Jesus

A lot of books have been written about Jesus, starting, of course, with the first four books of the New Testament.  N. T. Wright, who has written Simply Jesus (2011) and The Challenge of Jesus (1999) notes that he has 20 shelves of books about Jesus written over the last two centuries.  Philip Yancey, the author of The Jesus I Never Knew (2002) writes that in the front pages of John Ortberg’s Who Is This Man? (2014), 1500 books about Jesus are published every year.

A recurring orientation of many of these books is a search for the “real” Jesus or a discovery or rediscovery of Jesus in a new way.  Some look no farther than cultural expressions of Jesus, others seek “new” or refined or reinterpreted historical understanding.  A few claim to have new information about Jesus’ “lost years” that require (in the opinion of the authors) a radical reinterpretation of who he was.

This book does not attempt to wade through the contradictory claims of the vast collection of books written about Jesus, nor does it attempt to critically evaluate Biblical sources, nor summarize all Biblical and historical material, nor does it focus on particular American cultural expressions of faith in Jesus.  Instead, a few Scripture verses are cited to outline the perspective of Jesus that underlies the remainder of this book, the vantage point from which the authors sought to discover Jesus in the history of Idaho Falls.

Jesus, the Creator

For by Him [Christ] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.  Colossians 1:16

More than three million people come to see Yellowstone each year.  While not unique in the world, the geysers, canyons, animals, waterfalls, and backcountry of Yellowstone have been a place of refreshment and wonder to millions of people for nearly a century.  The beauty of Yellowstone, and other National Parks, can illicit moments of awe, of sensing something beyond the ordinary matters and concerns and worries of everyday life.

Yet one need not go to Yellowstone to have such encounters.  They can surprise us most anywhere.  Jesus, as Creator, is reflected in His creation.  This is a theme we want to explore in that part of creation within the loose boundaries of what we call Idaho Falls and Southeast Idaho.

Jesus is the creator of the visible and the invisible.  He supplies the water that has made a barren desert into a vibrant community, both the surface water and the rainfall.  He displayed His creative power in the volcanic activity that formed the Snake River Plain; He planned the processes that created the soils in which potatoes, sugar beets and other crops have been grown in Southeast Idaho.  The beauty of His creation is seen in the Teton and Snake River Canyons, in the colors of the seasons, and the clouds and sunsets over the city.

But also in ways more mysterious he created the invisible foundations of the life of this community.  He has given us peace throughout the history of our city.  In ways I’m sure I don’t comprehend, Jesus reigns in Idaho Falls, leaving marks of his creativity and handiwork in many places.  May Jesus be acknowledged as King!

Jesus, the Word made flesh

In these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. Hebrews 1:2
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14

Statements like John 1:14 imply that people who encountered Jesus on earth experienced a concentrated and personalized form of our encounters with Jesus through His creation.  The gospels record that many who in some way saw or heard or met Jesus were amazed at His teaching, awed by his healings, set free by His power and drawn to follow Him.  Some, that is.  Others, primarily religious and civil authorities, were threatened by Him, ultimately leading to His arrest, trials and death.  And others were too busy with their own affairs to seek out or listen to Jesus.

The One who created the world entered into His creation as a man with a message.  He was a teacher, a prophet and more.  Many of the recent books on Jesus have sought new insight into and understanding of the “historical Jesus,” and His message.  It is certainly important to understand Jesus’ life on earth in the context of His time and culture.  The Jesus that we hope to see in looking at the history Idaho Falls and the message of Jesus we hear today must be traceable to Jesus of Nazareth, who actually lived and died in first century Palestine.

For example,

Jesus called men and women to follow Him; we believe He still calls men and women to follow Him.
Jesus responded to requests of people in need; we believe He still responds to prayers of and for people in need.
Jesus’ words and power relieved people of sicknesses and other afflictions; we believe He still heals, bringing about positive changes in those that seek Him.
Jesus sent His disciples to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom and to make disciples; we believe He has sent men and women to Idaho Falls and from Idaho Falls for the same purpose.

