Poplar church celebrates 125 years of sharing the faith

Swedish immigrants come together to start Mission Covenant Church when there were no roads to Poplar.

Mission Covenant Church of Poplar, shown on the right in this undated photo. (Submitted photo)

Actor Tom Cruise could learn a thing or two about longevity from the Mission Covenant Church in Poplar.

The movie star has made six Mission Impossible films in 23 years.

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

The president of the Evangelical Covenant Church, John Wenrich, doctor of ministry from Fuller Seminary, will be the keynote speaker at the banquet at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 27.

Rev. Mark Stromberg, superintendent of the Northwest Conference, offers morning messages during worship at 8:30 and 11 a.m. Sunday, July 28. A time of fellowship follows the 8:30 a.m. service and a “pot blessing” meal follows the 11 a.m. services in the church’s Multi-Ministry Center.


At a time where there were no roads to Poplar, Swedish immigrants held the meeting in the home of J.M.M. Peterson to establish a “Mission Hus,” a place of worship. From the beginning, 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, being still owned by Russia. That tradition continues today.

More valuable than the dollars and cents provided to missions, over 45 dedicated souls have entered the ministry from their Mission Covenant home.

The first pastor, Rev. C.J. Carlson began the long line of service in 1927 and today there are 31 direct descendants of the church’s original 22 charter members serving and worshipping 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 Church. A total of 27 pastors have served the congregation in its 125-year history.

In addition to the local servants working in congregation, a rich and profound history of missions minded people have launched from the Poplar church to perform service worldwide. The legendary 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, Wisconsin’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.

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, New Mexico. 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, Illinois. 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. While many names are not included here, each and every servant sent out from the church’s flock can count on one thing being rock solid. Support. Loving God and serving people does not come cheaply. In the history of the church over 2-million dollars have been dedicated to mission work worldwide. This is in addition to the many, many congregants who individually and as families 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 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, Rev. C.J. Carlson a parsonage in 1927. In 1994 the church voted to move from its downtown Poplar home of a century by starting the construction of its new facility 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 11½ years.


If all this sounds like a fictional, like something only Ethan Hawk, played by Tom Cruise, could accomplish in “Mission Impossible,” it isn’t.

This “mission possible” came from faith of impoverished Swedish immigrants who, 125 years ago, dedicated a portion of their meager incomes to sharing their pennies for the Lord, and their faith and hope and experience with the world. This magnificent tradition is valiantly carried on daily and will continue for another 125-years and more.

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