Preparations for the Journey

with Barbara Rainey, Dennis Raine...more | November 10, 2008

The Pilgrims didn’t know where they were going or what they would do when they arrived. How in the world did they prepare for such a trip? In this dramatic reading, you’ll experience the anxiety and anticipation the Pilgrims must have felt as they prepared to sail to the New World.

The Pilgrims didn’t know where they were going or what they would do when they arrived. How in the world did they prepare for such a trip? In this dramatic reading, you’ll experience the anxiety and anticipation the Pilgrims must have felt as they prepared to sail to the New World.

Preparations for the Journey

With Barbara Rainey, Dennis Raine...more
November 10, 2008
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: Is your family ready to celebrate Thanksgiving? 

Narrator: The Mayflower, a small, wooden ship with billowing sails was the vessel God used to bring a group of Christian believers to an unseen land far over the Atlantic.  These Christian men and women called "pilgrims" believed that God was leading them to establish a new community where they could worship freely.  Americans celebrate Thanksgiving every year because of the profound faith and uncommon character of these English men and women.

They had no idea how God was going to use them to begin a new nation.  They only knew God wanted them to go.  So in September of 1620, after enduring many delays and difficulties, these pilgrims finally said their last goodbyes, boarded the Mayflower, and set sail for the New World.

[musical transition]

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, November 10th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Today and all this week – a special celebration of the courage and the faith of the first Christians to settle in the New World.

[musical transition]

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.

Dennis: [singing] We gather together to …

Bob: Please, please, do not sing to start theprogram, please. 

Dennis: I'm just in the mood for Thanksgiving early.

Bob: But we're trying to keep listeners tuned in to FamilyLife Today.

Dennis: Are you saying that my voice is not melodious?

Bob: Let's change the subject.  What I'm trying to say is that we're going to combine the festivities of the Thanksgiving holiday with a little bit of a history lesson today.

Dennis: Well, we are, and you know what?  We do have some music that accompanies the history lesson.

Bob: Professional music, right?

Dennis: That's exactly …

Bob: [laughing]

Dennis: You're not giving up on this.  It was my mistake to begin the broadcast singing.

Bob: I just want listeners to have some hope of what's coming.

Dennis: And the interesting thing is, as I introduce Barbara, who joins us on FamilyLife Today, I'm not going to ask her to sing, either.

Barbara: Because I'm not as good as you are.

Bob: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, and this is your favorite holiday we're going to be talking about.

Barbara: It is my favorite holiday, no doubt about it.

Bob: It became your favorite holiday a decade and a half ago, two decades ago?

Barbara: Probably, yeah, quite a while ago.

Bob: At the point that you started having children, and Christmas started getting crazy?

Barbara: Yeah, Christmas got crazy quickly, and it just became really apparent that Thanksgiving was getting overlooked.  I mean, it's very easy to see that.  Anybody who walks in any store in early October is assaulted with Christmas decorations and advertisements and gifts starting to be set out, and whether you want to or not, it's there, and Thanksgiving just began to get lost, and it's increasingly gotten lost as the merchandising for Christmas has been sped up every year.

Dennis: And it didn't get lost at our house because Barbara was the champion of this holiday, and I'm so glad she was because now everyone in our family finds a way to get back home for Thanksgiving.  Christmas is negotiable.  We're going to the kids' houses, some of them are coming home for Christmas, but Thanksgiving, we find a way, as a family, to get together and celebrate God's goodness to us as individuals and to us as an extended family.

Bob: Well, and the heritage of this holiday is a rich heritage.  Obviously, Christmas, the incarnation, is a rich heritage …

Barbara: Exactly.

Bob: Easter is a rich heritage, the Fourth of July is an important historical holiday, but there is something about everything that was involved in the birthing of our country, pre-Fourth of July, that you wanted to make sure that not only did the holiday not get lost but that heritage didn't get lost, too.

Barbara: I really didn't want the story to disappear, and as I saw my children going to school in elementary school, it was interesting what they were being taught about Thanksgiving.  They were taught about the Indians and that there was a feast, but there was very little information about the pilgrims, who they were, where they came from, why they made the voyage, and I realized that there was a large body of information that my kids weren't getting, and I wanted them to understand that the pilgrims came because of what they believed and because of their faith in God.  It wasn't just a celebration that the Indians happened to have with some white settlers.  It was much bigger than that, and I wanted my kids to understand how significant it was and momentous and, really, life-changing for so many of us now today.

Bob: And it was not just a conviction for your family, but that spilled over.  A few years ago, you wrote a book called "Thanksgiving, A Time to Remember," that tells the Thanksgiving story and was designed as a read-aloud book for families at Thanksgiving, right?

