Holland1November is the month of gratitude and thanksgiving, a time to remember all that God has done for us and blesses us with. But this year, gratitude and thankfulness don’t seem to be strong enough words to describe what I feel towards God for this year of SEND North America.

In the past few months of SEND, the 10 month discipleship and leadership  training for young Holland2adults, we have seen God work in amazing ways, and much of that has been in our own hearts and lives. Two weeks ago, the SEND team–Sarah, Quinn, and Ze–had the opportunity to serve for the weekend at a homeless shelter in Holland, Michigan called The Rescue Mission. Our team stayed on site for the weekend, sleeping in the shelter at night and serving meals, packing care packages, and hosting family events by day! God used this weekend to teach us a powerful and unforgettable lesson about gratitude and faith.

You’re probably familiar with 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 which says, “Rejoice always, pray Holland4continually, give  thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Did you catch that last part–“give thanks in ALL circumstances….” This phrase struck me while our SEND team served that weekend, running through my mind over and over. We were not only seeing, but experiencing circumstances that were very different from our own, yet there was an atmosphere of gratitude and thanksgiving. People were grateful we were served food to them, thankful for our time and energy, appreciative of the games we played with their children. Sarah and I had two roommates for the weekend, and one of them in particular had such an attitude of thanksgiving, she gave us gifts that she had made with encouraging Bible verses on them, hugged us before we left, and prayed for us!

Holland5Now, if thanksgiving to God is circumstantial, this should have been a place with little joy, for material possessions are scarce and families are few and far between. Yet, the people that we had the privilege of serving were living out this passage from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians; they were thankful to God, not just for our team’s presence that weekend, but to God for His grace, love, and devotion to them–and His devotion to you and me.

This really touched our team deeply while we served that weekend, because the gratitude and faith that we saw and experienced firsthand was staggering, and I know that it will impact us for the rest of our lives. This was living proof that gratitude is not dependent on our circumstances, but on a God who deserves it. God has given each of us the greatest gift-the gift of life and redemption–and for that we are eternally grateful.