Sunday before last, one of our ladies raised her hand in church and asked me if we are going to be having the annual Thanksgiving dinner and what are the details. She said, “People have been asking.” It was time to be honest. I had been sitting on this situation for a few weeks now. Sometimes when I just don’t know what to do, I become paralyzed. I guess this is why I had not said anything yet, but now I was forced to make the announcement: “Well, I just don’t know what God wants us to do.”
For three years now, we have hosted a Thanksgiving Dinner that has served the larger community around Joe’s Addiction. This event has been given to us as a blessing from a large church in Oklahoma City. The first year, people from this church brought food and blessed about a hundred people at Joe’s.
The next year, our own people came to me and said, “We don’t want to just be on the receiving end. We want to bless the community.” So we invited the neighborhood. The people from the large church cooked the food at a country club and brought it, but our own Joe’s folks dressed in white shirts, black pants and neckties (most of which they found in the Free Store) and served as waiters, waitresses and hostesses. It was a blast!
Last year, we did the same and served over 400 people from the surrounding neighborhood! That was 22 turkeys, 30 pies, a mountain of stuffing and potatoes, an ocean of gravy, and 20 outside volunteers it had taken to pull it off. This is what the community has come to expect, and now it was IMPOSSIBLE. Just no way we can do something that big by ourselves.
Well, about a month ago, I received a message that the people who had helped with this event in the past were not going to be able to do it this year. (Life issues, health problems, etc.) That meant that the outside resources were not available.
I stood there in church and told them all just that. I said, “So . . . we don’t have the people coming to help us. We don’t have the connections to the chef and the location where the food was cooked, and we don’t have the money to do it.” They all just looked back at me. I’m supposed to have the answers. Not this time—and the day for the Dinner was only two weeks away.
I said, “Okay, how about we all just pray about this situation over the next few days. (To be honest, I was stalling.) Maybe God will show us what he wants us to do. Maybe we are to do something smaller—like our regular community dinner—just for us in the Joe’s Community. I really don’t know, but let’s ask God together what he has in mind.” I told them if God showed them anything to let me know.
—Then I promptly went out of town! I was in Dallas the whole next week.
While I was gone, I received a text from Chris that the chef at the Country Club was willing to help with the cooking, if we could pull all the food together and get him some helpers.
Fast forward to this last Sunday. I got to church, and as usual, I was swarmed with people greeting and hugging me. Then the lady who had raised her hand last week pulled me aside. She said, “I need to talk to you.” Now, this woman is tough—I mean tough—but her eyes were full of tears. I was concerned.
She said, “Last week you told us to pray about the Thanksgiving Dinner, and so I did. Every time I prayed about it Adam’s name came to my mind. Again and again. So I decided to talk to Adam.” (Adam is new in our community.) She said, “I sat down with him, and I told him all about the Thanksgiving dinner and our situation. He said, ‘I know just what to do.’”
She took me to Adam and he said, “Oh yeah. I’ve been working on it. I called KFC, and they’ve donated cups and plates and silverware. I called Crest and they have given us $100 in vouchers. I also have some turkeys donated already. I know how to cook, and I’m sure we can round up some more people who can help.”
She grabbed my arm, and said, “It works! It works!”
The service was starting, and other people came to hug me and give me reports of how they were doing—things that God was doing in their lives—another, and then another. “I got a job.” “I got accepted into school.” “I started the GED class yesterday.” The worship music pounded from the stage, “I Will Wait, I Will Wait For You!” and the crowd clapped in rhythm. There was a new guy that I didn’t know, tears rolling down his cheeks. I started feeling that pressure in my chest.
Following the break (for snacks, coffee refills, and cigarettes for those who can’t make it through the service without one), I stood to make the announcements and facilitate our “prouds and sorries.” I began by telling them that it looks like we are going to have the Thanksgiving Dinner after all, but that we weren’t sure yet how big we could go. It would depend on how much food we could get and how many people wanted to help. A low rumble of muttering voices began.
One of the men stood and asked, “How many turkeys do we still need?” I looked at Adam. He said, “I guess we need another 13.” The man responded, “I’ll buy the 13 turkeys. I’ll have them here this afternoon.” This man is homeless!! He is doing really well, and we have all been rejoicing with him. He has just been hired for a job, but he has not yet started working. We all knew the turkeys would require most of his food stamps. The rumble of voices started to grow louder.
I jumped in and said, “Wait a minute, now. If you bring 13 turkeys this afternoon, we don’t have freezer space to hold them.” A woman broke in and said, “I have room for six turkeys in my freezer.” Another man added, “I have room for some in mine.”
I looked at John and he shrugged. Still pessimistic, I said, “Okay well, we’ll need to have all the other food for side dishes.” People started popping up, “I can bring green beans.” “I’m sure I can get some potatoes.”
Chris stood and said, “Okay everybody, if you want to help with set up and serving the meal, please see me after the service.” Adam hollered, “If you want to help get food or go to the country club to cook, please come to me after the service.” Everyone was talking now.
Then a toothless, crazy lady who sits on the front row and is usually on some other planet suddenly raised her hand and yelled over the din of voices. “Are we talking about turkeys? I can bring a turkey?!”—And I lost it! Everything was out of my control—the Thanksgiving Dinner AND my emotions. I dove off the stage and tried to just find a seat, while John shook his head looking at me with tears in his eyes.
Laura, our resident prophetess. raised her hand. She said, “God has not only said that we are to do the Thanksgiving Dinner, but he is going to supply everything we need—GENEROUSLY.
The atmosphere was charged, as people then began to share their prouds and sorries from this last week. Some with great news, some with prayer requests, and some with deep confessions and apologies. All were rejoiced with, prayed for and forgiven.
John’s message for the day called everyone to join Jesus in drinking of His cup—joining Him in His Way of Life and in His Community and in His sacrificial service—and we all shared communion together.
After the dishes were washed and coffee shop tables and chairs put back in place, Chris and Adam came to me. They said, “We have everything we need. All of it has been donated, and people have committed to serve. We just need you to do one thing—create a flyer that we can take door to door to invite everyone to come to Thanksgiving Dinner.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!
“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.’” Luke 14:23