“Brief History of SEND North”
-Dr. Gary J. Ridley
The mission organization known as SEND North began as Central Alaskan Missions (Incorporated in New Jersey in 1936). CAM became a Division of Far Eastern Gospel Crusade in 1971. In 1982 the name was changed to SEND International of Alaska and in 2009 the name was changed to SEND North. SEND North is part of SEND International that has ministries in over 20 countries around the world.
When in High School, Vince Joy sensed a definite leading of the Lord to serve as a missionary to Alaska. His commitment to Jesus Christ shows in his personal covenant written during his High School years:
My Personal covenant with my Savior and King: Lord, I give up my own purposes and plans, all my own desires, hopes and ambitions, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to thee to be Thine forever. I hand over to Thee all my friendships; all the people whom I love are to take second place in my heart. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Work out Thine own will in my life, at any cost, now and forever. I’ll follow on, my King! I’ll follow Thee, come what may, until my life’s work on earth is done, then …. Eternity with Thee! Amen. 1 Thess. 5:23,24; Phil. 1:21 - Vincent J. Joy, January 1, 1930 Ad majorem Dei gloriam (Into the copper River Valley, 11)
While a student at Moody Bible Institute, Vince met an Alaskan missionary, “Father McIntosh,” who encouraged him to go to the Copper River Valley. While much of the information about the Copper River Valley was not accurate, Vince took this as the Lord’s leading.
In 1937 Vince and Beckie Joy left New Jersey on April 30 headed for Alaska, after two weeks traveling they arrived in Copper Center May 14. The group consisted of Vince and Beckie, their 15-month old son Jimmie, Austin Joy (Vince’s brother), and Lillian Scott (an RN). Harold Gillam (a famous bush pilot) flew them to Copper Center. When they landed a young native man told them missionaries were not needed and to go home. Vince told Beckie God had sent them and they were staying. Years later that young man came to the Lord and became one of the Native Pastors.
They rented a one room cabin behind the Roadhouse for the summer and acquired land and started to build a log home. There was a piano at the Roadhouse so Beckie played and they started “Sing Songs” every Sunday night with the understanding that Vince wouldn’t preach so he “talked” around the Hymns. Afternoon Sunday School classes were started and that fall regular services were started in their log home.
Chapel on the Hill in Copper Center was built in 1942 with the help of Army personnel from the Dry Creek camp. Vince visited door to door building relationships with the local people and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He often traveled by dog team to other communities in the area. Services were started at Chapel on the Hill Christmas Day 1942.
The Early Years:
It was not until 1946 that a second missionary was added to Central Alaskan Missions. The Rev. Russell Clark and his wife joined the Joys. He became the Pastor at Copper Center and the Joys moved to Glennallen, a tent city road camp for construction of the Glenn Highway to Anchorage. Glennallen Community Chapel was dedicated on Christmas Eve 1946. Glennallen would become the headquarters of CAM and the location for Faith Hospital, radio station KCAM, and Alaska Bible College.
In the late 40s many Natives turned to the Lord from a life of alcohol abuse. There were Bible studies in Gulkana, Gakona, Chistochina, Kenny Lake, Tazlina, as well as Glennallen and Copper Center. In 1947 Vince worked together with Johnny Gillespie in beginning the ministry that became Victory Bible Camps. Vince saw the need for an airplane to help in visitation and to meet medical needs. He had started flying lessons in 1946 and the Lord provided a Piper Clipper named “Good News” in 1949.
Vince had been praying for the Lord to provide a Doctor to meet the medical needs of the Copper River Valley for years. After they moved to Glennallen he started excavation for a hospital in 1949. The excavation was called “the mud hole” by many who did not believe that Vince could ever get a Doctor to come to Glennallen. Vince knew that he couldn’t but trusted that the Lord could. In 1950 Dr. Schneider arrived as the first Dr. for what would become Faith Hospital (now Cross Road Medical Center). A 1949 Chevy Carryall was used as an ambulance. A one room cabin and a small trailer served as an office. Minor operations took place in the Joy’s kitchen and births took place in homes. Dr. Pinneo arrived in 1954 and clinics started in outlying areas.
In the early 1950s the beginnings of a Bible School were formulated to equip new believers to lead in the growing churches. The Native Bible School dovetailed with the Native Bible Conference during the Fourth of July week. Students would plan and develop curriculum for children and messages for adults. The conference had started in 1947 as a one-day activity as an alternative to drinking and expanded to a week-long conference planned by the students of the Bible School in 1953. The Native Bible Training School had 6 students in 1954. Native Gospel teams were traveling to surrounding villages by 1956.
1956 was an eventful year for Central Alaskan Missions. The organizational structure, purposes, and doctrinal statement were put into writing. CAM was incorporated in Alaska with a board of seven men elected from the membership. Faith Hospital was completed and dedicated to the glory of God. Al Kelley was lost at sea in Prince William Sound traveling from Ellamar where he and his family were located while reaching out to the village of Tatitlek. The news publication “Alaska Nuggets” also began that year.
In 1959 Harry Johns, Jim McKinley, Ben Neeley, and Fred Ewan were licensed to preach the Gospel following the Mission requirements: (1) Born again Christian, (2) Consistent Christian Life, (3) Church membership, (4) A Call to preach, (5) Three years of Bible School training, (6) Recommendation by Bible School Teachers. (Into the Copper River Valley,
142,145). In 1972 these men were ordained by Glennallen Community Chapel.
