Thanksgiving in a Different Season
Katie Hickey, CGO Office Administrator
South America, 80-degree weather, Australians, pumpkin pie—these things meant Thanksgiving to me. Growing up on the mission field in Brazil, our Thanksgiving traditions were a little bit different from the average American household. We didn’t necessarily get together with family because they were far away. Fall decorations and changing leaves didn’t color the neighborhood because it was almost summer. Football games weren’t being watched unless they were what some may argue to be real “futebol” games. We didn’t really get together with our churches for praise services because Thanksgiving is not a Brazilian holiday.
My family was blessed to have met other missionary families in our city and surrounding area who were also far from home, family, and regular traditions. Desiring to still celebrate Thanksgiving and reflect on God’s goodness, we created our own traditions. We would get together late morning, usually at a camp belonging to one of the missionaries. One of the ladies organized a Thanksgiving program asking all the kids to contribute. We kids participated by playing instruments, singing specials, and reciting poems. We all sang hymns together. One of the men would bring a short devotional and close us in prayer. Then, came the food! As I remember it, the meal typically had traditional Thanksgiving dishes, including pumpkin pie (Back in the day, college missionary kids were given the thrilling task of stuffing cans of pumpkin, jars of peanut butter, and American baking goods like chocolate chips in their luggage when they came home on breaks. Surprisingly, pumpkin everything is not an international phenomenon.). After the meal, the women would talk while cleaning up, the men would discuss theology and current events, the college students would hang out together, and the kids would run all over the campground, playing soccer or other games or riding the little cable swing zip-line. We’d end up staying all day and having our evening meal from the leftovers before going home.
These missionary families and our family were all very different. We had different backgrounds and different life stories. One of the families wasn’t even American. They were Australian missionaries to Brazil, yet they loved celebrating Thanksgiving with us. We were also all from different denominations. Our churches worshipped differently. However, we all worshipped the same God, and we all believed that Christ died to save us from our sins. We were all brothers and sisters in Christ. Our God was the common denominator. Our God was the reason we could be thankful. Our God was the only constant.
As I’ve grown up and left home, I’ve realized there always has been and always will be only this constant: God and His gracious salvation through Christ. I have since celebrated Thanksgiving in a more “traditional” fashion over the years with extended family, the dreary cold, and pumpkin pie from cans which anyone can actually buy from a Walmart just down the street. But I’ve also celebrated it completely apart from my family. I’ve celebrated it with friends from Chile, Mexico, Honduras, Peru, and Chicago, developing a greater appreciation for the caring brothers and sisters in Christ God has given me. I’ve celebrated it with my grandparents during college when they lived in town and opened their home to me. And I’ve celebrated it in an assisted living facility only days after Grandma had her stroke, as I and other family members were simply thankful that we could be together for the holiday. Nothing else is sure.
Last year, around this time, I boarded a plane with my family for what was probably my last ever Thanksgiving in Brazil. Excitement and expectations were high. It would be the first time in years my whole family – my parents, my siblings, their spouses, and kids – was going to be together. We would be having a Thanksgiving “just like the ones I used to know.” That’s just it, though. It wasn’t. My favorite Aussies weren’t there (They’re now serving in Portugal.). My parents weren’t living in the house I grew up in. Our family had doubled in size; it now included five very energetic kids under the age of ten. We didn’t have our traditional dinner at the camp but at one of the missionary families’ houses instead. Yes, we still ate pie; the kids, or grandkids now, still ran around; the men still discussed important topics; and the weather was hot like it should be. Even so, it was all different. Looking around the room, I realized so many changes had taken place in the lives of those around me. Only one thing was the same: we worshipped and expressed gratitude to the same God. He never changed.
End of the year holidays breed times of great reflection. Thanksgiving prompts us to count our blessings. No matter what season you find yourself in life right now—nestled in the comfortable consistency of family traditions or lost in a sea of change and new beginning—thank God for His presence and His gift of salvation.
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah (Psalm 62:5-8 ESV)
Until God Moves You
Coordinator of Outreach & Evangelism
Moments ago, I received a text on my phone that read, “You figured out your long-term plan yet?” When I “dedicated my life to missions” at 12 years old at a small camp in Michigan, this is not where I imagined I would be right now. Ever since then, I had visions of taking the gospel deep into remote African villages where no man has ever heard of Jesus. Today, I answered emails, met with students, ate lunch with our church youth staff, and observed a new outreach opportunity in tandem with my job. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed today, but it’s far from the picture I had in high school, and it wasn’t what I thought I would be doing long-term.
During my first mission trip to Southeast Asia in 2017, a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders. I was trying to discern if the Lord wanted me on the mission field or to be faithful in the opportunities he provided for me in the States. I saw ordinary missionaries making extraordinary sacrifices to obey the ordinary command of making disciples and teaching them to observe the commands of Christ. During our debrief, I began to realize that my long-term plan was set! It was incredibly freeing to know that what I am called to do is evangelism and discipleship. The only question that remained was “where?”
I have tried hard to figure out the “where” over the past couple of years. Today, I have no idea where God is leading me long-term. I have an immense burden for the 10/40 Window. I think that is incredibly healthy. We should be concerned about the disproportional statistics of unreached/unengaged people to the number of missionaries and mission money that is sent to that gospel deprived region of the world. However, statistics alone can’t drive us there. If that was true, every one of us should be packing our bags (and many probably should).
