Rev. Kathy Longhat serves as pastor of Watonga Indian Baptist Church, Watonga, Okla. The congregation is associated with the Oklahoma Indian Baptist Association of the Central Region. Her small congregation is comprised of Cheyenne and Arapaho people who live in and around Watonga. She ministers to them not only through the congregation, but also at local functions, such as pow-wows, wakes, funerals and home visits as needed.
I’m an American Baptist because of my rich background, which started at Rainy Mountain Kiowa Indian Baptist Church when I was small. My grandparents attended there years ago, and I would go to church with them when I visited them. I loved to hear Christian hymns being sung in the Kiowa language. The songs resounded through the whole church when they sang.
One of my early church experiences was hearing about Jesus for the first time from Rev. Frank Venable, who was the American Baptist missionary to us in the 1960s. I spent a lot of my summers attending Vacation Bible School, church camp meetings and hanging out at the Fellowship Hall during the quilting sessions that my grandmother attended weekly at the church. Even though we lived in Norman, Okla., where I currently reside today, my parents were led to attend church at Berry Road Baptist Church, where my father surrendered to the ministry and began serving with the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference of the United Methodist Church. At my father’s first church and under my father’s preaching at the age of nine, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I have served the Lord since that time and have heard him calling my name over the years until I, too, finally surrendered to the ministry in 2001.
I think the biggest challenge facing the church today is the attitude of acceptance. I have attended many churches and experienced coldness because of the color of my skin or the kind of clothes that I was wearing. It’s sad that we cannot look beyond those things and see the person that God has created. I continue to work towards making a difference in the world around me by being “the hands and feet of Christ.” The Apostle Paul, talking to the church at Ephesus, said: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4: 1-6.)
I pray that we will truly become a unified church by continuing to put aside our differences and join hands across the table with true sincerity in our hearts and passion for Christ in our lives.
In 10 years I see the church standing on solid ground, continuing to minister to “all of God’s children here on earth.”
I am an American Baptist today because I want to make a difference in the lives of people wherever I go because scripture says, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” Amen and Amen.