The Best Thanksgiving Turkey

It was 1991 and my husband and youngest daughter were spending our first Thanksgiving on the mission field.  Homesickness was filling my heart as I remembered all the Thanksgivings of the past spent with family and friends.  A table loaded with turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, biscuits and all the other goodies we enjoyed that time of year.  Visions of pumpkin pie, pecan pie and my mother’s delicious chocolate pie danced through my head.

But the thing I was missing most was  the loved ones that gathered around that table.  This year would be the first Thanksgiving for my youngest granddaughter.  How I longed to see her taste that pumpkin pie for the first time, to hold her on my lap and rock her to sleep.

At first we thought we would try to duplicate the American thanksgiving dinner.  However, it soon became clear that it would be difficult to find many of the ingredients for that meal on the island of Panay.  That did not mean our Thanksgiving meal would not be good – just not the usual menu.

As the holiday grew near one of the members of a Bible class my husband taught every week excitedly told us he had a turkey for us for Thanksgiving.  He knew it was an American tradition and he was so happy to surprise us with this gift.

How exciting for us!  A real turkey for our Thanksgiving.  The day before the holiday he arrived with our turkey.  For us crazy Americans we had expected a nice fat frozen turkey.  Imagine our surprise when we opened the gate and there he stood with a real, live turkey!

Questions immediately went through my mind:

  • how would we kill this thing?
  • who would kill this thing?

When I was a little girl my mother had raised chickens.  She would chop their heads off and then my sister and I would help pluck the feathers.  Mother would then cut the birds up and our freezer would be stocked with chicken for the winter.  However, I was not about to chop that turkey’s head off and one look at my husband told me he was not going to do it either.

  • how would we fix it if we even were able to kill it?

We had no oven, certainly no deep fryer.  Our kitchen consisted of two burners on a small stove with a propane tank for fuel.

Finally, the turkey looked like it had been on a strict diet.  It was the skinniest bird I had ever seen.  Even if we somehow managed to kill it and find a way to fix it I was certain it would be a tough old bird.

What to do?  We could not refuse the gift that this man was so clearly excited about giving us.  To do so would have not only been rude and hurtful, but would damage our relationship with the community.

We took the bird and said thank you.  After he left we held a family council.  What do you do with a turkey you can’t use?

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Our daughter leading the kids on our street in a song

Then the problem was solved.  The kids on our street were always in and out of our house.  That morning one of the young boys came by and when he saw our turkey, his eyes lit up.  You could tell he thought we were so lucky to have a turkey.  His family’s meal would consist of a small bowl of rice – just like they had every day.  To him this skinny old turkey looked like a gift from heaven.  So we asked his mother if she would like a turkey for Thanksgiving.

How excited she was!  I have no idea how she cooked the turkey but she assured me she could do it.

So we gave her the turkey and we fixed tuna fish steaks with rice topped off with mangoes and the most delicious watermelon I ever tasted.

I have often thought back to that Thanksgiving as I once again enjoy a table loaded with all the goodies we associate with this holiday.  I think of that family that rejoiced and enjoyed a turkey that we as Americans felt was not good enough for us.  Although I have had many delicious meals with turkey before and since then, I realize that was the best turkey I ever had.  Because it was given to us out of love and gratitude from a man who had so little to give.  Given to us who in comparison had so much.

My prayer this holiday is:

Lord, forgive me for taking my blessings at being born in this country for granted.  Forgive me for thinking more of myself and spending so much money on me while others in the world go to bed hungry every night.  Help me to reach out and help the homeless here in my own country and reach out to help the hungry around the world.  I cannot do much – but I can do something.  I cannot save every hungry child, but I can help one or two.  Help me to be truly thankful!

 

My “Compassion” Girls from the Philippines

It started with Claudine.  Claudine was a young high school student living in Cebu City, Philippines.  Through Compassion’s program to help release children from poverty, I began sending a monthly contribution to help meet Claudine’s educational and physical needs.  While in high school Claudine attended the Cornerstone Student Center.  Through the Center – in cooperation with Compassion – Claudine enjoyed good and helpful medical check-ups, help with school work, learned life skills such as cooking and baking and assistance in job applications.

With their help, she filled out her “My Plan for Tomorrow” workbook helping her to plan her future and set goals.  Extra-curricular activities were provided that helped her explore her God-given talents.

