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'I Can Do It Myself!': A Story of Thanksgiving from South Sudan

In a few days, most of us will eat from platters of turkey and ham, and bowls of mashed potatoes and carrots. There will be cranberry salad, hot rolls, and, of course, a slice – or two – of pie for dessert.

A meal like that is plenty to be thankful for just by itself.

But if we take a little time, we will likely come up with a list of other reasons to be thankful – for Christ's love for us, for our health, for our family and friendships, for our job, for the colorful leaves that lay in our yard. Our blessings are many.

priscilla2Not so for the one billion poor living on less than $1.25 a day. While we are carving the turkey, many families will be sifting through garbage dumps or going to sleep hungry.

I want to thank you for your commitment to help us fight such extreme poverty. Without your prayers and support, we could not carry out our mission – a mission that is truly transforming lives in some of the poorest areas of the world.

Take, for example, Priscilla, a 52-year-old woman in Wau, South Sudan. As a girl, she never had a chance to attend school, and so Priscilla struggled through much of her life seeking sense of purpose and dignity. Twenty-five years of civil war -- and countless other factors -- had locked her out of a world of opportunity.

When we helped to launch the Literacy and Financial Education Program in Wau, South Sudan last year, Priscilla was the first person to sign up. Her first lessons went slowly. But instead of giving up, our people on the ground kept encouraging her until she had her first success: reading the names and numbers on a cell phone.

"I came with an empty mind to the literacy sessions, and after being in class for some time, today I can make phone calls without asking anybody to come and help me," she said with excitement. "I can do it myself!"

From there, Priscilla's confidence has continued to grow. She can now write her own name. She has made a family budget. She started a small business without borrowing money from her husband. She has confidence now to help settle family disputes. And she carries herself so differently that people from her hometown can't help but notice.

"When I go back to Yirol County, where I was married, I know people will be asking themselves, 'Where and when did she get this education?'" she said. "My dream has now been fulfilled. ...I want to thank who those who made it possible for us to get this program in Wau."

You are empowering women like Priscilla in all 11 countries where we work.

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, I hope you will share the following prayer with your friends and family when you gather to thank God – and each other – for the precious treasures in your life:

Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us.

For the beauty and wonder of your creation,
in earth and sky and sea.
We thank you, Lord.

For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women,
revealing the image of Christ,
We thank you, Lord.

For our daily food and drink,
our homes and families, and our friends,
We thank you, Lord.

For minds to think, and hearts to love,
and hands to serve,
We thank you, Lord.

For health and strength to work,
and leisure to rest and play,
We thank you, Lord.

For the brave and courageous,
who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity,
We thank you, Lord.

For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice,
We thank you, Lord.

For the communion of saints, in all times and places,
We thank you, Lord.

Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord; To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

(A prayer from St. Thomas' Episcopal Church)