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