Thankful on so Many Levels

By Holly Michael

This Thanksgiving, I didn’t have roast turkey. No stuffing, either. No ham. No mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, or pumpkin pie, either. When we booked flights to India for a follow-up mission trip, the cheapest way to travel back to the US was to leave the day after Thanksgiving.

We went to India again because…

…Ten years ago, on Christmas Day evening, my husband (a pastor) and I relaxed after a long day at church.

Then the phone rang.

A call from South India. My brother-in-law DeCruze urged us to turn on the news. A tsunami had hit the shores of the Indian Ocean and many were feared dead. Thankfully, all family members lived inland and were okay, but my husband had worked and lived in the affected coastal region for years. Friends and children he’d cared for would have been swept out to sea in the early hours of December 26th (our 25th evening).

Just days later, after a major fundraising event, I stood on the shore of the Indian Ocean, surrounded by rows of tiny coconut trees. My husband approached and touched my arm. “Honey, you’re standing in a graveyard.”

I had no idea that the trees marked the graves of the children who died at sea. Tears fell from my eyes. We’d spent a week fundraising before flying to India. In the rush of it all, I’d handled everything well, even arriving in Nagatttinam to find smoldering piles of bodies still burning–more than five thousand died in this region. I took a deep breath. I’d come to help,  take pictures, and write a story for a Guideposts magazine assignment. I walked with my husband toward the men weeping in a smashed up fishing boat. In Tamil, my husband counseled them on the loss of their wives and children, the ones whose bodies were planted under those saplings.


Situations like that make me very thankful on so many levels.

Thanksgiving 2014, flying back from India, we visited those same villages and spoke with the people we helped, young children and teens, many now married. I’ve gathered stories of thanksgiving; hearts thankful to Americans for their help a decade ago and hopeful hearts through the struggles they still face living in a third world country. On the day after Christmas, I’ll be releasing a book: Tsunami 2004: Still Wading Through Waves of Hope.


The children from the Nagapattinam region have grown and are ready to begin new lives with money and interest from a CD deposited in accounts for them ten years ago. Hope is alive, but some stories were surprising and a common theme prevailed among the girls, now women, struggling with being female in villages steeped in old traditions. Wounds, never fully healed reopened and fresh tears flowed. Rupees won’t bring back the lost, but these young adults featured in my book have hope. They want to move forward with their lives.

Those in the remote fishing villages of Nagapattanim, South India expressed deep gratitude to America–to the school kids from Illinois who emptied their piggybanks and to adults from all over (especially in Northwest Arkansas) who generously opened their wallets on the heels of a major giving holiday.

Today, with the internet and news plastered with troubles in other parts of the world, we’ve become a global world, caring about those in distant troubled lands, praying for them, helping when we can. We also become thankful people, grateful to God for His protection and care.

On Thanksgiving, this year, as we thank God for our lives, our families, and our freedom, let’s look beyond our borders to those less fortunate and say a prayer for them.

And as we look forward to the Christmas and the topic of Christmas Traditions, let’s consider where our family traditions came from. Do you have ancestors from another country? What traditions can you trace to other parts of the world? Here’s my recipe for Turkey Curry, India style.


Ingredients Chicken/Turkey – 1 lb (cut into pieces) Onion – 1 (sliced) Kuskus – 2 tbsp Cashews – 4 Corriander seeds – 1 tbsp Green chilly – 5-7 Cumin seeds – 1 tbsp Coconut – 1/2 cup (grated) Yogurt (Curd) – 1/2 cup Ginger-Garlic paste- 2 tsp Cardimon – 3 Fennel seeds – ¼ tsp  Bay leaf – 1 Cloves – 2  Cinnamon sticks – 1 Oil – 2 tbsp Salt – to taste Cilantro – for garnish

Method 1. Soak kuskus in 1 cup warm water for 10 minutes and then grind it with green chilies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cashews, cardamom and coconut. Keep it aside. 2. Heat oil in a deep pan. Splutter fennel seeds.Add the bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon. 3. Add sliced onions and fry them till they are translucent. Next add the ginger-garlic paste and saute till the raw smell vanishes.  3. Add the chicken/turkey pieces and saute for 2 minutes. Next add 1 cup water, yogurt and salt to it. Cover and cook till the chicken is almost done. 4. At this stage add the ground paste and add the water required. Check for salt and let the kurma simmer for 5 minutes. 5. Garnish with cilantro. This goes very well with barottaaapam and idiyappam.


Happy Thanksgiving!