The story of my childhood reads like the beginning of a Steinbeck novel, but it’s all true. Times were tough in the mid-1950s in Down East Maine. Jobs were scarce, and people were desperate. My parents came down with California Fever, lured by the promise of work at a new Westinghouse manufacturing plant near San Jose. So, in the summer of 1955, they canned as much mackerel as they could into quart-size Ball jars, packed all of their worldly possessions into an old pickup, and headed west with their three sons, my aunt and uncle and their two boys, and the family dog, Rowser. I was 10 months old.
“Christmas is coming, and we don’t have anything. No presents, no Christmas goodies, nothing for Christmas dinner. We need God’s help.” When it was time to pray, I asked for it. I didn’t say anything to anyone, but I was frightened by the possibility of having nothing on Christmas Day.
Later that week, I got off the school bus and walked into the kitchen. My mother grabbed me and gave me a big hug. “Your prayers were answered,” she proclaimed, waving a white envelope over her head. “The Maine Seacoast Mission sent us $50 for Christmas!”
My mother stretched that $50 as far as it would go.
Director of Island Outreach Douglas Cornman sent this report and photos from the Sunbeam V‘s Christmas Cruise 2016:
The Sunbeam V and crew cruised to three islands in just over twenty four hours this week, to offer Christmas Services to the islands’ year-round communities. The communities of Frenchboro and Isle au Haut were visited on Tuesday, and the island of Matinicus was visited on Wednesday.
Residents gathered, either in their island’s church or aboard the Sunbeam, to listen to St. Luke’s account of the Christmas story, sing their favorite hymns and carols, and watch a nativity play performed by the island’s children and a few lobstermen and women.
Frenchboro’s nativity even had a living baby Jesus, played by the island’s newest addition. In his sermon, Director of Island Outreach and Sunbeam chaplain Douglas Cornman, asked the children if anyone knew what Christmas was all about (a line borrowed from one of his favorite Peanuts characters).
Love, taking care of one another, taking care of our planet, and compassion towards others are just a sample of the answers he heard. The Sunbeam’s 2016 Christmas cruise truly was a beautiful and life affirming whirlwind that is not to be soon forgotten.
Rev. Neal Bousfield, Mission Superintendent (1938-1972) delivering Christmas presents in 1940. As of this writing, we have no other details about this photo. We welcome any factual background information readers are willing to share.
“For thirty-six years Reverend Neal Bousfield…worked tirelessly to improve the live of coastal Maine people. Employing his philosophy that outright charity demeans and even destroys the individual, Rev. Bousfield endeavored to help people help themselves. Educational opportunity was one pillar of his self-improvement philosophy.”
The Sunbeam V is making a few Christmas Cruises to Maine islands this week. Director of Island Outreach Douglas Cornman sent these cruise details.
Who: Mike, Storey, Jillian, Douglas and the communities of Frenchboro, Isle au Haut, and Matinicus
What: The Sunbeam’s annual Christmas Cruise. What is included in the service will vary depending on the island. Islands with enough children will have a Christmas pageant. Islands with fewer children will have Lessons and Carols. Every island will hear a Christmas message and have a carol sing with cookies and cocoa served following the service.
Where: Frenchboro and Matinicus have agreed to heat their churches for the day of the service, so the services on these two islands will be in their church buildings. The service on Isle au Haut will be aboard the Sunbeam.
When: The dates are listed below
Sunbeam Christmas Trip to Frenchboro When: Sunday, Dec 18, 2016
Sunbeam Christmas Trip to Isle Au Haut When: Tuesday, Dec 20, 2016
Sunbeam Christmas Trip to Matinicus
When: Wednesday, Dec 21, 2016
Sunbeam Christmas Trip (Return to Northeast Harbor) When: Thursday, Dec 22, 2016
Why: These islands do not have year round ministers “on island,” so the Sunbeam and her crew (minus Director of Island Health Sharon Daley) visits each year. It is my understanding that the Sunbeam’s minister has led Christmas services for each of these island communities for many years. I do not know the exact number of years, however.
Our thanks thrice. Once to members of the Congregational Church of Wells, ME for helping the Mission Elves at the Elves Workshop at our Downeast Campus making Christmas brighter. And thank you to Chuck McDonald of Barnacle Billy’s Seafood Restaurant, Ogunquit, ME for driving the Congregational Church of Wells’s help boxes to Bar Harbor, ME. And thanks to David Snyder for helping unload Chuck’s van.