A flour sack quilt hangs in the sanctuary of Okeene (Okla.) MB Church (OMBC). The handmade relic from the 1950s was discovered by a church member last spring in the now-unused choir loft.
As members examined the women’s embroidered names on the quilt squares, they discovered a common thread—a family whose church membership spans more than 100 years.
After Jayce Schultz was baptized and joined OMBC last May, the congregation presented her with a plaque recognizing six generations of her family to join OMBC, a testament to the family’s longevity in farming and faithfulness.
Jayce’s parents, Loni and Brandon Schultz, are fifth generation farmers with about 1,600 acres of farming ground, 2,000 acres of grass and a cow/calf operation. Brandon serves as an OMBC deacon and Loni as church treasurer.
“Our values are simple—God first before anything,” Loni says. “We lean on him in the good and bad. He has pulled us from the ashes and walked us through the most beautiful sunsets (and) sunrises. We see him in the fields as we are checking cattle, running tractor or looking out the kitchen window. I hope and pray we are setting a good example for our kids.”
Jayce was baptized in the same stock tank in which her mother was baptized eight years prior.
“The cows need the water and that’s our livelihood,” Loni says. “We were bringing it all back in a full circle of God gracing us with our livelihood.”
An eighth-grade honor roll student, Jayce serves as class president and is active in sports, Future Farmers of America, 4-H and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. While she enjoys showing cattle and intends to farm and ranch, Jayce also carries the family legacy of faith as an active member of OMBC, where she helps collect the offering and prepares and presents Bible lessons when it’s OMBC’s turn to hold services at the local nursing home.
“I wanted to get baptized because I am in a household where Jesus has come first,” Jayce says. “I am blessed to be a part of our church family. I enjoy getting to do activities and being a member so much. I am also blessed to be able to volunteer for our church and preach at the nursing home here in Okeene.”
Generations of faith
The family’s church membership can be traced to Jayce’s paternal grandmother’s side. Brandon’s mother, Jana, joined OMBC at age 10. A retired teacher, Jana taught Sunday school, sang in the choir and served as secretary of the Christian Young People’s Society programs. Her husband, Ted, was a trustee.
Attendance has dwindled, Jana says, from 80 members when she was younger to 23 as members age and fewer young people attend.
“It’s still a wonderful church and deep faith-rooted,” she says. “We try to welcome (and) invite people.
Jana’s parents, Arlo and Marlyss Patzkowsky, are remembered as faithful members of OMBC. Arlo served as church treasurer, on the church council and also narrated Christmas programs.
“They raised my brother and I to go to church and find the importance in learning to know that the Lord needed to be our savior,” Jana says. “They didn’t pressure us. We enjoyed going to church.”
When OMBC’s current brick building was constructed in 1927, Marlyss’ parents, John and Martha Neufeld, supplied sand from their farm for cement. The Neufelds served as elders and deacons at OMBC. John was moderator and is said to have loved playing his harmonica in church. Martha planned church dinners.
“He had his certain spot that he sat in every Sunday, and he was very patient and kind,” Jana says of her grandfather. “After I got saved, I had some doubts, and he talked to me about it and said you have to have peace with God and even though you can’t see, you have to believe.”
Martha’s parents, Alexander and Margaret Wahl, were the first generation to join OMBC. They married in 1883, had nine children and lived in Hillsboro, Kan., and Fairview, Okla., before moving to Okeene around 1921
Like a family
Thirty years prior, OMBC members first gathered in 1892, building a small, cedar building, and later, a new structure in 1901. OMBC received its charter in 1903, four years before Oklahoma became a state.
Today, the church offers adult Sunday school classes and a livestream.
Each year, the congregation packs Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes—they filled 66 last year.
“It’s comfortable,” Loni says of OMBC. “You don’t feel tense walking into (church). You don’t feel like you have to pretend and fake smile. It’s like a family, and it’s changed my life.”
Pastor Bennet Peters has led the congregation for 42 years, the longest-serving USMB pastor at one church. Peters has known four generations of the Schultz family. He has welcomed Ted Schultz as a church member and baptized Brandon, Loni and Jayce.
“The Neufeld, Patzkowsky and Schultz families modeled their faith and church attendance,” Peters says. “They not only encouraged their own families to go to church but other people as well.”
For the Schultz’s, OMBC is part of their story marked by farming, family and faith.
“Our church is part of our family,” Loni says. “We are small, but we are mighty. We attend our church, whether we had to catch cattle in the morning and we are kicking our boots at the door or my youngest forgot to brush her hair. They love us no matter how we come.”
Read about Pastor Bennet Peter’s record-setting tenure at Okeene MB Church.
Janae Rempel is the Christian Leader associate editor. She joined the CL staff in September 2017 with six years of experience as a professional journalist. Rempel is an award-winning writer, having received three 2016 Kansas Press Association Awards of Excellence and an Evangelical Press Association Higher Goals award in 2022. Rempel graduated from Tabor College in 2010 with a bachelor of arts in Communications/Journalism and Biblical/Religious Studies. She attends Hillsboro MB Church.