The bloodlines run deep and wide in Bethel Assembly. Ask many people of the older generation a question about Family, and you’ll find that they’re related to nearly everyone in the county in one way or another. When I started delving into the church history of Bethel I went to the usual suspects for info: Aimee Cole, Christine Hanson, Evelyn Woolliscroft, Lloyd Anderson. They pointed me in the direction of some very interesting reading and memorabilia, including the pamphlet put together years ago by Lowell Nystrom called 100 Years of Pentecostal Blessing in Fosston. It was in this pamphlet (which relies heavily on the handwritten notes and diaries of Lowell’s mother, Ethel) that I learned of a preacher named Jacob Bakken who had, sometime around the turn of the 20th Century, walked some 75 miles from Audobon, MN to Fosston to share his faith, hold revival meetings, and help establish a church body based on the move of the Spirit. It was Jacob Bakken that appointed Andrew Matson and Christ Ulseth, both of Hill River Township, to lead the first group of Fosstonites embracing the move of the Holy Spirit that was sweeping the nation. These gatherings were the beginnings of the Hill River Assembly, which met together for several decades until fractures and disagreements led to a brief dissolution of the Assembly in the mid-1940s.
It was also in the Nystrom pamphlet that I learned of some of the persecution faced by early members of the Pentecostal movement. One newspaper clipping from 1908 had the members of Queen pegged as “… the holy jumpers,” and stated that “This fanatical sect are causing considerable disturbance in Hill River and Queen, and their invasion of different communities about is said to be most unwelcome to the majority of people.” (Nystrom, 100 Years of Pentecostal Blessing in Fosston, 5). Nystrom also talks about his ancestors having to bury their infant daughter on their own land since they were no longer welcome to bury their dead in the Asphult Lutheran cemetery due to their wild beliefs (Nystrom, 2).
100 Years discusses the early conventions, which began as far back as 1909. These were originally hosted in large homes, and later in tents or barns to accommodate the crowds. Nystrom notes that “Significant crowds must have attended these conventions. A note about one such meeting stated that the crowds were smaller than normal so only about 400 people were fed for lunch” (Nystrom, 5). These conventions were a hallmark of the early Pentecostal movement in the area, and stayed that way until the early 1950s.
Finally, from Lloyd Anderson, 88 year old son of Bethel, and before that, Queen Assembly, I learned that the beginnings of the Queen Church (which would later be mostly responsible for building Bethel in Fosston in the 1940s) were right in his living room. His mother, an aunt, and a neighbor began meeting to pray, and from there a movement of the Holy Spirit was sparked that continues to this day!
The point is this: Bethel Assembly was born out of nothing other than a raw, unpredictable, and very powerful move of the Spirit of God. Today, in 2014, we can look back and trace the names and common heritage that got us here, but, like the early church, without the breath and power of God moving in the midst of it, it would have likely come to nothing.
We remember where we come from, and we use that to inform our direction for the future, which is straight back to the Spirit, who never leaves us, and who will deliver wisdom to us if we ask. And maybe, if we’re hungry, he’ll put the fire of God in us again, so we might do things as outlandish as walk 75 miles to preach the gospel because the message of Jesus is worth the sacrifice.
Submitted by: Pastor Seth Johnson