Poplar Mission Covenant church has had 45 missionaries, pastors and faith workers in its 125 years, Lead Pastor Darrell Nelson said. The historic church in the humble little village 20 miles east of Superior celebrates its 1894 origins July 27 and 28 at the modern 30,000-square-foot facility on County Road P just east of town and all are welcome to celebrate together.

John Wenrich, president of the Evangelical Covenant Church, will be the keynote speaker during a dinner at 6 p.m. July 27; doors open at 5 p.m. The last day to purchase tickets for the dinner is Sunday, July 14; visit https://missioncovenantchurch125.weebly.com.

The Rev. Mark Stromberg, superintendent of the Northwest Conference, will give the messages at 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. July 28. A “pot-blessing” meal will follow the Sunday services in the church’s Multi-Ministry Center. All are welcome.

The history of the Mission Covenant Church begins in a time when there were no roads to the isolated village. Swedish immigrants held the first meeting in the home of J.M.M. Peterson in Poplar to establish a “Mission Hus” place of worship.

Mission Covenant Church and the Poplar train depot are shown in this 1905 photo. (Submitted photo)
Mission Covenant Church and the Poplar train depot are shown in this 1905 photo. (Submitted photo)

From the earliest beginnings, the church established that the collection from the first Sunday of every month was dedicated to missions. The first mission contributions were for Alaska, a foreign country at the time still owned by Russia. That tradition continues to the modern era.

The first pastor, the Rev. C.J. Carlson, began the long line of service in 1927. Today, there are 31 direct descendants of the church’s original 22 charter members serving and worshiping at the church.

Lead Pastor Darrell Nelson is the longest serving pastor in the church’s history, having the post for 31 years. Pastor Carey Vik is close behind with 27 years of service, followed by Pastor James Walsh with 22 years. Rounding out the five-pastor servant team is Senior Adult Pastor Floyd “Pete” Peters, now in his eighth year of service since retiring as chief of the Superior Police Department, and Youth Pastor Nathan Nelson in his fourth year at Mission Covenant Churh.

A total of 27 pastors have served the congregation in its 125-year history. In addition to the local servants working in the congregation, a history of mission-minded people have launched from the church to perform service worldwide:

  • The Waldin sisters from the congregation served for decades.
  • Margaret Waldin in China and Ruth Waldin-Lintelmann as director of child evangelism fellowship for over 50 years.
  • Maple's Al Tangen serves in Papua, New Guinea.
  • Larry and Gail Williams have long careers serving in Youth For Christ International.
  • Paul and Ilene Peterson serve in Taiwan, China.
  • Dr. Joe and Sally Richards served as medical missions in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Brian and Jan Bustrak served as tent-maker-ministers for 13 years in the Middle East.
  • Edwin Koepp served with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) in Australia and Egypt.

Mission Covenant Church of Poplar. (Submitted photo)
Mission Covenant Church of Poplar. (Submitted photo)

While many Mission Covenant servants spend their days working internationally, the church has also sent many into domestic service. Megan Voorhees-Renfro is in campus ministry with her husband Ben in Albuquerque, N.M. Jenny Williams-Armstrong is a pastor and author serving domestically and often in Africa teaching young women. Goldye Gustafson-Till worked with TEAM in China and now in Chicago.

Stephen and Nick Gant have a unique ministry participating in extreme martial arts at evangelistic crusades in the U.S. and worldwide. Mission Covenant’s Swanson family contributed a long list of family members to missions both internationally and domestically.

The list is long and longer of people from the Mission Covenant congregation serving people around the globe and nearer to home. In the history of the church, over $2 million has been dedicated to mission work worldwide. This is in addition to the many congregants who contribute monthly financial support to dedicated servants of their own choosing.

From the very beginning, Mission Covenant Church has been about people loving God and people serving people. In all this time, the people needed a place to live and worship. The church built its first full-time, in-residence pastor, the Rev. C.J. Carlson, a parsonage in 1927.

Mission Covenant Church of Poplar as it looks today. (Submitted photo)
Mission Covenant Church of Poplar as it looks today. (Submitted photo)

In 1994, the church voted to move from its downtown Poplar home of a century by starting the construction of its new facility east of town on County Highway P. This began a three-phase era of building that was carried out with, as Pastor Darrell describes it, “A lot of volunteer labor.”

The sanctuary, fellowship hall and office areas were completed in 1995, followed by the education wing, followed by the impressive multi-ministry center that includes a full-sized gymnasium, climbing wall, stage area, youth room, two large classrooms and a commercial kitchen, all paid for in just over 11 years.