Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Cross Cultural Thanksgiving

Bundibugyo, Uganda
Volume 2, Issue 11
November 22, 2007

-Cross Cultural Thanksgiving-
…A Pilgrim and His Foreign Friends…

Today I killed a turkey. I took its neck in one hand and a scalpel in the other…after a few minutes my job was done. Tonight I ate that same turkey, and it was good. There is no other day like Thanksgiving.

The most significant part of this year’s Thanksgiving did not occur on the actual day, but on the eve before. It was around a long wooden table in my home that I gathered with five Ugandan friends, Geoffrey, Lemech, Aguma, Vincent, and Ivan. We shared a meal prepared by our own hands. Earlier in the week I invited Geoffrey, Lemech, and Vincent to my home, asking them if they would like to help me cook, and each replied with an emphatic yes. I was hoping that Aguma and Ivan would also be able to attend, but I did not see them before the day, so they had no idea I was having a meal at my home.

The reason I wanted to invite these 5 people is because they have become my closest Ugandan friends. Each has been in my home at different times and each has helped me cook at one point or another. They vary in age from 12 to 32 years old. Geoffrey and Lemech are married with children, while the three others are still in school themselves. Geoffrey and Lemech are not from Bundibugyo district, but recently came here to work as agricultural extension workers. There wives and children are still at their original home, both places far form here. Like many Ugandans, both men have made the sacrifice of living away from their families in order to provide their families with a better life, with money, food, school fees, and security. Vincent, Ivan, and Aguma are three very remarkable young men/boys. They are gifted in many ways, though very distinct from one another.

When Geoffrey, Lemech, and Vincent came over I gave them each a recipe and put them in charge of a dish, quite the task for Ugandan men who don’t know how to make American food and don’t really know how to follow recipes. I supervised in the kitchen, but really tried to refrain from stepping in. Things were coming along nicely, when out my front window I saw Aguma. He had stopped by unexpectedly to surprise me and greet me! He had no idea that we were preparing a feast inside. A few minutes later I hear a knock on my door, and there stands 12 year old Ivan! He happened to be in the area and decided to stop bye to say hello!!! You can imagine my surprise at the immense blessing it was to have the exact five people I had hoped to invite earlier in the week now all cooking up a storm in my kitchen. It was awesome!!!

We made pumpkin soup, cheesy mashed potatoes, cabbage and berry salad, bread, and apple dumplings. Each person contributed significantly to the meal, and it turned into quite the feast!!! The evening was spent speaking of culture, friendship, and identity.

Right before we ate, as we sat around my kitchen table illuminated by the flicker of the waning candles, I explained the significance of Thanksgiving in America and why we as a nation celebrate the holiday. Never before has Thanksgiving had such relevance as I explained to them the relationship of the pilgrims and the Indians, two cultures coming together to celebrate friendship, life, and the abundant harvest. Truly, sitting there speaking, surrounded by the bountiful harvest before us, I felt like a pilgrim engaging with his foreign friends.

God truly blessed me last night, more than I could have asked for or imagined. He blessed me again today as I celebrated with the World Harvest Mission team members, feasting on turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and lots of pies. We ended the evening with a two and one half hour prayer time. We gathered together, on chair, floor, and couch and prayed for various aspects of our lives here in Bundibugyo. As the hanging candles flickered on the wall we poured our hearts out to God. Our time was structured around the beatitudes, Matthew chapter 5, ebbing and flowing from prayer to song, crying out to God in spoken word and worshipful praise. It was a rich time, deeply blessed, and it helped me to see the vast need in Bundibugyo but also allowed me to recognize the immense work that God had already accomplished in this often forgotten and frowned upon place.

The evening ended as we all crowded around a small screen, lying on mats and each other, and we watched the Charlie Brown Christmas movie. In that movie Charlie Brown is very depressed and frustrated with the commercialization of Christmas – the decorations, gifts, and aluminum Christmas trees. As Charlie Brown’s frustration climaxes, Linus walks to the center of the stage, the spotlight comes off Charlie Brown and now rests solely on Linus, and he recites the Christmas story, almost verbatim from the bible, speaking of angles, shepherds, and a savior born in a manager. Beautiful.

I hope this holiday season you and I can both reflect on the significance of Christmas and how that day has changed humanity forever.

I am thankful for you. I love you and miss you,


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