Remembering Our Jamestown Fathers
Observations from the Jamestown Quadricentennial
Four hundred years ago, after a long and arduous journey across the perilous sea, a band of courageous and visionary men stepped ashore in Virginia. Here, they fell to their knees and planted a cross, claiming the land for God and country. For many, the cause that united them was that of spreading the Gospel to the unknown tongues and tribes of this New World. Though not all perfect in their motives, this cause would prove to change the world in centuries and generations to come.
From this small colony of adventurers, explorers, soldiers, and gentlemen would arise a new nation. Many would go. Few would survive. But through those few, the Gospel was spread, the heathen converted, and the Kingdom of God was glorified.
A young Indian princess, the playful Matoaka, endearingly called Pocahontas by her father, would become one of the first converts to Christianity. Baptized as Lady Rebecca, she was soon after united in marriage to John Rolfe, a devoutly Christian and enthusiastically entrepreneurial gentleman of the fledgling Virginia colony. Through his work in the cultivation of tobacco, Virginia’s primary crop, the economic stability and vitality of the young colony was established. Their descendants, as the stars of the heavens, are scattered throughout the history of America as a sparkling testimony of the divine blessings granted those steadfastly committed to propagating the glory of God in the birth of a new nation.
This is just one tale in the riveting but oft-forgotten history of Jamestown.
Last week, thousands of men, women, boys and girls gathered to commemorate, remember, and celebrate the work of those who labored to conquer the land for Christ, starting in Jamestown. We visited sites rich in historical meaning, hearing the histories and lives of our forebears recounted for us by speakers such as Doug Phillips, Bill Potter, Dr. Paul Jehle, Dr. Joe Morecraft, Dr. Marshall Foster and many, many others. We sat enthralled during reenactments and plays of such events as the landing of the Jamestown colonists, the first winter in Jamestown, and the Marriage of John Rolfe to the Lady Rebecca. We heard from and spoke with historical luminaries such as the Princess Pocahontas, Captain John Smith, Patrick Henry, and Presidents John Tyler and Teddy Roosevelt. We heard the music of our proud history from America’s premier balladeer, Charlie Zahm. We marched in and reviewed two parades of children and children at heart showing pride in their long and godly heritage.
However, the climax of the week came on Friday, June 15, as families gathered on the grounds of Fort Pocahontas to witness the unveiling and dedication of the Jamestown Children’s Memorial. This memorial, paid for in part by the one dollar donations of the grateful children of America, now stands on the shores of the James River as a firm and eloquent witness to the fact that the children of this generation do remember. A time capsule, buried at the foot of the monument, will be opened in the year 2107. In this capsule, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of our generation will find the names of their ancestors — the children who placed the monument. They will also find letters written to them by their grandfathers and great-grandfathers, telling them of their grand and glorious history and charging them with the responsibility to remember and tell the story of the generations past in keeping with this biblical command:
“Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.” (Deuteronomy 32:7)
May the fathers and elders of this generation remember the days of old and share them with the children of many generations to come. May the children of many generations, as those who gathered in Jamestown last week, ask and remember. This is a sacred trust — may we never forget but always remember those who went before us, laying the foundations for generations yet to be born.