by: Tim Sikes
What is a legacy? Earthly definitions would list things like kindness, generosity, and social responsibility. While certainly, these are good things, they are temporary. A true legacy is what one does with eternal things. When I think of First Baptist Church Choctaw, I think of many who have influenced my life, furthered the church body, and elevated the Kingdom of God. Name after name comes to mind, and the new Legacy Wall at FBCC will memorialize these individuals.
One person that I never knew was a young woman named Vera Clark. While I didn't know her personally, I had the privilege of reading her words about the call of God to establish a church in Choctaw, Oklahoma in a letter that she wrote. I wanted to share a few of her words and the story to illustrate what a true godly legacy looks like.
Vera was a member of First Baptist Church in Shawnee when "God gave me a call to come to Choctaw and organize a Baptist Church." When she came to Choctaw, she found it to be "the most deserted, poor place (both materially and spiritually (full of sin)) I had ever known. Drinking and gambling on the sidewalks (I had to walk around them). The only church was a Methodist one with preaching twice a month, no prayer meeting Wednesday night, no revival anytime, no souls saved, and no Sunday School." Vera took some people to Nicoma Park, and some were saved, but there was no church to attend to learn and grow. "My heart ached for them."
She went through a period of preparation – studying training manuals of the Church and the Bible and "took examinations on them all." She began to lead songs for practice so that when the Church in Choctaw started to meet, she might be able to fill in as needed. "Anxious to get help and get organized," Vera asked several families to help and was told to quit. Vera wouldn't stop because, "God would hold me accountable, and the blood of lost souls would be upon me if I quit. I prayed, but I prayed alone. Another party I asked to help laughed and threw up their hands and said, "a church in Choctaw, it can't be done, you can't do it." "No, I can't do it, but God can do it through me." People would tell Vera that they wished they had her faith, and eventually, some would follow her to help. She was thankful for them but soon realized that "God was all the help I needed. He led me as if by a magnet." "I was following God, not men. Choctaw needed a church who would win souls."
The church would finally organize and was led by Reverend Jess Maples. Membership consisted of Rev. Maples, Vera Clark, her husband, and a handful of others. Vera was asked to organize a training union. She asked Rev Maples if he would be better at that, but he said he didn't know how – having no formal education. "I knew then why God had me (Vera) go back to Nicoma Park temporarily. So I could finish the church training manual. The church was organized for lost souls and for no other reason."
Vera was saved at age 12 and told God to do what He wanted with her. He gave her four things to do. I believe they are valid for each of us today.
1. Win the lost
2. Witness for Christ every time the opportunity was present at church and elsewhere.
3. Forgive everyone and love everyone
4. Speak to people at church, make them feel welcome, and invite them back.
What a legacy! Today, because of the faithfulness of this young woman, FBCC sends its members around the world (Choctaw, Jones, Nicoma Park, Boston, Kansas City, Belize, Nicaragua, and Europe) to share the gospel. It equips pastors, youth, men, and women worldwide. FBCC might not be the "cool" church in Choctaw. We are the church that continues to fulfill the Great Commission that Jesus left us with – Go. Come, continue this godly legacy with us today.
Attached below are several of Vera's letters and notes surrounding the relaunching of First Baptist Choctaw almost 100 years ago.