After 12 years in Holland, the Pilgrims left for America on two ships, the Speedwell and the Mayflower for two fundamental reasons: 1.“Propagate the gospel among the Indians”; 2.“become stepping stones for the furtherance of the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth.” In other words, they were missionaries!
Along the way, the Speedwell developed leaks and had to be abandoned. Because of terrible storms, over 100 people had to be stuffed into the hole of the Mayflower--50’ wide, and 90’ long--44 out of the 66 days on the perilous seas. The average death rate for cross-Atlantic trips was 50%, yet only 2 people perished; an indentured servant, who refused to partake of limes; and a blasphemous crew member.
The captain originally planned to land south, around the present-day Virginia area, but in God’s providence, strong winds blew them far to the North. They began to pray about exactly where to land. Once again, providentially, they found a piece of land formerly occupied by the Patuxet Indians--it was good for planting and had fresh-water springs—all they needed for survival. Interestingly, a plague wiped out the Patuxet Indians in 1617, and no tribe would take over that piece of land for fear of the same fate.
The date was October/November of 1620, so the Pilgrims immediately began to build houses to survive the winter. The food from the ship lasted until the Spring of 1621. However, the bad news is that diseases, like Scurvy, along with the new habitat, hit the small group of 102, and by the Spring, 50% died. However, their Christian character emerged for many times only 5 or 6 people were healthy enough to care for the sick. Food shortages led to starvation, and hope quickly began to dwindle that anyone would survive!
Once again, in the Providence of God…enter Squanto—who arrived at the exact moment of their desperation!!! Historian Stephen McDowell wrote, “He showed them how to plant corn, assuring its growth by setting it with fish; he taught them how to catch fish and the times when they could find the creeks stocked with fish (for the Pilgrims had only caught one cod in the preceding four months); he taught them to stalk deer, plant pumpkins, find berries, and catch beaver, whose pelts proved to be their economic deliverance. Squanto was also helpful in securing a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and surrounding Indian tribes, which lasted over fifty years.” And, William Bradford, elected Governor of the Pilgrims also wrote, “Squanto… was a special instrument sent of God for their good, beyond their expectation.”* So…what happened? God’s providence!
In 1605, the English wanted to colonize the new world. But not knowing which Indian tribes were hostile and friendly, they decided to use fishing exhibitions to capture 6 Indians, teach them English, and derive the needed information. Providentially, like Joseph in Egypt, Squanto was among the 6 Indians initially captured. After 9 years of living with the captain, he returned to his village in 1614. After a short period of time, another fishing exhibition arrived under Captain John Smith. They obtain the fish desired, and return to England. However, before setting sail, Smith orders one of his assistants to remain behind and trade a boat-load of fish for beaver-pelts, which were worth more in England. Instead, the man tricks 20 Indians on board, and later another 7, and then sets sail for Malaga, Spain, a notorious slave trading port.
Twenty-six Indians are auctioned off, sold into slavery. As Squanto stands on the auction block, a priest walks by, and the Holy Spirit instructs him to buy him. He argued with God because he didn't believe in slavery. He finally obeyed and purchased Squanto. Over the next year, the priest led Squanto to Christ, and forgiveness entered his heart. Squanto subsequently made his way up the coast to England and finds a ship crossing the Atlantic back to his home. Upon arriving at Plymouth, he receives the shock of his life—his tribe has been wiped out by the plague---he is the only remaining Petuxet Indian on earth! Not only is he devastated at the loss of his family, he now has nowhere to go, because Indians do not take-in other Indians! However, Squanto has no other choice but to walk 50 miles through the dangerous tribal territory to the Wampanoag tribe, where Massasoit was chief. Miraculously, i.e.providentially, he is accepted, where he lives for a short time until he hears some English have settled on the land of his tribe. He is moved by the Holy Spirit to visit them. He arrives speaking perfect English, knowing the English culture, foods, likes, and dislikes. Guess when? Exactly at the time when the Pilgrims were starving!
With Squanto’s instruction…and I repeat…the Pilgrims learned how to plant, fish, catch beaver, find berries, etc. Governor Bradford appointed a day of Thanksgiving and invited the Wampanoag Indians (Squanto’s adopted tribe) to celebrate. In October of 1621, Massasoit arrived with 90 braves, their squaws, and children. They feasted on “deer, turkey, fish, lobster, eels, vegetables, cornbread, herbs, berries, pies, and the Indians even taught the Pilgrims how to make popcorn. The Pilgrims and Indians also competed in running, wrestling, and shooting games. Massasoit enjoyed himself so much that he and his men stayed for three days”**
Remember, the traditional celebration of ‘Thanksgiving’ is a day set aside by Americans to thank God for His providence and provision!
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”
* William Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation (Boston: Wright & Porter Printing, 1901), p. 111. Spelling has been changed to modern usage in this and the other quotes from Bradford.
**Stephen McDowell, historian
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. - Thomas Alva Edison