I found a new hero Saturday while touring the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, OK. Samuel Austin Worcester was missionary to the Cherokee in the 1800's, but Georgia had a law that forbade missionaries from living with Native Americans without a license. He flouted the law, and he went to jail for over a year. His case went to the Supreme Court, and he won. He was a great advocate for Cherokee sovereignty, translated the New Testament to Cherokee, and helped found the first Native American newspaper. I also learned about the missionaries that accompanied Native Americans on the Trail of Tears. This helped me understand why the Cherokee people turned to Christianity in spite of the despicable treatment they received from the American government (#GetJackonOffTheTwenty).
Indian" churches. In Tahlequah there are a number of such churches, many featuring "Indian" in the title. But we asked people we trusted to recommend a good Indian church in town and were pointed to Elm Tree Baptist Church.
The opening reminded me of Sunday School programs when I was a kid. There was the chance to share birthdays and anniversary, and then there was the "Penny Parade" when people could march to the front and put change in the church building bank (which I could not resist).
Pastor D. J. McCarter welcomed a Councilman and his family who were visiting. He then welcomed a couple from California (That's us!) and invited us to introduce ourselves. Then the pastor introduced a group of students from the Baptist Collegiate Ministry of the local school, Northeastern State University, who were brought forward to lead the service.
Miss Cherokee, a goodwill ambassador for the Cherokee Nation. She sang a Cherokee hymn accompanied by her mother and aunt. She also shared about her experiences in a recent mission trip to Haiti. Other members of the group also shared about the trip, which was sponsored in part by Elm Tree Baptist.
The leader of the BCM group then spoke. He said just as many who shared about their trip to Haiti spoke of "leaving their comfort zone," he was doing the same as "a white boy speaking to an Indian church." After the short sermon (that had been preceded by three missions testimonies), Pastor McCarter presented an altar call asking people to come forward to receive Christ or come forward for prayer. The prayer requests of those who came forward were then shared with the congregation. As the pastor was concluding the service, more prayer requests and announcements were called out from the congregation.
Pastor McCarter also teaches the Cherokee language in spoken and written forms, and he leads a Cherokee choir with members from a variety of churches. That choir travels and has performed at the Smithsonian twice.
Cherokee County. Our journalistic objectivity keeps us from calling anyplace the best, but we are thankful God led us to Tahlequah, the capital of the Cherokee Nation.
Editors' Note: You may notice that there are fewer pictures than usual, and the statistics are missing. Come back tonight ... we're having minor technical difficulties and should have them fixed by then! (sorry)
Service Length: 1 hour 28 minutes
Sermon Length: 4 minutes (plus three student testimonies from a Haiti mission trip)
Visitor Treatment: We were warmly greeted by quite a few people as we came in and after we sat down for the Sunday School programs. A woman asked us to fill out a visitor card (and collected it later). We were asked to stand up and tell about our trip. The pastor (and his wife, too) came over to greet us, as did the Council member.
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none
Our Rough Count: 110
Probable Ushers' Count: 135
Musicians: 2 acoustic guitars (male and female)
1 drum (male)
1 bass guitar (male)
Songs: "I Saw the Light"
"I'll Fly Away"
"How Great Thou Art"
"Orphan Child" (a "Cherokee Special" sung by one of the BCM students with her mom and aunt)
"Guide me Jehovah"
"How Great Thou Art"
Miles to church:4
Miles from start: 2,509
Total 2016 Miles: 4,464