This little, faded yellow-jacketed paper booklet, published decades ago by the Literature Committee of the Women's Missionary Federation, NCLA, Minneapolis, Minnesota, came to my attention lately as my mother has given me her home library for disposal (she is 97, as of September 13, and is now giving away long-kept items and books). She has many connections with the mostly all the Christian Norwegian or Scandinavian people in this mission field depicted in the account by Mrs. C.K. Malmin.
She met Helen Frost (see the picture of Helen Frost and Mary) at a church convention. Elmer Dahle was her first pastor in Bryant, South Dakota, at the Bryant Lutheran church, back in the early part of the 20th century! Mable Gunderson, listed in the last part of the account, was her friend. Others mentioned in the last portion are relatives of her long-cherished friends, or the friends themselves who are named in this account. Of course, she knew and spoke of the Brevigs as well.
All this is more than enough personal contact for me to find the account meaningful.
Why share this now with The Emmaus Walk students? My chief reason for presenting it to you is that it portrays to me the deep, foundational sacrificial nature of this early Alaskan mission work--it was a life calling WHOLLY dependent on Jesus--and oftentimes took a missionary's life in the bargain. Due to devastating sicknesses (such as measles and the 1918 Influenza, which is now believed to be a dead bird flu epidemic) that struck the areas repeatedly up north, there are many Eskimo graves in the old mission cemeteries, but there are also many missionary graves there too, the remains of the missionaries who died with their boots on at their mission stations, now resting with the remains of humble, beautiful Eskimo believers whom they came to serve and share the Gospel with!
Another reason why this account means a lot to me is that I attended Augustana Academy, a Christian high school in Canton, South Dakota, where two Eskimo boys from Shishmaref, Alaska (where missionaries such as the Rev. and Mrs. Edson Hartje served) were students with me. Once, invited to their room, they showed me their ivory carvings, finished or still in the making, which they carved for quite a sum of money even back then in the late Fifties-- of course, as a poor student working my way through school at the cafeteria, I could not afford their fine artwork, that was clear! One Eskimo boy was carving a cross--a special item for him, he made known to me, as he brought it out to me to view. I did not get to handle any of the carvings--and I got only a brief, unforgettable look. I do not know what these two boys did after graduation from the school. Perhaps they returned to Shismaref their home. Hopefully, I can go to Alaska to look them up and find out some things, as they and their families must still be in Shismaref or the area. But I cannot forget them--as they were the first and only Eskimos I ever met in my life up to this point. Now I know that they were the fruit of Christian Lutheran-based missions in their home state of Alaska, as their village of Shishmaref is identified along with Teller and Igloo (Mary's Igloo) on the map drawn or furnished by Mrs. Malmin for this account.
I do think the theme of sacrificial evangelism shining so brightly in this account ties in significantly with Paul Ariga's account, and also with Lilias Trotter, and Eric Liddell and others who gave up all--fame, fortune, even their lives--for the propagation of the Gospel to the unsaved and lost souls in far corners of the world. For this reason all The Emmaus Walk students will benefit from it, I do believe.--Ronald Ginther, Editor, The Emmaus Walk
Way back in the year 1867, Secretary of State Seward [who had served a few years before under Abraham Lincoln--Ed.] bought Alaska from Russia for $7,200,000. But no one in Washington believed that it was worth anything. They called it "Seward's Folly." But it is a rich land, rich in gold,lumber, oil, fish, and even farm land. The long, sloping shoulders of snow clad mountains are covered with spruce, hemlock, and cedar, growing to the water's edge. Great waterfalls supply power for operating lumber mills and canneries. Every year the fisheries alone yield many times the seven million dollars paid for it. In 1940, $27,658,000 in minerals, mostly gold, was mined. So you see, it is our treasure house, and we must guard it well.
Japan would have liked to snatch it from us, but it is still ours. And it isn't the land that "God forgot," but rather the land that He stocked with great riches, and great beauty, a land of mountains, fjords and forests. It is America's "Land of the Midnight Sun."
The story of the purchase of reindeer for the Eskimos, the hiring of herders from Lapland, and their request for a pastor is a familiar one to us all. We have heard of Rev. Brevig's appointment to the position of government teacher at the Teller station. We know that the Brevigs left in the summer of 1894, and that they were to stay four years. During that time he was not only teacher and pastor for the Norwegian speaking Laplanders (they are named Suomi, by the aboriginal people themselves), but he started the mission work among the heathen Eskimos (whose name for themselves is the Inuit), and continued for over 22 years.
Twenty-three yers later, in July, 1917--just before leaving for the mission field, our party consisting of Rev. and Mrs. Oluf Fosso, my husband, and I visited the Brevigs at their home in Parkland, Washington [which is a five or so miles southeast up the freeway from Puyallup--Ed]. We met the aging missionary and his two daughters. Dagny, the oldest, wsas born at Teller. When we saw their lovely ivory curios made by the Eskimos, their polar bear rugs, their fur parkas and mukluks, and heard their interesting description of the north country, we could scarcely wait for our sailing.
Days had been spent in buying a year's supply of groceries, fuel, and oil for Teller and forthe new mission at Mary's Igloo [to which missionary Mr. and Mrs. Malmin were going in 1917--Ed]. All this besides lumber for the new building, had already been shipped on the S.S. Cordova.
At last came the day for our sailing. The S.S. Umatilla was mooored at the Alaska Steamship Co. dock in Seattle. The Mission Committee composed of the District President, L.C. Foss, and Pastors H.A. Stub, and B.E. Bergesen, who had supervised the buying of supplies, who helped plan the new building, and in whose homes we had been so graciously entertained, came to the dock to bid us "Bon Voyage."
Three short blasts of the ship's whistle gave final warning. The gangplank was drawn in. We could hear the throbbing of the engines deep in the ship's hold. The propellers were churning the water into foam. The great ship slipped back from her mooring into the open water of the Sound, slowly turned and headed northwest toward the straits of Juan de Fuca, and the open sea.
Our short stay in Seattle had been so interesting and exciting. There had been so much to see that was all new. We had seen ships loading for foreign ports; great grey ships with precious cargo, bound for Japan; sleek white freighters of the Norwegian Merchant Marine; passenger vessls, as well as Canadian and American freighters; and halibut schooners leaving for the Alaska fishing banks.
The waterfront atmosphere intrigued us,--the raucous cries of seagulls wheeling overhead, the smell of hemp and tar, and the strange salty tang of sea air. Everything seemed to create a feeling that a great door was opening to a strange new world, and the romance of adventure beyond far horizons.