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Letter from Jeff Jernigan, Senior Vice President, Ministry Team Leader, Los Angeles

Letter from Jeff Jernigan, Senior Vice President, Ministry Team Leader, Los AngelesJeff_thumbnail

The table was set immaculately with china plates, crystal goblets, etched silver, and ornately carved napkin holders.  The turkey looked like it had jumped off the cover of a trendy Home Magazine and the cranberry sauce, olives, pickles, stuffing, gravy, stuffed celery, and ambrosia disappeared out of sight from where I was seated down the long table. The room was filled with scent of Thanksgiving; every delicious odor from memorable Thanksgivings past.

The family hosting this feast knew that I had just returned from several months in Eastern Europe, where I traveled as a pastor and missionary.  After a few polite inquiries post arrival, they fell back into their quarreling with one another; bickering about this and that, and complaining about all manner of unhappiness. They were unaware of my experiences while traveling, having been detained, my friends jailed; or about the intimidation, threats, and beatings.  There was worse to share, but they were more interested in things closer to home and on the surface.

In reflection, I was fascinated by the juxtaposition of their unhappiness than with the celebration of gratitude. I thought about my friends overseas that I had recently left in order to come here.  They were truly happy, even in the midst of impoverished persecution. Yet these folks who had graciously asked me to celebrate the holiday with them were clearly very unhappy.  The difference, I realized, was in their gratitude.

You see, you cannot be happy and ungrateful at the same time.

Someone else must have noted the mood and made the suggestion to hold hands and have each share what they were grateful for before we prayed a blessing over the fellowship and the food.  After the “Amen” the mood was authentically different. Smiles appeared, frowns disappeared; the chatter became more optimistic and hopeful.  People seemed to be…well, happier. It’s so easy to forget how profoundly God works in our lives to bless each and every one of us. That is the true reason of the season.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!


Jeff Jernigan

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