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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
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: http://www.iFPHC.org

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C. H. Austin: From the Saloons to Assemblies of God Railroad Evangelist

chaustinThis Week in AG History —November 16, 1929

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 15 November 2018

Clement Henderson Austin (1889-1973) knew railroads almost as well as he knew the gospel. He spent decades working as a train engineer, but he became mired in a lifestyle of drunkenness, gambling, violence, and addictions to alcohol and tobacco.

After a dramatic conversion, Austin became an Assemblies of God evangelist. He spent the rest of his life sharing the gospel and his testimony. Austin’s story was published in a tract, which was republished in the Nov. 16, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Austin’s testimony began when he was 8 years old. His life began to unravel when his mother died. For years he carried this sorrow deep inside his soul, crying himself to sleep at night. He wondered why he could not have a mother, like other boys.

As a young teenager, Austin ventured onto the streets of Fort Worth, Texas, where he quickly adapted to the ways of the world. He started firing train engines at age 16, soon becoming a train engineer. A large young man, he learned how to fend for himself.

Saloons became a second home to young Austin. He started drinking and smoking, then gambling and stealing. He prided himself on his coarse speech, later calling himself “one of the ringleaders in oaths and smutty jokes.”

Austin recalled that he was “young and tender” when he started living on the streets. But as the years progressed, he noted, “my heart became more cold and hard.” He could feel “the enemy’s fangs” as they “sank into my soul and body.”

The coarse engineer married a young woman and they had a son. Austin tried to cover up his drunken and thieving ways by lying to his wife. But he knew that his life was spinning out of control, and he felt incredible guilt over the injustice he was committing against his family. He did not want his son to follow in his footsteps.

Austin had not been to church in 12 years. While Austin had tried to ignore God, he realized he needed to turn his life around, and he knew he could not do it alone. One night, while looking into the stars, he said aloud, “O God, help me to quit gambling.” Starting at that moment, Austin’s faith — birthed out of desperation — took root.

God seemed to chase after Austin. Two weeks before his conversion, Austin was running through a dark tunnel and heard a voice say, “Throw away your tobacco.” He did, and he never tasted it again.

In the meantime, Austin’s wife began attending revival services at a Pentecostal church in San Diego, California. At first, she did not tell Austin, afraid that he might mock her. But she could not keep quiet, and she told him about the miracles she witnessed. Cripples were leaving their crutches, and deaf people could hear again. He agreed to go hear the evangelist.

The revival services were being held in a small hall, which was packed with people. Austin recalled that “people sang as if they meant it,” and he could tell they had something that he was missing. A young sailor sat next to Austin, and when the evangelist called people to the altar, he tried to pull Austin forward for prayer. Austin knew that he needed to go forward, but he did not want to publicly admit that he needed God.

An intense battle ensued between Austin’s ears. He recalled hearing a voice tell him that he was “too big a sinner” to be on his knees in church. This voice, who Austin recognized as the devil, taunted him, telling him that his drinking buddies would laugh at him. But Austin looked past his suffering, had faith in God, and cried out, “O Lord, have mercy on me.”

After an emotional spiritual battle, Austin found himself lying on the floor. He felt spiritual oppression flee, and he felt a sweet peace sweep through his soul. Austin set his heart on Christ and never looked back.

Austin told his family, friends, and coworkers about his conversion. He returned money he had stolen and asked for forgiveness from those he had offended. “There is now no more drinking, no more gambling, no more taking the name of our Lord in vain, no more tobacco,” he wrote. Instead, “old things have passed away and all things have become new.”

Austin studied for the ministry at Berean Bible Institute, an Assemblies of God school in San Diego. He graduated in 1925 and was ordained as an Assemblies of God evangelist in 1926. He continued working as an engineer on the Rock Island, Southern Pacific, and San Diego and Arizona railroads, but he viewed his secular employment as a vehicle for his higher calling — to preach the gospel across the American Southwest. During the next half century, this large, gentle, earnest railroad engineer, armed with his testimony and a Bible, touched countless lives.

Read Clement H. Austin’s testimony, “Saved and Called to Preach,” on pages 12-13 of the Nov. 16, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Ten Reasons Why I Believe in Divine Healing,” by Thomas G. Atteberry

• “The Extra Portion,” by Mrs. Robert (Marie) Brown

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
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: http://www.iFPHC.org

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Christian and Violet Schoonmaker: Pioneer Pentecostal Missionaries to India

SchoonmakerThis Week in AG History — July 27, 1918

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 26 July 2018

Christian H. Schoonmaker (1881-1919) was the founding chairman of the Assemblies of God of India in 1918. While he served as a missionary in northern India for only nine years, Schoonmaker and his family significantly influenced Indian Pentecostal missions.

