A Thanksgiving of Service and Remembrance

Janet Chismar | Senior Editor, News & Culture | Saturday, December 8, 2001

A Thanksgiving of Service and Remembrance

"As we recover from the terrible tragedies of Sept. 11, Americans of every belief and heritage give thanks to God for the many blessings we enjoy as a free, faithful and fair-minded land," said President George W. Bush in his Thanksgiving Day proclamation.

"On this day of Thanksgiving, let our thanksgiving be revealed in the compassionate support we render to our fellow citizens who are grieving unimaginable loss; and let us reach out with care to those in need of food, shelter and words of hope," said Bush. "May Almighty God, who is our refuge and our strength in this time of trouble, watch over our homeland, protect us and grant us patience, resolve and wisdom in all that is to come."

Scores of Americans are taking the president's words to heart by reaching out to those less fortunate - in particular, those affected by the events of Sept. 11. In homeless shelters and corner churches, in nursing homes and orphanages, many citizens will give a bit of themselves this Thanksgiving.

For example, instead of heading home for the holidays, some 90 students and young adults from across the nation will be cleaning lower Manhattan's ash-covered apartments Nov. 22-24.

Allison Rickard is one. As she watched on TV the devastation caused by the terrorist attacks, she wanted to somehow reach out to help those in need. But the Sumter, S.C. native never thought she'd forgo turkey and dressing with her family and instead spend her Thanksgiving holiday in New York City cleaning dust-covered apartments.

Rickard will be sacrificing this week's holidays to take part in the "World Changers Thanksgiving Dust-Out." The volunteers will partner with disaster relief units to sweep, vacuum and dust lower Manhattan's Gateway Complex apartments, which were engulfed in debris when the World Trade Center twin towers collapsed. More than 300 apartments have already been cleaned.

The "Dust-Out" is one of the many service opportunities of World Changers, a North American Mission Board (Southern Baptist Convention) ministry that provides opportunities to meet the physical and spiritual needs of others through short-term mission experiences such as low-income home renovations.

"There's nothing like being home for the holidays," said Rickard, "but there are people in New York who still can't go home at all. World Changers is giving me the opportunity to get involved and help turn a dirty, ash-covered apartment into a safe and healthy living environment."

Participants in the "Dust-Out" include 25 students from Faith Baptist Church, Memphis, Tenn.; 25 students from First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., and 40 others from Long Beach, Calif., to Dallas to Richmond, Va. They will stay at New York City's Naval Brig and eat meals at the North Carolina feeding kitchen at the Naval shipping yard.

Elsewhere in New York City, thousands of needy individuals and families will receive special Thanksgiving baskets through a massive ministry effort designed to provide physical and spiritual aid to people affected by the tragedy. The gifts will be provided by Visual Bible International Inc. and Thomas Nelson Publishers and will be distributed by International Bible Society and New York-based Here's Life Inner City, an outreach ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

Each basket contains food for a Thanksgiving dinner, a special edition of "More Than a Carpenter" by Josh McDowell, and a video version of the Gospel of Matthew.

In addition to the video, Visual Bible International Inc. will also provide 100 DVDs (complete version) of the Gospel of Matthew for IBS to distribute. Stan Kellner, IBS director of church relations, along with other IBS staff members, will distribute them to pastors and churches in New York City as a ministry encouragement tool.

"Providing the videos and DVDs is just one more facet of IBS' overall distribution of more than 800,000 Scripture pieces since the tragedy of Sept. 11," Kellner said. "I'm very thankful Visual Bible International Inc. made these videos available. They will enhance the effectiveness of the gift baskets distributed by Here's Life Inner City."

The IBS outreach, of course, fits right in with National Bible Week, which is celebrated each year, from Sunday to Sunday of Thanksgiving week. Governors and mayors have proclaimed National Bible Week in their states and cities. Public service announcements on thousands of billboards, radio and television stations, and in newspapers and magazines across the nation are designed to encourage everyone to read the Bible.

Nov. 18-24 is also America's Christian Heritage Week. Established by Congress in 1992, the week is set aside each year to proclaim that America does, indeed, have a Christian heritage.

According to the ACHW Web site, the week of Thanksgiving Day "is the most fitting time of the year to acknowledge our Christian heritage, as it was the early Christian settlers of this country who first established the practice of Thanksgiving Day. If we can lawfully continue their tradition of setting aside a day for giving thanks to God for His blessings, then we can also acknowledge the Christian legacy of faith and freedom these early Christian settlers have left to us."

Dr. Frank Wright, executive director of the D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship, said, "It is appropriate for America's Christian Heritage Week to take place during the week leading up to Thanksgiving Day. Our nation has so much for which to be thankful to God - especially in the midst of crisis. Our time would be well spent on Thanksgiving Day recounting the many blessings that the Almighty has showered upon America."