On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving each year all the offices on the main campus shut down around 11:30 a.m. and we all go to the Special Events Center, where our Pioneer food service staff serves a traditional Thanksgiving meal with turkey and all the side dishes and pie for dessert. It is a great feast and fellowship, and we all enjoy directing our thankfulness to the loving God from whom we receive every good and perfect gift.
But for all the decades that this annual event has occurred each fall on the campus, what makes it distinctive is that it begins with the parade of nations. Every year God brings to Fresno Pacific students from over 40 nations of the world, and it was long ago decided that our way of expressing a warm Christian welcome to students from all those cultures would be to share our Thanksgiving meal with them. So, after the opening prayer of gratitude to God for bringing us all together, including these neighbors from far away, one student from each of the nations represented in our student body that year proudly walks in a long single file carrying the flag of their home country.
Every year students from nations that are enemies walk together in this symbolic demonstration of God’s expressed desire for people of every tongue and nation to live in peace and to worship God together in spirit and in truth, with honest hearts and desire for authentic relationships.
In such a moment, it is not difficult to do as we are admonished by the apostle Paul in First Thessalonians 5:16-18. We are told to “rejoice always.” We rejoice in all the beautiful stories of God’s love and grace that allowed each of the students to worship and grow among us. And it is not difficult to want to pray without ceasing for the often challenging family and community situation they left behind to study at Fresno Pacific University. And to pray for the loneliness that often comes with separation from the family and culture in which we are comfortable.
The hard part of this trilogy of instruction is: “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” In a world where everyone demands their rights, it is often difficult to give or receive the gifts of grace and goodness that we do not really deserve and cannot earn. Thus, it is these strangers and aliens among us who minister to us by the courage of their adventures into the discomfort of cross-cultural education.
We rejoice with them in what God is doing in each life. We pray with and for them, seeking God’s true blessing on them, and on their families and nations. And in everything we give thanks by faith in the goodness of God’s will in Jesus Christ, who is the true center of all things and thus the center of everything we are and the reason for everything we do at Fresno Pacific University. We rejoice, pray and give thanks.
In your home with your family around your table we hope you will pause for a moment to rejoice and pray and give thanks with us for all that God is doing through you at Fresno Pacific.