Thanksgiving through a different lens

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It occurs to me that a lot of us express thanksgiving in rather general terms. We know we ought to be thankful; but aren’t very passionate about it. Perhaps, we’ve just become too contented. 

Last Sunday, my own contentment suffered a huge reality check. As pastor to a Vietnamese congregation, I have heard some of their individual histories. But they became much more real in the showing of a brief video during our Thanksgiving service.

Toan’s thanksgiving begins with the recollection of his flight from the chaos of his war-torn homeland. The black and white news-photo says it all: too many mal-nourished people on a vessel likely to collapse at any moment. In their desperation, they raise an old sheet upon which are the letters S.O.S. in the hopes they will be rescued by a passing vessel. But the reality is that few survive, and he is among that minority.

His next picture is more recent. Toan is surrounded by members of his family. By all appearances, they have become what some might call, “successful.” But this is not the story of a self-made man. God had rescued him for a purpose—and for that, he is truly thankful. 

His presentation really moved me. I realized that as much as I may think I know my congregation, I can’t really identify with their experiences. And there are so many similar stories. My new friends have much to teach me about God’s love and mercy in the circumstances of daily life, and my need of daily thankfulness!

Pastor Doug Allen