Jesus, raised and seated at the right hand of God

But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.      Luke 22:69
[God] raised Him [Jesus] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.   Ephesians 1:20-21
Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.  Hebrew 8:1
He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.  Colossians 1:18

Most anyone can imagine Jesus living in first century Palestine, walking the roads of Galilee, teaching the Sermon on the Mount, attending the wedding in Cana, enjoying a meal with Zacchaeus the tax collector or Simon the Pharisee, and praying in Gethsemane.  The stories of the Gospels are a weekly diet for some; others who rarely attend church have still seen the Jesus film or Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ or older films about Jesus such as Cecil B DeMille’s King of Kings.  The Gospels also document that after Jesus was crucified and his body placed in a tomb, He was seen alive by numerous people at numerous times. He was and He was not like He was before His resurrection.  He invited Thomas to touch His wounds; He ate meals; He walked with two disciples to Emmaus, He spoke with His followers.  But also He would appear and disappear.  And His appearances as the resurrected Jesus stopped after the disciples saw Him ascend into the clouds.

The fact of Jesus’ resurrection is the best explanation for the history of the early years of the church.  The fact of Jesus’ resurrection allows us to look for Jesus at work in the history of Idaho Falls and today.

Yet seeing Jesus in recent history, whether looking in the church that identifies with Him or elsewhere, is not an easy task.  Seated at the right hand of God, Jesus is in some sense ultimately behind much that happens in our world. Yet tracing from specifics through the multiple layers of causes can be difficult.  We have tried, and you can be the judge of how well we’ve succeeded.

Jesus, living in His followers

In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.  John 14:20
God wanted to make known to them the glorious riches of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  Colossians 1:27
…Christ lives in me…  Galatians 2:20

In writing this book we have looked for Jesus in creation, we have used the lens of first century history to help identify Him, and we have allowed that as the One seated at God’s right hand, His influence can be observed in various human organizations.  Yet we have concentrated our search by looking for Him in His followers, people who acknowledge they know Him and who claim that He lives in them, people who have encountered Him and been changed by Him, people who are seeking to live out His kingdom here in Idaho Falls.

As we’ve sought to find Jesus in His people, our approach has been to look at the whole history of the city and the whole body of Christ within the city.  Neither of these has been easy, or to our knowledge, has been ever attempted before.  We make no claims to completeness.  History is blurred both by processes that erode and erase – memories fade, details of experiences are forgotten and/or were never documented, people die etc. – and also by evolving ways that experiences are viewed and interpreted.

And where exactly are the lines that define the body of Christ?  The wheat and tares are intermingled, appearances can be deceiving, and God’s Spirit can be at work in surprising places.

As hard as this is, we were convinced that we needed to try – to preserve stories of Jesus at work through His followers to inform future generations and to throw open the door to a broader sense of God at work than is usually seen within any particular group or church.

So we have looked for Jesus in His creation and in His new creation.  We have waded through the history of Idaho Falls seeking to find clues to what exactly Jesus has done based on what He said He would do, such as,

 “…I will build My church…” Matthew 16:18
“If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”  John 14:14
“As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:21
And as we talked with people who identify with Him, we have caught glimpses of His kingdom and power and glory.  All of this we want to share with you.

Stories of the early churches

The first eleven churches organized in Eagle Rock/Idaho Falls were:

Church Organized

  • First Baptist 1882
  • Trinity Methodist 1883
  • Catholic 1890
  • First Presbyterian 1891
  • Swedish Mission 1895
  • St. John’s Episcopal 1895
  • First Evangelical Lutheran 1898
  • Swedish Evangelical Mission 1899
  • St. John Lutheran 1909
  • First Christian 1915
  • Salvation Army 1915.

Prior to completion of the first church building, groups of believers met in homes.  People of all denominations attended Rebecca Mitchell’s Sunday school, even Mormons., After completion of the Baptist Church building in November, 1884, it was used by several church groups, and that practice was repeated as other church buildings were constructed and new churches formed. By 1900 there eight churches meeting in the Idaho Falls area, by 1915, eleven, and by 1934, fourteen.

This section contains a few stories of some of the early churches.

Samuel Wishard

Samuel Wishard was a pastor and missionary of the Presbyterian Church. At the request of eight people in Eagle Rock, he came to organize the First Presbyterian Church, with their first meeting on April 29, 1891.

Samuel was born in Johnson County, Indiana in 1825 and grew up on his family’s farm.  Reflecting on his childhood, he wrote, “The summers were spent in juvenile efforts to be useful on the farm; the winters were passed in the old log school house, then a dreaded place of imprisonment, now a cherished memory.” Of his family he wrote, “(My) mother of nine children and wife of a toiling husband was for many years the only praying soul in the family.  Her prayers were heard and an altar of prayer was erected that kept the fire burning until that home was dissolved.”

