Often times as Missionaries on the foreign field, the holidays can be a bit of a difficult time, especially during our first couple of years on the field. Thanksgiving is no exception to the rule. I remember our first Thanksgiving away from the USA, around 13 years ago. The panic set in… “There are no frozen pie crusts here, no canned cranberry sauce, the turkey cost $50 dollars and its head is still attached!” What’s a girl to do when often the convenient and traditional things aren’t available, and mom isn’t there to help? I found myself not being very thankful for all that the Lord was providing for us and not thanking Him for allowing us to live where He had placed us. Perhaps you find yourself in the same boat this year, you’re in a different place, with usual foods, and not much family around to celebrate; and you’re in doubt about how you can help your children make wonderful childhood memories, and if all of that wasn’t enough to worry about, how are you going to cook a savory, traditional meal without the main ingredients?
I asked several missionary lady friends about the traditions they have made and ways they celebrate with their families while on the mission field. Here are just a few ideas from these special ladies and myself:
- If turkey isn’t available or cost $75 dollars like it does here in Bolivia here are a few options:
- I have found that roasted ham (lunch meat) you can cut it and bake it with pineapple and honey, it makes a great tasting honey baked ham.
- Stuff and Bake 2 whole chickens. This will usually feed the same about of people as a medium sized turkey.
- One Missionary Wife received a live turkey from a friend for her family. She had it taken to the meat factory and prepared for them to cook.
- Side dishes:
- You can use pomegranates to take the place of cranberries.
- Usually I make walnut pies, instead of pecan pies, because pecans are very expensive here, and usually hard to find. It tastes the same and is a great alternative.
- If you can’t find canned pumpkin, you can use real pumpkin to make pumpkin pies. The color turns out a little lighter but still has the same great taste.
- Need cool whip for that special recipe? Take heavy whipping cream, put it in the freezer to chill it, add sugar and vanilla to it and mix it until it’s fluffy! It has a great taste and works just as well.
- Sour cream- you can use canned cream and add 3 teaspoons of vinegar and mix. You can also use plain yogurt as an option to sour cream.
- If you can’t find sweet potatoes, try using part pumpkin mixed with butternut squash.
- One Missionary wife uses a tablecloth every year, that everyone who eats with them on Thanksgiving gets to sign it! This will be a wonderful thing to keep through the years and bring back many special memories.
- This year, for the month of November, my children and I have added to our devotion time a time of thankfulness. If you need ideas to give everyday there are lots of websites that give some great ideas to generate the conversation.
- For almost every holiday we play games. Minute to Win It games are wonderful and a lot of fun. GrandmaIdeas.com has some really fun dice games. Also, if you have people over from your host country, games can be universal and a way to bring everyone together. Pinterest is another great place to find some really fun things to do with family during the holidays.
- Decorate your house! Have fun with it! My children have come up with some great decorating ideas from things we have around the house.
- Celebrate with your newfound friends in your host country. Invite friends over, many times those friends become like family to us.
- You don’t have to have the traditional turkey mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, etc… meal either. Maybe there is a meal that you can’t make often, but your family really loves; make that your “traditional” Thanksgiving meal. This idea was suggested by a Missionary wife in Africa; she would make Lasagna for her family every Thanksgiving.
- Have some fall scented candles you can burn.
- A Missionary Wife in Africa has her children write down something they are thankful for on fall colored leaves. This has been something her children look forward to every year.
- Be Thankful: for where the Lord has placed you and your family. The Bible commands us to “think on good things.” Often our thoughts are the things that make or break our day.
- Be Joyful: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
Perhaps you are struggling with being away from family this holiday season, but I encourage you to “Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with thanksgiving.” Psalm 100:2.
I’d love to hear from you all about some different recipes you use and some traditions you have made with your family during this special season.
This Thanksgiving the authors from www.womenbehindthescenes.com hope that you have a wonderful day with your family and friends. We are praying for each of you as you are serving the Lord and we are thankful for each of our readers!