Last summer, the 100-member Fife Indian United Methodist Church in Muscogee, Oklahoma, collaborated with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to host a bilingual vacation Bible school. The Muscogee Language Program's mission is to "preserve, maintain and revitalize" the Creek language by teaching children to read, write and speak it. Through camps and vacation Bible schools, children are learning their native language.
The Rev. David Wilson, superintendent of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference (OIMC), said the majority of the tribes in Oklahoma use their traditional language. "The most recent creative [idea] is to have a VBS in our language," he said.
Using Cokesbury's "G-Force" curriculum, Fife Indian Church met with Muscogee Creeks to learn Bible stories and songs in the Creek language. Though the congregation and the nation had collaborated before, this was the first time a church taught vacation Bible school in both Creek and English.
"The parents loved it," said Heather Jones, children's ministry director of the OIMC Northeast Region. "Some of them still speak Creek in the home. They were excited that the church wanted to teach the children [Creek]. They sang Creek songs with us."
The first song the children learned in Creek was "Jesus Loves Me." Because some of the children were not fluent in Creek, having both English and Creek lessons helped all participants to understand.
The new vacation Bible school was a success for the small community church. "We don't usually have a big turnout," Jones said. "Having 30 [children] for Thursday and Friday was a big turnout for us."
The program went so well that Fife will continue offering vacation Bible school in both Creek and English. It is working to get other churches to join the effort.
AT A GLANCE Fife Indian United Methodist Church | 1100 Eufaula, Muskogee, OK 74403 | 918-629-6701| [email protected] | Rev. Samuel Battiest Jr. | Average Attendance: 35 | Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference
Mahalia Smith was a 2015 summer intern at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tennessee.
Originally published in Interpreter Magazine, November–December, 2015.