A Thanksgiving Full of Thanksgiving by Karen

In Chapter 1 of Genesis we're told that we've been created in the image and likeness of God.  In 1 John 4:16 we read that "God is love."   It follows logically that if we were made in the image and likeness of God, who is love, that we were made from love and for love.

1 John 4:16 goes on to say that "whoever remains in love, remains in God, and God in Him."  We know that when the love of God consumes our hearts that we're filled with real, authentic joy - joy that is impossible to describe - joy that cannot be duplicated and has no substitute.  Without love people often feel empty and miserable. 

As Thanksgiving drew near we prayed about what we could do, given the current covid-19 restrictions, to bring God's love to the people here in Aguada who feel unloved and alone.  We decided that we didn't want anyone to start off the day feeling hungry, so we prepared a simple meal of egg, ham, and cheese sandwiches and bought some orange juice.  

We rode our bikes into the center of town where the lonely often congregate, and sure enough there were about a dozen men hanging around drinking - even though it was only 8AM.

Chris told me that when we arrived he sensed a spiritual coldness.  The men were somber and distant.   

After wishing them a happy thanksgiving and visiting a bit, we broke open scripture.  Chris read psalm 136, which is a hymn of thanksgiving.  As he read, Chris told me that he felt like the coldness was being replaced with a gentle warmth.  The man in the tan shirt began shouting, "Amen" which made everyone smile for all the right reasons.   

In psalm 147 it says, "He sends forth His word and it melts them."  This particular verse is referencing the frozen waters, but Chris recalled this psalm later on when we were talking about our Thanksgiving morning, and said that he felt like God's Word was melting the iciness in their hearts.  

After we read God's Word we invited each person to share a couple things for which he is thankful.

They praised God for their homes, health and jobs, but became most animated as they gave thanks for this time that we had to spend together.  They thanked God for bringing us to Puerto Rico so that we could remind them of God's goodness and love.  One man got so choked up that he felt the need to walk away so that the others didn't see him crying. 

After finishing with the guys on the corner, we went to another part of town where there is a covered basketball court.  

Before coronavirus, this court was full of rowdy kids dribbling and dunking.  In the absence of such activity, Alberto decided to make it his new home.     

At the far end of the court there is a small public restroom, which has long since had its water shut off. Alberto uses this space to store his belongings and said that he can use the toilet as long as friends bring him water once in a while to flush everything down.  

When we've visited Alberto at the basketball court in the past he's always been alone. On Thanksgiving morning Jose was there with him.  Jose explained that there are so many problems in his house that he'd rather just spend his time on the streets.  He sleeps in a nearby park and goes to visit Alberto periodically because it makes him feel good to be able to help someone else. 

We read about God's goodness in the bible and shared what we're thankful for.  Then, we sang praise and worship altogether. 

The huge smile on Jose's face reminded us of why it's so important to seek out the lost, lonely and forgotten.   

When we finished with our morning ministry we went to the home of another FMC missionary family who is serving here in Puerto Rico.  

Unlike last year in Kenya where we ate boiled kale and African flat bread for Thanksgiving, we got to have turkey and green bean casserole.

All praise be to God, we had lots of time to relax and have fun with the other missionaries. 

Every Thanksgiving we turn our attention to all those things for which we feel most grateful.  This year we thank God for our health, family and friends, for Family Missions Company and all of our amazing mission partners.  

We also feel especially thankful for the openness with which the Puerto Ricans have accepted us.  We thank God for the love that they've shown us as we've done our best to love them.    

When we saw Alberto the next day we had the chance to visit again.  As we were leaving, Alberto told Chris, "I love you, man!" at which point Chris said, "I love you too!"

God is love and love is God.  When we share God's Word, we share God's love and that love fills our hearts and brings us real joy.  

I hope and pray that you had a blessed Thanksgiving and that your heart is overflowing with the joy of God's love!  Peace, Karen 

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