On Thanksgiving mid-day, we were four hours away from our home, weary from a busy week spent traveling with a delegation, and at that point without a single Thanksgiving preparation complete. By seven o’clock that night, our house was bright with chatter and laughter and the rich scents of bacon, onion and thyme, with a spread of food so delicious even remembering it now is making my mouth water.
In those few hours between, Elena Huegel, Global Ministries Missionary, and Bethany Waggoner and I, Global Mission Interns, who are all serving in Chile at this time, met up and together managed to clean the house, buy the groceries, and swap turns at the tiny oven to prepare all of our favorite Thanksgiving dishes. Previously, we had searched the aisles for that prized can of pumpkin, but without success - yielded to the reality that this year’s table would lack the delicacy of pumpkin pie. The house filled with the feel of Thanksgiving: children running around playing with toys, people in and out of the kitchen, and all the wafting scents of the delicious dishes we were preparing. We filled the table with stuffing, gravy, green beans with bacon, spinach salad with goat cheese, walnuts and nectarines, corn and butter, squash with maple syrup, and roasted carrots, sweet potato and red pepper.
Our Chilean guests arrived with the turkey in tow, which they had prepared by following the basting and infusing advice gleaned from carefully watching a US Thanksgiving cooking show. When our Chilean Dutch and Swedish American guests arrived with a pumpkin pie as their contribution, we nearly fell to the floor and wept for joy.
Elena explained the origin of Thanksgiving that the first pilgrims to North America would not have survived had it not been for the generosity and kindness of the native people. Before dinner, each person started with two kernels of corn on his or her plate. While holding one, we gave thanks for something that happened within the last year. With the other, we expressed a desire for the coming year. Adults and youth shared their blessings, grateful for the birth of their healthy child, a school year of academic and athletic accomplishments, and for the difficult things too, a year of lessons learned and opportunities to grow in faith.
During dinner, I was impressed that the guests tried everything, mixing it all together on their plates in good Thanksgiving form and slathering with plenty of gravy. Of course, as one of the cooks, it gave me great satisfaction when our guests went for seconds and thirds. Our Chilean neighbor and police officer regaled us about how bizarre it was that on television she saw the president of the United States setting free a turkey. We all laughed when she imitated the confused turkey trotting off into freedom. Then, she had been enthralled with all the cooking shows, in one of which the cooks had prepared a pumpkin pie. She rehearsed each step that she had learned: making the crust, preparing the pumpkin filling, and serving it with whip cream. “And then,” she exclaimed excitedly to the other guests, “you walked right in with a real pumpkin pie!” Everyone took the opportunity to again celebrate the unexpected blessing of this pie, listening intently to our guest as he told us the process of how he managed to find a pumpkin, and then prepare the filling and crust from scratch. One of the children was surprised that she liked the squash, and I told her that the special ingredient was maple syrup. When they left, I gave each a little bottle. Growing up as a true New Englander, maple syrup is practically in my blood, so giving away the little bit that I had brought down to Chile was truly a gift from the bottom of my heart.
This Thanksgiving, I have much for which to be grateful. One of which is the blessing of being able to share Thanksgiving dinner here in Chile with people representing five different countries and speaking in three different languages. For the reminder that this is what Thanksgiving is all about: celebrating the joining of cultures and new relationships, the sharing of food and the blessings of fellowship. Today, I give thanks for all of these things.
Lauren Kabat serves as a Global Mission Intern with the Shalom Center in Chile. Her appointment is supported by Week of Compassion, Our Churches Wider Mission, Disciples Mission Fund and your special gifts.