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L.E. Ost and the Early Alaska Covenant Church

L.E. Ost and the Early Alaska Covenant Church

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Published by Adam London
L.E. Ost and the Early Alaska Covenant Church. A book review of Grandpa: A Mission in Alaska.
L.E. Ost and the Early Alaska Covenant Church. A book review of Grandpa: A Mission in Alaska.

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Published by: Adam London on Feb 23, 2013
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Adam LondonHSTY 7390May 14, 2012L.E. Ost and the Early Alaska Covenant ChurchIn his book,
Grandpa: A Mission in Alaska
, Jan-Olov Schroder chronicles both theministry of L.E. Ost,
(whom went by the nickname “Grandpa” for almost 70 years)
 but also the
Covenant mission and the Eskimo lifestyle from the mid 1850‟s to the 1970‟s. However, for the
 purpose of this paper, we will focus of the ministry of Ost and will dabble occasionally into thegreat Covenant mission.
L.E. Ost‟s legal name was
Ludvig Evald Ost, although at birth he was named simplyEvald Ost. Ost was born in 1886 in Morberget, Sweden.
i
When Ost immigrated to America as a
15 year old, he found that Americans could not pronounce “Evald” correctly, and took the legalname of “Ludvig” ins
tead.
ii
Ost worked alongside his father in a country farm, always active in
the Covenant (Mission Friend‟s) church. As a boy, Ost made it known to his family that his
greatest ambition was to become an evangelist or a pastor.As Ost grew old enough to complete his primary school studies, he began looking for 
ways to achieve his dream. Ost soon decided that; “
His goal should be attainable through NorthPark College in Chicago, the Covenant's own school for the training of evangelists
.”
iii
Ost savedevery penny from his farm work for many years so that he could afford the $400 tuition for histime at North Park (in addition to the work study program he participated in). In the fall of 1906,Ost began his studies at North Park.While at North Park, Ost excelled in his studies, and was even picked to go on a missiontrip to Palestine, and with one of two of the original Alaska missionaries, Axel Karlsonnonetheless. Schroder reports the event:
“In the summer of 1907 Mellander undertook a journey
to Palestine together with a Covenant missionary to Alaska, Swedish born Axel E. Karlsson fromthe Eskimo village of Unalakleet. It was Karlsson who funded the trip with money he received
from a gold deposit in Alaska.”
iv
Around the time of his graduation from North Park, Ost alsohad the opportunity to meet the other of the two original Alaska missionaries, Adolf Lydell.Lydell had returned to America because of failing health, but continued to advocate for the causeof the Eskimo mission. Ost was witness to a speech given by Lydell and afterward had a grand
conversation with him. According to Schroder, “
Evald was totally fascinated by what he heardfrom Lydell.
v
 Ost graduated from North Park the spring of 1910 and submitted himself to the Covenantto send him into
a ministry location of their choosing. Ost‟s interest in Alaska was not easily
missed, however, and it came as no surprise that Ost was called to serve in Golovin, Alaska.Along with a church and a reindeer station,
There the mission managed a children's home with
 board and room for about fifty children…”
vi
 
 
However, before diving into Alaska, Ost quickly married his sweetheart, Ruth Elin Hallfrom Ashland, Wisconsin, whom he had met while he was doing an internship the summer of 1908. They were married on July 14, 1910.
Evald and Ruth were married for “
43 happy
years.”
vii
A few days later, the newlyweds were on their way to Alaska.Arriving in Golovin, Ost took over for O.P. Anderson who had taken over for P.H.Anderson. Interestingly, Paul H. Anderson left the Mission to pursue riches in gold, while O.P.Anderson came to Alaska to pursue gold, but gave it up to join the Mission. P.H. Andersonwould strike it rich, but was soon entangled in a very messy legal battle with the Covenantchurch which essentially robbed the Alaska mission of money that should have gone to them andinstead went to the Lower 48. According to Schroder,
“Serious discord had arisen in the
American Covenant because of missionaries becoming involved in the gold business.
viii
 Certainly claims that P.H. Anderson had molested and Eskimo girl did not help the situation.O.P. Anderson, on the other hand went on to marry a skilled nurse, Amanda Johnsson andtogether they managed the Golovin mission station with great faith from 1901-1910.Thankfully, Ost was also not alone in Golovin to manage the church, the reindeer, and theorphanage. Fortunately, a training teacher and nurse, Anna Hadberg and Mary Westdahl werealready at work when Ost arrived and
were always ready f 
or other duties.”
ix
 
