Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Year of Anniversaries

The purchase that enlarged the United States by one-fifth
Today is the Alaska Purchase Sesquicentennial 
This year, Alaska celebrates the 150th anniversary of its purchase from Russia by the United States (1867-2017). March 30, 1867, U. S. Secretary of State William H. Seward and Russian Foreign Minister Eduard de Stoeckl signed the 1867 Treaty of Cession, by which Russia agreed to sell Russian America to the United States for $7.2 million. April 9, the U. S. Senate ratified the treaty by a 37-2 vote. May 28, President Andrew Johnson signed the ratification, and on October 18, the formal transfer took place at Sitka, where the American flag was first raised in Alaska. Since 1917, Alaskans have celebrated October 18 as Alaska Day. Often referring to Alaska as "Seward's Folly," most American's had no idea what a bargain the purchase was. Gold taken out of the Treadwell Gold Mine in Juneau between 1881 and 1922 alone more than yielded the purchase price.

2017 is a year of anniversaries for us too. 

My husband and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. But that's not all.

Fifty years ago this May 22, we graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), which marks the 100th anniversary of its founding this year (1917-2017).

At commencement, Bob also received a regular commission in the U. S. Army, but he was not called to active duty until September. (At the time, he planned to make the Army his career. But God had different plans. After he spent 6 years on active duty, including a tour in Vietnam, God called him into the ministry. (See previous post, The Real Enemy.)

Our 50th Wedding Anniversary (1967-2017)
Three weeks after we graduated from college, Bob and I got married on June 10, 1967, in Valdez, where my parents were pastoring. Ours was the first wedding held in the new town of Valdez built after the devastating 1964 earthquake made the site of the old town so unstable that the town had to be moved 5 miles away.

50th Anniversary of Fairbanks' Record-breaking Flood. 
That summer, Bob worked for the State of Alaska Highway Department, and I was a cashier at the Alaska Purchase Centennial Exposition on the Chena River in Fairbanks. In August, the Chena River overflowed its banks and flooded the city of Fairbanks. We were flooded out of our house, and my job was gone too. (This story is detailed in my post, Floods, Fires, and Footsteps.)

100th Anniversary of the Alaska Assemblies of God
Even more significant to me and my family is the fact that 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the arrival of my grandparents, the Rev. & Mrs. Charles C. Personeus, in Juneau, Alaska, as the first Assemblies of God (AG) missionaries to that territory. The church they founded in Juneau is still a vibrant congregation.

The story of the founding of the Juneau AG church and the first 65 years of the Alaska Assemblies of God is told in my book, Frontiers of Faith. (To order or to read reviews, click here.)

The church has invited me to speak at their celebration this fall of 100 years of continuous ministry of what is now called Juneau Christian Center. What a fitting 50th wedding anniversary trip that will be!

I lived in Juneau from 1948 to 1958. That church is especially significant to me because my spiritual foundation was formed in that church during my crucial grade school years.

Last fall, I edited a book for the Alaska Ministry Network of the Assemblies of God, written by Jack Aiken, which recounts the growth of our fellowship in Alaska from one mission station in Juneau to numerous churches and ministries across the Great Land over the past 100 years. The book, Called to the Last Frontier-The Assemblies of God in Alaska 1917-2017, includes biographical accounts of seventy Alaska missionaries. It will be released at the Alaska Ministry Network conference in April in celebration of a their centennial.

The 40th Year of Our Pastoral Ministry in New York State. 
In 1917, my grandparents left from their Bible school in Rochester, New York, to journey to Alaska. In 1977, exactly 60 years later, Bob and I spoke about our call to plant a church in New York at the District Council held in Bethel AG church in Rochester right across the street from the location of the former Rochester Bible Training School.

The 40th Anniversary of Kingsboro Assembly of God in Gloversville, New York
In 1977, we planted the AG church in Gloversville, New York, holding the first Sunday service at the YMCA in September. Nine years later, we purchased the historic Kingsboro Church, which has been its home ever since. This year, the church we planted celebrates 40 years of continuous ministry.

