When planning our missions trip to Malaysia over a year ago, we knew that we wanted to be in-country for the start of the Christmas season. This would give us plenty of opportunities to talk about the holiday and Jesus, especially as the locals are very curious about Americans and Christmas. There was also a more practical benefit to traveling at this time, though; being in Malaysia for Thanksgiving meant that we had to take less time off from work to go on the trip in the first place.
Knowing that we would be spending this uniquely American holiday outside of the United States, we decided to bring Thanksgiving with us. Our missionary friends requested that we make a Thanksgiving meal for their staff and acquaintances, and specifically asked that we bring some turkey with us. That's right -- turkey. We brought two turkeys from Montana to Malaysia, checked onto our plane across the Pacific in a sealed cooler filled with dry ice. What's even more surprising is that the turkeys made it! Apparently, Malaysian turkeys are both expensive and low-quality, and so it would be quite the extravagance to have turkey even once a year. It was far cheaper, in terms of price and effort, to bring two on our trans-Pacific flight.
Although I'm not one for Thanksgiving, I really enjoyed my Malaysian version of it. Clad in an incredibly comfortable new dress from Little India, I started off the day by walking with my teammates through the kampong (a clutter of houses off the main streets where you can find intriguing things like sewage rivers, sheds housing goats and chickens, personal shrines, and cows believed to be Hindu believers reincarnated) to the wet market. There are two places that locals buy their groceries in Malaysia. The wet market, as the name implies, sells non-dry items like meats (chicken and seafood, mostly), fruit, and vegetables. The dry market sells canned goods and the like. At the wet market, we haggled for eggs to bake with as well as vegetables for a veggie tray. The wet market ended up being one of my favorite places to go in Malaysia. I bought some delicious fruit, including bananas, plums, and starfruit, and I also fed my dim sum cravings there.
After stocking up on the ingredients that we had not transported from the United States, we trooped back to the base and spent the rest of the day cooking up a storm. We served, in addition to two turkeys, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes with gravy, fresh veggies, cranberry sauce, brownies, and pumpkin pie. Another missions team was also visiting, this one hailing from Mexico, so they added some south-of-the-border dishes to our spread, including some tasty burritos.
Finally, it was time to eat, and the friends and staff of our missionary friends arrived in droves. We thought there might not be enough food to go around, but thankfully there was just enough. We all enjoyed our Thanksgiving meal -- for some non-Americans, it was their first Thanksgiving celebration ever! The Americans particularly felt fed by the meal, though, in both body and spirit. One woman even wept at the way it ministered to her heart. Isn't it crazy what a simple act of service like cooking can do?
After the meal, we closed our day in the perfect way -- a time of worship. I love the freeform, spontaneous worship sessions we experienced in Malaysia. It feels like something straight out of the book of Acts. Amazing and powerful!