Today is Thanksgiving in the USA. Today my entire family will be together once again – 5 kids, 3 of them married, and 7 grandkids. And in the days leading up to this wonderful time I’m reminded of so many things for which I am thankful. But I also have confusing feelings of guilt, questions about why, and challenges about how to put what I have been given to good use.
Identifying things to be thankful for can be difficult. Most of us are surrounded by things which should cause overflowing thankfulness, but we usually dismiss them as the accepted norm and take them for granted. However, spend just a little time in any number of other countries around the world, and then really let the conditions overwhelm your processing, and you may evaluate your own condition quite differently. Unfortunately, even trips to other countries quickly fade from our memory. My on-going work with our projects in Kenya has tended to keep some causes for thankfulness at the forefront of my thinking. Here are several that quickly come to mind:
1. Last night I slept in a comfortable bed. The room was quiet. The temperature was not too hot or too cold, and when it rained, the roof did not leak. Today I am praying for the millions of people who go to bed each night in a temporary tent or hut, who are cold, or damp, or crowded, or surrounded by continual conflict. I am so thankful!
2. When I woke this morning I went to the bathroom in a room connected right to my bedroom. Today I am praying for the millions of people who use community bathrooms – one per ten families or more. I am so thankful!
3. Before eating breakfast each morning, I pour myself a glass of filtered water. I do not fear that my drinking water will cause sickness. Today I am praying for the millions of people who do not have access to fresh drinking water and continually battle water born illnesses such as cholera. I am so thankful!
4. My breakfast, nine out of ten mornings, consists of hot rolled oats, nuts, and raisins that I cook in about ten minutes on my electric stove. Today I am praying for the millions of people who do not have access to electricity and still cook with wood, coal or kerosene. I am so thankful!
5. A few hours after breakfast I go running. I am 56 years old and am able to run without pain. Today I am praying for the millions of people who live with physical ailments, who are unable to run, or in many cases even walk. I am so thankful!
6. As I think about my children and grandchildren, I realize that all of them have been, or will be, able to study and learn as much as they desire at good quality schools. Their future will not be limited by a lack of education. Today I am praying for the millions of people who do not have access to quality schools, for the mothers who worry for their children and who work so hard to get a little extra money to allow their children an educational opportunity. I am so thankful!
7. Yesterday, I spent the evening watching a movie with my wife, who also happens to be my best friend. We sat close, shared a snack, and cried at the same parts of the movie. After all these years together, we still enjoy being together. Today I am praying for the millions of people who have a broken relationship or who are in a relationship full of pain. I am so thankful!
And with all this, I didn’t even get to the overabundance of food we will have when we all gather together. I have so many reasons to give thanks! But these reasons for thankfulness come with a price. My work with my Brothers in Kenya do not allow me to fully enjoy what I am thankful for. I can’t get the questions of Why out of my head. Why do I live the life I live when so many others suffer, when there is so much hunger, fear, sickness, and pain? I can point to a couple of good decisions I have made along the way, but the vast majority of my life is simply due to where I was born, to circumstances completely out of my control. I, in no way, deserve this life. I have not truly earned anything! I suppose this is the definition of grace…but why me?! How am I really supposed to live this life? What am I to do with the life I have received? The life I have been given ought to compel me to action of some kind.
My daughter, Sarah, tells me I am going through an existential crisis; I am struggling with purpose and meaning. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be very healthy to struggle with these questions. I have not yet found an answer, but I believe our work in Kenya is one type of purposeful action. We are providing education and meals for over two hundred children and in the process working hard to transform families. No, this by itself will not change the world, but perhaps this type of work in millions of other places will have a significant impact.
Here are a few specific projects I will be talking about between now and the end of the year:
1. Our schools will need supplies for the new year. Total budget, $2500
2. Our uniform program is in bad need of repairs and additions. Total budget, $2000
3. We need to purchase Bibles for our family ministry program. Total budget, $500
4. We will do a food distribution program for the families in late December. Total budget, $3000
5. This year we purchased a property next to our school in Mathare. We planned to update the building with a temporary tin building. Funds for this have already been collected. However, as we began we decided to build a permanent foundation which would allow for up to four floors. This work has just begun and we should have enough to complete the first floor. The other floors will be added as funds are available. Total budget for all four floors is about $30,000.
The life we have been given can be strange. We certainly should enjoy and be thankful for what we have been given, but our life also comes with some level of responsibility. Our thankfulness ought to generate actions used to minister to one another in any way we can. I don’t claim to have this all figured out, but if you feel led, please join in our efforts in Kenya. We are having an impact on individual lives and in the lives of families. I believe that in some form this is what it means to unleash the actions of thanksgiving.
Have a Christ Centered Day!
God’s Daily Word Ministries
**** Reading Plan ****
Nov 26 Daniel 2:24-3:30; 1 Peter 4:7-5:14; Psalm 119:81-95; Proverbs 28:15-16
Nov 27 Daniel 4:1-37; 2 Peter 1:1-21; Psalm 119:96-112; Proverbs 28:17-18
Nov 28 Daniel 5:1-31; 2 Peter 2:1-22; Psalm 119:113-131; Proverbs 28:19-20
Nov 29 Daniel 6:1-28; 2 Peter 3:1-18; Psalm 119:132-155; Proverbs 28:21-22