Just because my Christmas tree goes up in October doesn’t mean I don’t love me some Pilgrims. In fact, they are some of my favorite people EVER. I totally can do Thanksgiving and Christmas at once!
Each year I feel it’s important to have a Thanksgiving lesson with our Wednesday Nite Kidz (age 2-2nd grade) focusing on the courageous men and women of the Mayflower. I start out with, “This story is not in the Bible but is important for us to know,” and use The Pilgrims’ First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern. The illustrations (by Elroy Freem) are wonderful and make the journey easier to understand. (It’s still hard to comprehend the magnitude even as an adult!) One of the pictures shows children bundled in blankets, sleeping on the deck of the Mayflower. That made it very real.
We talked about how brave the Pilgrims were packing up everything they owned and boarding a ship headed to a whole new world. The children have heard many a Bible story about a mean king, so they weren’t surprised to hear there was one in the Pilgrim saga. When I said that the king would not let them worship God like they wanted, it was clear to our WNKidz why they left England. (A few of them had already learned about the Pilgrims in school and were eager to share the parts they knew.)
Something that helps the lesson sink in is a game using words and pictures to retell the story. It is played in Bingo fashion. After a few rounds of “Thanksgiving-O”, each of our kids colored a plate and filled it with pictures of food the Pilgrims and Indians enjoyed that first Thanksgiving: fish, cucumbers, corn, carrots, turkey, cabbage, etc.
As they worked on their “First Thanksgiving Dinner” craft, I asked them if they thought the Pilgrims were courageous. “Yes!” they announced as one. We talked about how they were strong and brave, trusting in God. And He really had watched over them. (One of our first graders informed us that some people died on the Mayflower. It was true and very sad.)
I watched as they worked…precious kids whose parents bravely bring them to church in spite of a pandemic. Tears filled my eyes.
“Do you know that God will help you be strong and courageous and you will have a story, too?” I asked. “God is writing a story in YOUR life,” I went on getting all choked up. They looked up from their dinner papers as I tried to speak.
Having their attention now, I swallowed and attempted it again. “God is writing a story in your life. Did you know that?” They nodded.
I can’t wait to see what God does in their lives! They may not board a ship and sail to a new world, but I hope and pray they will follow God wherever He leads!
What about you and me? Do we have the gumption of those courageous Pilgrims to follow God’s direction no matter what, even at great personal cost? It might be scary. It might be far away. It might be in our own town.
I’ve heard for years: “The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.” That’s where I want to be!
Dawn Reed is a newspaper columnist and pastor's wife in Prestonsburg. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org