What is Thanksgiving? The other day I was invited to my wife’s class at Albany High School as she held the 4th annual International Thanksgiving Feast. Being language learners from such countries as El Salvador, Mexico, and China, they were asked about what they knew about Thanksgiving. Being that they were from other countries, Thanksgiving was not a tradition with which they were familiar. My wife reviewed the story of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. She told about their treacherous journey and how half of the Pilgrims died during their First winter. Thanks to the Native Americans, they were able to survive. Squanto taught them how to plant their crops, fish, hunt, etc. Thanksgiving was first celebrated in 1621 by the colonists of Plymouth Plantation and the Wampanoag Indians as they converged to celebrate what God had provided for them.
At this point, the students were asked for what they were thankful. Many mentioned family. Janice explained to them how we, like the Pilgrims and Native Americans, represent different cultures. Those days (yes, they celebrated for several days) were special as the two cultures converged, and they celebrated God’s providence. What a feast we had that day—Chinese food, Mexican food, and African sauce, and rice.
So here was the first Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims were 3rd culture people mixing with the indigenous people of what the 3rd culture people called Plymouth Plantation. God transcended the two cultures. Together they ate and shared bread. I wonder what the seating arrangements were. In the class the other day, the Hispanics sat at one table while the Chinese sat at another. You could hear them speaking their own languages among themselves. They were not shutting themselves off from the other groups. They were just being who they were and being most at ease about it. When it came time for the conversation to be centered on Thanksgiving, English was the common ground.
There’s going to be a Thanksgiving celebration that is spiced with Cross cultural variety. It will be focused upon the One Who transcends all cultures but embraces their nuances. It is personality unleashed.
“After these things I looked and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the lamb!’”(Revelation 7:9-10)
I will be there. Those I love in Africa will be there. An bee ka Ala tanu, ka Aleluya fo! An bee ka baraka di a ma! For those of you who don’t yet know the Bambara language, it translates like this: “We all are praising God and saying hallelujah! We all are giving thanks to Him!”