Lessons from America's Humble Beginnings<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
By Rev. Mark H. Creech
According to all four Gospel narratives, the people were hungry and a young boy surrendered his lunch of five loaves and two fishes. But what was that among a multitude of more than 5000 men, not counting the women and children? Still as Matthew Henry states: "Those who have but a little, yet when the necessity is urgent, must relieve others out of that little, and that is the way to make it more."
This paltry provision was brought in faith to Christ and was taken by the Lord, who then looked toward heaven and having blessed it, gave thanks. Afterward, so miraculous was the distribution of it that everyone did eat and was filled. So plentiful was the expansion of the meager measure there were twelve baskets full of left overs.
<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />America's beginning was similar. When the Pilgrims arrived in the New World, escaping religious persecution, they became hungry. Food was scarce and supplies low. Nearly half of their band died in the first winter. However, Squanto, an English speaking Native American who was briefly a slave and had also been introduced to the Christian faith, offered to help.
Like the Pilgrims, Squanto was also extremely impoverished. After having been kidnapped and stolen away from his kindred, upon his fateful return home he learned his entire tribe, the Patuxets, had been wiped out by a sudden plague. He wandered aimlessly for a time through the forests of his childhood grieving his loss. Having no where else to go, he settled with Massasoit, a chieftain of the Wampanoag. Later Sqaunto's English speaking and interpreting skills would become instrumental in forging a forty year peace treaty between the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims.
Before this, Squanto was in despair and thought he had no reason for living. But now with a renewed sense of purpose in life, he would adopt the Pilgrims as his own people and help them survive. He would give them what he had his knowledge. He would teach them how to fish, plant and harvest corn. He would teach them to hunt, refine maple syrup from maple trees, harvest berries, and discern what plants were good for medicines. He would also introduce them to the trade of beaver pelts and prosper them economically.
Peter Marshall, in his book, The Light and the Glory, says that by the fall of 1621:
"The Pilgrims were brimming over with gratitude not only to Squanto and the Wampanoags who had been so friendly, but to their God. In Him they had trusted, and He had honored their obedience beyond their dreams. So, Governor Bradford declared a public day of Thanksgiving Massasoit was invited, and unexpectedly arrived early with ninety Indians! Counting their numbers, the Pilgrims had to pray hard to keep from giving in to despair. To feed such a crowd would cut deeply into the food supply that was supposed to get them through the winter
But if they had learned one thing through their travails, it was to trust God implicitly. As it turned out, the Indians were not arriving empty-handed. Massasoit had commanded his braves to hunt for the occasion, and they arrived with no less than five dressed deer, and more than a dozen fat wild turkeys! And they helped with the preparations, teaching the pilgrim women to make hoecakes and a tasty pudding out of cornmeal and maple syrup. Finally, they showed them an Indian delicacy: how to roast corn kernels in an earthen pot until they popped, fluffy and white popcorn!
The Pilgrims in turn provided many vegetables from their household gardens: carrots, onions, turnips, parsnips, cucumbers, radishes, beets and cabbages. Also, using some of their precious flour, they took summer fruits which the Indians had dried and introduced them to the likes of blueberry, apple and cherry pie.
A joyous occasion for all!....Things went so well that Thanksgiving Day was extended for three days."
America would do well to remember these humble beginnings. Although this is not meant as a sanction of illegal immigration, let us not forget there was a time when we were the immigrants in a foreign land, perceived as intruders and desperately in need of friends. We were a minority fleeing another land with hope for a better tomorrow. We were poor, ignorant of the ways of this land and unable to speak the language. But God was with us and countenanced us in our poverty, destroying those bent on our destruction and blessing those that made room for us. Need we in our own hour of testing forget these foundations and fail to find a way to make peace on the issue of illegal immigration? Dare we forget it is only when we are willing to share that we should be given more? And may God hasten the day when He would raise up someone like Squanto in our midst someone who truly understands both cultures and would lead us to find a balance between compassion for the lowly and fairness for those who legally occupy and own the land.
Moreover, let us remember whether it is a broken and impoverished life, or a broken and impoverished people, the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand remind us God specializes in transforming a little into an overflowing of abundance. The difference is whether we give our challenges to Christ.
Though America has grown over the centuries to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations in human history, Dr. George Sweeting, former President and current Chancellor of Moody Bible Institute, rightly contends:
"We have lost much of our basic trust in God. No longer do we see clearly His wisdom, power, and love. We have put our trust in men and they are failing. We have laid aside the Bible, not only in our schools, but in our homes and in our public life as well. Small wonder we have lost our concept of sin, our condemnation of wrongdoing. Bloodshed and violence fill our land. Again and again, we have affirmed the rights of men at the cost of God's rights. We have sold our birthright for humanism's pottage We have made the fatal error of thinking we can be wise and good without God's help, that we can be great and happy and still reject salvation on God's terms. We must turn back."
This Thanksgiving season, let us remember from whence we came God's loving-kindness to us when we were weak and vulnerable the source of our abundance to make room and share with others to trust God implicitly in matters both personal and public to recognize our constant need of Him - to repent and be thankful!
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