My living room transformed into a mini-UN for Thanksgiving a couple years ago.
Irfan sat across from me on our “Thanksgiving Eve” international dinner. We had planned a small group, but it had grown to a sit-down meal of almost 30 in our 1600 square-foot (488 square meter) home.
“But I want to know, how did you get this international community started?” Irfan inquired. “It really is extraordinary what you do, especially with the wives.”
What Motivates Me
I took a deep breath and paused to collect my thoughts before I answered my Pakistani friend’s question. I wanted to slow myself down. In fact, I had been running for days now. Fabulous luncheon for a group of 60+ international wives the Friday before, a weekend road trip up to Oregon from our California home (12 hours each way) over the weekend to attend our niece’s wedding. And, of course, preparations for this Thanksgiving time.
I wanted to get this answer right.
“You know,” I began. “This desire to do this comes from the heart. I wish I could say this was just my heart, but it is a bigger heart than mine. It is the heart of God.”
“As a Christian, I believe that we love because God first loved us.” I waited for that to sink into my Muslim friend’s heart. I have grown so close to his wife, Samira, who was in on the conversation as well.
“We believe God has loved us through his precious son — Jesus. He gave us Jesus, and allowed him to experience the most painful death, but then made his rising from that a pathway to eternal hope and life. It is the greatest sacrifice of love ever.”
A Muslim Friend's Response
Irfan looked at me with warm eyes. He and his faith were not threatened by what I had said. While I could tell he was processing it against what he believes, it was happening in those recesses of the heart and mind to which I’ll never have access.
But, I realize, the cool thing is, the Spirit of the Living God does!
“I can see you living out your faith in a good way that blesses many,” he responded. “You know, this is the type of Christianity that we Muslims respect.”
Wow. Indeed, I felt so honored. And encouraged.
Bridges of Peace
“You know, at the most basic level, I just have this deep-seated desire to be an instrument of God’s peace,” I confided. “Because I feel as if, in this crazy world where so many misunderstand one another, we need to build those bridges of peace and love.”
“After all,” I added, “You don’t usually go to war with someone you really love.”
Irfan and Samira smiled at me. Genuine smiles communicating appreciation, connection and respect. They could tell I meant what I said.
Samira added, “Thank you for this. You are doing a good thing. You have made us feel welcome and at home in this land far away. We need more of what you have described.”
As I looked around the room, the weight and value of the moment struck me. I was full of a heart of thanksgiving. Ten different nations represented in my living room. All of the continents except Antarctica (I have yet to meet my first person from there!). Families, singles, young (5 months) to well beyond middle-aged. Various walks of life, backgrounds, beliefs, skin colors.
This Thanksgiving peace and friendship — and turkey — filled that room. And it was all good.
How do you celebrate Thanksgiving? And how can you spread this message of thanks beyond your traditional borders?