At twenty-one years of age, Samuel Wishard was converted through the preaching of evangelist Rev. James McCoy.  “In the solitude of a great forest, after hearing McCoy preach, I faced the question, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ and answered it by ‘believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.’”  The evangelist had remarked that he hoped some of the young men who were converted would hear the call to preach, and that became a personal question to Samuel, “Why not you?”  The young convert seriously doubted his talents and argued with God.  But “He set before me the preciousness of one soul and the privilege of winning the poorest wanderer to Christ.  That settled the question sweetly, joyfully, forever.”

The next year Samuel went off to Wabash College with (1) $20 in his pocket he had borrowed from his brother and (2) all the exceeding great and precious promises of the God he loved and trusted.  After six years of college he went to Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, where he heard and was greatly influenced by Charles Finney.  Graduating three years later, he was ready to preach.  But he found closed doors.  He traveled to Rock Island, Illinois, “making no discoveries except my own embarrassment.” Then he walked across the ice of the Mississippi River and tramped through deep snow to call on a pastorless congregation in Iowa, but was told they did not intend to employ a minister.

With the help of an older minister he was engaged as a pastor in Rushvill, Indiana on New Year’s Day, 1857.  The following month he married his longtime friend and sweetheart Sophia Evarts, a teacher and musician.  In the next 18 years, Samuel and Sophia had eight children.

Samuel served four and a half years at the church in Rushville, then six years at a church in Michigan, from which 50 men left to fight in the Civil War. After two more pastorates, he spent three years working as a traveling evangelist in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, three years as a pastor in Chicago, four years as Synodical Missionary in Kentucky, three years as pastor of the Central Presbyterian Church in Des Moines, Iowa, and then 16 years as the Synodical Missionary in Utah and surrounding areas.  During this period he made frequent trips into Southeast Idaho.

In 1901, at age 76, he travelled 375 miles in the dead of winter to conduct a week of meetings and establish a church in Salmon.  The last 75 miles were by a sled pulled by six horses. Going up a pass the sled became unstable, and Samuel jumped off, ending up being dragged through snow by a rope to the summit.

Three years later he made 66 visits, travelling a total of 4,000 miles, to Pocatello to arouse sufficient interest to start a Presbyterian Church there.  In his 16 years as missionary to Utah he was instrumental in organizing 34 different churches in Utah and Idaho, travelling a total of 346,372 miles by rail, stage and mail wagon.  According to an article in the Post Register on the 75th anniversary of the First Presbyterian Church in Idaho Falls, 15 of these 34 churches were in Idaho, including churches in Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Rigby, St. Anthony and Salmon.

His remarks about his ministry at a meeting of the Salt Lake City Ministerial Association in 1903 included the following:

“The first lesson learned in (my) ministry was this: Any servant of God whom He has called into the ministry can do the work that God has called him to do, provided he counts God in, goes where and as He leads.”

“Some things were settled in (my) early ministry, among them this – God hears prayer, not only, but He delights to answer prayer.  It is His glory and pleasure to hear the cry of His people.”

“Another discovery was made – God can use small men. It is nothing with Him to help, whether with many or with them that have no power.  I think we are in danger of not being small enough for God to use us.”

