Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

April 9, 2015

Trail Town

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 8:00 am

Sounds like something out of an old western movie.  Trail Town!  But Trail Town is a special place in my memory and ministry.  It no longer exists.  The National Park Service required the surrender of the building.  There was fairness in payment . . . and understanding.  They had earlier extended courtesy to us to construct the building.

But let me not get ahead of myself.  The real story is what occurred at Trail Town for almost ten years.  Trail Town was the name of a mission our church established.  It was located near Ochopee, Florida, deep in the heart of the Everglades.

It was a ministry directed toward the Miccosukee Indians.  The Miccosukee Tribe lives along the Tamiami Trail which runs through the Florida Everglades connecting Tampa and Miami.  This tribe was originally part of the Seminole nation, but is now recognized as an independent tribe.  They are often called Trail Indians.

Living among these Indians were various white families.  These families, along with so many of the Miccosukees, felt isolated and rejected.  In was to these particular people we felt impressed to give love and encouragement.

The work began in one of the small, poorly constructed homes. With several men, I would travel each Tuesday night to this area.  We were well received, and there was a wonderful response from the people.  The home, obviously, could not accommodate more than a few.  We began to meet outside as the weather permitted, and began making plans for a building.  The Federal government consented for us to erect  a building on a small area along the highway.

The church began construction, with the men of the church doing all the labor, and the materials being paid for as needed.  After almost a year, a beautiful and adequate building was dedicated.  Services then were not only on Tuesday evenings, but a mission pastor was called to conduct Sunday services.  It was a unique ministry that was a blessing to me and to the church.

There are many heart treasures I have from those days.  One is the fact that our Indian brethren believe in eating like Baptists!  I won’t describe some of the “unusual” foods that were served, but they soon knew that one thing I always expected was pumpkin bread.  Many folks make pumpkin bread . . . but only the Miccosukees make it a way that I will never forget!

Among some of the mementos and treasures I have written about in the past is a small wooden canoe.  It was hand-carved for me by Chief Osceola.  It is a gift I will always treasure . . . not only as a remembrance of those days, but of a friendship.

Sadness came to the tribe one day when a small boy, about six-years old fell into the canal and drowned.  He did not attend our mission, but because of the only available building, we were asked if a funeral service could be held in the church building.  The intent was to have a public place . . . but a service conducted by the tribal medicine man.  We extended the opportunity to the family and the medicine man with one condition — the service would include a Christian service.  There was agreement and the service was divided:  half of the time was for the medicine man and half of the time for the pastor of the Baptist mission.  It was indeed a unique service . . . and a rare opportunity to share the gospel of Christ.

Yes, Trail Town is a cherished memory.  As I reported in the beginning, the day came when the government required us to relinquish the building that was on the reservation.  It then became an information station for those visiting the Everglades.  Yet, for almost ten years the church had a visible and productive witness in that place.

Too often we complain about what we have lost.  I could do that in this matter, but I choose to be thankful for the years and opportunities we did have.  And, of course, losing the building did not destroy the church.  The church is not a building, but those who know Christ as Savior.  So, the church lives on!

If you travel the Tamiami Trail today,  you will see another church building on private land with a viable ministry to these people.  It is called Indian Trail Baptist Church. God’s work always continues!

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  (1 Corinthians 15:58)


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