Our students absolutely love Thanksgiving. It is a part of a lot of American television shows and movies they watch. They are even familiar with Martha Stuart and her Thanksgiving menu. So again, working with university students automatically lends itself to providing food and having fellowship events organized around food.
What was unique about this year’s Thanksgiving (we usually have it the Saturday after the ‘real’ Thanksgiving) is that is was scheduled on Holodomor. Holodomor, which means famine, refers to the man made famine in Ukraine from 1932-1933 that killed between 2.4-4 million Ukrainians. Some people think it was the Soviet government trying to keep Ukrainians ‘in their place’ while others relate it to economic issues and change. Whatever the reason Ukrainians were dying daily due to lack of access to food. It was not that there was no food, it was that there was no access.
Of all our missionary blunders this scheduling of a feast while many Ukrainians would be fasting may be the most noteworthy. Once we realized our error with just a couple of days to go it became evident that our decision was between canceling it or altering our celebration to somehow incorporate what was going on in the city around us. We talked to our Ukrainian teachers (older ladies) and our leadership team and the conclusion was that we could have our event if we did it respectfully.
So we began gathering at the student center at 10am to begin cooking. We had a green bean casserole station, broccoli casserole station, mashed potato station, and a stuffing station. I was manning the stations at the student center while David was cooking two whole chickens and additional pieces at home because the student center does not have an oven. (We couldn’t find a turkey!) Sometimes our oven cooks a little slow, so David had to fire up the grill and turn on the stove. But he managed to get it all cooked and we ate at 3pm, even though the advertised time was 2pm. Us running late means we are contextualizing really well.
We started the meal with a moment of silence in honor of the Holodomor victims. We then had a prayer of Thanksgiving for all that we have been given today and all that we have learned from our past. We had 50 people show up for our time together. We ate, played games, and then as a group walked to the center for the memorial service that the city was having. The students then returned to the student center for dessert and a movie.
What started out as a very stressful week concluded well. We had a good time of visiting, sharing and caring for each other and those around us.