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Friday, November 25, 2005

OUR FIRST EXPERIENCE OF THANKSGIVING DINNER.

It was in the year of 1992, Jean and I were missionaries to Eastern Europe, and we were based in Luxembourg, where we had planted an English speaking Church, we also preached and ministered throughout Poland, East Germany, Romania, France and West Germany.

Some of the people who attended our Church in the City of Luxembourg, were in the United States Military, and travelled from their base in Bitburg, West Germany, to fellowship with us. They were fantastic people, and many of them had loved ones serving in the Gulf War. It was a difficult time for some of the families, and we were able to minister to them spiritually, and add some comfort into their lives.

One of the beautiful families that befriended us was Master Sergeant Frank Dunai, his wife Brenda, and their children, Amber and Dakota. They were such a loving family and wonderful ambassadors for Christ and their country.

They invited Jean and I, and our daughter Janet, to their Thanksgiving Day Dinner at their quarters on the base. We knew nothing about Thanksgiving, and had never been to a dinner like this, and we thought it was just another meal, wow, were we in for a big surprise!

When we arrived on base, and because of the War in the Gulf, we were given a thorough check out, and being Scottish and missionaries from Australia, we presented a bit of a problem. I got out of the car so that I could speak to them properly, and immediately the Guard on the Gate drew his sidearm and presented it to my head! Phew!

I thought this only happened in the movies, and being an ex Paratrooper and SAS soldier, I thought I was used to military protocol, boy was I wrong! I was told to get back into the car and move over to the side of the road, and was instructed not to move a muscle without instructions! Finally, after being cleared to be on base, they escorted my visibly shaken family and me, to Frank and Brenda’s quarters! Frank was laughing his head off, and said… ‘Trust an Aussie Pastor to make such an entrance!’ We were to make many visits to the base to minister, but we never forgot the routine again, after the first encounter!

As we were welcomed into Frank and Brenda’s home, they hugged us and kissed us, and we had such a great laugh over the whole episode! We were given such hospitality, that we have seldom encountered since, and then they prayed and gave thanks for us, their families, friends, the Lord, the Church etc; and showered us with gifts. It had been Jean’s Birthday on the 15th November, and they gave her a Thompson’s Chain Reference Bible, which we still treasure today!

The table had been prepared for dinner with all its decorations and baubles that they had collected over the years, it was almost like Christmas day, and we were thrilled to be the guest’s of honour, wow! We started of with home made Pumpkin soup and soft, sweet, bread rolls baked by Brenda, (what a change from the hard crusty German bread!).

Then before our very eyes, appeared the biggest Turkey that we had ever seen, honestly, you could have saddled it! Frank was in his element as the head of the home, and took about carving the turkey with deft strokes like an Olympic Fencer! It had been imported from stateside, and must have needed a container on its own! After the Turkey came the home baked Pumpkin Pie with delicious vanilla ice cream, mouth watering when I think of it!

As we ate and laughed, and told stories, and jokes, I took a moment aside and looked over the table, there was Frank, the ultimate host, with a … I have surpassed myself this year” look; Brenda, with a smile so wide that could warm up the Turkey afterwards; Jean with her eyes like Buick hubcaps, fascinated by all of this; and the children beaming and laughing; and of course me, like a stuffed pig with a contented grin, first that I was still alive, second that we had been brought together by the Lord, and thirdly that this was without a doubt, the best Thanksgiving dinner that we had ever experienced, these were memories that would never be erased from our lives.

The celebration went on for hours, eight, if I can remember correctly, the laughter and storytelling never subsided, it got better as time went on. And as we said our goodbyes, prayers and hugs, we went out into the cold European weather with the smell of wood smoke in the air, got into our car, and escorted off Base by the MP’s, and onto the icy roads for the 30 minute drive back to Luxembourg, we revelled in the fact, that we had enough of God’s warmth inside of us, to last a lifetime!

Yes, that was our first experience of Thanksgiving Dinner, and our last, we have never celebrated since, simply because our Country doesn’t celebrate it, and we have never met an American family at this time, but every time the holiday comes around, I think of that day, and the blessing that Frank and Brenda were to us, their Christian love and warmth, and their hospitality to us, will never be forgotten, thank you guys, for the memories that were created that day.

We lost contact with them over the years, as they moved stateside, and we went on ministering around Europe, before returning to Australia. Frank and Brenda, if perchance you read this, we would love to get in touch again, God bless you our friends, you gave us a Thanksgiving Day Dinner, day that we will always be thankful for!

Be encouraged!
GBYAY

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