In 1608, a group of men, women and children left their beloved homes in England for the Holland region of the Netherlands to escape religious persecution. There they found more religious freedom but harder living conditions. They began saving their funds for a journey to escape their troubles and be able to worship God as they would.
After twelve years of living in Holland, the group that later called themselves Pilgrims chartered a passage on two ships out of England – The Mayflower and the Speedwell. Shortly after departing the Speedwell began to take on water and turned back to port. The Mayflower and its group of a little more than 100 Pilgrims continued on.
The Mayflower was a small ship, no longer than the length of a modern volleyball court. It faced terrible storms on the North Atlantic on its journey of 66 days where the ship’s mast would often dip into the cold waves as they were tossed side to side. The group was required to stay below deck so as to not be thrown overboard. One sailor called the group “psalm-singing pukestockings” as that seemed to be the only two activities the group regularly participated in. Miraculously there was only one death on the journey – that of the name-calling sailor.
The ship’s navigation was off due to the storms and they arrived on the cape in what would later be called Massachusetts instead of the current state of Virginia they had planned for. Stretched before them was miles and miles of sand. This was not the farmland they had hoped for. They searched for several weeks for a suitable place to farm.
With the help of providence and two English-speaking Native Americans, Squanto and Samoset, the Pilgrims were taught how to harvest the bay and the land but the yield was insufficient for the harsh winter. More than half of the Pilgrims died during that first winter which they often called “the starving time.” At one point during the winter, the daily ration of food was five kernels of corn and a few ounces of brackish water. They buried their dead and prayed for mercy.
In the Spring, those that had survived learned from Squanto new ways to plant. Each family was given a plot of land to farm themselves rather than the communal farm of the past. They planted and the harvest grew. Their settlement began to grow and prosper.
At the time of harvest, the group’s leaders sent men to hunt so they could have a great feast to celebrate their blessings of a bountiful harvest and to give thanks for the goodness of God. They prepared wild birds, fish, venison, hoecakes, cornmeal pudding and vegetables. They invited their native friends which brought five freshly killed deer, treats made from blueberries, cherries and apples as well as corn cooked in an earthen pot until it became fluffy and white (popcorn). The feast and celebration lasted several days. Praise and prayers of gratitude were offered.
To go through hardship and extremes to a functioning settlement…to go from five kernels of corn to a spectacular feast, truly they had much to be grateful for. As one wrote, “…although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God we are so far from want that we are partakers of plenty.”
As we take time to celebrate with friends and family this Thanksgiving may we give thanks before the feast to be numbered among “partakers of plenty.” May we remember five kernels of corn and everything else in our lives will have greater significance and meaning.
This blog allows you to experience the raw, gut wrenching drama of human conflict through accounting in each of its three stages: preparing to do battle, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.