Alaskan Children’s Homes: The Assemblies of God and Social Concern

Juneau Children's Home

Gus and Evelyn Peterson, directors of the Juneau Children’s Home, with a group of children, August 1967

This Week in AG History —November 26, 1967

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 29 November 2018

During the 1950s and 1960s, a number of children’s homes were operating in Alaska, with many of these directed by Assemblies of God home missionaries or local churches. One of these was the Juneau Children’s Home, which was started by missionaries Lyle and Helen Johnson in their home in 1934. One of the first children they took in was Lillian Lehtosarri, who later married Alvin Capener and became a missionary to Alaska.

In about 1937 or 1938, the Johnsons bought a house on Glacier Avenue in Juneau. This was the start of what became known as Johnson’s Children Home and later was called the Juneau Children’s Home. Undaunted by a destructive fire in 1952, the Johnsons repaired the home. In 1953 they added a dormitory and later added other improvements.

After Helen Johnson passed away in 1967, Gus and Evelyn Peterson took over as administrators of the Juneau Children’s Home. The Nov. 26, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel reported on what Christmas was like at the children’s home. Evelyn Peterson remembered Christmas from the previous year. She wrote, “As I stood looking at the tree with the gifts surrounding it, I couldn’t control the stream of tears; for I realized this would be the first Christmas filled with cheer, happiness, and meaning for many of our children.”

Peterson reported that the parents of one of the children at the home, Susan, were alcoholics. “Christmas to her held little meaning,” she said, “except for dark memories of chaotic scenes and extreme violence, after which her parents would slump into a state of unconsciousness.” Once Christmas arrived, Susan was awestruck and excited by the lovely tree and the many gifts for the children. She was especially overjoyed that one of the gifts, a large baby doll, was for her.

Christmas to the children at the home was a new experience. One by one the children each took a peek at the oven. “What are those big things?” some questioned. Turkey had never been on their dinner menu before. “Carving the turkeys with 35 pairs of eyes watching was quite an undertaking,” Peterson recalled, “but we finally accomplished the task amid the ohs and ahs of all our little helpers.”

Once dinner was ready, “each member of our large family sat quietly in his or her place with bowed head,” Peterson said, “all lifting their hearts together as we prayed.”

Similar scenes could be shared regarding other children’s homes in Alaska and Hillcrest Children’s Home of the AG in Hot Springs, Arkansas (established in 1944). Several other administrators followed the Petersons, and the name was changed to Alaskan Youth Village. In 1977, Alaskan Youth Village was relocated to another part of Juneau and eventually included three homes on 10 acres of land. It closed in 1991, after 57 years of continual operation.

Currently AG U.S. Missionaries Brian and Linda Staub operate Haven House Foster Care in Big Lake Alaska, near Wasilla. The Assemblies of God also operates COMPACT Family Services in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which includes Hillcrest Children’s Home and Highlands Maternity Home.

Read “Christmas in Juneau,” by Evelyn V. Peterson on pages 7-8 of the Nov. 26, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Only Believe!” by C. M. Ward

• “Pardon and Healing,” by Andrew Murray

• “The Lord’s Healing Touch,” by Louis H. Hauff

• “Questions on the Holy Spirit,” by Ernest S. Williams

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200


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2 responses to “Alaskan Children’s Homes: The Assemblies of God and Social Concern

  1. Colleen Douglas

    I lived at the Johnson home with Aunty and Lyle Johnson with 5 siblings off and on from about 1954 to 1962

  2. Mary Clark

    I read the article about the Children’s home in Juneau Ak. Alot of the kids knew what a Turkey was n we didn’t take turns looking at some Turkey cooking in an oven, where did Mrs.Peterson come up with that lie?
    Amazing story about the Turkey, who knows what else she wrote that wasn’t true? Not everyone child at the home woke up on Christmas morning with parents who were passed out from a night of drinking.
    Some parents cudn’t keep their family together because of lack if employment, some had deceased parents, divorce was a long drawn out ordeal. I’ll be looking forward to reading the complete article.

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