Dear Soldiers of the Cross,
I trust everyone is doing well, and you had a very wonderful Thanksgiving season with family.
I would like to take the time and share with you a wonderful and joyous opportunity God gave us. For many years I have read about Missionary John Eliott and the work that he did among the Wampanoag and other Native American tribes in the Massachusetts area. The Wampanoag tribe was the first tribe to meet the Mayflower Pilgrims when they landed in Provincetown Harbor and then later at Plymouth Rock. The Wampanoag tribe has one of the greatest Gospel histories in our nation and also one of the greatest tragedies. John Elliott began his missionary work among the Native people in 1631. In the Boston area he was instrumental in starting 14 Indian village praying towns amongst the people. John Eliott had a desire for the Native people to have a Bible in their Native language. He learned the Algonquian language, created an alphabet for them, and wrote a grammar book to teach them how to read their language. Then in 1663 he translated the Geneva Bible into the Algonquian language. This was the first Bible printed in America. Praise the Lord!
It was over 100 years later before the first English Bible was printed. What a glorious history our Native people have! I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Harvard University and to see, touch and handle one of John Eliot’s original 1663 Wampanoag Bibles. My heart was filled with joy as I turned and touched and looked into every page in this Bible. We all have those times in our lives when we feel that God is better to us than anyone else — this was one of those times for me. We also had the great privilege to visit the gravesite of John Eliott in Roxbury. We were also privileged to visit the church site where John Eliot started his first church among the Native people in Natick. It is no longer a Native church, but there is still a church going on.
Now comes the tragedy. After the King Philip Wars in 1675 many of the praying towns that John Eliot started ceased, and most of the Bibles were destroyed. We know that the devil is always present trying to destroy the work of the Lord. Praise the Lord! The work still goes on. I thank the Lord for the work of John Eliott and his great desire to get the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our Native people.
The Lord gave us a wonderful opportunity to visit and preach at Natick Baptist Church, in one of the praying towns. The pastor and his dear folks were very gracious and loving, and they too have a great desire to minister amongst our Native people.
I visited two of the Wampanoag reservations, one on Cape Cod and the other on Martha’s Vineyard, both of which have a Baptist church. I was privileged to preach at the Mashpee Baptist Church there on Cape Cod. The Wampanoag congregation was very gracious and loving. I had the opportunity to visit the Baptist church on the Gay Head Reservation on Martha’s Vineyard also with the pastor. This church is the oldest continual Native American church in the nation, started in 1693. Please pray for both of these churches that God will continue to bless them. We have already begun efforts to reprint John Eliott’s Bible and make it available to these dear folks. Please pray God’s blessings on this project.
As we labor for Christ,
Gerry & Sheril Locklear
Missionaries to the Native Americans