Thursday, November 26, 2015

Squanto and the First Thanksgiving

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About 395 years ago, a group of weary---bone tired pilgrims walked on shore where an abandoned Indian village had once existed.

As leader William Bradford and the Christians who had made the journey with him set foot on dry land, an Indian man walked toward them.

He spoke English. Perfect English.

His name was Squanto.

Without him and his friendship, by all accounts, those first pilgrims would not have survived. And likely the new nation would not have been born.

Squanto proved to be a "miracle" awaiting those who came to the new world seeking religious freedom.

The journey that brought Squanto to this first meeting with Bradford and his group was also miraculous, and in many ways parallels the Old Testament story of Joseph.

Eric Metaxes with Colson Ministries and the producers of the National Geographic film "Saints and Strangers" have done extensive original document research on the story of Squanto.

Englishmen and other Europeans had been visiting the shores of America for nearly 200 years when Bradford arrived. What made his group different was that they came in peace, not to make war.

Why would Squanto, who had seen white men visit before, bond with Bradford and his group in the way the relationship developed?

It is apparent that Squanto was taken with the pilgrims faith and convictions. Their faith had brought them through a treacherous voyage to an unknown land. Bradford's faith had brought him through the death of his wife upon arrival---it sustained him through the separation from his son an ocean away. Their convictions had brought them to this place where they could freely worship God.

The relationship between Bradford and Squanto was a miracle---an Indian who encouraged the leader of the Pokanoket tribe to become allies with the English people because of his bond of friendship with Bradford.

However, equally miraculous is the story of how Squanto became conversant in the English language and English customs and ways.

Another example of God's hand in American history.

In 1612 a trader named Captain Hunter came to the coast of what is now Massachusetts and was trading with the Indians. When they came down to the shore to meet and trade with him, he attacked them. His men took the Indians on board their ship, taking them across the Atlantic and sold them into slavery in Malaga, Spain.

Monks in Spain saw the plight of the Indians being sold into slavery and bought them and by all accounts treated them very well.

Obviously the Indians were exposed to the Christian faith.

Squanto was one of the slaves.

In 1615, Squanto and several others were assisted in going up to England so they could get a ship back across the Atlantic to their home in America.

There were no ships scheduled, so Squanto got a job as a stable boy working for an English family named Slaney. He worked for them for 5 years until a trading ship announced it was sailing to the coast of America.

Undoubtedly Squanto had learned much about the Christian faith from the monks, and had likely been praying for a miracle---a ship that was going back to his home.

So a ship becomes available and they asked him to be their translator. And miracle of miracles, the ship was scheduled to land on the Massachusetts shore.

Once on shore he ran to his tribal village, only to find it abandoned. All had died from disease.

All of this is documented.

We don't know for sure if he had actually accepted Christ as his Savior, but it is certain he was familiar with the Christian faith and biblical teaching.

Having no family or tribe to reconnect with, he went to live with a neighboring tribe. It soon became apparent that he had as much in common with the English people as with the neighboring tribe.

Squanto, not really fitting in, went to live alone in the woods.

Meanwhile a band of pilgrims prepared to land on the shores near his abandoned village---also near where Squanto was now living alone in the woods.

Squanto met them. He observed them. He saw them, depending on their faith to get them through the first hard winter. He saw 50% of the community die that first winter. He saw the death of Bradford's wife, the disease, the hunger, the horror---but he also saw the faith and the Christian convictions.

Through observation of a people living by faith in Almighty God, guided by conscience and biblical conviction, Squanto bonded with them---particularly Bradford, and became one of them.

Squanto's home that had been abandoned became his new home. They became his family.

He knew everything there was to know about raising corn. It is Squanto that taught the pilgrims how to plant using a fish for fertilizer---how to plant the gourd around the corn so it grew up the cornstalk. He knew how to get eels out of the streams, he knew where the lobsters lived. He knew everything the pilgrims didn't know, yet needed to know in order to survive.

And the Lord used him miraculously.

Squanto's human needs had been met. The pilgrims' human needs had been met. The seeds of a new nation had been sown. God had been faithful.

It was in this context of the miraculous that they gathered that first Thanksgiving day and gave thanks to God.

Some years later, as Squanto lay on his death bed, he called for William Bradford to come and sit and pray.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I trust we will remember the miraculous moments in our own lives, and thank God for them.

And for those who are going through that "hard winter"---that difficult time---even now God is working all things together for good ---according to His purposes. Thank Him for the miracle that is yet to come.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

God bless you. Abundantly.