Home Equipping Leaders Adults Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference: Goodland UMC

Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference: Goodland UMC

By Florence Williston

Native UMC 1
Goodland UMC has three Sunday school classes every Sunday.

Goodland United Methodist Church is a small Native American church situated far from the main highway, down a graveled road in the lower corner of Southeast Oklahoma. If you have never been there, you will have trouble finding it, as is the case with most Native churches.

Yet this church is growing. People visit and, after a few months, decide this is where they want to continue to grow in their faith walk and have their children trained to serve God.

Goodland has three Sunday school classes every Sunday. The adult class allows adults to serve, as they take turns teaching the lesson (if they so choose) from the lay leader to any member. They feel their growth can develop only if they dig into the word to bring forth the lesson for that day. It’s a big responsibility.

The children and youth each have a designated teacher for each group. This helps the children become comfortable. After the classes, the children are brought forward to tell what they learned and lead a song. This helps them get comfortable being in front of people.

Each Wednesday night is another opportunity for an adult who desires to lead Bible study. This gives the adults another chance to dig into the word for themselves. This opens them up to teaching the word and to the Holy Spirit’s teaching.

This type of sharing the load eases the responsibility of only one person teaching. It also helps adults be energized by hearing the word; and sharing the load keeps teachers from burnout.

Each time a community or outreach project is presented, the entire church (those who are able) participates, supporting the individual who suggested it. This support helps everyone feel valued by their church, which is truly a church family. They feel connected as they support one another; no one has to carry the full load physically or financially.

This support helps everyone feel valued by their church, which is truly a church family.

The church reaches out to the community by inviting people to fun activity nights such as Bingo or a cake walk. These activities bring in many who enjoy the fellowship and fun, and some come to worship.

The church is currently working on helping a young adult group form and develop projects of faith, fun, and fellowship. We are excited about this new ministry, and we adults know we have to step back and let the young-adult group meet, plan projects, and begin to grow in their faith walk for themselves.

We are excited to see the new members, especially the ones with children. It is such a joy for the children and youth teachers as their hearts long to teach and watch the little ones' eyes light up at the stories.

Vacation Bible school is a blessed time, as children come from all over the community. We have one member talented in social media who makes the community aware of vacation Bible school, revivals, or special fellowship events. The rest of us invite people through word of mouth. There is no lack of teachers or those providing meals or snacks for the children. Even though the adults get tired, they never fail to attend and work. By the end, the adults have grown even more in their walk with God through the stories and interactions with the children.

Goodland holds a monthly business meeting to look back on what was done and to plan outreach for the next month. Outreach covers home visits to homebound people, fun fellowship activities at the church, or gathering supplies for school groups. It includes feeding the area school’s athletic teams or gathering items for families in need.

Each holiday or special day is an opportunity for the pastor to teach and open hearts to God. Ash Wednesday is always a time to reflect on all that God has done for us and where he is leading us in life if we are willing to listen.

Goodland is a church that strives to grow closer to God. We know that the work we do is meaningless without the love of God for us and the people we serve.

Scripture helps us to look within and revives the desire to grow closer to God, especially through the Lenten season. Fasting is one of the disciplines that is important to Goodland members.

Goodland UMC is a caring family of God. Members understand they need one another and that they need God in all they say and do. If love for God is not in their walk and work, they know they will fail. We give God all the glory, praise, and honor for what he is doing in our lives and others through us.

Pastor Florence Williston is 73 and has been serving as a pastor since 2020. She served as a lay servant at Redland Methodist in the Oklahoma Conference in 2012, and she moved to the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference in 2019. She now serves three churches in southeast Oklahoma. A bivocational pastor, she has worked as a beautician since 1990.

Flo Williamson
Pastor Flo Williston

Personal Testimony of Pastor Flo Williston

Early in the mornings, I sing praise to God for my salvation, as I can see his hand in my life throughout the years. As a small child, our family attended a Methodist church two miles from our home. We memorized answers from a small book that Mom would drill us with over and over again.

I remember getting fighting mad at my siblings if they said, “Dog gone-it” because I felt they were cursing, and “no cursing” was one of the family rules. I was probably five when our church closed, and we didn’t go to church again until I was twelve. People from the Church of Christ found us. They had to find us because we lived several miles out in the woods. During a tent meeting, I felt a strong urge to go to the front during an altar call to the hymn, “Just as I Am.” I gave my heart to God and was baptized at age fourteen. That hymn still moves me to tears today, tears of gratitude. That was God’s prevenient grace.

In my late twenties, I withdrew from God. I was far from God and a lost soul. I was ashamed and I felt I would never be accepted by God or the people in church. I wandered for many years in misery and deep sadness. God had not left me; the urge to return to church was still strong, especially on Sundays.

One Saturday night, I knew I could no longer live this shameful life. I had tried many times to straighten up my life, but I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. I reached toward the ceiling as I lay crying and poured out my heart as I asked for forgiveness and asked God to help me.

That Sunday morning, I told my four children I was going to go back to church. I was then thirty-eight. Although I didn’t go to church, I kept my children in church. As I dropped them off that morning, they said, “Momma, don’t change your mind.” Walking through the doors of the church was one of the hardest things I have done. I had gone to another church, so I was alone. It’s easy to run with a crowd; the devil supplies many to help you go the wrong way; but to do right, many times you are alone. But I wasn’t alone. God’s justifying grace walked me through those doors that morning.

I stayed in that church for fourteen years with my children coming along. Though I began serving as a Sunday school teacher, I had a deep urge to do more work. A painful situation forced me to leave that church, and I began attending a Methodist church close to my home at the invitation of a neighbor and new landlord. At this church, I was mended by the enormous show of God’s grace in the love, acceptance, and guidance of this ministry and its members Within a few years, I became a lay servant and speaker, which led me to where I now am in my walk with the Lord.

It is because of God’s love, mercy, and saving grace that I and my now-grown children are blessed. I now strive to tell others of God’s great love, mercy, and saving grace.

God is still working on me, and I’m thankful he has compassion for me and saved me. This is God’s sanctifying grace. Praise God.

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