The Church that Almost Wasn't - Part II of III

In 1913 a young man from Mayville, NY named John Larson married a Jamestown girl by the name of Julia Stoters. Julia had a sister who married a Jamestown man by the name of George Olson around the same time.

Shortly after World War I ended, John and George heard about some relatives out in Minnesota whose hardware business was failing. Both were successful shopkeepers here in Jamestown, so they thought they could help save their relative’s store out west.

About the same time the couples headed west, the Alliance work was just getting underway in Jamestown, unbeknownst to them.

The hardware store was located in Bock, MN. Bock was a small town of about 400, and is still there today. But God had another reason for allowing the Larsons and Olsons to journey to Minnesota. They were not that far from St. Paul, where the Alliance had begun a Bible training institute. Not only that, a revival movement was occurring in the area. Somehow the young families found themselves in attendance at some of these revival meetings and heard the likes of Paul Rader and Gus Johnson. Paul was a dynamic man sometimes labeled the “cowboy evangelist” and other times, the “boxer-turned-evangelist.” His life traversed a wide range of experiences including being a ranch hand in Wyoming, college football player and boxer, sparring partner for heavy weight champions, business man, and finally preacher, evangelist, and songwriter. At the time the Larson’s and Olson’s came under his influence, he was president of the C&MA and also pastor of Moody Bible Church. Paul’s time as president was concluded by 1922, but his impact on the Alliance’s focus on world-wide missions continued on beyond that. His impact on the Larson’s and the Olson’s also continued.

As a result of all this, John and Julia wondered if they were called to full-time service. Both enrolled at St. Paul Bible Institute in 1922 for a cost of about $12 a year. Following their first year, John was offered a small church in Minnesota. They moved to their new location, but soon realized that pastoring was not their calling.

Both families decided to return east, determined to serve as dedicated lay people. Now that they had been introduced to the Alliance, the Jamestown Gospel Tabernacle –as it was known for its first 25 years –was where they felt God wanted them to be. For Julia, it was a sacrifice as she had grown up in the Swedish Covenant Church of Jamestown and still had many family and friends attending there. But her commitment was to serve where the Lord led them, so together they began attending the Alliance church. The year was 1924.

By this time, Rev. Baggett was the pastor and the church had purchased the building on 304-306 East 2nd Street. However, it was struggling with few members, and a burdensome mortgage of $20,000, which the bank was threatening to foreclose on. John and George took a big step of faith at the time. Though each was just getting back into the grocery store business, they co-signed the church mortgage, without which foreclosure would have taken place. They would have been the last to make much of this; it is just what they felt should be done. It was touch and go for them and the church to survive financially, but the Lord saw them through it, even when John had a ruptured appendix and was out of work for a month. Thus, the Alliance work in Jamestown was able to remain on its feet through those early years and continue until it eventually outgrew its storefront facility.

Thanks to God’s orchestration, the right people were in the right place at the right time and the church was able to keep its doors open.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rev. Paul Rader, Second President of the C&MA

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