What do you do when you live in another country and important US holidays come around? I, for one, am not going to sit around and mope for what I might be missing! You make your own traditions and celebrate with the family you have close to you—and you learn that family is not limited to those related by blood. We are incredibly blessed to have a community of missionaries from different organizations and countries to “do life” with! They truly are a second family. There are also many other ex-pats in southern Haiti, many who I don’t know well, who are also missing their families and friends.
Our community here in Les Cayes, Haiti has been celebrating American Thanksgiving together for over 20 years. Most years, this gathering has happened at what is now our home. I have been thrilled to carry on that tradition! I think we set a record this year—120 people came to our gathering! Countries represented included the US, Germany, Canada, Haiti, South Africa, Nicaragua, and Uruguay. I think one of the best things about Thanksgiving, is that it is a holiday that transcends nationality. We can add our American traditions to it, but all of us in this missionary community enjoy setting a day aside to thank God for His blessings over the past year.
All 120 of us!
This was our third year here for Thanksgiving and my third year hosting. I really enjoy organizing and hosting this event! Some of you may think I am insane, but the truth is, now that I’ve done it a few times, this was the easiest year yet. I’ve got a good sense on what amounts of food we need and the best way to set everything up in our yard.
So how did I do it? What is needed to pull this off? TEAMWORK! I didn’t do it! Everyone contributed. A few weeks before Thanksgiving, I send out invitations and a sign-up list via email. I ask Agape Flights to purchase the amount of large turkeys we need and they fly them in when they fly in the mail and packages. I purposely choose to sign up to bring dessert, so that the only cooking I have to do is baking the day before. The sign-up list includes tables and chairs available. The day before, some missionaries brought down their tables and chairs and Rob and Gary drove around picking up the rest. The day of Thanksgiving, while everyone else is making the dish(es) they signed up to bring, Rob and I are setting up tables and chairs and working out last minute details. I invited anyone who wanted to come and decorate the tables to come at 11 am. All the tables were beautifully decorated by 11:30. I always set up an activity table for the kids with lots of crayons, Thanksgiving coloring sheets, mazes and word searches. Drew’s teacher, Ms. Karen and the teacher’s aid at the school, Sarah, came up with a craft as well.
Someone made a comment on Facebook that I must have a very large house to do this. Hahahaha! We could never fit a quarter of the people in my house. What we do have, is enough space in the yard and driveway to pull this off outside. Imagine our panic, when at 12:30, an hour before everyone was to start arriving and all the tables, tablecloths and decorations were set up, it STARTED RAINING! When we realized it was not a quick shower, we grabbed all the tarps we could find and covered the tables. I never prayed so hard for rain to stop! It stopped raining right as people started to arrive at 1:30 and the rain held off the rest of the day. Praise the Lord!
All the tables set up in the driveway before the rain started:
Wondering what we had at our meal? Here is the run down: 4 20-pound turkeys, 1 15-pound turkey, 5 trays of stuffing, 5 bowls of gravy, 4 trays of mashed potatoes, 3 trays of sweet potatoes, 16 cans of corn, 5 trays of “other vegetables”, 6 different salads, 3 baskets of bread (with butter), 3 bowls of cranberry sauce, 15 different desserts, 3 10-gallon thermos’s of juice, and large amounts of regular and decaf coffee. We all ate very well!
We try to stick to a loose program. Eat dinner, then take a group photo, then get dessert. While eating dessert, Rob shared a short devotional then opened up the mic to anyone who wanted to share what they were thankful for for the past year. Tessa’s first grade class sang a song complete with sign language hand motions. This time of reflection together is always very special.
Braden was pretty tired from all the work and fell asleep at the table!
What a great Thanksgiving with our ‘second family’!