Seeing the value of a radio station for the advancement of the gospel, CAM applied for a construction permit in 1958. The engineers had completed the final equipment test 12 hours before the March 27, 1964 Good Friday 9.2 magnitude Earthquake occurred. There was no real damage to the station and KCAM went on air immediately in an emergency capacity broadcasting emergency announcement for the Civil Defense. Full licensure followed shortly after and regular programing began. A combination of news, community service, and evangelistic and Bible teaching programing has helped strengthen the churches in the listening area.
Planning for Alaska Bible College had begun in 1957. Although there were some disagreements the mission decided to “make it a Bible college – a college of Bible granting a baccalaureate degree.” (Into the Copper River Valley, 147). Several Pastors commended the board for taking such a step of Faith. Vince and the majority were convinced that this decision was the leading of the Holy Spirit and resisted efforts to change that decision (Into the Copper River Valley, 161). In 1966 Alaska Bible College opened with 3 faculty, 2 full-time students, and 10 part-time students. Classes were held in Glennallen Chapel that first year.
“On August 31 following several days of a rapid and progressive illness diagnosed later as inoperable brain disease, Vince entered into the presence of God” (Into the Copper River Valley, 242, see also 245, 246). With Alaska Bible College to open within two weeks, ‘“all the things Vince had for goals,” said Beckie, “were accomplished when the Lord took him.”’ (Alaskan Nuggets, Spring 1981,4).
The first group of Summer Missionaries came the summer of 1966. Don and Millie Ressler became the leaders of the Summer Missions Program (SMP) in 1970. Throughout the years of SMP many young people experienced cross-cultural ministry and many later became career missionaries with SEND and other agencies around the world. As the ministry of SEND North expanded and the administrative offices were moved to Anchorage, SMP dwindled in numbers. The final year of SMP was 2010.
In 1971 Central Alaskan Missions merged with Far Eastern Gospel Crusade. Until the name was changed to SEND in 1982, missionaries were part of “Central Alaskan Missions, a Division of Far Eastern Gospel Crusade.”
During the Pipe Line construction, 1974-1977, CAM provided 7 chaplains for the construction camps alone the Pipe Line route. Also, in the early 1970s church planting expanded into the Yukon Territory of Canada.
In September 1981 CAM’s twin engine Beechcraft airplane went down in Prince William Sound coming back from Petersburg where a new radio station was being built. Five went to be with the Lord: “Phil Armstrong, co-founder and former general director of FEGC; Paul Mortenson, consultant to the mission; Bill Ballou, field treasurer and project co-ordinator for KRSA; Wanda Ediger, short-termer in the radio division, planning to return for extended service; and Paul Backlund, short-term missionary pilot.” (Nuggets, Fall 1987,13).
In addition to the Mission name change two other significant events occurred in 1982. Alaska Bible College achieved Accredited Status with the American Association of Bible Colleges (now the Association for Biblical Higher Education). Radio station KRSA began broadcasting in Petersburg, Alaska.
In 1984 Beckie Joy went to be with the Lord. She always stressed that when a need arose in the ministry the Lord provided in his timing. Beckie always looked to the Lord for her strength finding him the best counselor and companion.
As the institutional ministries matured the field Council began to consider the process of transition to independent boards. This discussion had some opposition as some thought it better to keep all the institutions together to enable those that were revenue producing to underwrite the church planting effort. Others thought that turning these institutions over to Christian boards would enable SEND North to focus more on church planting.
In the late 1980s the Church Division conducted an extensive demographic study seeking to identify every community with a population of 100 people or more excluding major cities. The study was completed in December of 1989. In the next few years the Soviet Union opened to mission work and the Church Division Director (Robert Crane) and some other SEND North missionaries transferred to that field. For a few years Far East Russia was administered from the Alaska field until a Far East Russia SEND office developed. This had a big impact on the Church division for several years.
Alaska Bible College formed an Advisory Board in 1981 which eventually provided the foundation for an independent board of directors. But it was Cross Road Medical Center that became the first institution to form its own corporation under a local Christian Board in 1988. Northern Light Network (KCAM and KRSA) became a Subsidiary Corporation of SEND of Alaska in 1992. Alaska Bible College became a Subsidiary Corporation of SEND of Alaska in 1996.
While the institutional ministries were maturing the Church Division continued to shrink until by the end of the 1990s there were only 2 couples planting churches. The opening of Far East Russia was a major drain on church planting in Alaska and Yukon Territory. The 2 couples in the Church Division were both in the Yukon Territory so there were no Church Planters in Alaska with SEND. In 2002 SEND of Alaska took steps to refocus on Church Planting with the launch of “105 in 5”: a recruitment strategy to increase the number of church planters in the North.
In 2010 both Alaska Bible College and Northern Light Network became independent corporations. KRSA has closed and KCAM has reorganized under the name Joy Media Ministries, Inc.
Eleven churches have been planted by SEND and are now functioning on their own. Some are doing well, and others struggle. They are Glennallen Community Chapel, Kenny Lake Community Chapel, Eagle Bible Chapel, Faith Chapel (Tok), Dawson Gospel Chapel (YT), Mendeltna Community Chapel, Copper Center Community Chapel, Gulkana Community Chapel, Japanese Church in Anchorage, Bettles Bible chapel, Faro Bible Chapel (YT).
Out of the Copper River Valley:
105 in 5 produced a great increase in church planters, including school teachers and other bi-vocational workers. With the focus on villages in western Alaska and the desire to expand eastward in the 60-70 window (the area between 60 and 70 degrees latitude which includes most of Alaska and the Territories of Canada) SEND North moved its headquarters to Anchorage in 2011. “Saturate in Seven” followed “105 in 5” as the mission vision. In 2017 SEND North restated its vision to “Make Northern Disciple-Makers.”