Community Covenant bids a fond farewell to Hank and Lil Pearson

Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska Conference Superintendent Curtis Ivanoff prays for Hank and Lil Pearson with those who attended the Pearson’s farewell Sunday.

Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska Conference Superintendent Curtis Ivanoff prays for Hank and Lil Pearson with those who attended the Pearson’s farewell Sunday.

By Mary M. Rall
Community Covenant Church

Community Covenant Church said goodbye to Hank and Lil Pearson Nov. 1, who’ve faithfully served Alaskans for more than 50 years.

There’s no means to measure the impact the Pearsons have had on the world, as Hank served for eight years as a pastor in Nome and as a Covenant field director, with Lil working right alongside him all the while.

The couple also traveled in support of world-wide missions teams, opened a Bible camp and were one of the first families who planted and nurtured the seed that became Community Covenant, loving and caring for God’s church as it grew to become a vital part of the Eagle River community.

Tears were shed at the Pearsons’ farewell by several generations of people, who expressed joy over Hank and Lil’s next season in life with their family in Amery, Wis., and shared memories of everything from hushed prayers by Hank at hospital bedsides to missed opportunities for Lil’s homemade bread.

Chris Kallander of Eagle River was one of several people attending the event who shared childhood memories of Hank and Lil.

“I was raised in Nome, and Hank was my pastor,” Chris said. “Hank and Lil will always have a very special place in my heart, because Hank was there when I accepted the Lord as a child. I’ll never forget that.”

Lil shared early memories of the Bible camp they opened in Nome, recalling how the water was always cold, but the children attending the camp would still brave the frigid temperatures for a swim.

“We enjoyed our time in Nome very much,” Lil said. “There were kids that made decisions for the Lord during that camp.”

The tales and laughs shared of the Pearsons’ years in Nome varied greatly, but those involving Lil’s love for coffee garnered some of the biggest smiles and the most knowing nods from those attending the farewell.

“We were just young, little kids, and they took care of us, and we all went to church together and had a lot of parties together,” said Joanne LaRue of Anchorage, who met the Pearsons when they first came to Nome in 1964. “We didn’t only drink cups of coffee at Lil’s house, we drank gallons of coffee.”

Coffee retained a special place in Lil’s heart even after she moved to Eagle River, said Carla Eisberg, who recalled one of Lil’s initial interactions with former Community Covenant Lead Pastor Mark Meredith in the early years of the church.

“One of the first meetings we had was at his house,” Carla said. “They didn’t make coffee, and they didn’t have a coffee machine, and Lil, in her sweet manner said, ‘Who hired this guy?’”

Although the majority of tears on Sunday were shed through laughter at the fond memories that touched those who shared, Worship Arts Pastor Tyler Shaw noted how much the Pearsons’ nurturing spirits would be missed at CCC.

“We’re going to miss your prayers and miss your encouragement,” Tyler said with a smile. “I can’t tell you how huge it is for me to know that people who started this church, week, after week, after week encouraged me, even when I knew I had not played their favorite hymn.”

Hank and Lil’s oldest child, Cathy Christensen, expressed her appreciation to the CCC community at the farewell and asked for continued prayers for her parents as they prepared to leave the state Nov. 4 to transition into the next season of their “I do want to say how much I appreciate, my whole family appreciates, what you’ve done for them,” Cathy said. “So many of you have been so helpful.”

While Cathy conveyed her thanks for the support her parents received from CCC, those attending the farewell expressed an overwhelming feeling of gratitude toward Hank and Lil.

“It is not lost on me that I served in a role that you once did, and it’s a real comfort and a source of encouragement to know that you have been here as I’ve began,” said Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska Conference Superintendent Curtis Ivanoff.

“My heart is full in celebrating, and I thank you for your service,” he said. “You helped bring God’s story, the good news of Jesus, to Alaska Native people in rural Alaska and to people all over Alaska that have been touched by the ministry of the Covenant church.”

Curtis said Hank and Lil have entrusted others to continue the work they began in Alaska so many years ago, and those the Pearsons have served will continue to carry their mantle and share the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the state with the same love and dedication as they had.

In that same spirit of the never-ending nature of God, Curtis closed the event by praying over the Pearsons with those present and sharing a Yupik expression that’s often used when they depart from one another.

“This is not the end,” Curtis said to Hank and Lil.

Nor is it an end to the impacts the couple has made on the world for the kingdom of God and for every person who’s had the privilege of having their lives touched by Hank and Lil Pearson.