Remember what God has given us.
I can still recall the smell of burning trash. The sight of pollution was so thick that dirt and dust would stick to our hair and bodies just by sitting in the car. Little fires everywhere. One cannot imagine seeing so much chaos. A city meant to inhabit 7 million people was the home to 17 million. Traffic was dangerous. Only a local could navigate it. And for the first few days in Congo, my heart would pound with anxiety moments before leaving the safe part of town. We would soon encounter countless others on busy roads where the unknown was all one could predict.
We were in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo to visit orphans who were being cared for by Ruth’s Home for Children. I had been so excited to arrive in Congo. This is where my family is from, and the many tales of Congo’s natural majesty and beauty made my heart dance. Upon landing in the country, my excitement was turned to sadness. Congo was beautiful. Yet, its beauty had been severely marred by generations of political instability and unrest. Everywhere my eyes landed, there was extreme poverty and suffering people. Heartbreak cannot fully describe the feeling. Yet, even in great loss and devastation, I was reminded of a beautiful treasure God had given me and all of His children—a thankful heart.
When we are thankful, we remember what God has given us. The focus is not on what we do not have or what we perceive is missing. Instead, the focus is on what we do have. As a human, my natural propensity is to complain. While I was in Congo, I was drawn to repent for the times I had complained to God. I was embarrassed forever feeling that I needed more. What did I need that God had not given me? What have I ever lacked? Absolutely nothing. Looking back at my life, it is evident that I have been blessed beyond measure. The majority of Congolese people do not have much of what I do have. I watched as people in Congo lived without access to clean drinking water, a fully functioning bathroom or kitchen, a clean home to walk into after a long day of hard work, new clothes to buy when they wear out, or enough food to eat three times a day. I watched them navigate the harsh realities of having a political leader who neither cared for them nor valued their lives. And in horror and deep sadness, I saw countless small children roam the streets because they did not have a mother or father to love or protect them. Yet, amid the intense suffering, Congolese people were still incredibly joyful. During my time there, I learned that their joy stemmed from one thing: hearts filled with thankfulness. They have life; thus, they have a reason to live. They have each other, thus no one suffers alone. They have a deep faith in God; thus, they witness God’s miracles and feel His presence very closely. They also have the prayers and support of individuals like you who remember them and think of them; thus, they have much hope.
Here in America, we will celebrate Thanksgiving in a few weeks. It is a time of celebration and gratitude. On this day, millions of families across the United States will gather around the dinner table to enjoy freshly roasted turkey with seasoned stuffing, steamy mashed potatoes and corn, and the sweetness of pumpkin pie and pecan pie—the list goes on. As we fellowship together and enjoy God’s blessings and abundance towards us, let us take a moment to ponder the true meaning of thanksgiving. It is an opportunity to thank our Heavenly Father for all that He has given us. From the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ to the health of our loved ones, there are many reasons to thank God for what He has done. Like our neighbors in Congo, let us feast on this…thankfulness.
With Bright Hope,