At age 81, he travelled to New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburg to seek funding for a Presbyterian College in Salt Lake City.  With funding secured, he retired, but continued to travel and preach.  Shortly after retiring to Los Angeles in 1906, he and his wife spent several months with their missionary daughter in China, who had served there with her husband for 30 years.  Another one of his daughter was a missionary in China for 40 years.  In Los Angeles Rev. Wishard was active in evangelism and preaching up to his death at age 90, in 1915.
The Swedish Mission Churches
Throughout the history of Eagle Rock and Idaho Falls, Jesus has been worshiped in this community in different languages. Several of the most recent church plants in Idaho Falls have been Hispanic churches, and naturally they use Spanish in their services to worship the Lord.  Three of the first eight churches in Idaho Falls used Swedish, and a fourth possibly used German.  The Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Gustaf Adolphus Church, which began in 1898, begin switching to English about 1910, while the other two Swedish-speaking congregations, started in 1895 and 1898, continued to worship in Swedish for several decades.
In 1894 the Great Western Land and Irrigation Company was formed by four men of Swedish descent to develop lands to be irrigated by the Great Western Canal and Improvement System.  The company promoted this development to Swedish communities in the Midwestern United States through presentations and advertisements in Swedish-American newspapers.  In large part due to the drought in the Midwest in 1893, the Panic of 1893, and the resulting national depression, many farmers in the Midwest were receptive, some might say vulnerable, to these promotional schemes.
The first Swedish-American immigrants arrived in New Sweden in the summer of 1894. By 1900, 31 families had settled in New Sweden, taking most of the available land.  The immigrants were primarily young couples, most in their early 20’s, some in their teens.  On July 30, 1895, a meeting was held in New Sweden to discuss organizing a Swedish-language church.  Within a month the Mission Church of New Sweden was incorporated, and consisted of 34 charter members (17 couples). In September of that same year plans were drawn up for a church building, which when completed was also used for community meetings and as the New Sweden school until a separate school building was completed in 1901.  Thus the church was constructed while many of the settlers were still living in temporary housing – lumber shacks, dugouts, and a few lava rock buildings – all without electricity.  Building a church was more important to them than building permanent homes, barns or the other outbuilding needed on their farms. The first service in the new church building was held on Christmas Day, 1895. In 1896 15 more member were added to the church, and that same year J. E. Johnson became the first pastor, being paid $20/month.
A second Swedish-speaking congregation, the Swedish Evangelical Mission, began in Idaho Falls on March 10, 1899 with 18 charter members.  The group purchased a small wooden chapel on Western Avenue for $175, which had been the first LDS meetinghouse, constructed in 1885. After purchasing the chapel, it was moved from its original site along the river to Western Avenue. With a membership of 36 in 1906, the church purchased property on 6th and Boulevard.  The following year the church voted to seek membership in the Mission Covenant denomination.
As early as 1901 these two congregations discussed merging, and also considered having a common minister.  Services continued in the New Sweden church until 1928, when the building and land were sold, debts paid and the remaining balance given to the Mission Covenant Church in Idaho Falls.
The Mission Covenant Church discussed holding services in English rather than Swedish as early as 1921, but decided they would remain in Swedish, although English was being used by then in the Sunday school and youth meetings.  Swedish continued to be used until March 27, 1934, when English was used in the minutes from board meetings for the first time.
The Start of First Christian Church

 

Nearly 60% of the churches that presently meet in Idaho Falls have fewer than 100 members.  First Christian started in 1916 with 107 charter members!  At that time it was the 11th church in Idaho Falls, yet the fourth largest.

Like many Christian denominations, the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ traces its roots to a movement, actually two separate movements that began in Pennsylvania and Kentucky in the early 1800’s.  These movements united in 1832.  Objecting to practices in churches that expressed denominational exclusiveness, the founders of the Christian Church hoped to restore Christian unity by returning to New Testament faith and practices.

A few years prior to the founding of the church in Idaho Falls, Frank Jones, corresponding secretary of the Southern Idaho Christian Missionary Society, sought to organize a Christian Church in Idaho Falls, but after a few meetings the people he gathered disbanded for lack of a pastor.  However, the Ladies Aid Society of this fledgling church continued to meet, and purchased a lot on South Boulevard.  On November 1, 1915, the South Idaho Missionary Society sent Rev. D. B Titus to Idaho Falls.  He held meetings over a two-week period in New Sweden, which resulted in a number of people becoming interested in forming the church.  A service was held in the Star Theater, and following the service, a meeting to discuss building on the lot purchased by the Ladies Aid Society.  About 30 were present and unanimously voted to authorize Rev. Titus to select a building committee.  Excavation began the following day!

In January 1916, the Taylor Evangelistic Company of Los Angeles conducted an evangelistic campaign on the corner of Elm Street and Eastern Avenue.  According to a written history of First Christian Church, “This was of much value in helping to discover members of the Christian Church as well as adding new converts.”  During this time First Christian held services in the rooms of the Gem State Business College at the corner of B Street and Park Avenue.  By February 6, sufficient work had been completed on the church building that a two-week evangelistic campaign was held there.  On February 20, the building was dedicated.  Following a sermon preached by Rev. Titus entitled, “God’s Portion,” he announced the building had cost $3,200 and $3,000 of bills were outstanding.  After the afternoon and evening services, $3,900 had been collected.  The surplus was used to finish the basement and buy a piano.

