Native American LINK (Living in Neighborly Kindness) celebrated 25 years of ministry Aug. 2 at Indian Falls Creek in Oklahoma. The most prominent element of the celebration was the Native Praise choir, which sang in native languages and English. The group describes itself as a “Baptist ministry designed to help women strengthen family life, preserve cultural identity and develop personal skills.”
Augusta “Gus” Smith, executive director of Native American LINK, emceed the celebration, paying tribute to its founder Willene Pierce who died in 2014. Smith recalled what Pierce said when she stepped down as executive director.
“She gave us options of how we can handle the ministry,” Smith related. “The last option she gave us was to disband. Then she walked away and said, ‘You all decide.’
“We decided we would not disband. That would be so disrespectful of everything she accomplished. We have carried on, and we are excited about beginning the next 25 years!”
Native Praise also was founded by Pierce, and the choir will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year, with plans for a choir tour.
“Indeed, you are our ambassadors,” Emerson Falls, Native American ministry partner for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said of the choir during the celebration. “Every chance I get I recommend this group to sing. They’ve been all over the nation and the world, having represented us well.”
Native Praise performed at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in 2002 and 2014, and has done mission work in England and Ukraine.
Todd Fisher, BGCO executive director-treasurer, spoke during the anniversary celebration, commending Native American LINK and Native Praise.
“LINK and Native Praise are some of the greatest ambassadors to Oklahoma and to our nation of the importance of Native American ministry,” he said.
Others speakers included Amy Cordova, BGCO missions and women’s ministry partner; Julie Busler, Oklahoma Woman’s Missionary Union president; and Sandy Wisdom-Martin, national WMU executive director-treasurer.
Total attendance at Indian Falls Creek was 2,539, with 104 professions of faith in Christ and 326 total spiritual decisions. Nearly 30 committed to vocational ministry and 12 were baptized during the four-day camp.