Wow, what a trip! Mission Trips are great and exhausting! The heat went with us to OK and didn't leave. The humidity was high and the flies were abundant. The people were great and the children were adorable.
A little history...Oklahoma is made up of 5 Indian Nations: Choctaw (the largest), Chickasaw, Cherokee, Seminole, and the 5th I can't remember right now. The Choctaw have the most land area and it is in the southeast section of the state. I asked how they got the most land and the answer was "they got there first". Makes sense to me! Oklahoma is not all plains like in the movie Oklahoma. This part was mountainous. Twisty roads up and down the mountains. I would have been nice if these mountains has afforded a little shade and respite from the heat but when the temp is 100, not much helps.
We did Vacation Bible Schools at 2 different churches. At Thessolonia, we did VBS from 9-noon, Monday through Friday. The church members were very involved in the VBS, helped in many of the classes, and served a lunch to the children and workers every day. They also planned special daily activities in addition to the vbs. To me, this was the friendliest of the churches. They talked to everyone, shared family stories, history of the Choctaw Indians, and were very grateful for our involvment with their children. It was not unusual for a family to have 3 generations attending VBS, everyone came. The 2nd VBS was from 6-8:30, Monday through Friday. We had more children and adults at this VBS, but many came and went and didn't attend the whole week. While these folks were very nice, to me, they did not have the warmth and friendliness of the other group. We led the VBS and they watched and didn't participate with alot of the team very much. They had a VBS blowout at the end of the week, for all the kids, workers, family members, etc. They grilled burgers and hot dogs and served chips and cookies. It was a nice ending to the week.
With the children I encountered, it was very common for them to be living with just one parent or to be raised by their grandparents or aunts/uncles. Many of the parents abandoned the kids to "do their own thing". 2 precious little boys in my class had fetal alcohol syndrome and I think one of them also had down's syndrome. They were ages 7 & 8. Daddy left the home, Mom was an alcoholic and family took the little boys to raise. On the first day, we all took note of the teenage girl with a baby. She was 15. She thought that having her boyfriend use a c*****, would prevent pregnancy and found out they are not 100% effective (she told me this), so now she is a single mommy of a one month old little boy (who by the way, is absolutely adorable). She was sexually abused by her stepfather starting when she was 11 (as was her little sister, starting at age 2). Dear old stepdad was found out (the mom knew the whole time) and went to jail for all of 8 1/2 months. Both of these girls are now living with their grandparents and are now being raised in a Christian home. The mommy will go back to school in the fall and the baby will be cared for by the grandparents, and 2 aunts during school.
Unemployment is the norm, not the exception. They recieve a government check each month and have free healthcare. They also have free college tuition if they keep a 2.0 grade point average. In Talihina, there was a Choctaw Nation Hospital that did employ Native Americans and some of the people we met did work there. The churches have a van that picked up kids for VBS, because the parents had no car. Not everyone that attended was Indian but many were. I got into a discussion Friday night with some of the 1st and 2nd graders in my class about being Indian (don't know how this started) some children claimed to be 1/2 or 1/4 Indian but one little girl proudly told me that she was ALL Indian. They are like all children, they loved affection...hugs, smiles, holding hands, etc., some of them were quite knowledgable about the bible and the new testament stories. They loved music time and crafts.
More to come later....................................