear friends, Pat and Jane, show up from home with a favorite cake mix, frosting, candles, balloons, party hats.
This party was not really for the one-year old, was it? It was for his parents.
And they’re still talking about it 25 years later.
The Star Wars Celebration
Now, imagine an international pandemic. (Not that hard, is it?)
People are required stay at home for months at a time. Normal work and travel are restricted. International travel is all but impossible.
But, after several months, a young couple finds an open window. They travel to the other side of the world to visit missionary friends. They bring two young daughters and suitcases stuffed with everything you’d need to throw a Star Wars birthday party for a missionary family of five.
Everyone, even the baby, gets a Star Wars t-shirt. They bake cupcakes together. Everyone gets presents from loved ones. Much more than five birthdays were celebrated on that trip!
The Thanksgiving Celebration
One Thanksgiving a young couple teaching in China was missing home. They were not going to be able to be with family, find a turkey or pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving wasn’t even a day off!
Someone from their agency’s home office showed up to celebrate Thanksgiving with them. They ate at an Indian restaurant. Nobody missed the turkey or pumpkin pie that day. But what a celebration!
A young couple got their first new apartment in their new homeland. They were starting from scratch
without family and friends to help.
Back in their passport nation, a sending church decided to host a virtual housewarming party for them. Everyone put money in an envelope.
On the outside of the envelope they wrote a word or taped a picture of what they would have given if they were there in person. Some chose practical items like towels or something for the kitchen. Others chose to give a house plant or vase. Someone even joked and gave a pony!
At the housewarming party via Skype, a group gathered in Florida with all the typical party foods. In the midst of all the partying, the gifts (that is, the envelopes) were opened one by one. Those gathered got a tour of the new apartment and the “grandmother” of the sending church offered a blessing. What an unforgettable celebration!
The Expanding Thanksgiving Celebration
Ken and Sharon always hosted the family Thanksgiving dinner at their home. Several years ago they
invited the international students in their English conversation class. They went from a table of 7 to 17 that year. Wow!
Not only did the students have a wonderful day, but Grandma, the grandkids and the dog all had fun, too! It has become a new tradition for this family. And every year they set the table for more and
Celebration: Why It Matters
Celebrations are a great way for us to show our love for others by choosing to be with them on “their
day” or treating them to a special meal or activity.
Celebrations are a great way to remember what God has done for us by doing something for someone else.
Let’s ask God for creative, generous ways to celebrate more–as well as how to include our friends serving overseas and our international friends living far from their homelands.
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