Remembering the year Thanksgiving came early | Greg Asimakoupoulos

Oct. 31, 1994. It’s a day our family will never forget. It was a cold, windy and rainy Halloween. Our young family of five had just arrived in the western suburbs of Chicago, having relocated from warm and sunny Concord, California.

I had been called to be the new pastor of Naperville Evangelical Covenant Church. But given the extreme contrast in weather, I’d wondered if I’d misheard God’s call conveyed through the voice of the congregation.

Because the front door remained open for hours as the movers unloaded and unpacked our belongings from the moving van, our home was chilly and dank. As the day progressed, the weather became more miserable. The rain turned to sleet and by late afternoon, it had started to snow. Our three young daughters were not only homesick for California friends, they were also distraught.

The Halloween costumes (that my wife had not packed to allow for easy access once we arrived) would be covered up by their newly purchased winter coats. The new neighborhood in which they attempted to trick-or-treat was unfamiliar and strange. They couldn’t mask their disappointment.

And then the unexpected. A woman from the church I’d soon be serving arrived at our open front door. Her friendly greeting and contagious smile immediately warmed the entryway. Donna Svenson presented us with a cardboard box. Inside was a steaming homemade casserole of chicken tetrazzini, a mandarin orange salad, freshly baked biscuits and raspberry jam. It would be our first supper in our new home.

And like the Last Supper in the Upper Room so long ago, it would prove to hold sacramental significance. Sitting down to that sacred meal we thanked God for Donna’s hospitality.

I don’t remember a meal ever tasting so satisfying. It was as if we were having Thanksgiving dinner a month early. Against the backdrop of inclement weather and missing people and things what we’d left behind, we celebrated God’s goodness and His tangible provision for our family. With grateful hearts, we paused and thanked God for a warm meal on a cold and stormy night.

Looking back, that unexpected meal was a picture of how the Lord would provide for us over the next 11 years. Storm clouds would gather from time to time on the horizon of our lives. There would be job loss, financial worries, health scares and fears for our future. But amid the unpredictable forecast, we had a point of reference. We remembered His gracious faithfulness expressed through a delicious dinner on an unforgettable Halloween. And God continued to bring unexpected people and circumstances across our path at just the right time.

That first night in our new home on the last day of October resulted in a family tradition that we have observed every year since. Each Halloween my wife recreates Donna’s meal. Along with chicken tetrazzini and mandarin orange salad, she bakes homemade biscuits. For the past 28 years without fail, we’ve greeted the pint-size masked bandits at our door while feasting on tetrazzini. And that isn’t all. Our married daughter has taken up the baton as well. She, too, recreates the memorable pasta dinner for her pastor husband and two young daughters. It’s a pasta dinner Allison first ate when she was only eight. I guess you could say that Halloween is the unofficial start of the Thanksgiving season for our family. And for good reason.

Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos is chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores in Mercer Island.