Every Fourth of July and Thanksgiving, I receive email greetings from friends faraway who are thinking of me. That may not sound odd to you, but these friends are not Americans. They are Romanians.
They write things such as “May God bless America so you will continue to be a blessing to the world.” They go on to recount how grateful they are to God for sending Americans to come to their country, tell them about Jesus and help them learn how to follow Him.
What these friends don’t know is that they taught us every bit as much as we taught them. One of the biggest lessons for me was and is their gratitude. I lived in Romania during a time of severe deprivation, and yet, for the most part, people were content with the little they had and freely shared it with us foreigners.
Even today, 23 years later, they continue to demonstrate how appreciative they are. They express gratitude to God for every little blessing they have, and thankfulness to the people He used as His vehicle of blessing.
They don’t take anything for granted. Missing is the attitude of entitlement or demanding their rights that is so prevalent in our world. It’s refreshing. Undoubtedly freedom means more to them because they lived with it.
Every Christmas, a Romanian community here in North Carolina puts on a beautiful concert. They tell the crowd that they want to do this to give back to America. They love America (more than many naturally-born citizens do) and are indebted to our country for rescuing them from oppression.
The world has gotten smaller and all of us have internationals living in our communities. What better way to get to know them and begin to introduce them to Christ than to invite them to celebrate holidays with you (especially the two uniquely American holidays – Thanksgiving and Fourth of July). I read a very troubling statistic once that something like 90% of internationals who come to the U.S. for college return without ever being invited inside an American’s home. We must change this!
I treasure my friends’ thankfulness but it also convicts me. It leaves me with a question. Am I grateful for what God has given me or do I grumble about what I wish was different? Are you?