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“That one’s Thanksgiving and that one’s Christmas,” my dad said as he observed the turkeys living in our back yard. Growing up as a missionary kid in a central Asian country, our holidays were always different. Of course, Asians don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but my mom was always good about having us celebrate as though we were home in the States. While most families in America were loading their cars with groceries and decorations, my family was at the local outdoors market (aka the bizarre) scoping out live turkeys.

I was somewhere around 7 years old when my dad and two big brothers came back from the bizarre with two turkeys. I can remember the fun of observing them coral the mid-sized birds into one of our back yard pins. Once they settled in a bit, my dad looked at my sister and me and said, “That one’s Thanksgiving and that one’s Christmas. Don’t play with them.” Thinking those were funny names for turkeys, I agreed and went along my way.

It wasn’t long before my sister and I forgot the wise words of my dad and went gallivanting around the turkey pin. Thanksgiving was a big black turkey with a bright red wattle. He was my favorite. I can remember how my sister and I would quietly approach the turkey pin while my dad was at work. We’d peer through the splintered wood pin to try and get a glimpse of Thanksgiving or Christmas. The poor things seemed to know their fate as they often times jumped/flew over the pin wall, causing all my siblings and me to chase them down.

Unfortunately, Thanksgiving Day came swiftly. This meant sure death for my feathered friends. That fateful day came, and all the “men-folk” grabbed a How to Pluck and Kill a Turkey book and marched out the backdoor. One would read the instructions on how to “dress out” Thanksgiving the turkey while three others performed the instructions. I begged my mom to let me go watch the dirty deed with no avail. Hours later, the men emerged from the back yard with wide eyes and much laughter. I can only imagine what went on back there that day.

Regardless, my family had a wonderful Thanksgiving with a full meal. American colleagues and Asian friends from the area joined us as we sat around our long, wooden table, elbow-to-elbow and celebrated Thanksgiving together. Old traditions were observed, and new ones were created.

I tell this story to make one point… missionaries need prayer during the holidays. Of course, they need prayer year-round, but especially at holidays. Here are three key ways to pray for missionaries during the holiday season:

  1. Fellowship. It can quickly become a time for loneliness and homesickness. Pray that each individual missionary or missionary family would find meaningful fellowship this holiday season.
  2. Encounters. “Why do you celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas?” In the ministry world, this is a question that blows a door wide open. Pray that missionaries take advantage of this reflective and spiritual time of the year to reach the lost. Pray that non-believers become curious and interested in the Christian heritage of the holiday season.
  3. Peace. Year-round, missionaries labor, stress, plan, serve and equip. Pray that this holiday season is a time of recovery, peace, joy and rest.

Our prayers are critical for the Beautiful Feet (Rom. 10:15) around the world this holiday season. As you sit around your Thanksgiving meal this year, with family and friends, remember to pray for the missionaries around the world who daily give their lives for the cause of Christ. Meanwhile, I’m going to go ask my mom whatever happened to the second turkey named Christmas. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!