(First Holiday) –
Well, the “transition” is partly the drive home from my parents’ home in Florida, where my parents are “no more” to my home in the Far North, where I am “more.” That is, God has decided that there would be some more of me here on earth, and I sit, now in the foggy wonderment of gratitude.
Meanwhile, two holidays have occurred. I’m honored to have been within 20 miles of the very first site of designated thanksgiving on these shores, near this river, here, in Florida:
This was one of the sites in North America where it was reported that there are precious living souls that have never heard the name of Jesus, and good young men rushed off to bring material help and spiritual aid to the native peoples. After a propitious start, a Thanksgiving to the Most High God was decreed, and that was near St. Augustine, Florida, in the mid 16th century.
On my way out of Florida I decided to stop at a history museum to see what I could learn about this era. It was the Brevard Museum of Science and History. The building didn’t look like much from the outside, but inside I was entranced and captivated by the informative displays — i.e. “I learned a lot” !
Near that river in the photo above is a large area of bogs:
Desolate, dark, swampy areas with compacted biological and mineral matter — Perfect for preserving the details of life as it existed long ago. If you were a scientist digging into those bogs, you would see exciting, promising walls of bog like this:
Really! If that doesn’t excite you, you ought not to be an archeologist or a paleontologist!
Slowly, with toothpick and toothbrush, and other such fine tools, the scientists uncovered the details of life among the native American people here in Florida. I was looking at the Windover Tribe. I’m afraid I moved slowly from area to area with open mouth and slack hands at my side – not conducive for much picture-taking – but I managed to take a couple photos, out of great respect for these people:
Actual cloth woven by the tribe (preserved in bog color, of course). The weaving was exquisite and of great variety, more variety than we have in our clothes today.
And then there was this child, lovingly and carefully buried:
She is about five years old and she is buried with some toys. They cared about her. She is buried in a water grave; literally laid to rest under a few feet of water, covered, the body tied down with those triangles of sticks, covered again, and weighted down by rock so tide and predators won’t take her away.
These water graves were not used anymore by the time the missionaries came to the Florida shores, depicted in this mural:
Here is the truth about what those first missionaries found: Archeologists found that the people were about the same height as the Europeans, averaging 5 feet 6 inches to about 5 feet 8. They were subject to many nutritional deficiencies and degenerative diseases, often including degenerative arthritis and tooth infections leading into the jaw. Ouch.
The Windovers were one of several small tribes up and down the coast of Florida, and there is evidence of deep wounds, bones scarred and shattered by arrows, spears, and clubs; and so in spite of the standard obligatory museum statements that the natives were “peaceful” and lived in harmony with their world, evidence supports the conclusion that they were no different from people who live anywhere in this Fallen World. They waged war, and as Columbus had found a few decades before, they kept slaves, they murdered and tortured each other to quite an alarming degree.
There is evidence of fear, superstition, and magic. Here is just one glass-enclosed case of their personal-size, hand-held idols:
It is to these people that the missionaries came.
Yes, of course, other kinds of Spaniards came, but the Church decreed in several papal bulls that the indigenous people were not to be harmed, and that their culture was to be respected and kept intact. On pain of excommunication. (The Vatican had about as much power over the Conquistadors as the Vatican today has over the likes of a Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, or a Tony Blair…. or other names we know who publicly claim to be Catholic.) But even villains have souls; and is there anyone beyond hope?
I’m becoming rambly now. Rambly: my mind is beginning to ramble, because I’m a historian by nature, and I know of myriads of cultures and societies that have come and gone on this planet; like these Windover people. Like the Rus Vikings in my own heritage, no longer Christian, degenerated now into a bunch of bewildered Swedes who are being beaten down (literally, physically) and overwhelmed and overcome by the African Muslims who are busy overtaking Sweden .
If I can ramble one little step further: I love my Swedish heritage, but without the knowledge of God, they are subject to all the ordinary evils of this world, including confusion, weakness, , and displacement.
So I arrived home with the knowledge of another small society which some great young men had attempted to impart the knowledge of the One and Only True God. Then it was my opportunity to give thanks, with my very small family, with turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes, happy that though we may be just one temporary culture along the stream of Time, there is preserved in us the knowledge of God.
…and happy to learn and obey this: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. . . .” (I Thessalonians 5:18)
So thanks to all those missionaries who settled both coasts of Florida; and northwards up the Mississippi; and southwards down the Mississippi; across Mexico; upwards along the coast of California; downwards along the Pacific Northwest coast; all along the Great Lakes; down the St. Lawrence River; Upper New York state; Vermont; New Hampshire.
East; West; North; South; and right in the middle of our nation, the missionaries brought the news of Jesus Christ. . . .
. . . . the missionaries soaked the ground with their blood.
Perhaps we do have a mission in this world.