During the first week in June, The 527 Tribe, together with some of our closest friends, loaded our bags and snacks galore and left the big city behind for the rural community of Watonga, Oklahoma. We stayed in rustic A-frame cabins at Roman Nose State Park, where we enjoyed fireside hangs, volleyball in the grass, hikes to cold streams and lots of late night chats. Each day we spent time serving at one of two churches, Watonga Indian Baptist Church and Native American Baptist Church. We worked outside mowing, weed eating, and trimming where Mr. Greg taught us important skills that we can use to serve over and over again. Others of us got use our God given skills inside where we cleaned spaces and organized closets. We even revived a community garden and replaced a volleyball net and basketball goal. We also spent time with the youth in the community playing kickball at the local gym or making bracelets at the library.
We started our days with bible study led by our 7th graders and concluded our days with focused conversations that got us really thinking about big things like community assets, poverty, and systems that led to the oppression of Native Americans. On the first night, we asked the Tribe what were their impressions of the church they served that day. Their answers were expected: "It wasn't very pretty," "It smelled bad," "It was dirty," "It wasn't very big"... and so on. So we challenged them to go back the next day and reframe their perspective. Mrs. Dolores pointed out that their beloved Tribe Space was kind of smelly and sometimes dirty. She mentioned that the gym, their favorite place to be, was old and not very pretty. She told them how, compared to some churches, South Main is not as big. You can imagine the shock and gasping that filled the circle of sweet innocent 5th, 6th, and 7th graders. How dare she speak of their church this way. That is not at all the way they see South Main.
At the end of the second day, as promised, we posed the same question asking their impressions of the church. This time the answers reflected so much growth. They said things like, "You can tell their culture is important to them as they have Native American elements throughout their sanctuary," "They have lots of things for children so you know this is a place where kids gather," "They may not have much but they have a food pantry so they are caring for their community," and this went on an on as almost all of them had something significant to say.
On the third night we had a fantastic cultural opportunity to hear from an actual Peace Chief, Larry Roman Nose, who explained a few Native American traditions and even taught us a few words from his tribe's language. We concluded our trip with a visit to the First American Museum in Oklahoma City, where we learned about allotment and assimilation, among many other significant pieces of our history.
The Tribe's bible verse for Share is 1 John 3:18, and it is in this verse that God calls us to love and serve others through our actions and in truth. The week The 527 Tribe spent in Watonga exemplified using action to make a difference in communities and provided a safe space for every Triber to discover a little bit of truth about God's call on our lives and about communities that are unlike our own.