But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD! – Jonah 2:9
On September 6th, 1620, seventy men and women and thirty-two children climbed aboard the Mayflower headed for the ‘New World.’ Some of the people were looking for religious freedom, others in search of wealth. The ship was crowded. There was little room to sleep or eat. There were no bathrooms and little privacy.
Soon the treacherous ocean tossed the ship about, forcing the people to remain inside the foul-smelling quarters.Many suffered from seasickness. For two long months, the people endured these conditions. Until November 9th when they spotted land.
Now the voyagers faced new challenges. Hard land. Wild animals. A harsh winter. And little to no medical supplies. More than half the adults became sick and died. What were they to do? They considered returning to England. Then God brought a miracle to them: an English-speaking Native American named Squanto.
Squanto is a remarkable man of history. Kidnapped by Englishmen, Squanto was taken to England and taught English for three years. Many years later he was returned to his people only to be once again kidnapped by British seamen. This time, he was taken to a Spanish slave port. He was purchased by Spanish monks. They took him to their home, fed him, and told him he was free. He learned that it was their love for Jesus that prompted them to purchase him and set him free. These Christian brothers taught him the Christian faith and soon Squanto came to love and trust Jesus Christ too.
In time, he returned once more to his native village in the ‘New World.’ But this time, he found only desolation. His friend Samoset, another English-speaking Native American, told him that a sickness from the white man had in one year wiped out Squanto’s entire village. Six months later more white men arrived: the pilgrims. Squanto hid and watched them, these people looked different to him than the men who had once taken him from his native land.
Eventually, he visited the pilgrims with his friend Samoset and decided he wanted to stay and live with them.
He could have easily harbored bitterness over the lost years he spent kidnapped and enslaved. He could have watched the pilgrims die; after all, wasn’t it their kind who were responsible for the extinction of his entire village? But Squanto did not choose to hate or abandon these people. Instead, he showed them where they could find fish. He taught them where and how to plant. And he had the joy of celebrating the first Thanksgiving with them. The feast lasted for three days. The pilgrims gave thanks to God for their Native American friends, especially Squanto. Squanto gave thanks for his new family. And they all gave thanks for the One who rescued them: Jesus Christ.