Interestingly, even after 23 years of Covenant ministry, Ost noted in 1910 that “
the people in the most isolated villages were still devotees of 
the primeval „shaman religion.‟”
x
Osthad his work cut out for him. Of course Ost first had to try to break down the language barrier  between himself and the Eskimo. However, Ost devoted himself to the task as Schroder reports:
“Like most of the mission workers in the early years, Grandpa Ost soon learned enough of the
language of the Eskimos to carry on simple conversations with them. All of Ost's eight children
also learned the Eskimo language more or less well … It was more important for the Ost children
to understand the language of the aboriginal population than to try to learn Swedish
.”
xi
 During their early years as a family, Ost was known to bring home odd pets for hischildren. On one occasion Ost brought home 2 baby porcupines, although
“One of them died but
the other became for several months the pet of the whole family
.”
xii
Another pet was a goat that
for three years “
was a member of the family just like any of the others.
xiii
Ost also tells a storyof bringing home a crane one time even.From the beginning of his service, Ost always placed a very high value on the Eskimo inchurch leadership. Of course, Ost inherited the tradition of the Alaska Covenant in this area.Speaking of the founding of the Golovin mission, Schroder writes;
“In t
he spring of 1892 AugustAndersson went up to Golovin in a little sailing schooner from Unalakleet. He had StephenIvanoff with him, one of the first Eskimo workers.
xiv
Later, Schroder also write of Ivanoff;
“Stephen Ivanoff was August Andersson's right ha
nd man on many occasions on his travels inthe villages.
xv
Schroder also listed several other Eskimos that were invaluable to the church:
“Frank and Misha Kamaroff, Andrew Kakorin, the siblings Misha and Kaitcha Ivanoff,
Fred Walker, Peter and Dora Egelak, Samuel Anarick, and David Paniptchuk were other Eskimos that the Swedish missionaries could hardly have done without in the building of 
the work…
At a later period others joined as established Eskimo workers, such as JuliusPleasant, Paren Wilson and Minnie Gonongnan, Reuben and Katherine Paniptchuk,
 
Harry and Carrie Soxie, Axel and Clara Oyoumick, Joshua Avinona and many, many
more.”
xvi
 Eskimos also were charged with taking care of the reindeer herds, freeing up Ost to focuson other ministry. When Ost arrived, it was reported that about 13,000 reindeer were owned bythe mission, which had grown from a herd of 100 that had been given by Sheldon Jackson. The
Eskimo herders at the time were reported by Schroder; “
Misha Charles
Sigfrid Aukongauk,Jacob Kenick, Wilson Gonongnan, and Reuben Paniptchuk.
xvii
Of particular note were thelatter three who became the first Native missionaries and pastors more than a decade later.Although Ost is not personally credited with encouraging the three toward ministry, the simplefacts speak for themselves that Ost must have had a hand in it.An interesting side story was that of the Norwegian Lapp reindeer herders that retired inUnalakleet from Teller Mission, the Lutheran mission station. Schroder records:
“These tw
o areMaria Bahr and Andro Bango, both born in Alaska a few years after their parents came toUnalakleet from Kautokeino in northern Norway in 1898... Andro Bango was born in Unalakleetin 1903. His father was Isak Andersson-Banch, a Laplander from Kautokeino.
xviii
 
As part of the Golovin church‟s attempt to support Ost in his ministry, he was given 500 reindeer 
upon his arrival.
xix
Ost had the unfortunate honesty about himself to remark to the Covenantheadquarters in Chicago (who was at the time in the midst of trying to rip the Alaska gold out of 
P.H. Anderson‟s hands) that he might sell his own personal herd to fund the ministry in Golovin.
However, the Covenant powers in Chicago sold those same reindeer without permission or consultation from Ost before he had a chance to sell them himself. Schroder reports;
“The
Executive Board in Chicago itself decided to sell this surplus to get money for the school at North Park in Chicago which was in financial dif 
ficulty at that time.”
As Ost lamented, theAlaska mis
sion did not even receive a “red cent
red cent out of this transaction which amountedto several thousand dollars. That he was deeply disappointed by what had happened is anunderstatement
.”
 
xx
 This underhanded act was carried out by the Chicago Covenant, despite the Chicago
Covenant being “aware of the harsh financial realities” that fac
ed the Alaska Covenant.
xxi
The
financial condition of the Alaska missionaries was bleak, “dwellings for the Ost family as well as
for the other missionaries, was in very poor c
ondition.”
xxii
 Besides financial woes, in 1913, Ost was faced with huge storm that decimated the Norton Sound region. Hundreds of Eskimos on the coast lost their lives, and Golovin was nodifferent. Fearing for their safety, Ost led the people of Golovin to relocate their village.
Schroder reports; “
During the hectic and busy weeks and months before the coming of winter,Grandpa organized and carried out the move from Golovin. Grandpa gave the place the Biblicalname of "Elim", which it retains to this day, a living and well established Eskimo village.
xxiii
 Ost lived and ministered in Elim for 15 years until in 1928 the village of Golovin began
to be resettled. The new settlement was dubbed “new Golovin.”
xxiv
Ost was alwaysdisappointed by the Covenant chur 
ch‟s financial support of the Alaska mission and as a resultwhen he moved back to Golovin, he tendered “
his resignation as an official missionary in theCovenant. But this was only on paper. In spite of the fact that the support of the family was now

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