Since it is an American holiday, Thanksgiving is not celebrated by the general public in PNG. Yet we missionaries hold fast to this custom from our homeland. Families and friends gather together for the celebration feast--after everyone has finished work for the day. It is often referred to as "turkey day" after the main dinner course. At Kudjip, it is usually "big chicken day" or maybe even "ham day." Turkeys are few and far between, expensive, and not always edible.
A few months ago I was shopping at Best Buy. No, it is not an electronics store but one of the better places to buy groceries in Mt. Hagen. While browsing through the meat section, I was surprised to find a freezer full of small turkeys at a bargain price of 18 kina (about $7). I was a bit skeptical. First of all, could I be sure this was really a turkey and not a large chicken? And if it was a turkey, it was probably imported from somewhere far away. There was a possibility that it wouldn't be any good. But hey, for 18K I was willing to give it a try. I bought the turkey and put it in the freezer to be saved for a special occasion.
This year Beck and I were invited to the Dooleys' house for Thanksgiving dinner. Five volunteers also joined the party: the Kerrigans (surgeon and wife covering for Dr. Jim's furlough), Missy (FP resident), Renie (EBC nurse), and Dave (here to install our new phone system). Dinner was set for 6:30 PM. Beck and I would bring the turkey, gravy, and green bean casserole.
I don't think I have ever cooked a turkey all by myself before. There have been several holidays where cousins gathered together and made a group effort, usually with lots of encouragement over the phone from our mothers. And a few disasters such as potato peels spewing from the garbage disposal. I was nervous about being responsible for such an important part of the meal. Thanks to the now functioning internet and Google "how to cook a turkey," I found several recipes and some good advice. The bird went in the oven mid-afternoon. The house was soon filled with the aromas of the holiday. Of course the turkey took a bit longer to cook than I calculated. I think as a watched pot never boils, so a roasting turkey never gets to 165 degrees. But it really wouldn't be Thanksgiving in our family if you had dinner on time.
At 6:45 the turkey was finally done and whisked away to the Dooleys' to be carved. We gathered around the table, so beautifully decorated with fall plates and napkins, pilgrim place cards, and candy cups. Dr. Kevin gave thanks to the Lord for his goodness and provision. Let the feasting begin! There was hardly enough room for turkey and all the fixin's... mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, pumpkin souffle, green bean casserole, crescent rolls, cranberry sauce, berry salad. I am sure I am forgetting something. Once we were finished, there was hardly room for dessert... derby, pumpkin, and peanut butter pies. Just like a Thanksgiving back home.
Since Thanksgiving is a time of giving thanks, I have so much to be thankful for this and every year. I want to especially thank the lord for my families. Yep... families.
I am blessed to have family back home in the US, one that has supported me in my crazy life and adventures. We have had so many wonderful times together from Ohio to Texas and soon to be PNG. You continue to love me from the other side of the world with your care packages, Skype calls, and prayers. I love you so much.
I am grateful for my PNG family. The Dooleys and the other missionaries and I may not share the same DNA, but we are related by blood--the blood of Christ. We laugh and cry and pray together. We share holidays and special times together like families do! This Thanksgiving was definitely one of those special times.
"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
~ 1 Chronicles 16:34