I admit that I often fall victim to holiday routines. Thanksgiving Day so often turns into highlighting the turkey, the football, the parade, and the relaxation. But not this year. Thanks to our friends, the Torp-Pedersons, who sent us a book, Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember by Barbara Rainey, our family reviewed the events of 1620. That was the year when a boatload of people from England landed at Plymouth after 97 days at sea. Sadly, their timing was poor.
Bad news . . . They arrived in November, in the dead of winter.
Good news . . . The Patuxet Indians who used to inhabit that area and who had murdered every white man who had ever landed in their territory had all died from a mysterious plague four years earlier! But one of them, Squanto, was in England at the time, having been captured and taken as a slave. He had returned to his land only six months prior to find himself a man without a tribe. It was he who helped the new arrivals adjust and survive. Interesting to me how God turns tragic situations into blessings.
Bad news . . . That first winter was so severe that half of the new arrivals died of influenza and other sicknesses. They had to ration the little food that they had. Sometimes counting out kernels of corn.
Good news . . . An Indian named Samoset had learned English through contacts with English fishermen and was able to help the Pilgrims get settled and taught them how to plant corn with fish as fertilizer. Another Indian named Massasoit helped prevent annihilation by seven neighboring tribes who were plotting to kill all the English.
Bad news . . . After making it through the first summer and celebrating a bountiful harvest and thinking they had enough food for the next winter, another ship, the Fortune, arrived bringing 35 new arrivals. They nearly doubled the population of the new settlement but arrived with no food, clothing or other provisions. Back to half rations!
Good news . . . When the planting season of 1623 came upon them, they learned a basic principle of motivation: Ownership increases productivity. “Each family was given a parcel of land to plant for its own use.” They produced enough corn to sustain them as well as all the people from the next ship, Anne.
Best news . . . They never lost sight of their God as their refuge and their provider. They could have used many of their circumstances to justify their murmuring and complaining (like the Hebrews in the wilderness after the Exodus). But they established a model for us to follow. Recognize God as the source of all our blessings; thank God for the loving deeds He does on our behalf (even when we don’t understand all His ways); surrender our lives to His care.
I’m thankful that they chose to step out sacrificially to create a new civil government, originating with the Mayflower Compact. I’m thankful that their lives demonstrate God’s providential care. I’m thankful that God took the trouble to show himself to us in human form in Jesus Christ who through His death and resurrection provides the way for me to have a personal relationship with Him.