By Doris Schroeder
I just love this time of year…the hot days are over, the leaves have exploded into their beautiful vibrant colors and drifted to the ground, and yes, we’ve even got used to the time change again. At least almost. I find myself going to bed and getting up at least an hour earlier. As I look around this autumn season and in spite of the troubles that are surrounding our country, there are still so many reasons to give thanks…
As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, we remember the Pilgrims who came to our country on November 10, 1621, and landed on Plymouth Rock. They had come so they could have religious freedom and had to go through the greatest hardships to get here. They came in a little ship called the Mayflower and it took them two months to get here, just in time for a New England winter.
And what a winter it was! Probably as bad or worse as the winters we remember in Kansas! The cold, sleet and snow were deep and heavy: and of the 110 who had made the trip, less than fifty percent were alive by the spring thaw.
In March of that year, all of a sudden a friendly Indian by the name of Samoset walked into their village and welcomed them. He had learned English from the captains of the English fishing boats. Later, he returned with another Native American by the name of Squanto.
Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to draw maple sap from the trees, how to plant corn using decaying fish as fertilizer (how my hubby would enjoy this: he could fish forever!) how to plant their fields, and which plants were poisonous or medicinal.
They had a prosperous year and so their second winter was good. In November, they took time to have a feast and thank God for his help. The Governor of the state proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving and the local Indian chief sent ninety braves to join the celebration. This feast lasted three days. They not only ate, but had races and feats of skill with bows and arrows and muskets.
After two years had gone by, a new crisis developed in the form of a drought. The crops began dying and the outlook was, to say the least, very dismal. The Governor of that time, William Bradford, proclaimed a day of fasting and prayer, and soon, the rains came and saved the crops. After they had been harvested, a day was set aside as a day of thanksgiving and that’s the date believed to have been the true and official beginning or our modern celebration.
According to an article written by David Jeremiah in the Turning Points magazine, these people were not called pilgrims until they were written about later on. They were, however, pilgrims in the true sense of the word. A pilgrim is someone making a pilgrimage…traveling to a new place, especially for spiritual reasons. According to the Bible, all Christians are pilgrims, traveling toward Heaven. Hebrews 11:13 calls us “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
You probably, just like us, have ancestors as pilgrims in that same way. My great grandparents, Abraham and Marie Kroeker, along with their two little boys, Abe and George, who was my grandfather, came to America on a ship named Teutonia.
They made a pilgrimage from Russia, to Berlin, Germany, and then to the ship that sailed to New York. As they came by train to the Hutchinson area, they rented wagons to look over the land, which they bought for $7 an acre at 7 per cent interest.
When they arrived in 1874, there had just been a grasshopper plague. The insects had eaten up the crops and even the paint from the barns that were already built. There were rumors of Indian uprisings. They trusted God to see them through and he did.
They built their sod houses, schools, and church buildings. In fact, my great grandfather was the first elected minister of one of the churches. Later, he traveled to Hooker, Oklahoma on the train several times as an evangelist. He was not in good health, however, and died at the early age of 54. He was a true pilgrim as I’m sure many of your ancestors were.
We who are Christians are also making a pilgrimage through this time, 2009 to?. We are living in difficult times, not in the same way as the Plymouth pilgrims, but complicated in a different way. Our country is going through a complex period and we need to be ready at all times to be a witness.
Happy Thanksgiving, O Pilgrim of 2009!
Doris welcomes your comments and can be reached [email protected]