Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

There’s nothing like holidays overseas to make you feel isolated, creepy and angry. It’s weird that no one on your team does them the same way you do (“What do you mean you eat cranberry sauce out of a can?”). I remember my first Thanksgiving at Krista’s family’s house when I discovered they were about to throw away the dark meat of the turkey. They insist it was a joke but I was pretty scared for a minute.

These feelings are intensified overseas, and the next five weeks--Thanksgiving through New Year’s—can be the most difficult part of a stint year. You are experiencing culture shock, miss your family, and your team seems suddenly to represent another culture, too… a culture that opens gifts on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?

Then you start looking at the culture. They think it’s bizarre that you celebrate a day of thankfulness by gorging yourself on over-sized birds and cranberries and smashed potatoes. They don’t understand why you want Christmas Day off from your classes. They don’t see why missing your family on this Thursday is different from any other day of the year. You feel out of place, out of sorts and out of strength.

Here’s a scripture I hope will encourage you:

“…they admitted they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country which they had left they would have had opportunity to return. Instead they were looking forward to a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Remember, you are not only a stranger to this culture you are living in now, but to the culture of the entire world. A day is coming when you can be “home” at last, when you will be with the Most Beloved One, in his home, celebrating every holyday together with him. In that day we won’t feel alone anymore, won’t be worn out from life in this world and won’t find ourselves adrift and without hope ever again.

So, take a break here and there, make sure you are rested. Give your family and friends a call for the holidays. But don’t forget that you are a stranger where you are in the same way that you would be a stranger in the United States… you are a citizen of a greater kingdom, the Heavenly one. In the meantime, celebrate with your teammates or other believers; that’s a pretty good preview of the New Jerusalem to come.

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