The Thanksgiving Dinner with all the fixin's was Anne Ingram's idea, born at the intersection of two encounters—one with a German, the other with an American.
The German Catalyst
The Ingrams celebrated their first Thanksgiving in their new apartment in Dresden in 2014. They invited six German friends, three of whom play in a folk-music band (see trailer), to celebrate the holiday with them. Götz and Jan had both helped the Ingrams move into and get settled in their apartment. Two others had lived in the USA for a while and had taken time to show the Ingrams some of the sights and interesting attractions in the Dresden area. The Ingrams wanted to say "thanks," and thought an invitation to a real American Thanksgiving dinner might be just the way to express their appreciation.
Everyone had a great time and raved about the food (Anne Ingram is a fabulous cook). Toward the end of the evening, Götz (far left in the trailer) looked at the Ingrams and remarked: "This was fantastic. You've just got to do this on a bigger scale next year—and Johnson Grass (his band) will provide the music."
Meanwhile a friend in one of the Ingram's supporting churches had written and asked if the church couldn't send over a team to help out with the start of the new church. Anne began corresponding with Tom from Calcary Monument Bible Church in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and threw out the crazy idea: "Would you consider sending over a team (pictured) to help us cook a big Thanksgiving dinner for 100 people?" Tom said, "Yes! That sounds like a great idea!"
As you can imagine, planning and organizing an original American Thanksgiving dinner with typical American products not readily available and no cooking facility of your own is no small feat.
The Ingrams' aim was to introduce their new church by creating a warm, friendly atmosphere in a Christian context (Christian Thanksgiving celebration) in which folks who don't know God would say: "Hmm. These Christians are nice, fun people. I'd like to spend some more time with them. Perhaps there is a God in heaven after all." The Ingrams have no idea how many people actually thought that, but they got a lot of positive feedback from the 88 in attendance and many compliments from the 40
attenders who are not connected to any church. The following comments, among others, were overheard that night:
- A mainland Chinese student asked Bob, former pastor of the church that sent the American team, "What's a pastor?" He was able to explain the concept and tell the student about an organization called Hope International that was started by a guy named Jeff from his home church that is now active in China, helping poor people secure micro-loans. The Chinese students were very glad to have gotten the opportunity to experience an American Christian Thanksgiving dinner.
- When reminded by one attender "Don't forget—I'm an agnostic," a German co-worker responded with a twinkle in his eye: "But that could change, you know?" The agnostic smiled and admitted that that was a possibility.
- Tom and Susan from the American team were talking with an atheist. He mentioned that he was going to give the book Jeff Ingram had given him for his birthday, Jesus our Destiny, another chance.
- An English teacher who brought a friend and three students thanked her hosts: "Thanks SO much for this wonderful evening! You and your team have opened the eyes of some of my students to a bigger world. This was a GREAT experience for them."
- "Next year you'll need a bigger room for this event!"
As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. If the comments were any indication, the FeG Dresden-Süd made a positive impression on a lot of people at its American Thanksgiving Dinner. The Ingrams are praying that these positive impressions will translate into folks who are far from God taking steps to get to know his son Jesus Christ and the truths he taught.
– Jeff Ingram, #DresdenInitiative
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