Thursday, November 24, 2011

A different kind of Thanksgiving... (Part 1)

Since November 1st, I've been reading lots of posts about thankfulness on my friends' blogs and facebooks. For the past few days, I've been reading about everyone's preparations for the holiday - and all the family, friends, and food they're planning to enjoy! But this year, Thanksgiving looked very different for us. Instead of spending time with our family and eating all our favorite dishes, we spent the day working at one of our orphanages in Delhi, India. We may not have celebrated in the traditional way, but the past few weeks have given me a lot of new things to be thankful for... many of them things I typically take for granted.

After spending time in a leper colony, I am thankful for all my fingers and toes. I'm also thankful that I live in a country that has eradicated this debilitating disease. To see people suffer as social outcasts because they have a curable disease is so unfair. To see them die without dignity - living out their last days in a crude wooden box - is a tragedy no one should suffer.

After spending time in an orphanage where half the children have to sleep on the concrete floor, I am thankful for my bed. What my husband and I once thought was small and old (it's only a full size mattress, and it's a "hand-me-down") now looks luxurious. The fact that I have a guestroom with an extra bed in it seems like an even more outrageous blessing.

After watching a video of Christians being beaten to death in Orissa, India, I am thankful for RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. The beatings I witnessed were absolutely horrific. Crowds of people not only watched without helping, they joined in with baseball bats and rocks - beating, kicking, and stoning men and women simply because they professed to know Jesus Christ. The streets were strewn with dead bodies - men and women martyred because of their faith. But every day in America I am free to pray, worship, and profess my faith in public without ever fearing for my safety.

After spending time in a brothel, I am thankful for my FREE education. Most of the women in prostitution here (in India and around the world) are trapped in this profession because of a lack of education. We were told that there are up to 20,000 women working as prostitutes on the one street we visited, and that most of them can't even read.

Because school fees are expensive, those born into poverty often remain trapped in the cycle of poverty for generations. It is truly a privilege to live in a country where a quality education is available to every single child, up to 12th grade. It's even more amazing that so many scholarships are available to those wanting to continue their education in college!

God forgive me for taking so many of these gifts for granted! 

There is more than just thankfulness in my heart this week though. I have been so humbled by the people we've met here - living out their faith in some of the most difficult circumstances in the world. I've found myself asking WHY often. Why don't I have leprosy? Why wasn't I born into a brothel? Why wasn't I orphaned? Why am I healthy when so many are sick? Why was I given the incredible opportunity of a free education? Why was I born into a loving family instead of being abandoned? Why have I been so BLESSED, when I am surrounded by extreme poverty and pain? 

I don't know the answer. All I know is, I didn't do anything to deserve the life I live. In no way did I "earn" the incredible blessings God has given me. Every day, I feel so undeserving when I compare myself to our friends here in India. And while I don't understand why I have every opportunity to thrive while women just like me are suffering in brothels and slums, I do know that I have an opportunity to do something about it.

We are blessed to be a blessing friends - plain and simple. I hope as you reflect today on all you are thankful for, that you'll ask God how He would have you share your blessings with others!

(Stay tuned for Part 2 - a post full of pictures from our Thanksgiving Day!)

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