Collection 407 Records of InterAct Ministries
Scope and Contents
Correspondence, minutes, newsletters, brochures, handbook, video tapes, and historical sketches documenting the ministry of the mission. Topics covered include administration of the mission, the Arctic Bible Institute, infant baptism, the Moravian Church, Arctic Training Center, Victory High School, Multi Media Production, the correspondence school program, Victory Bible Camp, Slavic Gospel Association's transfer of its work in Alaska to AMI, Native Institute of Canada, Native Bible Centre of Canada, the relationship of village missionaries to the teachers in government-run schools for the Indians, recruitment of staff, interorganizational relations, work possibilities in Canada, ministry among Sikhs in western Canada and other mission-related topics. These materials comprise only a small portion of those created by the mission. Correspondence includes internal communication with AMI administrators such as Wallace Bays.
- Created: 1947-1989
Conditions Governing Access
There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.
Biographical or Historical Information
Following World War II, several independent missionaries in Alaska agreed to work and plan together in their efforts to evangelize native Alaskan Indian, Aleut, and Inuit peoples. Led by John Gillespie, pastor of the Church of the Open Door in Anchorage, they founded Victory Bible Camp (VBC) near mile 95 of the Glenn Highway near Index Lake, in 1947. The camp was intended as a means of Gospel outreach for all Alaskan young people and adults.
These missionaries and John Gillespie began to pray about the possibility of forming a mission organization. In September of 1951, Jim Vaus, a former aide to gangster Micky Cohen who had been converted at one of Billy Graham's crusades, came through Alaska on a speaking tour. Several of these independent missionaries came to Anchorage to hear him, and a group of them met at the home of Marvin Webber, including Marvin Hurt, Kenneth Hughes, Floyd Gilman, and John Gillespie. They decided the time for a formal organization had come, and founded Alaska Missions, Inc. (AMI), with John Gillespie as General Director. Dr. John Mitchell, pastor of Central Bible Church in Portland, Oregon and President of the Multnomah Bible College Board of Trustees, was a close friend and advisor to Gillespie in this effort.
Sixteen independent missionaries formed the core of the organization, and the force grew to 175 by 1980. In 1956, the name was changed to Arctic Missions, Inc., because two cults were using similar names, and the board of directors also hoped to branch out into Canada someday.
The mission's headquarters remained in Anchorage until 1958, when Gillespie gave up his pastorate in Anchorage and moved to Portland, Oregon. In 1965 the offices were moved to Boring, Oregon.
The early focus of the work of AMI missionaries was on evangelism and church planting in rural villages throughout Alaska. In 1959, they began a boarding high school for Native Americans, using the facilities next to Victory Bible Camp. Victory High School (VHS) served young people from all over the state. Victory Bible Camp remained a separate entity from AMI until 1970 (although many of the same people served on both boards of directors), when it was legally assumed by Arctic Missions. The camp program grew, especially following Alaskan statehood in 1959, and by the mid-1980's provided a variety of offerings for both Native Americans and white young people. After Victory High School's closing in 1982, the facilities were used year round as a Christian conference center.
AMI began the Arctic Bible Institute (ABI) in 1963, also on the site near Victory Bible Camp. The Institute provided a three year program especially designed to train graduates of Victory High School and other Native American adults for leadership in Native American churches throughout the state. In 1972, ABI moved to a location near Palmer, Alaska, to provide closer access to Anchorage, both to help attract more students by being nearer to a large population center, and to enable the school's students to participate in ministry in the city.
Before the closing of the high school, both it and ABI were administered by the Arctic Training Center, which also had oversight of the Multi Media Program (MMP). MMP produced evangelistic radio programs and audio tapes, and administered the Arctic Bible Correspondence School, founded in 1973 and located on Lazy Mountain in Palmer, Alaska. Bible correspondence courses were sent all over the state, and to several foreign countries, to those who could not arrange to come to Arctic Bible Institute.
