Funeral Service April 21 for Elmer Pearson

Post a Comment » Written on April 12th, 2007     
Filed under: News
TURLOCK, CA  (April 12, 2007) – A funeral service will be conducted April 21 for retired Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) missionary and pastor Elmer Pearson, 88, who died Tuesday night in Turlock.

The service will be at 2 p.m. in Turlock Covenant Church.

Pearson was born May 15, 1918, in Los Angeles, California, and attended First Covenant Church there before entering the ministry. He played a major role in advancing the missionary work in Congo and was pastor of several churches over the years. Pearson also was widely recognized for his work in urban ministry.

He attended the Bible Institute of Los Angeles in 1940 and took missions courses at the National Bible Institute of New York City in 1941. During his year in New York, he served as the “English pastor” in the Swedish Congregational (Covenant) Church in Georgetown, Connecticut. Because the regular pastor struggled with English, Pearson preached every Sunday evening and every other Sunday morning.

Pearson also attended North Park Theological Seminary from 1941 to 1942. He subsequently studied at the Los Angeles Baptist Seminary, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1944. While attending the seminary, he served as pastor for the South San Gabriel Covenant Church. He was ordained in 1943.

Pearson first traveled to Karawa, Congo, in 1944 after being commissioned by the denomination. He also served Bodokola, a missionary outpost of Karawa. While in Congo, he translated Bible studies and devotional material for African pastors, trained ministers, and helped with maintenance and construction.

He also entertained. “Elmer and Harvey Widman would drive a jeep to villages in Congo and show Laurel and Hardy films,” says Lloyd Ahlem. “The people would laugh until they rolled in the grass.” He adds, “Elmer was an accomplished gymnast and did back flips off the hood of the jeep. Always drew a crowd, and many heard the gospel.”

Elmer married June Peterson twice in Congo: The couple married in a required state ceremony on May 18, 1946, at Gemena, and in a separate church ceremony in Karawa on June 2, 1946. Then-ECC President T.W. Anderson officiated the wedding.

The Pearsons served as missionaries in Congo from 1944 to 1961. Violence in the country prevented them from continuing their work.

Pearson served several churches during furloughs from the mission field and after his work in the Congo had ended. Non-interim pastorates included the Evangelical Covenant Church in Antioch, California, from 1961-1964; Sunset Whitney Community Covenant Church in Rocklin, California, from 1964-1969; and First Covenant Church in San Francisco from 1969 to 1982. He subsequently served as chaplain at The Samarkand retirement community in Santa Barbara, California.

Pearson’s work in San Francisco earned him the Irving Lambert award in 1982 for his work in urban ministry. “He thoughtfully and deliberately led the congregation to embrace the community and Hispanic ministry,” says Jim Sundholm, director of Covenant World Relief.

Ahlem recalls, “He had big groups of hippies from Golden Gate Park in Sunday night services. After the Sunday morning service, the congregation would go to the panhandle of the park and invite people to come for a free supper in the evening after church. Many came to faith in Christ.

“Elmer was missional in every breath of his life,” Ahlem says. “Great guy to model outreach!”

Survivors include his wife, June, who resides in the Sequoia living center, and other family members.

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