Thursday, September 17, 2015

Blast from the Past

I thought I had collected all the historical memorabilia about my missionary grandparents, Charles C. and Florence L. Personeus, when I wrote my book, Frontiers of Faith, about their adventures of living by faith in Alaska from 1917 to 1982.

Then last week I received an unexpected call. The Alaska Ministry Network of the Assemblies of God in Alaska is writing a book of the history of the Assemblies of God in a Alaska for their centennial celebration coming up in 2017.

Since my grandparents were the first missionaries from our Fellowship to go to Alaska and they spent 65 years ministering there, their story would be featured in the book.

As Jack Aiken, the designated writer, gathered materials for the book, he had found a box some unknown person had left at the ministry office in Anchorage. The items in the box, according to Jack, were more of a personal nature, probably of interest only to the family.

He described photos, cards, postcards, memo books and tablets containing my grandma's writing. When he read a signature on several tiny greeting cards from 1908 to 1912, it caught my ear. I recognized it as my grandma's great-aunt Salome, who had spent 40 years as a missionary in India and had influenced Grandma to become a missionary too.

"We'd be happy to send you the box," Jack said.

I thanked him. After chatting about the early days in Alaska, we said goodbye.

When the box arrived, I looked through it eagerly. What fun to see what it contained!

Grandma never had been able to throw things away. And she had carried on an extensive correspondence with hundreds of people, sending birthday cards and letters to everyone she ever met in their travels across the United States to itinerate for support. When at the age of ninety, due to health concerns, she and Grandpa had to move from Alaska to Washington State to live with my parents, much had been finally discarded.

Where did this box come from? The personal nature of the items obviously indicated that they had belonged to Grandma, and she had saved them for sentimental reasons. Yet, they were not items she would have given to anyone but family. None of our family have lived in Alaska since the 1980s. Who donated them to the Ministry office in Anchorage will probably forever remain a mystery.

One 3 1/2 x 6-inch little booklet among the personal items caught my eye: "A Hand Book of Vacation Trips in Alaska and the Yukon on the White Pass and Yukon Route," printed in the United States in 1938. Its 55 pages contain historical background, descriptions of points of interest, and photos of scenic routes, complete with train and boat schedules, distances, and fares.

This guidebook confirms and clarifies all the extensive research I have done online for the historical background for the major setting of the third book I am currently writing in my Alaskan Waters series of historical Christian fiction.

Grandma is no longer here to answer my questions about the early days, but this booklet she saved does.

Is that coincidence? I think not!

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