Couple honored for 5 decades devoted chiefly to peaceBy Mennonite Mission Network
CLINTON, Okla. — From Sunday mornings in church to burial of Native remains, Betty and Larence Hart are longtime champions of Native concerns and Anabaptist theology.
Members of Native Mennonite Ministries and Mennonite Church Canada Native Ministries honored the Harts at the Native Mennonite Ministries Council meeting Oct. 13-15 for spending their adult lives ministering to the Arapaho and Cheyenne people in Oklahoma.
The Harts were presented with a handmade pointing stick and a hand drum painted with a turtle. In the Cheyenne tradition, a turtle represents patience and longevity — two qualities the Harts have embodied in their lives of service.
Lawrence has been pastor of Koinonia Mennonite Church outside Clinton for 48 years. The Harts also built the Cheyenne Cultural Center, which gives visitors an interpretive glimpse into the history, struggles and present-day lives of the Cheyenne people. It also houses the Cheyenne Language Institute.
The Harts spearheaded Return to the Earth, an effort to identify and properly bury the remains of 25,000 Native Americans. The remains are currently housed in various museums around the country.
Lawrence, 78, and Betty, 77, met at Bethel College in North Newton, Kan., before Lawrence left to join the Marines. He was called out of military service to be a peace chief for his tribe, the Cheyenne. Today, he is one of the four principal peace chiefs — a fitting role for a Native Mennonite, Hart said.
“The Cheyenne, in particular the tribe that I belong to, have a longstanding peace tradition through peace chiefs who live a life of peace no matter what the costs,” he said by telephone from his home. He said even if a man’s “own son is killed right in front of his own teepee,” he is forbidden from taking revenge.
“That resonates well with Anabaptist tradition, and so we’re really pleased to be a part of that tradition as well,” he said.
Willis Busenitz, a pastor at White River Cheyenne Mennonite Church in Busby, Mont., first met Lawrence when Busenitz began pastoring Hart’s home church, Bethel Mennonite Church, in Hammon. Lawrence’s father, Homer, was a lay pastor there.
“As fellow pastors of Cheyenne Mennonite churches in Oklahoma, we began a long and special relationship with Lawrence and Betty,” Busenitz said. “In many ways, Lawrence was a mentor to me and helped me in understanding the Cheyenne way of life.
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