I feel like today would be a good time for a post because well, it’s Thanksgiving, in the tropics, away from home, and it’s actually quite a feat to find a turkey around here! But I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. Today is a different way of celebrating this holiday, and now more than ever, I have quite a list of things for which to be grateful.
This holiday, I will be spending it in Angeles City, with some fellow American (and Filipino) friends. The girl who is hosting our Thanksgiving dinner is living there, working under one of our partner organizations, Bella Goose, a coffee roaster company that helps employ a few of our girls as a livelihood opportunity. Angeles is also the place where Walking Street, a 1.5 mile stretch of road where 15,000 people are trafficked, is located. On this Thanksgiving weekend, Lucy and I want to spend some time at Walking Street in the bars, hanging out with girls who don’t receive love very much. It’s amazing how in the midst of a dirty, chaotic, and heartbreaking scene, Jesus makes a presence and deposits inextinguishable light wherever his followers choose to love and make him known.
So today, yes I am thankful for family, friends, my boyfriend, a roof over my head, clothes to wear, food to eat, education, etc. I’m also undeniably grateful for the opportunity to pursue the God-dreams of my heart here in this season in the Philippines. But above all else, I’m earnestly brought to my knees by the truth that in the Presence of Jesus, there is freedom, hope, joy, peace, love, and every other excellency we could dream of. In the Presence, our fears are exterminated, and our shame melts away. Our dreams get bigger, our futures get brighter, our compassion flowers into kind and thoughtful gestures, and even colors seem brighter. The Presence is what makes dirty, evil bars seem like pockets of hope, because you when you realize that Jesus is not afraid of sin, it dawns on you that Jesus has been there the whole time. He just needed His hands and feet to stop being afraid of the sin that He already conquered, and join in the fun of our true callings: to set the captives free!
I’m so thankful that Jesus has eradicated my own fear, shame, and sin. I’ve had the opportunity to partake in moments of genuine freedom here in the Philippines, whether that be a girl making the choice to leave the bar scene, or experiencing emotional liberation from trauma. Every time God touches a girl’s heart with his healing power, I feel that touch as well in my own heart. To know that God cares about His kids and sends the intimacy of his Presence to care for us is something that I will always take to the top of the charts in my lists of things to be grateful for. I cannot stop thinking about my own personal prisons where the Lord has set me free, and every day I have the choice to exercise the blessings of that ultimate emancipation proclamation that was Jesus on the cross.
So while this holiday looks extremely different for me this year, I am so happy for it. Though most of the Philippines doesn’t celebrate this day as anything special, I’m overjoyed to take this extra opportunity to thank the Lord for His daily Presence in my life. The more I walk with the Lord, the harder it is to live without him. Happy Thanksgiving from the Philippines!