A Church in Idaho Falls Planted by a Student Missionary Pastor from Squirrel, Idaho
Several churches in Idaho Falls, most notably Shiloh Foursquare and Calvary Baptist, have planted churches in the surrounding smaller communities of Southeastern Idaho.  But one early church in Idaho Falls was begun by a young missionary pastor while living in Squirrel, Idaho.  Squirrel is about 7 miles east and 3 miles south of Ashton.  The following is extracted from the 1934 Golden Jubilee Edition of the Post Register, and Mary Jane Fritzen’s Idaho Falls, City of Destiny.
In 1902 the Reverend E. P. Meyer of Squirrel, Idaho, a student missionary, sensed the opportunity and realized the necessity for a beginning a mission program in Southeastern Idaho, including Idaho Falls. He organized German Lutherans in Squirrel and Twin Falls in 1903, and started visiting Idaho Falls in 1904. In 1909 he was officially installed as a Missionary Pastor to Idaho Falls and to the surrounding vicinity. He built up the congregation to a communicant membership of eighteen by the time he accepted a call to Memo, South Dakota in 1911.

Cornerstone Assembly of God

This is a story of God answering prayers for healing, but first some background.
Scott Davis, the pastor of Cornerstone Assembly Church in Idaho Falls, has experienced healing by the Lord in his own life.  As an infant, he came down with chickenpox and pneumonia, and some wondered whether he would survive.  His church prayed for him and he was completely healed.
Many years later, as a pastor in Harrison, Arkansas, Scott woke up feeling very weak on an Easter morning.  He managed to get through the activities at church, but after his sermon felt exhausted.  He went home to rest, and had trouble breathing, eating and sleeping.  On Monday he went to see a doctor, and came away thinking he had a flu that would go away in a couple days.  It didn’t.  On Thursday he still felt miserable and was still not sleeping.  Going to the hospital emergency room, they found an abnormally low level of oxygen in his blood, and when they saw the results of an electrocardiogram, the doctors put him on a helicopter to a larger hospital, in Fayetteville.  On the ride to the hospital the Lord spoke to Scott and said, “A mighty miracle will come from this!”  Thinking he still had pneumonia, Scott said, “Lord, how can you be glorified through pneumonia?”  Later, waking up in the hospital, he was told that he had had two massive heart attacks, and doctors were amazed he had pulled through.  These were followed by a minor stroke. Yet Scott will tell you that afterwards, because of the Lord, he felt better than ever.  Besides regaining all physical motion and breathing capabilities, Scott says that the Lord gave and continues to give him strength to handle stress, which was a major cause of his heart attacks.
Scott came to Idaho Falls as Cornerstone’s pastor in 2012.  He attests that the congregation is very attentive to his sermons, and in early 2015 he preached a series along the lines of John Kilpatrick’s Book When the Heavens are Brass: Keys to Genuine Revival.  The congregation then started sensing more of the presence of God in their worship services, and seeing answers to prayer.  Scott posted on the church website:

We have seen some mighty miracles here at Cornerstone in the last few weeks. A two year boy, Gabe, could no longer walk. He was taken to the doctor and specialist and they could not find out what was wrong. The following Sunday his mother brought him up for prayer, he left the church walking and completely healed! Another miracle was one woman, Sydney, had epilepsy. She believed that God could heal her. She came forward for prayer. She then went to the doctor and he ran some tests. The doctor said she no longer had epilepsy!  She had told him the Lord had healed her.  The doctor said “I haven’t seen many miracles”, and Sydney replied, “I am one”.
Sydney’s healing was in February; Gabe’s in April.  When Todd and I caught up with Scott late last month, he told us about several more cases of God answering prayers for healing – a woman having frequent headaches, a woman having pain from falling in her bathtub, and a man who had had numbness in his feet for six years.  All these ailments were brought to the Lord in prayer and He answered their prayers – each person was restored to health.

In September the church planned to have a healing service.  A woman called Scott asking if she could share a testimony in the meeting.  Scott was surprised as this was unusual for this woman and he didn’t know what she would share. But he knew that she had tried to commit suicide twice, once 13 years ago, and then again 3 years ago.  The second time, Scott went to visit her in the hospital and prayed over her. What she shared in the healing service was how God had answered those prayers, curing her of depression.

Alipio Amaral

Alipio Amaral came to Idaho Falls last March, and is the discipleship pastor of Watersprings Church.  Alipio’s excitement for inductive Bible study is contagious, as is his enthusiasm for ministry in Idaho Falls.  You can hear him share much of his testimony in a sermon he preached at Watersprings November 30, 2014, “A Life of Impact,” available from the webpage http://calvaryif.org/tvMedia/guestSpeakers.php.