In 1967, AMI branched out to work in British Columbia, Canada, beginning with rural work in Indian villages, much as they had in Alaska. In 1971 AMI established a Canadian counterpart to Victory High School, the Native Institute of Canada. After only a few years, the school was discontinued in favor of short term Bible courses and conferences, but later, a one year Bible school was begun, the Native Bible Centre.
In 1979-80, as the result of an inter-denominational survey of evangelical work in Canada, AMI placed missionaries in British Columbia, Alberta & Saskatchewan. In 1984, AMI expanded their staff in Alaska by incorporating missionaries of Slavic Gospel Association, which discontinued its work there. In 1985, AMI began to minister among East Indian immigrants in Canada. As a result of having enlarged its ministry focus to areas further south, such as Canada’s southwestern provinces, AMI changed its name to InterAct Ministries in 1988. InterAct Ministries expanded its mission field into Siberia in 1993 and India in 1997. However, in 2000, InterAct Ministries refocused its mission on the North Pacific Crescent, a crescent of coastline along the northern Pacific Ocean that extends from Russia over to Alaska and Canada, and closed its ministries in India. InterAct Ministries currently is devoted to church planting, missionary training and community development within the crescent.
2 Boxes (DC)
3 Video Tapes
Language of Materials
Arrangement and Description of Material
[NOTE: In the Arrangement section, the notation “folder 2-5" means box 2, folder 5]
Note: Some letters in this collection are from and to "John and Nadine," and "John and Eleanor." The first refers to John Gillespie and his wife Nadine; John Gillespie was the General Director of Arctic Missions, Inc. The second refers to John Hurt, a Board member of Multnomah Bible College, and his wife Eleanor.
The records in this collection are only a small portion of those produced by Arctic Missions, Inc. As you will see from the container list which follows this Scope and Content Note, the materials are arranged alphabetically, and within the folders, the material is in chronological order.
Folder 1-1 contains materials on the Arctic Bible Institute, such as annual, field council, and executive committee reports, prayer letters, and correspondence. The September, 1980 Field Council Report, and the 1981 Annual Report tell of the doctrinal struggle over the issue of infant baptism for ABI graduates who wanted to be ordained to serve in the Moravian Church, and how some of them chose to handle the problem.
The material about the Arctic Training Center in Folder 1-2 contains reports, prayer letters, financial reports, and correspondence documenting the administrative concerns connecting the Arctic Bible Institute, Victory High School, Multi Media Production, the correspondence school program, and Victory Bible Camp. There is a 1965 organizational chart, and a map of the ATC property, also 1965.
The Fall, 1984 issue of The Arctic Voice, in Folder 1-3, contains information about Slavic Gospel Association turning over its work in Alaska to Arctic Missions.
The brochures in Folder 1-4 are from several areas of AMI's work: Victory Bible Camp, the correspondence school, Native Institute of Canada, Native Bible Centre of Canada, Arctic Bible Institute, and Victory High School. There are also several brochures about AMI's work in general.
The General Files contain correspondence, reports (financial, annual, field, and executive committee), prayer letters, and budgets. In Folders 1-5 and 1-6, there are quite a few letters documenting AMI's relationship with Jim Vaus, and expressing caution in becoming too involved with such a new convert. There is correspondence in Folder 1-5 documenting the organization's early struggles, such as the May 10, 1951 letter from Ethyl Peasgood to Director John Gillespie, in which she discussed the relationship of village missionaries to the teachers in government-run schools for the Indians. There are also letters in 1951 and 1952, telling of attempts to recruit students from Bob Jones University for summer evangelism projects. Several letters in early 1952, between missionary pilot Allan Franz and AMI Director, John Gillespie tell of Franz's switch from the Slavic Gospel Association to work for AMI; the letters also discuss negotiations for the purchase of an airplane for AMI.
The General Files also contain information on land purchases from the U. S. government, and correspondence with Alaska Territorial government officials (there is more of this material in Folder 2-7). In Folder 1-6, there is correspondence with administrators of other mission organizations, some giving advice about policy for accepting candidates who've left other organizations.
