Mission discerns renewed vision, focus for future


By Rev. Jon Walters
Guest Columnist


From the days of John Wesley in Georgia to the current and contemporary scene, the people called Methodist have "spread the Gospel of Christ to every nation, tribe, and people on earth."


In 1540 Spanish ex-plorer Hernando de Soto discovered an ancient Choctaw village named Aloonloonanshaw – the original site of Philadelphia. Today the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians numbers about 10,000 individuals and has reservation locations in several places in Mississippi.


In 1827, our denominational presence was initiated with the Choctaw Indians in Mississippi. Baptists, Mennonites and Roman Catholics have also been in ministry here for a long, long time. Christian presence and ministry remains as an urgent need in a rapidly changing Choctaw world, where more than half of the Mississippi Choctaw population is under the age of 25.


The recent financial success of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is well known. Coming from a subsistent and survival economy less than 50 years ago to the present state of multiple businesses and jobs is a remarkable change in status. The tribe owns and operates a successful and diversified portfolio of manufacturing, service, retail, hospitality and tourism enterprises. These successes have meant that the tribe is more self-sufficient and less dependent on federal government assistance.


As a major employer in Mississippi, tribal businesses employ more and more Choctaws. Even with these recent successes, many of the people on the Mississippi Choctaw Reservation are still in dire need of housing, employment and personal support as they struggle daily with poverty, addiction and family violence. Many of the available jobs are low paying, entry-level positions and some provide only seasonal work.


If we, as United Methodists, are to continue our important and historic commitment to be in mission with the Mississippi Choctaws we must discern a renewed vision and commitment to the future of ministry here as we seek to:


• Dispel the myth that all Mississippi Choctaws are now wealthy and prosperous;

• Listen closely to the experience of the Choctaw Social Services personnel;

• Challenge the problem of a 50 percent Choctaw Central High School drop-out rate;

• Establish tutoring and computer literacy programs for children;

• Encourage essential academic achievement and progress;

• Initiate and support efforts for adult literacy;

• Focus on helping children and youth, especially those suffering neglect/abuse; 

• Identify and support holistic personal spirituality and Christian nurture;

• Maximize the use of our current facilities and volunteers; and

• Re-energize our goals and financial commitment to our historic Choctaw Mission.


Please help us continue this historic commitment and ministry "to the least of these." Thanks so much for your support in the past which has meant so much. Please include our mission and our ministry and the needs of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians in your thoughts and prayers.


Walters is pastor and executive director of the Mississippi United Methodist Choctaw Mission. Contact him at jonwalters@ms.metrocast.net or 10971 Road 2606, Choctaw, MS 39350.


Mark Your Calendar

Native American Ministries Sunday will be celebrated April 6. The Native American International Caucus proposed Native American Awareness Sunday in a petition to the 1988 General Conference, and delegates approved the churchwide Special Sunday with offering. The 2000 General Conference changed the name of the observance to Native American Ministries Sunday.