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An attitude of gratitude

By Thurman Hayes

In 1841, Charles Dickens was on a book tour in America. One morning as he scanned an American newspaper, he saw a notice from the owner of a runaway slave. The notice said:

“Ran away, a negro named Arthur. Has a considerable scar across his breast and each arm, made by a knife; loves to talk much of the goodness of God.”

Wow. What a message for Thanksgiving!

One of the things that God has used to increase my gratitude is traveling abroad. It has opened my eyes to the privileges and freedoms of our country.

I recall an experience during a trip to North Africa and the Middle East. We visited a poor village in the mountains of Morocco, where some friends were teaching school. This village, like many others throughout the world, has no running water. I looked down the hill, and there was a little boy trudging up the hill, carrying two buckets of water in his hands. He had a smile on his face, as he lugged those buckets up to the classroom. I was struck at that moment by the privileges we take for granted every day.

On another occasion, I was in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world. After getting off the plane in Dhaka, one drives through traffic-choked streets, surrounded by shanties and shacks. But whoever is driving had better pay attention to the road, for there are almost constant dangers to avoid on Bengali roads. As we drove some four hours to the town where we were staying, our driver, who was very experienced, had to literally pull over to the side of the road several times, in order to avoid head-on collisions with buses. And when you pull over to the side in Bangladesh, you have to avoid the ever-present danger of hitting someone on a rickshaw or on foot, for thousands of people in this over-crowded country are always on the side of every road.

But the poverty in Bangladesh wasn’t the worst thing. No, the worst things are the persecution of minorities and the lack of religious liberty.

In recent years, our family and church has been involved in a ministry in Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. The grinding poverty of Haiti hits you in the face even before the plane lands in Port-au-Prince, because you can look down and see the conditions that human beings are living in — conditions that are stunning to the average American.

But economic poverty is not the worst kind. Amos speaks of a famine that is “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11).

I’m thankful to be a part of a church that is seeking to alleviate both kinds of poverty. Through our giving to international missions, we are able to make a huge difference. As we have opportunity, teams from our church are able to minister hands-on. But we know we can’t feed everyone or share the gospel with everyone. But you know what? Through our giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, we can send an army of workers who are seeking to do that very thing.

Lord, grant us an attitude of gratitude reflected in generosity.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.