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That first Winter was awful. Years later, rugged old Governor Bradford remembered and wrote tribute in his blunt words; Image

“There was but six or seven sound persons, so to their great commendations be it spoken, spared no pains, night or day but with abundance of toyle and hazard of their own health, fetched them woode, made them fires, drest them meat, made their beads, washed their loathsome cloaths, cloathed and uncloathed them; in a word, did all ye homly and necessarie offices for them which dainty and quesie stomacks can not endure to hear named and all this willingly and cherfully, without any grudging in ye least, shewing herin their true love unto their friends and brethren.”

For this thing called freedom, there was a price to pay. Death took nearly half of the people. Fourteen of the eighteen Pilgrim wives died. They buried the dead in unmarked graves so the Indians would not know how few remained. Sometimes there were two or three deaths in a day.

The following spring 51 gaunt men, women and children stood on the shores and watched the Mayflower sail back to England (it had spent the winter there).

The men (who had been town laborers in Holland) might have been overwhelmed by the work of providing food from the soil if it had not been for the help of two Indians; Somoset and Squanto.Image The Indians taught the men how to fertilize the poor soil by planting a dead fish next to the corn as well as how to hunt and fish. The small band of Puritans recorded these events and believed the help of the Indians to be part of God’s provision.

Although they were able to harvest crops the first yearImage (and to enjoy a feast where they thanked God for His goodness toward them), the following winter brought a new shipload of people on The Little Anne. They brought with them little food….

The Pilgrims entered the first of what they called their “starving time. Some accounts say that each person had only seven or eight kernals of corn for each day during part of that winter. I wonder how the parents encouraged their little children whose bellies ached with hunger?

Yet, in the midst of their fear, poverty, sorrow, illness and loneliness, the Pilgrims still knew that they were building. They were building families, they were building the body of Christ (the church) and they were building a nation.

This vision, in and of itself, was astonishing.

You see, even though the Pilgrims weren’t (by and large) people of the field, the Pilgrims understood harvest! They knew that first came the cultivation and the planting (which was hard work) and then, later on with God’s help, there would be a harvest.

I hope that as you teach and talk and love your children, spouse, neighbors and friends that you are able to look beyond the hard labor of today and see why you are laboring. I hope you can see beyond your daily struggle and see the harvest.

To learn more about this fascinating history read the following book written for elementary aged students. Stories of the Pilgrims by Margaret Pumphrey  (published by Christian Liberty Press).