by Bob Nigh
ANADARKO—Jackie Jackson has gone on several mission trips with her church, Wetumka, Sand Creek, including Pine Ridge, S.D. last year.
This summer, she was happy to come to a place much closer to her heart—Rock Spring church, four miles north of this county seat town in Caddo County, the home of the National Hall of Fame for Famous American Indians, the Southern Plains Indian Museum and the Apache, Delaware and Wichita tribal complexes.
Jackson, a sixth-generation Christian, considered the June 21-26 trip an historical one—even though some would consider teaching Vacation Bible School to a few children less than noteworthy.
A student of history and obviously passionate about her Muscogee (Creek) heritage, Jackson realized the opportunity to carry on a long-standing tradition established by John McIntosh—the first Christian missionary to the plains tribes in Oklahoma—was one she couldn’t ignore.
“This is the first time our church has come here as a mission team, but our association has been very involved with Rock Spring because this church is a member of our association. It is the only one in this area; all of the other ones are either Creek or Seminole churches,” she explained, referring to the Muscogee-Seminole-Wichita Association.
“Our direct relationship with this church is because of John McIntosh, who is from Eufaula. Our association started in that area with the Creeks, and then we added the Seminoles and later, the Wichitas.
McIntosh, a descendant of the famous Creek chief William McIntosh Jr. of Georgia, became a Christian and was baptized in 1866. He was ordained two years later, and in 1874, Texas Baptists agreed to support McIntosh’s missionary work among the Wichita. Loading up his horse with supplies, the intrepid preacher set out, eventually riding 216 miles to reach the Wichita Agency on the western plains at Anadarko in August.
“In the 1840s, it was against the law to be a Christian in the Muscogee Nation,” Jackson said. “We had formal government when we got here (In what was to become Oklahoma); with traditional old ways, and a traditional religion. So, when John McIntosh was converted, he felt the call and the need to tell other native people that there was a different way, and that there was Jesus Christ. So, his calling was to come to these people.”
Jackson added that, ironically, “It was McIntosh’s family that established the law that made it against the law to be a Christian in the tribe.”
Fast forward 140 years.
Sand Creek Pastor Harry Anderson and M-S-W Association Director of Missions Fred Lindsey visited Rock Spring earlier this year, and were asked to bring a group back to teach VBS this summer.
“When our pastor came back and told us the church at Wichita said they would like for us to do VBS, we said, ‘Yes, we’d love to go because of the historical relationship we have had,’” Jackson said.
The Sand Creek group totaled 10 adults and four young people.
The site where McIntosh preached a two-hour sermon on John 3:16—with the help of a Delaware named Black Beaver as interpreter—was an encampment located a little more than a mile away from the present site of Rock Spring church, which was established as a result of McIntosh’s ministry in 1874.
That connection is not lost on Jackson.
“For us to come here is historical,” she reiterated, “and also for me, it’s a demonstration of God’s faithfulness. He has been faithful to these people and to my people. It’s very meaningful for me, personally, to be here.
“God has blessed us and He wants us to spread the Word—just like John McIntosh did—and that’s why we have come.”
Although Rock Spring’s members didn’t expect more than 15 or so children to turn out for their VBS, more than double that number came.
Jackson said she wasn’t surprised by the attendance, which seemed to grow larger every day.
“No I wasn’t surprised, even though it seems like we’re in the middle of nowhere,” she laughed, referring to the large trees which obscure the church from the county road one has to travel to get to it. “But, word spreads, and people know we are going to be here.”
Anderson, who has served as Sand Creek’s pastor since February 1990, and was raised as a child on the grounds of Sand Creek, said the VBS mission, “Is a way for us to give back to this church. It was a great opportunity for us. I had never been here before last Spring when Fred Lindsey and I visited here.
“But, this has really been a blessing to us to come. We have had more children than they expected, and they have been having a swell time.”
The “floater” on the teaching team, Anderson enjoyed leading the children and adults in singing songs in native languages—including the Creek language.
“That brings back some old memories for the older ones,” he said. “They may not speak the Creek language, but some of them can understand some of it.”
As for the children, it’s his way of passing on his heritage to them, he said.
A bivocational pastor—he is a general contractor as well—Anderson said he was having a great time, and bragged on his church members, both those who joined him on the mission trip and those back home.
“I have a great church. They support missions very well. Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to come down here,” he said.