Choctaw nation: Blessed by God
By Ken Horn
The sign at the city limits reads, “Welcome to Wright City, ‘where character counts.’” And count it does, especially on the outskirts of town where another sign identifies the Chihowa i Chuka Assembly of God, literally “God’s House” in the Choctaw language.
Originally from Mississippi, the Choctaws were the first of what came to be known as the “Civilized Tribes” to be relocated to the then-territory of Oklahoma. The Choctaws retained their status as a nation within a nation and occupied southeastern Oklahoma.
Pastor Lloyd Lee, a Navajo, and his wife, Elizabeth, a Choctaw, met at American Indian Bible Institute (now American Indian College), an AG school in Phoenix.
Don Tsosie’s story is similar. Tsosie, a longtime member of the church, is also a Navajo who met and married a Choctaw at AIBI. Tsosie and Lee are the only two Navajos in the Choctaw congregation.
This is a day of special celebration. It has been one year since the church finished and occupied spacious new facilities. For more than three decades the congregation worshipped in a tiny building that would hold only 50-70 people when totally full. The new building can accommodate up to 350.
The services are distinguished by the singing of hymns and choruses in both English and Choctaw.
The afternoon’s celebration service includes personal appearances by three Choctaw Councilmen, one of whom, Jack Austin, is a member of the AG church in nearby Clayton, Okla. Mike Amos, a Baptist believer, tells the church, “We serve the same God.” And when Greg Pyle, the chief of the Choctaw Nation, steps to the pulpit to bring commendation, he mentions that he had attended service at his own church this morning.
The commitment to God among the Choctaw leaders is indeed remarkable. “God has blessed the Choctaw Nation,” one of the leaders tells the church.
Later, Lloyd Lee tells me he “was saved out of native religion.” Lee was saved as a young man in an AG church pastored by his uncle Charles Lee in Shiprock, N.M.
Lloyd’s wife, Elizabeth, is from the Wright City church. She remembers a time even before the modest church building when the services were held in the back of the missionary’s house.
“God promised us this building,” says Pastor Lee, “and now we have it. He has also promised to fill this building.” That’s the next goal.
Native religion is still very active today, according to Lee, oppressing many Indian families with demonic activity, and providing bountiful opportunities for evangelism and deliverance.
Lee’s own family was the target of demonic attacks. “In 2001 the Lord reminded me where I came from,” he says. Lee had kept the rattles, feathers and other items his father had used as a shaman. These had to go.
It was this same year that God called Lee to preach. Meeting with Oklahoma District Missions Director Lindell Warren, Lee told him that he felt called to Wright City. The church had been without a full-time pastor for an extended period. During this time, Don Tsosie preached and did what was necessary when there was no one else. “He’s the one who kept the doors open,” says Lee.
Though the church could only pay one-third of what the Lees were making in their secular jobs, God soon rewarded their sacrifice. The little church building filled up, and soon people were sitting in the foyer. The need was immediate.
Mel Erickson, an Assemblies of God U.S. missionary to Native Americans based in Minot, N.D., helped draw up building plans. Miraculously funds poured in from a variety of sources — $100,000 came from one church, Bridge Assembly of God in Mustang, Okla. (pastor, Jim McNabb). Church members pitched in, along with MAPS RVers, and the church was erected in a mere two months.
But the building’s primary significance is the changed lives it represents. One young father, who had drifted far from God, recently recommitted his life at the church. Today he is a fervent evangelist, boldly witnessing and regularly handing out tracts. Another man, down and without any self-esteem, found Christ ... and a sense of worth in being trusted to drive the church van.
Then there are those whose lives have yet to be changed. A number of Choctaws who have not yet committed their lives to Christ attend the church, drawn by the warm, relational atmosphere and the kindness of believers.
The people of the church look past the current states of many addicts and see them as they see the former addicts in the church who have given their lives to Christ. A number have been delivered from alcoholism here.
The Chihowa i Chuka Assembly of God in Wright City is a testimony to God’s faithfulness to fulfill the visions He has given. That means there are many more souls to be saved here ... and, perhaps, even bigger church buildings to accommodate them.
Ken Horn is managing editor of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel.
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