I have been blessed by God these days to have a healthy spirit of thanksgiving. I am an incredibly blessed man, and I know this is God’s doing in my life. In looking through some old writings of mine, I came across this prayer — which was worded on behalf of the Geita mission team, and prayed aloud before our Thanksgiving meal this past November:
Father God, you are all-powerful, all-knowing, and always present.
you are good and right and holy and true, and we can only define those ideas because of who you are.
you are our creator and sustainer. you formed our bodies, and you breathed your own life into us.
you have loved us with a greater love than we will ever understand while on this fallen earth.
yet you have loved us in such a way that we’re able to experience true life even while on this fallen earth.
not that you’ve taken away all sadness or removed all difficulties from our lives —
but you’ve allowed us to pass through these times with great hope… and love.
you’ve given us your Son, who brings us into relationship with you,
and you’ve sent us the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to live as you have purposed.
thank you, God, for being a God who comes near to his people.
thank you for being a God who loves us unconditionally, with grace and mercy abounding.
and, Lord, we thank you that, in your loving kindness, you’ve poured on us great blessings.
we know these blessings are not for us alone, but for us to share with those around us,
and to demonstrate to others what it is to live in Christ,
and in his community.
now, Father, we want to thank you for just a few of these many blessings by name:
thank you for calling us to africa,
for purposing for us to be here, and for making a way for us.
for moneys raised and moneys that still will be raised.
for sending congregations willing to send us,
and for family members willing to support us in being sent.
thank you for the groen family and the mwanza team.
for their willingness to share from their experiences
and to serve as our tutors for living in africa and serving a people different than ourselves.
thank you for our time at language school in iringa,
for the teachers who were skilled in teaching swahili,
for the ability to set aside several weeks in order to focus only on language.
and for our time at riverside
to bond as a team,
to adapt to a new culture,
to prepare for the work you have prepared for us.
thank you for the new babies on our team —
for ann elise, baylor, and jude.
they are in many ways the most amazing gifts you’ve given.
a few of us have experienced the pains of birth (all of us have witnessed them),
which have served as a reminder that we live in a fallen world, and that sin has consequences for all.
but, God, the pains have been greatly overshadowed by the tremendous joy of having children.
thank you that each child is healthy and growing:
growing up in size and ability
growing closer to parents and teammates
growing in understanding and thinking
and growing firmly in the love you have for them, and show them through their parents and teammates.
thank you, God, for putting us in geita, to be lights in a dark place.
thank you for 2 out of 3 families being in our homes
and that the 3rd has a comfortable place to wait.
thank you for the relationships you’ve enabled us to form,
whether they be with government officials or muslims,
seamstresses or juice-makers,
our own employees or guys at hardware stores,
kids without families or tall, wealthy, English-speaking Catholics.
you’ve blessed us to know people, and through us for them to know you.
thank you, God, for delivering us from evil and protecting us from satan.
we thank you for the growth we’ve experienced as a team, coming through difficult times.
and we thank you for opening our eyes to the need for accountability and openness.
thank you for overcoming evil and darkness with your forgiveness, mercy, and love,
both from you and from those who have been called by your name.
and, Father, we thank you for dreams and visions of what is to come.
we thank you for giving us big ideas, and for making it possible for us to accomplish them.
we thank you for those glimpses we have of the future that make the present seem worthwhile.
we thank you for hundreds or thousands who will come to know you and your love,
who will accept Jesus as Lord and give their lives to you.
we thank you for all who will be touched by our ministries,
for those who will be able to put more food on their family’s table,
or live just a little healthier than they might have otherwise.
for those who will have a better water situation or a more permanent house in which to live,
for those who will be given a home and a family after having been orphaned or abandoned.
we thank you especially for those who will recognize our service to them and repay it in service to others.
for those who will recognize your love for them, and return it to you and then to others.
for those who will recognize a life well-lived, and themselves begin a journey to live that life.
God, we’ve only begun to touch on the blessings you’ve poured out on our families. but we want you to know that we are thankful for these, and all others. we know that every good and perfect gift comes from you. and we thank you for these gifts in our lives. Father, as we eat this meal together, we eat in thanksgiving. we celebrate those things you have done, those things you are doing, and those things you will do. we celebrate your good blessings for us as we share this food together.
For what are you thankful? And have you expressed your gratitude to God today?