Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

November 21, 2004


Celebrate Thanksgiving without forgetting the poor


          Thanksgiving Day is a celebration but not without its temptations. We are tempted to eat too much and regret it. There is also the temptation to forget those for whom this special Thursday in November will not be a festive day.

          The basic purpose of this national holiday remains the same. It is a day set aside to give thanks to God for our blessings. Instead of asking, “God Bless America,” we pause to say, “Thank you, God, for blessing America.”

          God has blessed our nation. Daily we hear of nations that are being ripped apart by unbelievable violence. Thousands of children are suffering and starving to death daily in many third world countries. America has been spared much of the suffering that millions in other countries are enduring in the present hour.  

          We enjoy freedom unlike any other nation on earth. The danger is that we may take our precious freedoms for granted, and forget to give thanks to God for them. Millions of people endure cruel oppression, even slavery, as they struggle to free themselves from the shackles of poverty. We should be the worst of fools if we enjoy our affluence with thankless hearts.

          Thanksgiving Day for most of us is a day of indulgence. We eat until we are stuffed like Tom the turkey. To enjoy a bountiful meal with the family is not wrong, but we must not stop there. We can do more. We can share our abundance with the poor and the homeless.

          We can assist agencies like the Salvation Army to provide food and shelter for the needy. We may even volunteer to help serve others in soup kitchens and community centers that are reaching out to the poor with hot meals, often on Thanksgiving Day.

          We may want to send a gift to help missionary friends who are serving the poor in other countries. My wife and I are sending a small donation to friends who are helping the poor in Mexico, Zambia, and Ecuador. For us it is a concrete way to express our gratitude to God for the blessings we enjoy in America.

          Art and Frances Blackburn gave up a life of affluence in Opelika, learned a new language, and moved to Shell, Ecuador. They are serving there as missionaries with HCJB World Radio.

          Frances teaches kindergarten in the Nate Saint Memorial School. My sister Margie, and my son Steve, and I helped paint the walls in that school. We have an investment in that school.

          Art serves as director of the hospital in Shell. He tells me that working in a jungle hospital has its moments. Recently some jungle patients brought Art bags of smoked monkeys as payment for their hospital bill. As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I think it is not enough to admire Art and Frances and to pray for them; we need to share our money with them as well.

          Last August another couple from Opelika, Darren and Holly Dean, moved to Shell where they now work in the school with Frances. The Deans have three small children who are sharing the family’s missionary adventure. 

          Alfred and Muumba Kalembo are two of our children. We adopted them and gladly help with their ministry to the poor in this small, impoverished African nation. Alfred is teaching and training pastors. Muumba runs a day school for a dozen children and she has a waiting list since other parents want her to teach their children. Since having them in our home for a week, the Kalembo Tribe is family to us.

          Ignacio and Sarah Martinez are planting churches in Monterrey, Mexico, and giving hundreds of poor children hope for the future. Already these friends have planted more than 20 churches in this huge city of nearly four million people. We ate at their table, in their humble home, and fell in love with this dedicated couple.

          My wife and I will share a sumptuous Thanksgiving meal at the home of our son Steve and his wife Amy. They live in my old home place which they remodeled. Nearly all of our family, many relatives, and other friends will celebrate Thanksgiving together. I will enjoy the good food and being with people who are dear to me. We will all be duly thankful. Yet for me it would be a sacrilege to enjoy these blessings without letting God know that we care about those who have so little.

          It is a good thing to have a grateful heart. It is an even better thing to express gratitude through sacrificial giving for the least of our brothers.

So a happy Thanksgiving can become the occasion for sharing our blessings with needy members of our larger global family. May you be a blessing as you enjoy a blessed Thanksgiving. + + + +