A Champion of Encouragement

An outstanding Choctaw Baptist Preacher in Native work was Dr. Benjamin Franklin Belvin, known to many as Dr. B. Frank Belvin, he was born January 23, 1914, to Watson Jonas and Mabel Belvin. Dr. Belvin was the youngest of six boys and was named by his older brother Harry Belvin who would become one of the chiefs of the Choctaw Nation. Dr. Belvin finished high school at Goodland Indian school in 1933 and was a graduate of Bacone Junior College for Indians in 1935. After teaching for a year he entered Ottawa University (Kansas) where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1938. After surrendering to the ministry, he entered the Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary from which he graduated in 1941. In May of that year, he was ordained to the Baptist ministry and went immediately as a missionary to the Kiowa and Apache Indians of western Oklahoma. Later he was called to head the Bible Department of Bacone College. Belvin entered the graduate school of the Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1946, where he earned a Doctorate in Religious Education in 1948. He then went as General Missionary to the Creek and Seminole Indians in Oklahoma. From that post he was called in April of 1951, to become Superintendent of Indian Work for the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is the first Indian to ever hold the position. Dr. Belvin published a newsletter called “Frankly Speaking” which went out to Native churches and individuals throughout America.

Dr. Belvin became a champion of encouraging and developing indigenous leadership among Native Americans. Consequently, he had a strong influence on the life and ministry of Bro. Raymond Johnson. Raymond, as a young Choctaw preacher, attended Oklahoma State Tech in Okmulgee, OK. Raymond recalls how Bro. Belvin would treat him and other young men to a steak dinner once a month and would encourage them to get a good education and pursue ministry among Native Americans. A few years later Belvin recruited Mr. and Mrs. Johnson to help start an Indian Baptist Mission in Des Moines, Iowa with the Iowa Southern Baptist Fellowship. Bro. Belvin was instrumental in helping many Native Preachers in the ministry and he was an encouragement to Native Baptist Churches all over Indian country.

Bro. Belvin was a warhorse for the cause of Indian missions and associations. He adamantly and often spoke up for Indian ministries particularly when the Oklahoma Baptist General Convention pushed to dissolve all of the Indian Baptist Associations and merge the Indian churches into Southern Baptist Associations. In the early attempts of the OBGC to disband the Indian Baptist Associations in Oklahoma, Dr. Belvin stood firmly in support of Indian churches keeping their Associations intact, which, pre-dated the OGBC. Dr. Belvin’s concern was to maintain and develop Indian leadership. He said…

“My real dream is to see regular guided study somewhat like a Bible school to help my people prepare for Bible study, church administration, visitation, evangelism, and missions; a well-rounded Baptist program for Christian work. They don’t care whether they have college credit; they just want the knowledge.”

Bro. Belvin became a good role model for Native American preachers due to his own personal accomplishments in the ministry, education, and having a clear understanding of Native American values and the desire to maintain their identity as Christian Natives and the Christian Native culture.

(Quote from B. Frank Belvin: God’s Warhorse by Naomi Ruth Hunke, page 240 and from the cover of Warhorse Along The Jesus Road by B. Frank Belvin Copyright in 1952, Printed by Oklahoma Baptist University Press, Shawnee, Oklahoma.)