After finishing school in the late 1890s, Schoonmaker moved from his home in Albany, New York, to New York City to look for work. There he became involved with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. During this time, he had a vision of a great multitude of Hindu men and women. He felt he had found his purpose in life — to reach the Hindu people of India for Christ. He soon enrolled in the Alliance Bible School in Nyack, New York.

During his time at the Bible school (1905-1907), the Pentecostal revival began to sweep across the United States. Many of the students at the Alliance school experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Schoonmaker’s teachers encouraged him to continue seeking God but warned him against people who taught that speaking in tongues was a sign of the Spirit’s baptism. However, he soon noticed that those who showed the most joy and fervent devotion to God were those who had experienced the fullness of the Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues. He began to seek all that God had for him, even if it included speaking in tongues.

Meanwhile, beginning in 1905, a Pentecostal revival had also impacted his desired destination, India. When Schoonmaker arrived in India in the fall of 1907, he urged others to partake of the blessing of the Spirit. It was on Christmas Eve, 1907, that Christian Schoonmaker’s life and ministry were changed immeasurably — he also received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues.

A young single missionary named Violet Dunham (1879-1965) had been in India since 1902. She was warned by several sources to have nothing to do with the kinds of meetings that were happening in the Pentecostal circles. She saw so many other missionaries becoming involved that she prayed earnestly to be kept from their fanaticism. The Lord comforted her with Proverbs 1:33, “Whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely and shall be quiet from fear of evil.” With this promise, she felt free to attend one of the meetings where Schoonmaker and the other Pentecostals were ministering. On the second day of the meetings, the Spirit began to fall upon the missionaries and the national workers just as in the book of Acts.

Violet became Mrs. Christian Schoonmaker in August of 1909 and soon three children blessed their home. However, their ministry was cut short in 1914 by the outbreak of World War I. They returned to North America where they led a church in Toronto.

During the war years, God blessed them with two more children. They transferred their ordination in 1917 to the newly formed Assemblies of God. They desired to return to India and received missionary appointment with the Assemblies of God. The July 27, 1918, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel included a report from C. H. Schoonmaker reporting that they had landed in India. Due to government restrictions, however, they were not permitted to return to the area where they had previously worked. He earnestly requested “prayer that God will plant us in the right place and use us to reach the unevangelized with the message of salvation.”

They settled in Lonavia, where Violet gave birth to their sixth child. During this time, Schoonmaker felt the need for a unified body of Pentecostal ministers in northern India. There was a need for a closer bond and mutual counsel. In November of 1918, a conference was held and the “Indian Assemblies of God” was formed, electing Christian Schoonmaker as its first chairman.

Just three months later, Schoonmaker returned home from ministry feverish and too tired to eat. The next morning a rash appeared on his chest. Violet knew the signs of smallpox and sent for a nurse. Christian was immediately quarantined from the children. As Violet was nursing their youngest infant, she also was kept from him. He died in their home in India on Feb. 2, 1919, at the age of 37.

Violet’s life was permanently altered in a matter of days. She was now a widow with six children under the age of nine, in a country where widows were often viewed unfavorably. She wrote to the Assemblies of God leadership in the United States, asking if she and her children would be able to continue their missionary appointment. She served in India before she was married and wished to continue that service. She was relieved by the answer — if her calling continued, then her support would also.

Violet Schoonmaker remained in India for another 32 years, retiring in 1951. She continued to speak and write missionary articles until her death at age 86. Christian and Violet’s ministry in India did not stop when either of them died. Five of their six children returned as Assemblies of God missionaries and the sixth, born just before his father died, also served the Indian people as a medical missionary doctor.

Read more about Schoonmaker’s report on landing in India on page 8 of the July 27, 1918, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Pentecost in Central Africa” by James Salter

• “Physical Manifestations of the Spirit,” by Alice E. Luce

• “Questions and Answers,” by E.N. Bell

And many more!

Click 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
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Paul Patkotak, a Pioneer Pentecostal Eskimo, Helped Bring Revival to Alaska

Patkotak Paul

This Week in AG History — July 21, 1963

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 19 July 2018

Paul Patkotak (1891-1980) was born during a harsh winter on the North Slope of Alaska. His Eskimo parents left him on the tundra to die rather than face almost certain death from starvation due to lack of food. Paul survived, however, and later became one of the earliest Eskimos to identify with the Pentecostal movement.

Paul’s parents were traditional Eskimos and lived near Wainwright, a village on the Arctic Ocean. He was born in the family’s snow house. At the time, his parents and their five other children were on the verge of starvation. Other families also faced the agonizing choice of whether to allow their children to die from exposure or starvation. Paul’s father insisted that the newborn must be placed in the snowbank, but his mother initially resisted. After several days, though, it seemed obvious that she was postponing the inevitable. They bundled up little Paul, placed him on the cold tundra, and left to go hunting for food.

