Thanksgiving 2014 was my first big holiday I spent away from home. I was in Nairobi trying to decide if I was going to move here. In many ways, that first Thanksgiving here really confirmed that I could do the whole moving away from my country, culture, and family thing. In the month that I visited Nairobi I already started to feel connected to the community here and I knew a few people that I could form friendships with. During that trip God confirmed that Nairobi would be “home” for me and gave me the words “rich and full” to describe what my life would be like. A year and a half living in Nairobi, three Thanksgivings, and six Thanksgiving celebrations later and I can confidently say that God has been faithful to fulfill his promises regarding my life here.
This year was my first year hosting Thanksgiving. I co-hosted with one of my good friends Ryan. We both wanted our party to be meaningful, beautiful, intimate, and special for our guests. Personally, whenever I host anything, I want people to feel welcome, loved, and like they belong. Ryan and I were committed to having a sit down, family-style dinner. For that reason, we tried to keep the party “small.” We ended up with around 30 guests. It was much larger than we originally expected, but it was perfect. I am obviously biased, but I think our party was one of the most lovely Thanksgiving celebrations. We went all out with it: hand written paper invitations (nothing else quite says :your presence is valued”like a real invitation), fall decorations imported from the US, candles and fresh flowers on each table, festive drinks, and all the traditional Thanksgiving food. We started with hors d’oeuvres and drinks while people mingled, then we had a sit down dinner followed by dessert and games. During dessert the power went out, but people were not phased, and the party kept going. We just lit more candles.
Everyone pitched in to make the celebration a success. We borrowed chairs and table cloths and assigned people different things to bring. I am so thankful for all of the help we received both before and during the event to make it happen. One of my favorite things about Nairobi Thanksgiving is getting to share a wonderful American holiday with friends from all over the world. We had guests from the UK, Northern Ireland, South Korea, The Netherlands, US, Kenya, and France. It was some people’s first Thanksgiving. Even though we are from all over the place and have different reasons for being in Nairobi, this group of people has become another family to me. I was overly sentimental and sappy the whole night. I was happy to celebrate with people who know what it is like to live far from home, to need to get support from people you might not know very well, and who know how simultaneously frustrating and wonderful life in Kenya is.
Living in Kenya has been hard. Truthfully, it has been the hardest thing that I have ever done. But, it has been well worth it. I have gained more than I could have imagined. I have learned about myself, God, people, how to throw a great party, and the beautiful messiness of life. I am so thankful for my life here, the hard-fought battles, the people who laugh and cry with me, the crazy adventures, all the ways I have grown. I’m thankful for Thanksgiving. I love that it gives us a time to stop, gather around the people who we love, and intentionally bring to mind the good things in our lives. Nairobi has become home and my life is more rich and full than I ever could have hoped.