As we look back, our hearts well up with praise. Just as Balaam said of the nation of Israel in his God-inspired oracle in Numbers 23:23, we exclaim,

"Look what God has done!" 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

When Foundations Tremble

March 27 is the 53rd anniversary of the devastating 9.2 earthquake that hit Alaska on Good Friday, 1964. All of my immediate family, except me, lived in Seward at the time. I was away at college in Seattle. For a week, I didn't know if I still had a family. This catastrophic event changed my life. (I told this story in five blog posts entitled, In a Matter of Minutes, Parts 1-5.)

Seward before and after the 1964 earthquake

Ten years later, my first writing to ever be published appeared in March 24, 1974, issue of The Pentecostal Evangel. Here it is in its entirety:

When the Foundations Tremble

Fourth Avenue, the main street of Anchorage, the morning after
At precisely 5:35 p.m. on March 27, 1964, a massive slippage in the earth's crust below Prince William Sound in the Gulf of Alaska began a far-reaching earthquake. Known as the Good Friday Earthquake, it left every city, town, village, and connecting highway within a 300-mile radius in ruins.

Building crumbled, Beautiful residential areas sloughed off into the sea. Streets and buildings sank many feet below their previous level. Bridges were suddenly thrust several feet higher than the crumpled ribbons of highways--if they were left standing at all. Railroad tracks were twisted grotesquely. Ruptured fuel storage tanks belched fire and oily black smoke for days.

A series of gigantic tidal waves, generated by the sudden displacement of the ocean floor, swept entire villages into the Gulf of Alaska. These waves hurled railroad engines like sticks and snapped trees like toothpicks. They carried homes hundreds of yards before smashing them against cliffs.

More than a hundred lives were lost. Thousands were left homeless, including many Assemblies of God families. Thousands more were left without heat in freezing temperatures, with smashed dishes, shattered windows, and broken water, fuel, and sewer lines. Telephone and electric lines were down. Fires burned out of control. Church buildings were destroyed.

Particularly hard hit was the little town of Valdez, nestled among rugged, glacier-filled mountains on a fjord of Prince William Sound. The waterfront vanished completely. Thirty-one longshoremen went to watery graves as the bay swallowed up the dock where they were unloading a ship. L. Duane Carriker, an Assemblies of God missionary, was among those who lost their lives at Valdez.

Valdez before and after the 1964 Earthquake
Earthquakes, tidal waves, and fires turned many areas into a shambles. Yet out of the rubble, courageous Alaskans began to put their world back together. First was the staggering clean-up job. Then divers and surveyors had to determine the stability of the earth before homes, buildings, docks, and highways could be rebuilt.

The people of Valdez were shocked to learn that  their picturesque little town was not on solid  ground as they had thought. Divers exploring  the  coastline below the water level discovered  Valdez was built on a ledge that could break off  into the sea at any time!

 And so it is with men today. Seeking security,  men and women surround themselves with  material possessions, insurance, bank accounts,  family, and friends; but in the time of stress,  they  find they have built their lives on shaky foundations.

Have you examined the foundation of your life and found it shaky and unsure? There is a remedy. The people of Valdez moved their entire town to a safer location five miles away.

Jesus told of two men who built homes--one on the sand and the other on a rock. When the storms came, the house on the sand fell and "great was the fall of it." But the house built on the rock stood firm (Matthew 7:24-27).

Jesus is that Rock, the only firm and lasting Foundation. The Bible tells us, "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:11). You can depend on Jesus. He signed the guarantee with His own blood on Calvary. Won't you accept His offer today? The Bible says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31). You can be on a sure Foundation that will never be shaken!

I hope you enjoyed this blast from the past. If you would like to read an account of my experiences in this earthquake, you may enjoy the story I wrote, "An Earthquake Full of Blessings." It is published in a new collection just released from Bethany House Publishers:" Gifts from Heaven: True Stories of Miraculous Answers to Prayer compiled by James Stuart Bell. Click to view it on Amazon.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Coming Soon! Beside Still Waters, Book 3 in Alaskan Waters Trilogy

Wow! It's been a month since I wrote a blog post. I've been working through the editing process with my publisher on Beside Still Waters, the third book in my Alaskan Waters Trilogy. I thought you might like to see a quick overview of the entire series.

