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by Lori Torrison

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HOW CAN THIS BE? The language school is not giving us Thanksgiving Day off. THANKSGIVING! It’s not a Costa Rican holiday, they said. (Although they had conveniently scheduled a “family picnic day” on the Fourth of July.)

What about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? How will we know which cartoon character wins “largest balloon” title? What about the Dallas Cowboys football game? How will we know who gets the eighth turkey leg from John Madden’s mutant bird? What about baking pies for three days in advance, rising at 4:00 a.m. to force the half-thawed turkey in the oven, or preparing seven different side dishes because that’s what Cousin Wilma’s mom made on Thanksgiving?

Not a HOLIDAY?!?

I realized this would be the first of many holidays Steve and I would celebrate quietly while everyone else went about their usual business. Our American holidays and traditions held no meaning here. Instead, I could expect seemingly random days when I’d arrive at the post office to purchase stamps, and find it closed in honor of someone I’d never heard of.

Of course, there is a bright side. As American’s living on foreign soil, we have two sets of holidays. We can celebrate the Fourth of July and the third of November as Independence Day. And November 10 (First Call for Independence).  And November 28 (Independence from Spain). My mother received a Mother’s Day card in May and December. Enjoying the traditions of two cultures might not be so bad after all, even if there are no day-after-Thanksgiving sales. But then, what child wants the “Tooth Rat” coming in the middle of the night to carry away his teeth? We might skip that one.

I think the “firsts” will always be the hardest—the first Christmas I don’t sit with my mother, chopping fruit (apples and bananas last, so they don’t turn brown) for a fruit salad large enough to feed a small army; my husband’s first Christmas without his mom’s “posole,” complete with red chili sauce; the first holiday season with no nip in the air; the first “winter” without even a slight chance of snow.

If you happen to visit us this Thanksgiving, you’ll still find us having turkey. And although there will be no Mom, Dad, or Grandma, you’ll find us celebrating with our brothers and sisters in Christ, giving thanks for our many blessings, at home and across the sea.

Lori Torrison and her husband Steve will experience new firsts in Panama this winter. They completed their year of language study in Costa Rica and moved to Panama in May 2006.


Missionaries often experience loneliness and sadness during the holiday season.

How can you help?

Send a card. Make it personal.

Send a package. Include items that may be hard to locate in their host country, especially ingredients for “American” recipes.

Purchase a magazine gift subscription for a missionary family.

Send phone cards, so they can call family and friends during the holiday season.

Adopt missionary kids who are in the States for college. Help pay their way “home” for the holidays.

Purchase your favorite board games, movies, and music to send overseas. The missionary family will probably enjoy them, too.

Order an International Missions Missionary Directory at for missionary addresses.







©2005 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists