A Faith that Stands Firm Through Generations

While compiling historical information for a recent family reunion, I discovered countless fascinating stories of adventure, fear, tragedy, joy, loss and sorrow, faith and hope. Many of these stories reflect a firm faith in God – a hold weakened in present day America.

 For a moment, let’s journey back to the year 1815.

 A looming threat of famine compels many to leave their homeland for the chance at a better life in another country. A man and his family board a ship in Switzerland, bound for America. That man I know only as Mr. Little.

 During the six-week journey, the ship begins to take on water. In desperate effort to empty the hull faster than it fills, every man aboard sets to work at the pumps. All unnecessary cargo is thrown overboard. The situation is dire, so the captain prepares his passengers and crew for death.

Imagine the desperate prayers of those aboard that ship, praying for God to save them.

After two days and nights of constant effort leaves everyone exhausted, a hole in the hull is discovered. A ham of beef stuffed into the breach slows the flow of water. I imagine the trickling and seeping water is a welcomed sight compared to the pouring threat of impending death. While not free of danger, hope survives.

 And hope lands them in Baltimore, MD. Imagine their appearance, dirty, ragged and worn, as they depart the ship.  Perhaps that is why a “benevolent country man” feels compelled to provide a free meal to every passenger on that ship. What a welcomed gesture since many aboard would be indentured for years to pay the balance of their passage, including Little who is $60 short.

 Sometime after his indenture is complete, Little presses westward with his family to Washington County, PA.  Loading all their meager belongings onto a single covered wagon drawn by one horse – a borrowed horse – they set out to cross mountains and rugged forest terrain. In this primarily uninhabited country, the horse dies and leaves the family stranded.

 With no way to rescue themselves, they cry out to God for mercy.

 God answered their pleas. Once again, they are spared.

 In the middle of nowhere arrives a traveler who informs them of a settler living just six miles ahead. He offers to carry the baby, probably on horseback, as the Little family follows behind on the trail. Eventually the family arrives safely to a warm welcome from strangers.

Making a life in a new country – starting over from nothing – was hard, and trials appeared regularly and were often life-threatening in those days.

 Often a little perspective gives us the courage to hold on to our own faith during trying times. Sometimes that same perspective leaves us feeling a bit ashamed of what we consider a “trying time” in present day. I am spoiled to modern day life, in comparison. Without conscious effort, self-sufficiency can result in less dependence upon God, unlike our ancestors who had only God to depend upon.

God desires for us to be fully dependent on Him, not ourselves. We are not to worry, but to cast our cares upon Him. He desires for us to depend upon Him for everything, including the direction of our lives. We must trust Him for provisions, for the food we eat and the clothes we wear. (See Matthew 6:19-34) When we trust God in the “little” things, we are better prepared to hold firm when we are rattled and our faith is shaken to the core.

Before placing his family aboard a ship, and crossing the ocean to America, I imagine Mr. Little seeking God’s face in fervent prayer. There is no way to be certain – I don’t even know his first name – but at some point, my fourth great-grandfather passed his faith along to his children – one of whom is my third great-grandmother, Barbary Little Waggoner.

From a newspaper article published in 1899 following her death, it is reported that, “Mrs. Waggoner well remembered her father was not cast down by misfortune but exhorted his children to ‘thank God’ and ‘to be glad we have come to America where people are so good and kind.’”

Whether or not He came to America under God’s direction is hard to say, but it is easy to imagine Mr. Little as a man who held firm to his faith through so much hardship – enough for his daughter to affirm it and pass it to her own children.

“We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.” (Psalm 78:4, NIV)

 “…he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deed but would keep his commands.” (Psalm 78:5-6, NIV)

May we be good and kind people – the kind of people who thank and praise God, hold firm to our faith, and pass that faith to our children.

The kind of faith that stands firm through generations.

 

            (Author’s note: Thanks to my cousin, Nancy Breeden Mitchell, for her extensive historical research of our family, and to my cousin, Dianne Chichlowski Johnson, for providing the specific story referenced above.)
 
 
Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified, providing HOLD ON Stories to encourage you to hold on to your faith. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
 
  

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