For one week in June, Mike Carlson of the New Bridge Church will shed his title as “Pastor” and answer to the name Awi (pronounced ah-wee), the Cherokee word for “deer.”
During those seven days — June 22 – 28 — 20 or more members of New Bridge will be traveling to Tahlequah, Okla., the capital of the Cherokee Nation. The association between this Iowa church and the Boudinot Baptist Church in Tahlequah began in 2010, and their relationship has since grown strong.
“Our teenagers have connected with their teenagers, and that’s a big thing,” says Carlson.
New Bridge assists Boudinot Baptist in a multitude of ways. The congregation maintains and makes repairs to its church building and also collects school supplies for the Native American congregation to distribute to their community in Tahlequah.
A big part of the summer trip is helping out with vacation Bible school. Through fun and scripture, Carlson and the two churches will teach the youth about the good word.
“What we’re really trying to do is help them understand how to have a relationship with Jesus,” he says.
But in no way does he want to change the Native Americans’ rich culture or belief system, he assures. In fact, the trip has opened his eyes to an unknown culture and allowed him to understand what he calls “the nation within our nation.”
Although the goal is to help Boudinot Baptist Church get up and running and become more independent, the benefit from the mission trip is not at all one-sided. The individuals from Winterset, who travel together to Tahlequah, are a mix of all ages. Through helping others, these different generations find themselves building relationships with not only their Native American friends but also with each other. Carlson says the adults begin to discover the potential of the teenagers, and in turn these young adults start to “realize these old people aren’t half bad.”
“You start out trying to a blessing to somebody else,” he shares, “and God blesses us in the process.”
Spread the Word
Have an upcoming event or church news you would like to announce? Send information to email@example.com.