We enjoyed years of letters and pictures sent back and forth.  It was a bitter-sweet day when I received her last letter.  She had graduated from school, had a job and was now moving out of the Compassion program.  She was making plans to pursue a college degree.

She thanked me for the monthly sponsorship, for the birthday, Christmas and family gifts, but when she told me what she was most thankful for, tears came to my eyes.

What I will miss the most are your letters where you tell me about your life and what’s happening.

She said she hoped I would still sponsor another needy child like her.

I will never forget you and I will always love you and your will be forever in my heart.

So – in honor of Claudine and her hard work and faithfulness to God and her family, I chose another little girl from the Philippines.

Now comes Rachell Ann

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This time I decided to pick a little girl much younger than Claudine had been when our sponsorship started.  This would give me more years to develop a relationship with her and help her from the very start of life.  It is also nice that Rachell Ann is only 5 months older than my youngest granddaughter, Zoe.

Rachell Ann lives just east of Quezon City.  Because she is so young her mother writes to me for Rachell Ann.  Very interesting to see that the place she would like to visit is the same as many kids in the USA – Disneyland.  But the chances that she will ever be able to do that are pretty small.  While I can’t help her with that dream, I’m grateful that I can help see that this little girl has a better chance of growing up healthy and educated – and know the love of God.

I’m not posting this story to “brag” about what I’m doing.  I’m hoping you will read and decide that you, too, can help bring a child out of poverty.  It costs us so little – it means so much to others.

Check out the Compassion, Inc. site.  See what you can to do to help a child – and therefore a family, be lifted up from poverty.

 

 

 

The Piped Piper of Iloilo City

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What happens when you take an American teenager away from her comfortable home and set her down in a totally unfamiliar environment?  That was the question my husband and I faced when our youngest daughter was 15.  We had a chance to move to the Philippines and teach at a local Bible school in Iloilo City. While we were excited about the opportunity, we had worries about the effect this would have on our daughter.  At the age when most teenagers are looking forward to receiving their driver’s license, having their first date and going to the prom, she would have to crowd all her personal effects into two suitcases and say goodbye to friends and the comfortable life she had known.  While she never complained, it was a scary and difficult move for her.

The first few weeks were rough for her as she adjusted to no TV, no hot running water, no soft comfortable bed, and especially no friends.  Adjusting to the public transportation was also a big hurdle for her.  As Americans we don’t like our own personal space to be invaded, yet riding the public transportation system gave a new meaning to the concept of closeness.

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When the children in our neighborhood realized there was an American girl living at our house, they began showing up at our gate every morning.  At first communication consisted mostly of smiles and giggles as the children would come to the gate and then run away when Jessica approached – only to come back and repeat it over and over.

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Slowly they stopped running away and Jessica began to try to talk to them.  The younger children only spoke the local dialect, Ilonggo, but the older children knew English and soon she was able to communicate with them.  Quickly she fell in love with these children with their bright smiles and beautiful eyes.  She no longer was lonely for whenever she stepped outside our gate into the dirt street in front of our house, she  was quickly surrounded by all the neighborhood children who followed her wherever she went. She taught them English and they, in turn, taught her Ilonggo.

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It became very obvious that she had a gift for reaching out to children even though they were different in culture, language and even skin color. She began a “Kids Klub” on Saturday mornings. Our home was filled with children as she taught them a song she had learned as a small child.

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While Saturday was the “official” day for the kids, every day some would show up at our front gate calling, “Tia, Tia!” Tia was the name for “Aunt” and Aunt she became to all the neighborhood children. The other missionary children never left their home without a chaperone and their parents could not believe we let our daughter ride the public transportation by herself. But she was never really alone, because everywhere she went, the children went also. She was safer than the other missionary children because she was not considered an outsider, but one of the community.

When the time came to return to the United States, our daughter did not want to come home. Her heart was with the children. The time spent in the Philippines opened her heart to the children, especially those who were less fortunate than she was. Organizing and running a weekly Kids Klub gave her experience that she began to use when she returned home.  Years later, she continues to work with children, and continues to love them without regard to their culture, language or skin color.

Uprooting my teenage daughter from her comfortable life and setting her down in a totally unfamiliar environment – far from being a traumatic and unsettling experience was perhaps one of the best experiences she has had in life.

I wish every American teenager could spend a month in a country less fortunate than the USA – could see how much we have here – how little others have.  In fact, I wish every American – adult as well as teenager – could experience life without all the luxuries we have.