Monday, September 01, 2008

The Conversion of Saint Oakerhater

We all know the story of Saul's conversion from persecuter to apostle and the ministry and witness of Saint Paul is such a big part of our New Testament history. There have been other conversions though and some almost as dramatic.

David Pendleton Oakerhater (his name means "sun dancer"), was a warrior and leader of the Cheyenne Indians, and led a corps of fighters against the United States government in a dispute over Indian land rights. The Southern Cheyenne did not maintain official records as to who participated in what battles. In 1875 he and 27 other military leaders were taken prisoner by the U S Army and sent to a military post in Florida. There, thanks to the efforts of a concerned Army captain, they learned English, were encouraged to earn money by giving art and archery lessons to visitors, and encountered the Christian faith. Oakerhater was one of those who were moved to become Christians and to go north to study for the ministry. He was baptized in Syracuse, NY, in 1878, and ordained to the diaconate in 1881. He returned to Oklahoma and there founded schools and missions, and continued to work among his people until his death on 31 August 1931.

When he first returned to Oklahoma in 1881, he said: "You all know me. You remember when I led you out to war I went first, and what I told you was true. Now I have been away to the East and I have learned about another captain, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is my leader. He goes first, and all He tells me is true. I come back to my people to tell you to go with me now in this new road, a war that makes all for peace."

Today the Episcopal Church remembers her deacon David Pendleton Oakerhater, and I bid your prayers in thanksgiving for his ministry. We ALL have been given work to do - may we always follow where God leads us! Amen.

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