If you've ever faced hardships, you may want to hear this story. It's an amazing story. In fact, if I wrote it into a novel, you'd say it was too coincidental, too far-fetched. But because it really happened, it may help you see that far-fetched and wonderful things can come from hardships. It may even provoke you to give thanks.
It all started 400 years ago when a Native American named Squanto lived near Cape Cod with his tribe, the Patuxets. One day, an English sea captain kidnapped Squanto and four other Patuxets, carted them off to England, taught them English and pumped them for information about the New World. Nine years passed before Squanto linked up with a second sea captain, who took him back across the Atlantic to his home.
As soon as Squanto stepped off that ship, the captain of another vessel invited him and 19 other Patuxets aboard. The captain pretended to want to barter but really wanted a cargo of slaves. This captain took his captives back across the Atlantic to Spain, where Squanto was bought and freed by friars, who introduced him to the Christian faith.
Are you still following here? I told you this would seem far-fetched.
As soon as he could secure passage, Squanto left Spain for England. More time passed before he again sailed for home. In spring of 1620, 15 years after he was first abducted, Squanto stepped ashore at what we now know as Plymouth, Massachusetts. There, he found no one at all from his tribe. Two years after his second kidnapping, a plague had killed every man, woman and child among his people.
Of all that had befallen him, this blow was by far the worst. In despair, Squanto wandered into the camp of another tribe, the Wampanoags. He remained with them for a year, utterly desolate.
Meanwhile, a little of group of Pilgrims landed in the New World and settled at Plymouth, on land that had formerly belonged to the Patuxets but now belonged to no one. That first winter, nearly half the Pilgrims died.
The future looked bleak for the 55 survivors (17 of whom were children). They had little food and only English wheat and barley to plant. In March, the grieving man who had twice been abducted by Englishmen heard about the little colony and went calling. Instead of single-handedly wiping them out, he single-handedly saved them. Before the next winter, he had taught the Pilgrims what they needed to know to survive in the Massachusetts wilderness, and they had embraced him as their own.
In October, the Pilgrim governor declared a day of Thanksgiving. Pilgrims and Native Americans celebrated together. Whom did Squanto and his newfound family thank? The God the Phillips New Testament calls "the blessed controller of all things" (1 Tim. 6:15).
Why did they thank him? He certainly hadn't kept them from hardship. But he'd done something even more amazing. Romans 8:28 describes it this way: "Morever we know that to those who love God, who are called according to his plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good" (Phillips).
Through his trials, Squanto learned English, came to know Christ, survived the plague that obliterated his tribe and returned to New England six months before the arrival of the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims, who were supposed to settle 100 miles south, chose instead the one place where help awaited them.
Which, then, is more far-fetched: to attribute it all to coincidence, or to give thanks to the God who - no matter how vast the wilderness - can bring together a man desperately needing purpose and a people desperately needing life?
(c) 1999, 2005 by Deborah P. Brunt. All rights reserved. “Squanto” is Snapshot 62 in Deborah’s book, “Focused Living in a Frazzled World: 105 Snapshots of Life.”