As I returned from my second trip to Southeast Asia this summer, I had itching feet. I wanted to go but didn’t have a clear direction to go. I met with several missionaries and missions-minded pastors/teachers. I was certain they would launch me out and I was excited about the possibilities. In the end, the overwhelming advice was to be “all in until God moves you.” It wasn’t the advice I was expecting or even hoping for, but it was the advice I needed.
Not too long after, I was reading the gospel of Mark. In chapter 5 you meet the demon-possessed man. What a miraculous conversion! The story then takes a strange turn in my mind. The once demon-possessed man begs to go on mission with Jesus. What a great response to the gospel! Mark tells us that Jesus “suffered him not.” Unlike other parts of the gospel, Jesus does not turn this man away because of misplaced motives. Jesus commissions him to take the gospel to those at home.
This was the passage I needed this summer. Certainly, many of you reading this should go! However, it is ok to stay. It is ok to live on mission here. It is ok to “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you” (Mark 5:19). Jesus does not call missionaries to do something foreign he calls them to go somewhere foreign. We have all been commissioned to make disciples and to teach them to obey Christ’s commands. Find a place you can do that strategically for the glory of God!
Staying is not a permanent calling. Don’t be discouraged if you want to go but haven’t yet. Stay connected with what God is doing globally. Love your missionaries. Love their kids. Have a missionary mindset in the town or city God has you now. There are people that need the gospel where you are. Find ways to reach them where they are at, just like a missionary would in his unique culture. As you radically live on mission here, the church is likely to send you to live on mission in a strategic place.
Every single Christian should wrestle with the location God has called them to make disciples, but we should never wrestle alone. In the Church, God has given us so much more than most Christians realize. Your church should be the launching agent in your life. Do you have a burden for missions? Find ways to evangelize and disciple in your church context! We have the church to exercise our spiritual gifts for the mutual edification of each other. Part of that gift is to supply wisdom to young, zealous students as we try to discern where God is directing us.
As you try to discern your long-term plan, lean into your church. Don’t get so set on staying that you could never imagine leaving. On the other hand, don’t get so set on leaving that you can never imagine staying. Hold your plans loosely, allow others to speak into your life plans, and “be all in until God moves you.”
Your Future Ministry Is Now
Drew Williquette, Children's Pastor at First Baptist Church (Glen Este, OH)
I look back at the last few months in awe of where God has taken us.
It was just a few months ago that I was a senior at Bob Jones University. I was working on finishing a degree in Bible and trying to prepare for whatever was after college.
On top of that, I was planning to get married, serving in a local church and in a student leadership position on campus. I was completely overwhelmed but excited at the same time. I knew I would be walking across the graduation stage soon and taking the next step into the future. What I knew then but didn’t always see was that God was preparing me through everything I was doing at BJU for what I’m doing today.
Every major experience I was involved in during my time at BJU—whether it was society sports, leadership positions on campus, dorm relationships, or church involvement—were all crucial in shaping me to do everything that I do now.
So, what do I do now and how do those experiences shaped me?
Simply put, the mindset which was formed while attending BJU has shaped my ministry perspective in so many ways. The emphasis that was put on hard work, perseverance, and most importantly a careful understanding of what the Bible says and how to live it out are things that I learned the most clearly during my time at Bob Jones that I’ll take with me forever.
I learned these and these taught me. I understood these because they were taught to me in classrooms, and I understood these because they were ingrained to me through experiences during my four years of college. Although it was extremely difficult at times, I wouldn’t trade any of it.
Today I have the privilege of serving as children’s pastor at First Baptist Church of Glen Este, Ohio. It has been an incredible journey of God’s grace in bringing my wife and I here and giving us an opportunity to serve parents and 3 to 12-year-old kids. We spend most of our days now planning activities for kids, prepping Sunday school or junior church lessons, holding meetings with our children’s ministry workers, and communicating the direction of our children’s ministry to parents.
Again, it is all the Lord’s working through those situations so glory to Him, but I can’t help but be very thankful for my time in school and how God used every situation to shape my life and prepare me for my calling into full-time ministry.
My challenge to you—freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and even seniors—is to never give up. We should always be growing, always be learning and looking for ways to improve for the glory of God and to be used by Him in whatever way possible. Never give up! Persevere through the difficult times in college because there will be blessings down the road, but also remember that we’ll never “arrive” until we get to heaven.
Just because I have had the opportunity to go through college and now get to serve God in full-time ministry at a local church does not mean I have arrived. It just means I need to work even more to learn and grow in this position that God has given to me. He has given this position to me as a steward for His glory and learn how to better serve Him and others.
What a privilege!
One thing that drives me is to remember that whatever I do and whatever happens, I must do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31 says “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God”. It is this verse that drives me in ministry, and it should drive every Christian as they seek to find and do the will of God for their lives—as they seek to do what God has specifically given them to do.
Drew Williquette is the children’s pastor at First Baptist Church of Glen Este, Ohio. He has served in this capacity since June of 2019. He and his wife Jenna love serving the parents and children at First Baptist. You can read about their children’s ministry through the blog “Kids Korner” at http://fbcge.org/kids-korner/.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.