Barbara: That's right.  Just as we often – many families often read the Christmas story out of Luke, chapter 2, at Christmas as an annual tradition, I just thought it would be a great idea for families to read the Thanksgiving story annually together, because there really isn't anything passed down that we do to celebrate Thanksgiving other than having turkey and a big feast.

Bob: There is no Luke, chapter 2, that you read every year like you do at Christmas.

Barbara: No, there is not, right.

Dennis: And there is the typical way we celebrate Thanksgiving, which is overeating and football.  I mean, we don't really enter into the joy of our Master, which I think was, first and foremost, on the pilgrims' minds as they celebrated that first Thanksgiving.

Bob: So you told the story, you included in the book a CD that has some great hymns, some Thanksgiving songs.

Barbara: Exactly.

Dennis: [singing] We gather together to …

Bob: Does he sing along at home??

Barbara: Sometimes.

Bob: When you put the CD on?

Barbara: Well, I wanted to produce a CD because all of us have lots of music for Christmas and, to my knowledge, there is no music available for the holiday of Thanksgiving.  So we created a CD that goes along with the book so that families could have music playing in the background that's music of Thanksgiving and gratitude.

Bob: I know Mary Ann loves putting the CD on at our house around Thanksgiving time just to have some great music on in the background as you prepare for the celebration of Thanksgiving.  We went from the book and the CD and then somebody had the idea, they said, "Why don't we have an audio book?  The story was written to be read aloud.  What if we had somebody read it aloud and" …

Dennis: Not just somebody read it aloud.  What if we had one of the guys who was on the Mayflower?

Bob: That's what we were aiming for.

Dennis: This voice you are about to hear – I'm convinced this guy was on – he was on the deck.

Bob: And this week we're going to hear the story in its entirety, and it begins before the voyage back in England when the issues were beginning to emerge that led to the exodus from the Old World to the New World, right?

Barbara: That's right.  There were some men and women in England who were beginning to realize that they could not worship the way they felt that God wanted them to worship.  And this took many, many years for all of this to come to fruition, but eventually they realized that they were not safe in England any longer, and that they needed to leave and go somewhere else.

 And so their first choice was to go to Holland.  A group of them sold what they could and packed up what they could keep, and they went to Holland, and they lived in Holland for about 10 years.  And then life became too difficult in Holland as well, and the decision was made, through much prayer and much contemplation and evaluation, that a group of them should go to the New World, which is now America.

 And that decision was not easily reached.  It was not quickly come to, but they decided that was what God was leading them to do, and that's the part of the story that most of us are semi-familiar with – this group of people who boarded a ship and sailed to the New World.  Most of us know that part, but few of us know the beginning part, sort of the prequel to the story of this struggle in England and moving to Holland and what that did to their families and how they came to the conclusion that they needed to leave and go to the New World.

Bob: Well, let's hear it from the audio book of "Thanksgiving, A Time to Remember."  This is part 1 of the pilgrims' story.

[Musical transition]

Narrator: The roots of our Thanksgiving heritage are entwined with the history of England, growing deep into the rolling green hills of the English countryside.  Nestled in those hills was a little village named Austerfield, and in that village in 1590, a child named William Bradford was born.

William's childhood was unhappy.  While still a boy, he was orphaned, his father dying when he was a baby, his mother when he was seven.  He was placed in the home of two uncles in Austerfield.  Not long after his mother died, William suffered a prolonged illness that left him unable to work in the fields.  As a result, he was allowed to be educated, and he learned to read the Bible on his own.

As a teenager, he walked every week to a nearby village called Scrooby, to learn more of the Christian faith and to worship God secretly in a personal and pure way with a small group of like-minded believers.  Increasingly, William grew dissatisfied with the state-sponsored religion of the Church of England.  Its worship seemed stale and cold compared to what he experienced with the believers in Scrooby.

Like many people of his time, William concluded that there wasn't much hope for spiritual life to return to the state church.  Those who felt this way were called "Separatists" – individuals willing to risk the consequences of separating from the official church.

 There was another group of people in the English church who became known as "Puritans."  The Puritans also disagreed with the state church, but they wanted to stay in the church and try to purify or change it from within.

The authorities in the Church of England felt threatened by both of these growing movements toward religious freedom.  They especially feared the Separatists, who were forming their own churches.  So the governing House of Bishops sent spies and informers to many of these secret congregations, including the one at Scrooby.  Many Separatist church leaders and some Puritans were fined, pressured, persecuted, arrested, or thrown in prison.  Some were even executed with the approval of Queen Elizabeth I and later King James I, in hopes of squelching these rebellious believers.

