The year Thanksgiving came early

October 31, 1994. It is a day our family will never forget.

It was a cold, windy and rainy Halloween.

Our young family of five had just arrived in Chicago’s western suburbs after moving from warm and sunny Concord, California.

I was called to be the new pastor of the Naperville Evangelical Covenant Church.

Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos

Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos

But given the extreme contrast in the weather, I had wondered if I had misheard the call of God conveyed through the voice of the congregation.

Because the front door was left open for hours while the movers unloaded and unpacked our belongings from the moving truck, our house was chilly and stuffy.

As the day progressed, the weather got worse.


The rain turned to sleet and by late afternoon it started to snow.

Not only were our three young daughters homesick for California friends, they were also distraught.

The Halloween costumes (which my wife hadn’t packed for easy access once we arrived) would be covered by their newly bought winter coats.

The new neighborhood they tried to trick-or-treat in was unfamiliar and strange.

They couldn’t hide their disappointment.

And then the unexpected.

A woman from the church I would soon serve arrived at our open front door.

Her friendly greeting and infectious smile instantly warmed the hall.

Donna Svenson gave us a cardboard box. Inside was a steaming homemade casserole of chicken tetrazzini, a tangerine salad, freshly baked biscuits and raspberry jam.

It would be our first supper in our new house.

And like the Last Supper in the Cenacle so long ago, it would prove to have sacramental significance.

As we sat down to that sacred meal, we thanked God for Donna’s hospitality.

I can’t remember a meal ever tasted so satisfying. It was like having Thanksgiving a month early.

Against the backdrop of inclement weather and missing people and things we 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 on the horizon of our lives from time to time. There would be job loss, financial worries, health problems and fear for our future.

But in the midst of the unpredictable forecast, we had a point of reference.

We commemorated his gracious loyalty expressed through a delicious dinner on an unforgettable Halloween.

And God kept bringing unexpected people and circumstances into our path at just the right time.

That first night in our new house on the last day of October resulted in a family tradition that we have kept every year since.

Every Halloween my wife remakes Donna’s meal.

Together with chicken tetrazzini and tangerine salad, she bakes homemade biscuits.

For the past 28 years, we’ve without fail greeted the pint-sized masked outlaws at our door while feasting on tetrazzini.

And that’s not all. Our married daughter has also taken over the baton.

She too recreates the memorable pasta dinner for her pastor husband and two young daughters. It’s a pasta dinner that Allison first ate when she was just 8.

I guess you could say Halloween is the unofficial start of the Thanksgiving season for our family. And for good reason.

• Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos is a former Naperville resident who writes about faith and family.

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