In Folders 1-6 and 1-7, there is correspondence about a language survey done in 1956 by Turner Blount with Wycliffe Translators, in cooperation with Allan Franz, the AMI pilot. Blount's final report on the translation needs in Alaska is also in Folder 1-7.
Peter Gunther, an author with Moody Press, asked AMI Director John Gillespie to contribute a chapter for a book on missions in the United States, Missions at Home. The chapter, a history of mission work in Alaska, written in 1958, is in Folder 1-7.
Folder 1-7 also contains a copy of AMI by-laws as of February, 1957, and its Articles of Incorporation, as amended in 1956.
A February 13, 1963 letter in Folder 1-8, from John Gillespie to Wally Bays (principal at Victory High School), discusses theories of education for Native Americans, and management of teachers. Other materials in Folder 1-8 include correspondence between Gillespie and Jack Frizen about AMI's membership in the Interdenominational Foreign Missions Association, and in particular about Dr. J. O. Percy's relationship to IFMA. There is a 1966 Finance Committee report, with recommendations for change in AMI's structure, and there are several accounts in prayer letters of the 1964 Good Friday earthquake.
In 1966, AMI began serious consideration of beginning work in Canada. In Folder 1-8, there is a 1966 report about possibilities for work in British Columbia, and correspondence from the first AMI missionary to British Columbia, Ken Lobdell. His letter of August 30, 1967 describes setting up work in Chilanko Forks, including opposition from local Roman Catholics. Another letter and response to a questionnaire, of January 23, 1968, discusses the various Indian tribes in British Columbia and methods for reaching them with the Gospel. The letter also discusses practical requirements for missionary recruits. There are further reports on the Canadian work in 1968 and 1969, in this same folder, along with a 1970 questionnaire response about the work among Native Americans in Kaltag, Alaska.
In Folder 1-9, there is a 1978 letter from John Gillespie to AMI missionary, Wally Wilson, discussing AMI's policy regarding missionary candidates who've been divorced, and a 1981 letter from Gillespie to Don Stump discussing a possible change in that policy.
John Gillespie's annual report for 1981 gives a detailed picture of the daily work of the mission's general director and home office operations, which is also in Box 1, Folder 1-9; as is his letter to AMI missionary Karl Kroon about indigenization of AMI work. Folder 1-9 also contains a 1982 letter from Gale Van Diest to Gillespie about a proposed reorganization of the work in Alaska, and a June 1983 report on urban ministry.
The AMI Handbook in Folder 1-10 includes a history of AMI, and lists policy for AMI's theological stance, and certain other issues, such as Native-American nationalism, relations with other missions, speaking in tongues, demonology, indigenous church relations, Native-American culture, political involvement for missionaries. The handbook also describes the Indian tribes and groups in Alaska and Canada.
The newsletters in Folders 2-5 and 2-6 often have letters from missionary families printed in them. Missionaries in villages often commented on Native-American customs, such as potlatch celebrations, problems with alcoholism among Native Americans, and relations with Russian Orthodox churches and priests, who often opposed their work.
The folders for Victory Bible Camp (Folders 2-7 and 2-8), contain correspondence, reports, budgets, advertising material, camping and conference schedules, statistics, and clippings. Folder 2-7 contains more documents on land transactions with the United States government (there are also some in the General Files in Folder 1-6).
Two documents in Folder 2-7 show the beginnings of AMI thinking about establishing what later became Victory High School on the site of Victory Bible Camp: John Gillespie's report of September 30, 1958, which summarizes fundraising and other plans, and a November 11, 1958 letter which discusses the possibility of a school, and the subsequent restructuring of AMI which would be necessary.
Several of the documents in Folder 2-8 concern the merger of Victory Bible Camp with Arctic Missions, Inc.: a June, 1967 document in which John Gillespie outlines his ideas for the future of the Camp, a December 22, 1967 letter from Gillespie to VBC board members on the possibility of a merger, and a 1970 document containing excerpts from a letter by the Reverend Jack Bacher, outlining his reasons for supporting the merger.
