At first glance, today’s post has little to do with personal finance. However, if adventure, conviction, faith, resilience and God’s providence affect your financial well being, perhaps it does. At any rate, if you are interested in reading of how an extraordinary series of events led to America’s first Thanksgiving, stick around.
The Journeyers and Their Compact
Those 102 adventurers (a strange mix of religious separatists and treasure seekers), after sailing across the ocean, missed their planned destination and therefore agreed to establish a village at Plymouth in Massachusetts. Before disembarking their ship, they signed the Mayflower Compact. Well, only 41 of them actually signed it. The body of this document declares,
“Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience."
After pledging to advance the Christian Faith in this New World, about half of our intrepid travelers died from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease during that first brutal winter. At that point, had I been one of that group, I might have had serious misgivings about the wisdom of this mission. I might also have been questioning my faith.
A Miracle Visitor
When spring came, the survivors, weakened by illness and malnutrition, experienced an astonishing miracle: a visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with Squanto, an English speaking Native American, who taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants.
In November, 1621, after their first successful corn harvest, the Pilgrims and their Native American allies celebrated a three day festival together. Many consider this festival as the origin of our modern day Thanksgiving holiday.
But this story is about more than the beginning of an annual holiday. It is about:
What would it take for you to leave everything you have ever known to launch out on a venture that offered tons of risk and no guarantees of success? The Pilgrims believed so strongly about freedom of religion that they were willing to take that risk. I wish I had that sort of conviction.
As evidenced in the Mayflower Compact, they clearly stated their goals: to give glory to God and advance the Christian faith.
After losing half of their number that first winter, they never gave up. They learned the ways of the new land, adapted to those ways and began to rebound.
“Providence" is sometimes defined as “God’s foreseeing protection and care of his creatures". Unless one wants to believe the arrival of Squanto was total coincidence, Providence was an obvious factor. Consider:
- They missed their destination. Or…did they? Had they been where they planned to be, their connection with Squanto might never have happened.
- Squanto spoke English. How he learned English is another story, but what are the chances that an English speaking Native American would show up?
- Squanto’s timing was perfect. Had he come during the winter, he might have been vulnerable to the diseases which killed so many of the original group. Instead, he came in the spring: the season for planting.
- Governor William Bradford declared that Squanto was “a special instrument sent by God for their good.“
Even with a corn harvest, I am amazed at how these early settlers could muster up the ability to be thankful. Yet they did. I hope this re-telling of our first Thanksgiving story will challenge you to realize that God is providentially working in your life, through good times and not so good.
Like the Pilgrims of old, we have much to be thankful about.