Opportunity in North Dakota

Ray Ferris
Elgin, Illinois

There has been no church of the Lord meeting in Jamestown, North Dakota, a small city of about sixteen thousand souls. The closest churches were in Bismarck to the west, and Fargo to the east and either is about 100 miles. Some have tried to make such a journey in order to worship with brethren until recently. Several months ago I was contacted about assisting in an effort to get a sound conservative work started in Jamestown. After correspondence with a lovely generous couple there who love the Lord and His cause with zeal and determination, after discussion with other brethren in Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and after a trip over to Jamestown by brethren Albert Wanous and Paul Earnhart to survey the situation, it was decided that a group of us would go over and make a concentrated effort to assist in this call for help.

Accordingly, Gordon Pennock (who worked in Bismarck seven years at one time), Albert Wanous and his wife, Paul Earnhart, and I spent several days in the city during November. We are all very much enthused about the possibilities there. We conducted a series of gospel meetings in an old rented church building. The building is now being used by a group who exalt the Sabbath (they meet late on Friday evening for their service) and who have strong "Holiness" backgrounds (they believe strongly in miraculous healing, tongues, Holy Spirit baptism, etc). The main leader in this group is soon to leave for Israel (this is doubtless in connection with premilennial beliefs on his part) and there is a great question about the future of the group when he does leave. Several in it are now not pleased about some of the teaching and practice. This kind of background for the building was a handicap for us to overcome in meeting efforts without doubt. However, these people did provide an audience, along with others we drew from the community, for the proclamation of the word. Some of them attended every one of our meetings.

We had opportunity to study with them after services were dismissed, and were invited into their homes for further study. They demonstrate a wonderful attitude toward the study of the scriptures, and even regarding points where we are in complete disagreement. After these several days with them in this kind of concentrated effort, some of them wept at the necessity of our departure. We have great hopes for some of them.

We were able to locate one more family, beside the couple with whom I had begun the correspondence, who are members of the body of Christ. They say they will plan to attend in Jamestown if a church can be planted there. Another family who speak of themselves as members of the church of Christ (they are associated with the group using the mechanical instrument) were also present for one of the services. They indicated a willingness to attend and investigate matters further, but thus far have given little evidence that they are very greatly concerned.

In our work there we distributed many tracts, knocked on many doors, advertised in the paper, etc. Our reception was unusually favorable and warm when all is considered. Jamestown is a growing city in a beautiful location in the plains of North Dakota. Two small colleges are in the city, and it seems to be a prosperous place.

Others are hoping to go at a later time to keep the meetings going. Presently these meetings are conducted in the Otter Tail Power Company Community Room at 217 First Avenue North. Thought has been given, and is still being given, to the making of other arrangements for a place (this room has to be temporary) and will depend upon what other results are obtained in the near future.

There are several urgent needs regarding this effort. First, I plead with brethren that they remember the efforts that are being made in their prayers to God. Jamestown can be the beginning of a work in North Dakota that sorely needs to be done. Every church in the state is weak numerically, and all have been under the influence of the institutional movement and the social gospel concept to some degree. We are persuaded the Lord may "have much people in this city" and even in the state if proper efforts can he put forth to reach them. Pray we may do so. Second, we desperately need a man to move to Jamestown. He needs to be a man who is mature and experienced, if possible, and one who is not afraid of a bit of snow and other things that go with a northern winter. Who will come over into North Dakota and help with this task? Third, we need information regarding relatives and friends who may be contacted in the area. Send the names and addresses in care of Charles Dick, Box 95, Courtenay, North Dakota, to me, or to one of these others who have been involved in the work. Fourth, until we can find a man who will move there, we need preachers and/or mature Christians to go there and spend some time helping in the work. Finally, it may be that we will need someone to lend financial assistance at a later date. Due to the marvelous generosity of Charles and Sarah Dick this last is not a matter of urgency at the moment. They truly love the Lord.

Brethren, we believe that in the language of Paul we may say that "a great door and effectual is opened unto" us in Jamestown. We do not say this door was opened unto us in the same manner as those opened unto Paul in Ephesus and Troas (I Cor. 16:9 and 2 Cor. 2:12), but who can say this is not of the Lord? Brethren, we must seize this opportunity!

February 1969