Shortly after Paul’s parents left, his grandmother ventured outside and rescued the hapless newborn. She tucked her bundled grandson into her own clothing, but she fell in the snow and was unable to get up and return to the house. It seemed that both would die from exposure. However, a hunter discovered their plight and brought them to his hunting camp. That night little Paul had nothing to eat, but he survived in his grandmother’s care.

The following morning, a caribou herd wandered into the camp. The hunters killed enough animals to provide food for the winter months. Paul’s grandmother fed Paul with milk from one of the caribou cows, which she had managed to milk. Later that day, Paul was reunited with his mother, who had never expected to see him again.

Paul was reared according to traditional Eskimo customs, learning to fish, trap, and hunt. He had contact with government workers and missionaries, who gave him a rudimentary education based on Bible stories. Although he did not become a Christian until years later, the stories of Jesus intrigued Paul.

Unlike many of his Eskimo friends, Paul wanted to further his education. He worked hard, trapping and pelting countless white foxes, which he planned to sell to make his dream possible. In 1911, he boarded a steam freighter with his pelts and headed for Seattle.

Paul arrived in Seattle and felt overwhelmed by the large city. He discovered a Free Methodist school called Seattle Seminary (now Seattle Pacific University), which he wanted to attend. He was not qualified to enroll, but professors allowed him to sit at the back of the classroom and audit classes.

Paul’s limited reading skills hampered his ability to understand, and other students severely ridiculed him. He grew desperate. He wanted to learn, but education seemed out of reach.

One day in 1913, while Paul was wandering down a street in Seattle, a man asked him, “Are you hungry for the Lord?” He responded affirmatively, and the man led Paul to a small Pentecostal congregation affiliated with the Apostolic Faith Mission (Portland, Oregon), which had roots in the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909).

The young Eskimo sensed the power of the Holy Spirit in the Pentecostal meetings. An African-American woman caught his attention when she testified that God looks at a person’s heart, not at the color of their skin. He realized that he had built up hatred toward white students at the seminary who mocked him. He also realized that he needed to abandon his belief in the power of traditional Eskimo shamans. Paul responded to the altar call, repented of his sins, and peace and joy flooded his heart.

Paul spent the next two years at a government boarding school for Native Americans, where he improved his reading skills. He also remained active in the Apostolic Faith Mission.

Paul sensed a burden for the Eskimo people. In 1913, in a letter published in The Apostolic Faith newspaper, Paul testified of his newfound faith in Christ and stated that he felt called to bring the gospel to his people. He began praying for a mighty revival to come to the Eskimos.

In 1919, Paul, his wife, and children moved to Alaska. They adopted the nomadic lifestyle of a hunter and trapper. This lifestyle made it somewhat difficult to effectively witness to other Eskimos, as they often lived in isolation. Paul was a faithful Christian and shared the gospel when he was able to do so. He was not a credentialed minister, but he went on several extended evangelistic tours across Alaska. The family later moved to Wainwright, so that their children could receive an education.

In the 1950s, the development of the oil industry brought significant changes to the North Slope of Alaska. Outsiders brought money and new opportunities for sin, disrupting traditional society.

In 1954, Paul joined forces with Sherman Duncklee, an Assemblies of God evangelist who was planting a church in nearby Barrow. A significant revival swept Barrow, and then Wainwright. Assemblies of God churches were formed in these towns, and the revival spilled over in to the Presbyterian church and divisions between the churches came down. Paul’s son, Steven, was among the hundreds of converts in the revival. Another convert, Ned Nusunginya, would become the first Eskimo to be ordained by the Assemblies of God.

Paul had prayed since 1913 for revival among the Eskimo people. After 40 years of prayer, a spiritual awakening had finally come to the Eskimos!

The story of Paul Patkotak illustrates several themes in Pentecostal history. The interracial nature of the Azusa Street Revival reverberated through early Pentecostalism, and people from varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds found new life in Christ through Pentecostal churches. Significantly, much of the ministry among early Pentecostals was performed by lay persons, such as Paul. The testimonies of these early converts helped bridge cultural divides and laid the groundwork for the development of revivals and churches.

The July 21, 1963, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel included an account of Paul Patkotak and the Wainwright revival. Read the article, “Arctic Village Turns to God,” by Ida Cecelia Piper, published on pages 24 and 25.

Photograph used with permission of the Apostolic Faith Church (Portland, Oregon).

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Revival We Need,” by Robert C. Cunningham

• “The Vision of the Lord,” by Arch P. Collins

• “The Precious Blood,” by J. Narver Gortner

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
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: http://www.iFPHC.org

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Filed under Biography, History, Missions, Native Americans, Uncategorized