Continued Midwest Indian Mission History
By Bertha Wetzig
It was 1958 when George and Ora Hollingshead were asked to return to Wisconsin from having spent fourteen successful years as Missionaries of American Sunday School Union in the north-central Nebraska. George was assigned the task of General Missionary for the state of Wisconsin, his responsibility being to present the work of the Missionaries of the American Sunday School Union which was an organization set up in 1816 to organize and maintain Sunday Schools in otherwise unreached areas and raising support for those Missionaries actively doing the work.
They first made their home in Iola, Wisconsin and after a couple of years they moved to a farm near Waupaca. Since there was no active work being done in northern Wisconsin they were asked to oversee the Vacation Bible Schools to be held in that area during the summer. Each summer a number of communities were reached by the Bible Schools, among them was the Mole Lake Community where both white and Indian children attended. There was already an active Sunday School going and the community had gotten together and were building a beautiful chapel to be named the Waba-Nun Nung Gospel Chapel by Grandma Vanzile. George Hollingshead was asked to bring the dedication message of that new church.
Ora had a soft place in her heart for these Chippewa Indian people as her grandmother was an Indian, and during the time George was busy in other places of the state she would ask to stay in the community and visit in homes and pass out Christian literature.
They soon learned of another group of Potawatomi Indians just east of Crandon, and though this community had occasional meetings held in the homes or community building, there was no established Christian witness. Being Missionaries at heart they became burdened for someone special to spend full time witnessing to these small tribes of Chippewa and Potawatomi Indians and pressed the ASSU to establish a work especially for them. At that time the ASSU was not established to do specialized work so they declined to help out.
On seeing the need and being burdened by the Holy Spirit the Hollingsheads after much prayer and consideration resigned from the ASSU and decided to spend full time among the Indian people. they still established their home in Waupaca where they raised a big garden to share with their Indian friends and spent a portion of the week in cabins near Crandon. This was in 1964.
In order to be able to do this work they sent out letters to friends and churches concerning their burden and need of support and the Lord began to supply their needs through His people. They also sent out a monthly news letter called the Chippewatomi News to all the Indian people and interested supporters. This letter was widely appreciated and the support began to come in.
Each summer Vacation Bible Schools were held being staffed by young people trained by the Wetzigs in Iowa and of course others. Camp was also a MUST for the Hollingsheads and from the beginning of their invlovement with the Indians a Camp was held first in rented tents and the Mole Lake Chapel, then to Oak Lake where the Davis’ erected a cook building, and finally a round tent was purchased. Planks were brought in for seating and the Hollingshead piano was always available. In 1961 a group of adults from Curlew, Iowa volunteered to help in the Camps and seeing the inadequate facilities for cooking the food for as many as one hundred people they returned home to suggest to the Trustees of the Midwest Mission Center that an old school bus be purchased and remodeled to become a kitchen bus to be used in these Camps. This green bus was used for many years to bless many boys and girls and adults as well with delicious, nutritious meals. “A well fed boy or girl is more able to recieve the Word of God” was the motto of the Hollingsheads.
A wilderness Camp was also held in the community of Lac du Flambeau on a plot of land called Pig’s Point for the Chippewa Indians of that area from 1961 to 1971. That work had to be phased out because the Mission was not staffed to follow up the work begun at Camp.
Needing to be established under a corporation in order to give tax deductable receipts for these gifts they agreed to work under the auspices of the Midwest Mission Center, incorporated in Curlew, Iowa, especially for the building of apartments in and old brick school house in that community to house Missionaries home on furlough. The Avery Wetzig family were living in one of the apartments at that time.
As time went on. It was decided to incorporate the work in Wisconsin as the Midwest Indian Mission, Inc. and the incorporation papers and By-Laws were drawn up and incorporated with George Hollingshead, Avery Wetzig, Anton Rank, Chuck Ackley and Art Crawford as officers. Avery and Anton represented a supporting church and Chuck and Art represented each tribe to be ministered to. This was the year of 1967 when the organization was dedicated to reaching the small reservations for the Lord. At this time the Hollingsheads were holding regular preaching services at Praise Chapel in the Town of Crandon as they were without a pastor, and then to Mole Lake at 11:00 and on to Stone Lake with Sunday School and church in the afternoon in the old Community Building.
When the group at Stone Lake outgrew the old Community Building the task of planning and building the Lake Lucerne Gospel Chapel was begun. The Hollingsheads were in their mid-sixties and it was quite a task, but the Lord provided the strength and help when needed, and the church was built as the finances came in from the supporters and community. A twenty-five year lease was given by the tribal council for the plot of land the church was built on and the Church was dedicated to the service to the Lord in June of 1969 as the last effort of the Hollingsheads before Avery and Bertha Wetzig accepted the call of the Lord to continue the work begun.
It was fall of 1969 when the Wetzigs were asked to become foster parents to needy boys and girls and for the next five years their home was open to twelve different boys and girls, as well as enjoying visits by many other boys and girls.
The Wetzigs continued the services set up by the Hollingsheads when they arrived on the field. Those were busy days but so blessed to be bringing the Word of God to our Indian friends.
Because of declining health it was realized they could no longer handle the home properly as well as the Kid’s Clubs, ladies meetings, Bible Studies, visitation and weekly worship services; so the Lord laid it upon their hearts to build a Foster home on what was known as East Hill above Crandon and a large six bedroom home was built as the funds came in from supporting friends.
The Carroll Heifners of Buffalo Center, Iowa heard of the need of foster parents and came to help with the building and were parents in the home for several months before returning to Iowa. David and Iona Senske were asking the Lord for some specific work that they could do and come to live in the home in 1974 with their three children and made a home for several boys and girls
throughout the next ten years. This phase of work had to be stopped when the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act law was passed which declared that all Indian children should be raised in Indian homes.
The work at Stone Lake continued to grow and on hearing of services planned especially for the Indian People, the Potawatomi Indians of the Carter area began bringing car loads of people to the services. Soon they were asking when we could begin building a church for their area so as soon as the Foster home was built, land was leased from the tribe and the basement for the church was dug and work began on what was to be known as the Sunnyside Community Church.
Services were first held in the Frank Shepard home by Carroll and Evelyn Pahl who came to help in the work in 1972. The living room was full to capacity and people were even sitting on the stairs, so it was decided to cap the basement and begin holding services there.
The church was completed and dedicated in 1975 to the service of the Lord and community.
In 1974 the Wetzigs were taking part in the Missionary Conference being held at the Orchard View Congragational Church in Muskegon, Michigan and were invited to share a meal at the Child Evangelism Training School in the area. While there they were introduced to an Indian student and her husband who were interested in reaching the Indians for Christ. The Lord led so that on completing their training Don and Teleka Dewing joined the staff of the Midwest Indian Mission to help with the youth and children’s work and have been a great blessing to the work in various capacities for the last twenty-five years.
The Wetzigs resigned from the Mission in 1986 having served the Mission in various capacities since 1961. They thank the Lord for the way He has continued to lead and bless the work under the leadership of the Dewings and continue to pray for the work and their many Indian freinds.
We thank the Lord for the charities and many individuals friends who through the years have supported the work of reaching the First Americans for Christ by their faithful gifts and prayers.
May the Lord continue to be glorified through this ministry.