Clarence and Orvia Strom: Assemblies of God Church Planters in Alaska

Clarence_Strom_1400This Week in AG History — September 20, 1964

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 19 September 2019

Clarence L. Strom (1911-2001) and his wife, Orvia (1915-2009), were pioneer Assemblies of God church planters. Practically every place they went, they started a church or helped a struggling one to grow. Their big start in the ministry together began in the backwoods of the Kentucky mountains, a place that came to be a testing ground for a number of missionaries in the early days. From there they worked in various small towns in North Dakota, Montana, Alaska, and elsewhere.

The Stroms were, perhaps, best known for their service as missionaries in Alaska, where they spent 18 years. They went to Alaska in 1959 to become the supervisors at the AG Boys Farm in Palmer. They went on to plant and/or pastor churches in Petersburg, Nenana, Yakutat, Gustavus, and Valdez, Alaska.

Fifty-five years ago, Strom authored an article published in the Pentecostal Evangel that documented his travel across Alaska. His article provided a bird’s-eye view of Assemblies of God work in some of Alaska’s key cities. At that time, the AG divided Alaska into four sections: Arctic Coast, Northern, Central, and Southeastern. He toured the Southeastern section, stopping first in Ketchikan.

To get there, Clarence Strom had to board a boat which took him over the Alaska Marine Highway on the inside channel. He then drove to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada, to board a ferry. This was followed by a six-hour ride by automobile. This gives an idea of how difficult travel in Alaska could be. In Ketchikan he visited Pastor and Mrs. Alver Loftdahl, who reported a thriving congregation which was experiencing revival in the Ketchikan Assembly.

Next he traveled to Wrangell, an old Indian village which was known for its lumber and fishing industries. He visited with the George Downses who had been able to build a new church, which was also thriving.

In Petersburg, on Mitkof Island, a town made up of several nationalities, including Tlinget Indians, Filipinos, and Japanese, Strom (who was the former pastor) visited the new pastors, the Bernard Tewells, and reported this was a growing assembly.

In Juneau, he visited Roy and Pauline Davidson, who were pastoring the largest church in the Southeastern section. He also visited Lyle and Helen Johnson who had been supervising the AG Children’s Home in Juneau for over 30 years. At that time about 40 children were staying in the children’s home.

Strom next visited the Leonard Olsons who were pastors at Haines. About 11 miles out of Haines he visited the village of Klukwan where Charles and Florence Personeus had established the Pentecostal work in Alaska in 1918. That church later became an outstation of the Haines Assembly.

Another stopping point was Skagway, a gold-mining town. The Gil Meroneys were serving there as pastors and had plans to construct a new building which could better serve their needs.

Next he visited the John Phillipses, who were pastoring the Sitka Assembly with plans for a building program to provide more room for services. In addition to the local population, they were also able to minister to people who came to Sitka for medical assistance and schooling at Mount Edgecomb Hospital and School.

In Yakutat he visited Donald Von Wald, who was pioneering a small church there. The last stop was Angoon, a little Indian village of 400, located on Admiralty Island. Missionary Eva Wright was doing a remarkable work there among the native population.

The trip gave Clarence Strom “a new appreciation of our faithful missionaries in Alaska who work often under great difficulties.” The work of faithful pastors and missionaries in Alaska has not been in vain. Today, Alaska is home to 89 Assemblies of God churches and over 10,000 adherents.

Read more about “An Armchair Tour of Southeastern Alaska Assemblies” on pages 16 and 17 of the Sept. 20, 1964, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Hidden Life,” by Violet Schoonmaker

• “Prayer, an Indispensable Part of Our Education Program,” by Charles W. H. Scott

• “The Church and Its Colleges,” by Philip A. Crouch

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


Filed under History, Missions

3 responses to “Clarence and Orvia Strom: Assemblies of God Church Planters in Alaska

  1. Jami

    This is a nice recap of the church heritage in SE Alaska. The picture really drew me in. I was hoping it would talk about the dynamics of ministry in this region and how he balanced the cultural and religious practices. I love that he and his wife are in regalia. It’s clear he loved God First and had an appreciation of the cultural.

  2. Nnabuenyi Chilee Blessing

    More unction to function as you continue to labour in the vineyard of God, God crown all your efforts in Jesus name amen. I’m very excited to read your about your mission work. I will like to know if one can apply to work with you. I am currently working as a local church pastor in Nigeria with Assemblies of God. But my calling is missions. I want to apply to work with you in Alaska missions. I can work among children, I opened nursery and primary school in my church. I can equally work in prison ministry, hospital ministry and street evangelism. I will be happy if my request will be granted. Thanks and God bless

  3. Mary Jane Boggs

    My husband and I led a MAPS trip to Juneau 32 years ago. We were doing repairs and maintenance at the Children’s Home. The Strom’s, though retired, were serving as temporary directors of the Home. Being with that precious couple for a month, praying together, working together, observing their humble lifestyle and hearing their testimonies of answered prayers through the years was both encouraging and challenging to us.. Other brief visits with them were in Montana and Maranatha Village. No words can adequately describe the effect that Clarence and Orvia Strom had on our lives.

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