Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Grace of Faithfulness in Preaching Christ Illustrated in a Choctaw named Oakchiah

Buried on the south bank of the Arkansas River, just north of the old fort from which Fort Smith, Arkansas draws her name, lies buried an Indian named Oakchiah (Oak-Chia-Ah). He was born 200 years ago this coming month (April 1810) in Mississippi to a full blood Choctaw family in what is called "The Old Nation" of the Choctaws. Previous to the Choctaws forced withdrawal from Mississippi to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) there was a revival of true religion within the tribe, during which many came to faith in Jesus Christ. Oakchiah was one of those trophies of the cross. According to those acquainted to him in his youth, he was an active, energetic young man, quite zealous for the things of Christ among a people who walked in darkness. He was baptized upon his profession of faith and renamed William Winans, but he still retained his Indian name Oakchiah until his death in 1849 at the age of 39. Soon after his conversion as a young man, he became deeply concerned for the salvation of his friends and neighbors, those of full Choctaw heritage and ways. Whenever an opportunity was given him, he would speak boldly of Christ to his fellow Indians, warning in his native tongue that his people should repent of their sins and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ, that they might have everlasting life. He preached with passion and power, offending many who were wed to the old ways. Bitter persecutions arose against Oakchiah from within his own family. Oakchiah's earthly father told him that if he ever again spoke to the people about Christ, he would kill him. Duly warned, Oakchiah had a decision to make before the next council meeting. Would he heed the advice of his father and be silent about Christ, or would he risk his own life and once again appeal to the Choctaws to turn to Christ for salvation? He chose the latter and the Oklahoma Historical Chronicles, Volume IV, Number 2, tells what happened next:

Having faithfully preached Christ to his people for the last time, as he supposed, he returned to meet his infuriated parent, at the threshold of the cabin. There the father stood with form erect, broad and athletic, in the vigor of manhood; his tawny visage was rendered almost black by the malice which rankled in his breast; the deadly rifle was in his hand, and he was fully prepared to consummate his fiend like purpose. Oakchiah approached, expecting to fall, but was calm and fearless; for he was in the discharge of duty, and God’s grace wonderfully strengthened and sustained him in the dark hour of trial. With deep peace in his soul and with love beaming in his countenance, and with unusual tenderness in the intonations of his voice, he addressed his parent: "Father, will you shoot me? What have I done that I must die so soon? Father, I die a Christian, and shall go to the land of the pure and good to live with the blessed Savior!"

Although the rifle had been leveled to take deadly aim the old man paused, his muscles relaxed, the weapon fell to the ground, and a torrent of tears gushed from his eyes, and flowed down his cheeks. He was a warrior who could boldly meet the deadly foe on the battle-field; his spirit never cowered in presence of danger or of death; he scorned the rage and power of man; but the meek spirit of a follower of Christ completely unmanned him. In such forbearance and love he saw arguments irresistible in favor of the Christian religion. Thus the father was conquered; his haughty spirit was subdued; he became deeply penitent, and was soon numbered with the believers in Jesus.
Oakchiah would later become a missionary among his own people in Indian Territory (Oklahoma), faithfully preaching Christ among his own people. Not many Oklahomans know of this preacher of the gospel buried right across our border on the southern bank of the Arkansas River, but the testimony of faithful preachers like Oakchiah encourage me to realize that true gospel preachers are always willing to pay the price, with a loving spirit, for the cause of truth.

In His Grace,


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