We had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year, but Thanksgiving for us here on the missionfield has not always been wonderful. Before I came to Ghana, I considered myself a pretty grateful person. I didn't complain (at least not too much), and I thought I was thankful on a regular basis (at least as much as the next person!). When I got to the field, however, my true attitudes began to shine through.
We moved to Ghana the end of August, 2003. The missionary we were going to stay with for a year had to leave because of health problems, and we were the only white missionaries we knew. We didn't know how to go about getting a turkey; we were living with the national pastor that we had come to work with; we were living out of ten boxes - our only possessions in the world; I was 8 1/2 months pregnant; we didn't have a table to eat at; the only appliance I had for cooking was one electric burner; we had a phone connection that never worked, and no internet. Now, I don't write those things to gain pity. I write them so that others can see what our situation was like - exactly how God wanted it. It certainly wasn't how I wanted it to be, but the Lord wanted me to learn what real gratitude was.
At first, all I wanted to do was cry and feel sorry for myself. Poor me - I've given my life to come to tell the Africans the gospel and this is how God rewards me. It was a pathetic attitude, I know, but that is what was in my heart. I realized that I had never really been a thankful person at all...just a comfortable one! It was quite easy to think I was thankful when I was in the States, surrounded by friends and family and all that was familiar and comfortable. It was another thing entirely to be thankful when I was all alone and everything was different than what I expected. And that is when the Lord showed me what true thankfulness was and is.
Real thanksgiving is an attitude of the heart...realizing that God's grace and mercy are the only things that save me from an eternity in Hell. Realizing that every single thing God gives me is a blessing, not a right. Realizing that true contentment is often realized when we have little, not much. And realizing that even when I'm all alone and surrounded with very few things, God is still in control and still showering me with His love.
That first Thanksgiving we spent here is now one of my fondest memories. Because we had so little, we really worked to make it fun. We cut out handprint turkeys, made Indian headbands with paper feathers, splurged to buy Frosted Flakes for breakfast, had a beef roast to eat, splurged again to have ice cream and cookies for dessert, and most importantly of all, really thought about all the things we had to be thankful for.
Since that time, our situation has greatly improved. We live in a beautiful flat (apartment); we have two wonderful little girls; we have furniture and a stove; we had a delicious turkey to eat for Thanksgiving and were surrounded by friends for the holiday this year, but most importantly of all, we once again took time to think about all we have to be truly thankful for.