After years of mounting stress caused by this harassment and persecution, many families in the Separatist church, including William, who was not yet 20, left their English homeland for exile in Leiden, Holland.  The Separatists enjoyed their new religious freedom in Holland, but life again became increasingly difficult for them.  In England, many of them had been landowners.  In Holland, because they were foreigners, the men had to take whatever work was available.

William Bradford became a weaver, usually working 12- to 14-hour days, six days a week.  The Separatists did not complain, however, because the ability to worship God as they saw fit was supremely important.  They lived out the message of Hebrews 12:28 – "Since we receive a kingdom, which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe."

After nearly a decade on Dutch soil, a number of members of the church of Leiden began to explore the possibility of moving across the sea to the New World of America.  Many of them once again wanted to own their own land, and because England was such a powerful country in Europe and in the world, they feared that the English might pressure the Dutch government to clamp down on the rebel church.

The Separatists also worried about the effect of a rather morally loose Dutch society on their own young people.  But the challenges of life in the wild territory across the Atlantic were sobering.  Other groups had settled in America with disastrous results.  The Jamestown Colony in Virginia was a recent example.  Of 1,200 settlers who had arrived in Jamestown in 1619, only 200 were still alive in 1620.

The congregation in Leiden debated the decision.  Staying in Holland meant greater safety in a civilized land.  Settling in America probably guaranteed religious liberty, but the physical risks were enormous, and the financial cost of the voyage would be high.  America was an uncivilized frontier with a vicious climate in some regions.  Would the farming techniques they knew work in this new land?  What strange diseases might await them there?  Perhaps, worst of all, the land was filled with savages about whom frightening stories were told by those who had sailed back from the New World.

In spite of this sobering outlook, the Leiden church chose to believe that God would grant them success if they sent a settling party to America.  William Bradford later wrote –

William Bradford: They had a great hope and inward zeal of laying a good foundation for the propagating and advancing of the Kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world.  Yea, though they should be but even as stepping-stones unto others.

Narrator: If God blessed their efforts then many others, including their pastor, John Robinson, probably would join them on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.  William Bradford was one of those who decided to embark on the adventure.  During the exile in Holland, he had met and married a young woman named Dorothy May.  The couple later had a son named John, who was particularly precious to his mother. 

 Because of the anticipated hardships awaiting the Separatists in America, as well as the rigors of the ocean voyage, some decided to leave family members behind in Holland.  They hoped that in the near future all could be reunited in the new land.  This was true of the Bradfords, who sadly chose to leave five-year-old John in the care of others.

[woman sobbing]

William Bradford: Dorothy May, we must trust in the sovereign.  Take it with hope and rest.  'Tis best for he and thee.

Dorothy Bradford: The boy is precious to my soul, William.  Can the beckoning of a new land cause us to forgo our steadfast duty to our own son?

William Bradford: God's will be done, God's will be done.

Narrator: After all the discussion and agonizing decision-making and before departing from Holland, the church spent a day in fasting and prayer for the journey ahead.  Then they gathered for a special service and to hear a sermon from their pastor.  He chose as his Scripture text, Ezra 8:21 – "Then I proclaimed a fast that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions."

 After Pastor Robinson had encouraged and prayed for the group of pilgrims, the entire Separatist congregation had a feast and sang Psalms.  Edward Winslow, one of the church leaders who would be making the voyage wrote of the evening –

Edward Winslow: We refreshed ourselves after our tears with the singing of songs and, indeed, it was the sweetest melody that ever mine ears have heard.


Bob: Well, that's part 1 of the pilgrim's story from the book "Thanksgiving, A Time to Remember," and I know you wrote that, but just hearing it read back kind of gives you chills, doesn't it?

Barbara: Yeah, it sounds so much more real than when I read it.

Dennis: Well, you know, what I would like to do is I would like to have the audio book to play this Thanksgiving, because Barbara has been reading this story to our kids, and I think it's going to be fun to play the guy who was on the Mayflower.  I mean, he's got a great voice, and it's just riveting.  There is something about it – it makes it more alive and makes it feel like that's part of our heritage.

Bob: Well, and in creating this, we wanted to provide something for family to use either as a part of the Thanksgiving celebration or as you travel.  A lot of families hit the road on Monday or on Wednesday or whenever to go over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house, right?  And we thought this would be something you could listen to on the way there, on the way home.  It's a great story, and you can't hear it told too many times.

