Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

What Are You Thankful for This Year?

By Kayla Pless*

Give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.

The holiday season is in full effect, with Halloween at the end of October and Thanksgiving approaching rapidly. Before we know it, Christmas will be here! Yet, holidays can leave numerous families in a lot of stress, whether because they are trying to provide presents, pay bills, or even put a meal on the table.

Kayla Pless-Oklahoma-Restore Hope 1 copy.jpgVolunteers at Restore Hope Ministries in Oklahoma pack Thanksgiving dinners for 600 families in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, area. PHOTO: KAYLA PLESS

All parents want to give their children gifts or a special meal and when they can’t, it’s heartbreaking. Restore Hope Ministries helps provide groceries to low income families in the Tulsa County area. During the Thanksgiving holidays, we help families celebrate and share a special time together without the hassle of spending hundreds of dollars on the meal. Restore Hope provides a Thanksgiving meal for 600 families in the area.

I personally scouted two local grocery stores in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for regular-priced groceries during the holidays. A normal holiday meal costs around $71.00 for a two-to-three-person household. This year, we saved over $28,000 by using the food bank and avoiding products in bulk-selling stores; we found it costs us around $32 a basket to feed a family during the holidays.

The items we provide to clients in our Thanksgiving baskets are: turkey, corn, green beans, peas, applesauce, fruit cocktail, peaches, butter, cake mix, carrots, potatoes, cornbread mix, gelatin, marshmallows, whipped topping, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce, yams, cream of mushroom soup, onions, and celery. The next time you’re thinking about donating to a nonprofit or charity food program, know that your donation is being used in an incredible way, and you are probably helping in more ways more than you think you are.

Working People Need Help

One of the questions people answer on the application for the Thanksgiving baskets is whether they have received income in the last 30 days and over 75 percent say they have. While we don’t know how much families receive, or whether that income is social security income, we do know that they have received some sort of income. Not all people who need help are unemployed, nor do they fit a stereotype of “lazy.” The majority are extremely hard-working; they either went into debt because of medical bills or they had to do household repairs. There are so many things that happen in this world that are out of our control but being able to give back when others need help is one of the most rewarding feelings.

Kayla Plesscopy.jpg                                          Kayla Pless. PHOTO: MIKE DUBOSE/UMNS

On the application, we ask two more personal questions:

What are you thankful for this year?
Some of the responses included education, children, “to still be alive,” Restore Hope, have a roof over our head, family. We ask this question to remind our clients that even in tough times, they all still have something to be thankful for.

What are you hopeful for next year?
Some responses to this question were: father will return, cure for HIV/AIDS, a family member will stay out of jail, children will become honor students, a liver transplant, to be able to help someone else. Sometimes bad things just happen, and it is out of our control, but we can all still be hopeful that there will be good in the future.

Last Thanksgiving, for the first time in my 22 years of life, I did not spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my family. And now that I have been away for another year, I’ve realized Thanksgiving time was something I took for granted. So, I advise anyone who is feeling down or having a hard time during the holidays to remember that we all have something to be thankful for.

*Kayla Pless is a Global Ministries Global Mission Fellow US-2 (Advance #302226) from North Carolina currently serving for two years with Restore Hope Ministries of the Oklahoma Annual Conference as a church poverty liaison. Restore Hope responds to the basic needs of working-poor families in the Tulsa area, helping them regain stability and move toward economic and spiritual vitality. This piece was originally posted on the Generation Transformation Book of Fellows website,