Some of the later materials in Folder 2-8 include lists of various groups who used the camp facilities, including the United States Army; accounts of conversion experiences by campers; and a batch of job descriptions for camp workers.
The materials on Victory High School in Folder 2-9, include correspondence, reports, budgets, commencement programs, a handbook, and copies of brochures and other advertising for the school. There are also a few yearbook booklets and a school newspaper. A February 16, 1963 letter from Jim Brown to John Gillespie analyzes the school's programs and building needs; and a letter of January 31, 1963, from Wally [Bays?] to Gillespie discusses the philosophy and details of the educational program at Victory High School, including how much education the Native-American population needs, and why. Another document discussing VHS educational philosophy is dated July, 1972. A 1969 memo outlines admission criteria favoring Native Americans over whites, and a 1973 document quotes extensively from American educators' evaluations of the system for Native-American education in Alaska, especially highlighting the role of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. There are also quotes from BIA reports. A March 22, 1982, letter explains the reasons for closing the school.
Each of the three videos in the collection have some relation to InterAct Ministries’ desire to minister to the East Indian community in western Canada. V1 & V2 are productions of InterAct Ministries. V1 is a discussion of Sikhism versus Christianity. V2 is an evangelistic church service featuring a message by Theodore Williams at Mountain View Mennonite Church in Vancouver, BC. The congregation is predominantly East Indian. V3 is a Canadian television documentary of Sikhs living in Canada.
Accruals and Additions
The materials in this collection were received by the Billy Graham Center Archives in May 1985 from Arctic Missions, Inc. and in August, 1990 from Lynette Gregg.
July 25, 1989
February 5, 1990
Updated, January 27, 2005
- Aeronautics in missionary work.
- Arctic Bible Institute.
- Arctic Training Center.
- Arctic voice (Periodical)
- Bays, Wallace.
- Bible colleges
- Bible colleges -- Alaska.
- Blount, Turner.
- Bob Jones University.
- Catholic Church.
- Catholic Church. -- Canada.
- Catholic Church. -- Protestant churches.
- Christian education -- Alaska.
- Christian education -- Philosophy.
- Christian education of teenagers.
- Christian education, Outdoor.
- Christian education.
- Christianity and culture -- United States.
- Church and state -- United States.
- Church and state.
- Church schools
- Church schools -- Alaska.
- Correspondence schools and courses.
- Education -- Alaska.
- Education -- Philosophy.
- Eskimos -- Alaska.
- Evangelistic work -- Alaska.
- Evangelistic work -- British Columbia.
- Evangelistic work.
- Franz, Allan W.
- Frizen, E. L.
- Fund raising.
- Gillespie, John.
- Indians of North America -- Alaska.
- Indians of North America -- British Columbia.
- Indians of North America -- Missions.
- Indians of North America.
- Indigenous church administration
- Indigenous church administration -- Alaska.
- InterAct Ministries.
- Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association of North America.
- Language in missionary work.
- Lobsell, Kenneth.
- Missionaries -- Training of.
- Missionaries -- Appointment, call, and election.
- Missions -- Educational work.
- Missions -- Alaska.
- Missions -- British Columbia.
- Missions -- Finance.
- Missions -- Public relations.
- Missions -- Study and teaching.
- Missions to Sikhs.
- Native Bible Centre of Canada.
- Native Institute of Canada.
- Organizational change.
- Orthodox Eastern Church -- Russia -- Relations.
- Orthodox Eastern Church, Russian.
- Percy, John Otley,
- Rural churches -- Alaska.
- Rural churches.
- Rural missions.
- Slavic Gospel Association.
- Theology -- Study and teaching -- Asia.
- Tribes -- Alaska.
- Vaus, Jim.
- Victory Bible Camp (Index Lake, Alaska)
- Victory High School (Index Lake, Alaska)
- Wycliffe Bible Translators.
- Collection 407 Records of InterAct Ministries
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Roman Script