Barbara: I really agree, Bob, because there is something about hearing it over and over again that reminds us to be grateful.  It's just like the Christmas story – it reminds us every year when we read it of what God has done for us, and the same is true with the Thanksgiving story.  Every time I read the story to my family – we've been doing it for at least 15 years, maybe 20 now, it's such a great reminder of what God has given us in our freedom and what has been provided for us through the sacrifice of other people.  And every year I am reminded of that, and I just am so grateful to God for what He has given and what He has provided.

Dennis: And as many times as I've heard it, listening to it again, I can begin to feel that saltwater breeze coming off the ocean, you can feel the boat rocking, and you can also begin to feel what the pilgrims went through, and the pain.  And I think, frankly, as I look back over more than 20 years of Barbara leading our family through the Thanksgiving story, I get emotional every time I begin to think of the faith and the courage and the sacrifice those families made.  I mean, they did not see the rest of the story.  They did not know what awaited them on the other shore, and yet they went without knowing.  There were great cost and sacrifice to those families, it cost some of them their lives, and yet look what happened – a great nation on earth that has been used to protect the world and spread the Gospel to the four corners of the earth.

Bob: And you stop and ask yourself the question, or least I do as I listen to this – would I have the courage of my own convictions …

Barbara: Exactly.

Dennis: I'm telling you.

Bob: Especially around something like freedom to worship – would I abandon creature comfort, would I abandon relationships and relatives – most of these people knew they would never see family members again.  They either sold what they had or left it behind, took a suitcase or two and said, "For the purpose of being able to express my faith the way my conviction calls me to do it, I will abandon all," and I go, I'm not sure I'd do that.

Barbara: Exactly.  It is such an incredibly remarkable story, and every time I read it I come to the same conclusion that you did, Bob – would I do that?  And it's a good question for us to ask ourselves every year when we re-read the story – would I make those kinds of sacrifices for my faith?  And we're so soft in our culture, and this is a good reminder, when we read of their sacrifice and the hardship that they endured for their faith, that we should aspire to the same.

Dennis: And I think God is expecting a sacrifice of our faith today.  It's a different kind of sacrifice.  It takes courage in this culture to live like you're headed for heaven instead of your feet in the middle of this materialistic world.  If there has ever been a time for a Christian family to be distinctly Christian, it's today.  And you know what?  The way you can begin to set that apart as a family is to turn this holiday into a God-focused, Thanksgiving time where you celebrate what He has done for you individually and as a family.

Bob: I know a lot of families have enjoyed having the book and reading it at Thanksgiving, playing the CD with the music in the background.  In fact, it's been …

Dennis: [humming a hymn]

Bob: It's better music than that, folks.  And we've heard from real estate agents and business owners and people who are getting multiple copies of this book …

Dennis: Oh, yeah, we had one couple in Southern California who ordered 2,000 copies.

Bob: Gave them as Thanksgiving gifts to customers.

Dennis: To all of his customers – he ran a title company, so he'd sold a lot of homes in Southern California, and he said he got the most appreciation from that gift than he has ever given a customer.

Bob: And we've upped the ante on it this year, because when folks contact us to get a copy of the book or to get multiple copies of Barbara's book, in addition, we are going to provide copies of the audio book along with it at no additional cost, and our team has put together a resource that is designed to give you step-by-step directions on how you can make your Thanksgiving meal a more spiritually centered time.

So you get the book, the audiobook, the Thanksgiving dinner resource – all of that when you contact us at FamilyLife – you can either go to and click on the right side of the screen where you see the box that says "Today's Broadcast."  That will take you to an area of the site where you can get more information about all of the resources we have available, and you can order them online, if you'd like.

Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and just mentioned that you're interested in the Thanksgiving resources that we have, and someone on our team will make arrangements to have them sent out to you.

And when you get in touch with us this week, if you are able to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount, we have a thank you gift we'd like to send to you.  It's a prayer guide for parents called "While They Were Sleeping," and it gives you a way to pray for your children each day, taking a specific theme each week and directing your prayers that God would build a certain character quality into your child's life.

If you go online to make a donation, and you'd like to receive a copy of this prayer guide, simply write the word "sleep" into the keycode box on the donation from that you find online.  OR call 1-800-FLTODAY, you can make a donation over the phone and mention that you'd like the prayer guide for parents called "While They Were Sleeping," and, again, we're happy to send it out to you.  We appreciate your financial partnership with us, and it's always good to hear from you. 

Well, tomorrow we're going to continue with the Thanksgiving story.  We're going to pick up where we left off today; hear about the Pilgrims' crossing on the Mayflower and their landing in the New World.  I hope you can join us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow. 


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