Working feverishly to finish decorations for the San Franciscan Thanksgiving, the women of Tracy, CA, Grace Brethren Church met Nov. 20 at church over brunch to learn more about the ministry of GBNAM’s World Class City Project in San Francisco, led by Dr. Kevin and Siew-Choo Ong.
To the valley-dweller, this city seems like a foreign country. The expensive, Greek renaissance-style row houses are layered atop their garages, sandwiched together side by side. Contrast that with our wide expanse of land, housing tract patchworks surrounded by agriculture. But our church family was about to see another side of San Francisco that tourists might never see. We loaded our Thanksgiving dishes and decorations and headed for the “city by the bay.”
The Ongs, who had come from Singapore by way of Grace Seminary, had come to minister to internationals in the city. Dr. Kevin and Siew-Choo Ong and their three children have fit in beautifully with the lifestyle and culture of this huge city.
Church-planting director Kurt Miller said, “San Franciscans don’t like the idea of ‘church,’ but they are drawn to our Jesus.” The Ongs know this and have become a link to internationals who may be homesick, lonely, and afraid in new surroundings. They are being used by God to create strong friendships that will point these many people from all over the world to the love of God.
“What could we do to help the Ongs in their ministry, since we are the closest church to San Francisco?” we asked. We could share an American Thanksgiving with them and their many friends. We could decorate the tables with brightly-colored leaves and lay out symbols we have come to cherish such as the horn of plenty. We could make traditional dishes with all the trimmings and share the history of the foods. We could ask our teens to put on a puppet show to explain the first Thanksgiving. We could introduce the Pilgrim’s faith in God as they trusted Him to provide almost 400 years ago as new immigrants to this country. We could inspire our church to pray for the work in San Francisco and share the responsibility of reaching San Franciscans with the Ongs.
We were delighted with the response of our church family, who prepared more food than the group could eat. We decorated pine cone turkeys with paper feathers and made cornucopia ice-cream sugar cones filled with candy. We made Indian teepees of tortillas and pretzels. We served sparkling cider and pie.
Losing our way four times, by 4:30 we were set up and ready to greet guests in a beautiful, borrowed home across from Golden Gate park. Everyone seemed intent on learning all they could about the use of certain foods and everyone heaped up their plates with turkey, gravy and stuffing. Later our teens presented an entertaining skit complete with Indian headdresses. The students watched intently as the puppets told the story of the pilgrims and the Indians celebrating God’s provision at the first Thanksgiving.
What will be our next link? We invited their women to our Christmas Tea in December. The Ongs have invited our church family to the Korean Cultural Night in January which is how they meet many internationals.
May we all be praying for the work of the Ongs and the other believers of the city. Come and see for yourself!
Sharon MacMillan is the wife of Tracy GBC pastor Robert MacMillan and she is a member of the Women of Grace leadership team.