The Lords Church in Alaska (I)

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

From August 7-16, 1972 I was engaged in two brief gospel meetings with faithful brethren meeting in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska. This was my third meeting with the Anchorage brethren and my second meeting with Christians in Fairbanks. Since many "outside" brethren (as those in Alaska refer to those of us who in the "lower 48" states) have little familiarity with the work of the Lord in Alaska, I thought there might be some interest in a few articles regarding the churchs work there. Alaskans refer to their state as the "Land of Opportunity." I suggest that we might also refer to it as the "Land of Spiritual Opportunity."

Background Information

Alaska became our 49th state as a result of the Statehood Act in 1959, and was the first new state to be added to the Union in 47 years. For ninety-two years, it had been an American possession. Negotiations by Secretary of State, William H. Seward, resulted in the United States buying Alaska from Russia in 1867, for $7,200,000.00. Many Americans thought it was pure folly to buy Alaska. Hence, they began to refer to Alaska as "Seward s Folly," or "Sewards Ice Box," or as "586,000 square miles of icebergs and polar bears." However, Alaska has proved to be militarily strategic to the American defense system, since the Alaska mainland lies only 51 miles from Russia, and Alaskas Little Diomede Island lies only two and one-half miles front Russias Big Diomede Island. This is is the shortest distance between North America and Asia. Recently a very rich oil supply has been discovered on the North Slope of Alaska. The state already has sold development rights to this rich oil strike to a confederation of oil companies for $900,000,000.00. So Sewards folly has not turned out to be so foolish after all. This 1968 discovery of oil has been called "the richest oil strike in the Western Hemisphere" (The San Diego Union. Nov. 15, 1970).

Presently the efforts to lay a 48-inch pipeline 800 miles long front the oil pool to Valdez is being delayed litigation initiated by environmentalists. They seem to think the pipeline might disturb the migration habits of the caribou! Huge piles of these four-foot in diameter pipes may be seen at various spots across Alaska. No doubt this pipeline will eventually be laid, and when it is, there will be another population boom in Alaska.


Alaska is big country! So large, in fact, that the $7,200,000.00 paid for Alaska figures out to about 2 cents an acre. One-fifth of the total land area occupied by the United States is in Alaska. Though it is difficult for us Texans to admit it, Alaska is more than twice as large as Texas. If Alaska ever thaws out, we are going to demand a re-measurement.

Texas is 220 times as large as our smallest state. Rhode Island. However, Alaska has a glacier (Malaspina) larger than Rhode Island. Alaska is 1500 miles long and 1200 miles wide. It has 6,640 miles of coastline; 5,580 miles on the Pacific and 1,060 on the Artie Ocean.

Alaska also is beautiful country. If one loves mountains and lakes and snow, Alaska is for him. Prior to the annexation of Alaska in 1959, Americas highest peak was in California. After Alaskas annexation, that California peak is now 12th highest in the United States. The tallest mountain on the North American continent is Mt. McKinley, which towers 20,320 feet heavenward. Imagine a mountain nearly four miles high. All but one of the active volcanoes in the United States are in Alaska.

Americas "Last Frontier" showed barely more than 300,000 total state populations in the last census. On my way home from Alaska, I had the happenstance to ride from Seattle to St. Louis with Walter Hackle, former Alaskan Governor and recently resigned Presidential Cabinet Member. He supplied me with some of the information contained in these articles. Hickel told me that there are about 45,000 military people (counting dependents) at the many military sites in Alaska. There are between 67,000 and 70,000 natives. Including several tribes of Indians, about 20,000 Aleuts (a people of Russian-Asian origin), and about 15,000 Eskimos. Incidentally, the Anchorage church where I preached has one Athabascan Indian member, and one Eskimo and her family, all of whom are very faithful. Approximately one-half of Alaskas population lives in the Anchorage and Fairbanks areas. Many of the workers in the state are government or civilian military employees.

In the next article I will deal with the early history of the church in Alaska.

November 2, 1972