The history of the SBC includes thousands of missionaries, pastors, workers, and others who often get lost to history. My goal is to highlight a few of those people in order that we can be encouraged and inspired by their lives and sacrifice.
“I’ll skin every white man I can.” B. Frank Belvin hated white people and all they stood for. He decided to devote his life to gain revenge on those who had put him down. He spoke those words as a teenager after his family experienced several incidents of violence directed towards them as a result of being Native American.
Born in Boswell, OK in 1914 Belvin grew up in a broken family and had a difficult life in many ways. His family lived in the country without electricity, they hunted for food and trade, only had water from the well, and farmed to support the family. They worked hard to scrape out an existence while also supporting their friends and neighbors.
Belvin decided to get serious about school in order to become a lawyer so he could get retribution on others. He only went to high school for one year, riding a horse 8 miles each way, before he dropped out. He decided to hitchhike to Goodland Indian Orphanage School, some 20 miles away to see if he could go to school there. Goodland was a Presbyterian School and required their students to go to chapel every week. Belvin was under growing conviction to give his life to Christ but tried hard to shake it off. He reminded himself “I didn’t come here to become a Christian. I came here to study to become a lawyer so that I could teach white people something.”
As the conviction grew he found new ways to avoid chapel. Once he faked being sick to get out of a revival service because he knew if he stayed there he would probably give his life to the Lord. At the urging of a friend he pulled himself out of his fake sickbed to meet the missionary preaching that night and finally surrendered his life to God that night. After graduating high school he set out to Bacone College, an independent Baptist school in Muskogee, OK where he became a member of the boxing team and was later champion of the US National Guard in 1935. Even though he changed schools the call of Christ continued to follow him. The whole time at Bacone he fought the call of God until lying in bed one night he simply to God “If you can use me, I’ll do anything you want me to.”
While at university his classmates gave him the nickname “Warhorse” because he always kept driving on and refused to admit defeat in any arena. After graduation from Bacone he went to Ottowa (Kansas) University and got a ministerial degree in 1938. After summer missionary work he traveled to Philadelphia to Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, meeting his soon to be wife along the way as he hitchhiked.
After summer missions in Oklahoma and ordination after graduating from Eastern Seminary Frank took a job with the Home Mission Board working among the Kiowa and Apache Indians in Oklahoma in 1941. The newlywed couple moved to the plains of Oklahoma to minister to people who often had never heard the gospel before. The Belvins often worked with people from tribes that spoke no English and lived as their ancestors did. Each tribe had their own language and every communication was difficult. Every day was an adventure in cross-cultural ministry.
Over the next 40 years, the Belvins became leaders in Native Ministry in North America as they ministered to the Apache, Kiowa, Creek, Seminoles, and others. He was responsible for starting over 60 churches and led thousands to Christ. Belvin served as the national consultant among American Indians for the Home Mission Board and spent over 40 years in total serving in the language missions departments of the Home Mission Board.
Belvin became so influential among Natives that he was appointed to two national Indian councils by two different US Presidents. Even with a brother who served as the Principal Chief of the Choctaws, Frank was often more well known and respected among all tribes. Belvin wrote numerous books about his work including his autobiography “Warhorse Along the Jesus Road.”
The areas that Belvin ministered were usually marked by poverty, hardship, and suffering. Although he trusted God himself, the need was often so great it was overwhelming.
A prayer he wrote as he struggled with loneliness and sorrow at Eastern Seminary demonstrates his resolve to trust in God and make a difference among his brothers and sisters.
O Great Spirit, Builder-of-the-Mountains, Chief of all Tribes, hear the prayer of a young Indian whose heart is before Thee, a prayer for faithfulness, humility, purity, and strength.
Make me faithful like the waters of the Great River, humble like the papoose rocked by the wind in his cradle, pure like the whispering winds in summer, strong like the mighty oak, and straight like the towering pine tree.
Grant that I may be as tireless and as persistent in the pursuit of knowledge and of Thy divine will as my fathers were in the chase, on the battlefield, and in the hunt; and that some day, when I step forth a Medicine— Man-of—Souls, I may return to my native land to be a guide to the people who gave me birth and a light in the hills that sheltered me in my infancy.
Keep my moccasins always in the Jesus road because I have loved Thee for many moons. Amen.
God’s Great Warhorse finally laid down to rest on January 14, 1999.
God’s Great Warhorse – WMU Press