Thanksgiving this year was amazing! Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday. Mainly, because it isn’t centered on gifts and spending money on a bunch of unnecessary things. It’s just about being with family and eating a bunch of good food.
I told you Monday, I would be sharing our Thanksgiving festivities today. Everything worked out so much better than I even thought it would. God is good!
And let me apologize now. First off, this post is going to be longer than usual. I’m really excited about everything that we did, so I want to share it all with you and not leave anything out. Also, I’m writing this post on very little sleep. Our youth group at church had a lock in for Thanksgiving and I volunteered Clint and I to chaperone. I’ve been up since 5:30 am Thursday morning. I did sleep for 2.5 hours this morning, but will be heading to work shortly. That should be a fun productive day at work. Last night, we went as a group to our local outlet mall and handed out hot cocoa and literature to the Black Friday shoppers. The Youth enjoyed it and the 200 cups went QUICK!
But let’s back up to Tuesday. Through our church, Brother Robby has started a thing where he picks up about 20 turkey from a local homeless mission. Church members then volunteer to cook them and Brother Robby delivers them back to the mission for the homeless to eat on Thanksgiving. We didn’t participate last year, but this year we volunteered to do 2. A co-worker of mine was very interested in helping, so she cooked one for me. That was the first turkey I have ever cooked and it was surprisingly really good!
Now for the thing that I, personally, was most excited about. Let me give you a little back-story though. About 5 years ago on a Thanksgiving night, Clint and I were driving home from our day full of Thanksgiving meals at both of our families and were stuffed. We passed a homeless man walking by the Interstate overpass on the Highway and my heart sank. I got emotional and told Clint that I just hated that here we were with full bellies and that man is struggling to carry all of his belongings on his back, in the cold, and most likely with an empty belly. This was before this early Black Friday stuff they do now, so there was barely anyone out. I told Clint that we should go back to his parents’ house and make that man a to-go plate of some of our leftovers and bring it to him. It sounded like a great idea, but then the negativity took over. We thought, well he would probably be gone by the time we got back, he may be dangerous, we were ready to get home, etc. Basically, we were just being selfish in a perfect opportunity to share with this man after it being laid on our hearts.
Since then, I have told Clint and his mother that I want to go out one holiday and feed the homeless in our area. We do have some missions in our city in the “downtown” area, but they are about 4-5 miles from the Interstate. My idea was to try and reach those people that may be new to the area and hadn’t made it down to those missions, those maybe too proud to go to a mission, those who may not be physically able to make it down there, etc. We are just so blessed for all that we have and I want to share that physically and emotionally with these people and let them know that they can come back up from where they are and that it is worth it to do so. I want them to know that even though they aren’t sitting around a table with family that loves them eating their meal, that we love them and God loves them.
So that has been my vision for the last 5 years or so and every year I’ve heard from different people that it’s too dangerous or would take too much from everyone else’s “holiday” to help. Last year we started talking more seriously about doing it with our Sunday School class at church, but I was pregnant at the time so we really didn’t push it. This year, though, it was happening! We got a late start planning things, but we asked anyone we could think of if they knew where camps may be or the best time of night or day to find the homeless. We also collected socks at church to give out, which our church members were very generous in. We did get some suggestions, but none of them ever really seemed to work out. So a few days ago, Brother Robby went driving around and walked into a homeless camp he found and talked with a guy about our plans. He told him we would be back on Thanksgiving, to round up as many people as he could.
On Wednesday, Michelle (my mother-in-law) and I took off work. My mom and little sister came and helped, and we cooked all day to prepare for Thanksgiving. We fried 4 turkeys (with Robby’s help), had 1 roasted turkey, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole and banana pudding. Brother Robby’s wife, Jennifer, prepared dressing and 2 pecan pies. We made enough to feed 50 people!
Thanksgiving morning, Clint’s parents, my Dad & little sister, Brother Robby and two others from our Sunday School class, Brandy and Heather all put together 50 to-go plates and loaded up to feed those at that camp and whatever else we had left to whoever we could find. When we got to the camp, there were only 3 men to feed. They spread the word, but the mission around the corner was giving out to-go plates, also. Brother Robby spoke with those 3 men about the Gospel and prayed for them and we left them 6 boxes and socks.
Then, we drove over to the mission and spoke with the people running it. They were giving out boxes to people who had pre-registered. We left them 16 boxes for anyone who may come in looking for a meal who had not known to pre-register. As we were taking the food out of the truck, we were sort of bombarded by those who were outside and gave out 20 boxes there. After that, we gave one man a ride and just started driving around looking for anyone walking the streets. We found one guy, Jason, and asked him if he’d eaten and he told us he was just worried about his kids eating. We gave him 3 plates and lots of socks. I’m not sure if he lived in a house or not, but he made the comment that he lived right through some woods in the alley. Jason was a believer, but was upset with God and sort of felt like he had been abandoned. Brother Robby talked with him for a long time and prayed with him.
Next, we loaded up and headed north to Walmart. You normally will see homeless hanging out around certain places in the Walmart parking lot and we checked all of those. We found one man sitting in front of a closed down Office Max with a broken leg and another sitting at a stop sign about 100 yards from away. We brought the man with the broken leg a plate and plenty of socks and a sweatshirt. He wasn’t aware of some of the cold shelters in Downtown, so we told him about them and just talked with him for a little while. I enjoyed talking with him, he was so appreciative and polite it just warmed your heart.
We walked across the street to the man at the stop sign next. We were coming up behind him and called out to him before we got too close. He set a little book down and took the food and thanked us for it. He noticed the New Testament on top of the box and told us he was excited about that and motioned to his little book, which was a devotional. We gave him some pants and socks and he got teary eyed thanking us and talking with us. He’s been homeless for 20 years. Before we left, he shook Dad and Robby’s hands, hugged me and thanked us again. As we were telling him bye, another man rode up on a bicycle and we offered him a plate. He got socks, a sweatshirt and a plate of food too.
Next, we drove down a road that backs up to railroad tracks where there used to be a bunch of homeless that you could see from the Highway. About a year ago, they cut back a bunch of the woods though and you don’t usually see them nearly as much. We drove down this road grown up with trees and at the railroad crossing found 2 men getting warm in the sun. They had a camp through a small opening in the woods, very well hidden from view. We talked with them for a little while and gave them food and socks. They said the others that stayed there were Downtown for the food the missions give out.
After that, we rode around behind stores looking down railroad tracks and walking under a bridge and couldn’t find anyone else. We only had a couple of boxes left so we started heading home. Just past the Interstate overpass, we saw a man walking so we did 2 U-turns to get back to him and pulled off on the shoulder. We gave him both boxes of food in a paper box with water and socks. I think he was walking back to the camp we had just come from down the tracks.
This was by far, the best Thanksgiving I have ever enjoyed. And you would probably expect me to say that it makes me so much more thankful for everything that I have, but it doesn’t. That’s all just stuff. What this experience made me thankful for is God and my salvation. God laid this on my heart years ago to do. He orchestrated every bit of it. Without Him nudging me, I don’t think I would have gotten the opportunity to meet the people I did yesterday and show them His love. Now, I can’t wait to get the chance to do it again!
What are you most thankful for this holiday season? Did you meditate on that throughout the day yesterday?