The Alaskan Waters Trilogy is the saga of the loves, tragedies, and second chances in a fictitious Norwegian immigrant family, the Pedersens, who must battle the beautiful but often dangerous waters of early twentieth century Southeast Alaska (where I grew up in the fifties and sixties) to find love and happiness in the midst of suffering.

Cover photo: Pelican

"Mommy! Wake up!" a little girl screams. 

But the woman on the beach lies cold and wet and still.

In Book One, Till the Storm Passes By, Evie Parker, a timid Rhode Island schoolteacher, is plagued by a recurring nightmare from her childhood. What does it mean? Who is the woman? She must travel to Alaska in 1953 to unravel the mystery of her nightmares and her mother's deathbed confession.

"Oh, Kristina, what have I done? 

No matter what you hear about me, you're the one I love."

In Book Two, A Star to Steer By, tales of easy wealth entice 19-year-old Norman Pedersen, a poor Norwegian fisherman, to immigrate to Alaska in 1920, asking his sweetheart, Kristina, to wait for him, but Norman becomes entrapped in a "prison" of his own making. Achieving his goal is harder than he expects.

Coming in May! Beside Still Waters, Book Three

Is she jumping from a city firetrap factory into a wilderness icebox? 

Lake Laberge, Yukon Territory,
Featured in Beside Still Waters
In the third and final book in the series, Beside Still Waters, Violet Channing, orphaned at a young age, is tossed about by life's turbulent waters when the aunt who raised her dies. Living in a Boston tenement in 1915, barely able to survive, she wants nothing more than to escape the firetrap garment factory where she is employed and become a teacher.

She accepts a job as a live-in teacher for a sick, motherless child in the harsh Yukon Territory. Just when her life feels as beautiful as her new surroundings, tragedy strikes again. Can she find a new reason to live?

Can Violet allow her losses to make her better not bitter and learn to love again?

Beside Still Waters is another story of love, family, and second chances in the Pedersen family saga.

Where I Get My Ideas

Cover photo: the church at
built by the Personeuses
The novels in my Alaskan Waters Trilogy are entirely fiction but are based on true incidents I uncovered while researching my nonfiction book, Frontiers of Faith, which tells the adventure-filled story of my maternal grandparents, Charles C. and Florence L. Personeus, who went to Alaska, "The Last Frontier," as missionaries in 1917 and spent 65 years there.

My grandparents knew the real people behind my characters in my Alaskan Waters Trilogy--Evie, Norman, Kristina, and Violet. These stories tickled my imagination. They would not leave me alone until I fleshed them out and wove them together into the life-and-death saga of a fictitious Norwegian immigrant family representative of the many Scandinavians living in Alaska's Panhandle.

Other characters are composites of people I knew. Some of the events are based on real occurrences and historical events. Others are entirely the invention of my own imagination, but the setting is the Alaska I knew and loved while growing up there.

Me at Beavertail
enjoying the waves
Now that I live in New York State, Beavertail Lighthouse in Rhode Island, featured in Till the Storm Passes By, is still a favorite one-day getaway for my husband and me. We discovered it while we were stationed in Rhode Island in the U.S. Army when my husband came back from Vietnam. Our son was born at nearby Quonset Point Naval Station.

My Uncle Byron Personeus operated a mission boat in Southeast Alaska from 1945 to 1957. As a two-year-old, I traveled with my parents on the last leg of our move from Philadelphia (featured in A Star to Steer By) to Alaska on his boat. I had a face-to-face encounter with a bear in Juneau when I was four.  When I was 13, I spent a week on a troller fishing for salmon near Pelican, one of the places featured in Till the Storm Passes By. These experiences and more inform my writing.

My uncle's first mission boat,the Fairtide II, in Pelican, 1948

Where to Get My Books

If you haven't read my books yet and want to read them before Book Three comes out, you can purchase them through my website book page at,, at Ambassador International,, Barnes & Noble (, iTunes, Kobo, Vyrso,, or they can be ordered through bookstores. All of the books in the Alaskan Waters Trilogy are available in paperback and ebook (all readers). Frontiers of Faith is only available in paperback.

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