Editor’s Note: Nancy Malik has shared with numerous area listeners through a daily local radio program, and Nancy provides occasional contributions to The AJT based on her series entitled “Adventures in Creation.”
As the season of Thanksgiving draws near, it is the excitement of family, fellowship and friends that make a Thanksgiving dinner so sweet.
In 1621, 401 years ago, one hundred Christians sailed from England and landed in what has been called New England. They came to freely worship God. A document called the Mayflower Compact was written while sailing to a new life of freedom for these Pilgrims. It stated why taking this drastic step of going to a new, undeveloped continent was for their freedom of religion and worship.
The drama of landing late in the season on Nov. 21, 1621, made the difference of a good start to building there, to the reality of 50 members of the party dying from the cold and starvation. They named the place where they landed Plymouth Rock, after the town they had come from in England.
As the weather got warmer, the men ventured out to find the food they so sorely needed. Native Americans heard they were struggling and of other tribes stealing from them. But God intervened with a man named Squanto, and he spoke English. This was an intervention from God to encourage the new people to continue their quest for freedom of religion.
Squanto had been taken to France by pirates that kidnapped him when he was 16 years old. He was taken to become a slave, but kind French monks bought him, taught him to read and write French, and then sent him with English monks. These monks heard of him and wanted him to read and write English, so they could send him back to the home he had come from. They also taught him of Jesus. When Squanto went back and landed near his old home grounds, he could not find his family or tribe. Another tribe, the Wampanoag, told him that his family and tribe had died from an endemic infection, brought to the New World by white men. God had already laid open the door for the Pilgrims to have a native help them get settled and he spoke English and loved God!
Squanto showed them how to use smelt, a small fish, and to place it in each hole to fertilize the corn. They also introduced them to bear, deer and other animals that were good for food. Fish of rivers, streams and the ocean were easily caught as well. Turkeys were an abundant bird and a favorite of both the natives and the Pilgrims. Pumpkins and other gourds were also a wonderful food choice. At the end of the summer, as fall drew near, the Pilgrims wanted to thank Squanto and his tribe by having a huge dinner, which lasted three days. The Wampanoags brought deer, elk, turkey and fish. The Pilgrims brought wild berries, apples and pumpkins. They had brought wheat over so that breads, pies and cakes could also be made. It was a lovely three-day feast and a lovely time for two cultures to grow closer together.
Many Wampanoags became believers in the Lord Jesus through the new people who taught them. A century later, they built a church, the first built by Native Americans in New England, and the church is still standing today.
God’s plan for a people group traveling to a new land for freedom to worship Him, and a group of natives ready to receive the Good News is a wonderful thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season. It is also the reason the United States of America has been an open door to many cultures from around the world for more than 400 years now.