Alipio grew up in Hawaii.  One day when he was five years old, he was hit by a truck while riding his bicycle.  The truck that struck him was going twice the legal speed limit, and sent him flying twenty-five feet in the air.  Landing head first into the base of a stop sign, he cracked his head wide open, and bit off his tongue.  He was flown inter-Island to the capital city of Honolulu, where at Queens Medical Center he was put on life support.  He had slipped into a coma, and his entire right side was paralyzed.  His church flew his mother over to the hospital where she commenced a vigil of prayer.  The doctors explained to her that Alipio’s worsening condition would render him immobile, inoperable, and incapacitated for the rest of his life, and recommended that she have them pull the plug on the life support equipment.  Believing that God had already healed him, his mother told the doctors “no” and waited and prayed for nine days until the night that Alipio woke up.  When he awoke, his mother asked him if he remembered anything, to which he confidently responded with his tongue that had grown back, “God told me He wants me to tell people how He healed me.”  He walked out of the hospital two months after he entered, on a Christmas day.

As Alipio continued to grow up in Hawaii, the hedonistic culture of the Islands began to influence him, and he walked away from the Lord.  His family life was focused on God, but by high school Alipio had become a rebellious teen. Yet during those teen years God did not forsake him.  Alipio was involved in 15 car accidents, some in which he could easily have been killed, and he walked away from every one. The nearness of death in some of these accidents, plus a friend’s remark about his self-centered behavior, brought him to a point of clarity about the direction his life was going, and one day at home, alone, he rededicated his life to the Lord.  From that time on, Alipio has had an insatiable desire to understand God’s word, loves to study it and teach others how to study it.

When he was 18, his family moved to southern Oregon.  Alipio attended Southern Oregon University for two and a half years, and then Calvary Chapel Bible College in Murrieta, California for a year and a half.  He has skill painting murals, and used that skill to finance trips to Israel and then Austria.  In Austria he was taking some training that included a mission trip into Hungary and Serbia, a few months before NATO started bombing the country.  When sharing his testimony in a high school in Serbia, he saw how the Lord can work, as every student in six consecutive classes accepted his invitation to receive Christ.  Yet what impressed Alipio just as much was the willingness of two Christian teachers in that school who were risking their jobs to allow the gospel to be preached there.

For the next 13 years, Alipio served the Lord in Europe, sharing the gospel, planting churches and starting a Bible college.  Most of those years were spent in southern Portugal, and he will tell you that the soil of people’s hearts there is very hard.  The Lord also sent a girl, Ashley Carlyle, to Portugal whom Alipio had first met in Hungary, who happened to be from Idaho Falls, and who would later become his wife.

Less than a week after returning to the States in 2010, Alipio was asked by his church to go to Brazil to take charge of a Bible College and Conference Center.  While willing to go wherever God would send him, Alipio wasn’t eager to go to Brazil immediately, and stayed in Oregon a year while Ashley went to Bible College.   Shortly after getting married, Alipio and Ashley went to Brazil, and were there for two years.  However in July 2013 when his mother was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer, they returned to the States to take care of her.   His mother passed away on October 14, 2013.

A few months later, God opened the door for Alipio to join the staff of Watersprings.  God is using his love for studying His Word in various groups he’s leading or teaching here.  Also, Alipio is working on preparations for a discipleship school that will start September of 2015.

Missions to an unreached people group

Two Idaho Falls churches are currently involved in efforts to bring the gospel and plant reproducing churches to unreached people groups in an Asian country.  The following is a brief account of one of them. Because of sensitivity of this work, names have been omitted.

(the following was taken from a letter written in 2013, and will later be updated and expanded)

In 1998, one of the larger churches in Idaho Falls felt burdened to adopt an unreached people group somewhere in the world, with the goal of working for them and with them until, by God’s blessing, a healthy, functioning group of believers was established.  In 2000 the congregation selected a particular indigenous minority group in an Asian country.

This project has been ongoing since that time.  As of 2013, there was not a full Bible in the language of this people nor a self-sustaining group of believers, but there has been progress.  When the church decided to adopt this people, there were few known believers, save for a tiny remnant from missions activity 50-some years earlier.  Now there is at least one functional church in one of the two province where this people group reside, and perhaps as many as several thousand believers scattered around a 200,000 square mile area.  A translation of the New Testament in the native language was published in 2008 and translation of the Old Testament is underway.

The initial primary connection of the Idaho Falls church to this unreached people group was a family from the church who lived among the people in Asia for six years, getting a feel for the challenges to reach them, making friends among the people, studying languages, and assessing what resources were already in the area for spreading the gospel.  During that period, the church also formed and sent also sent five groups of short-term missionaries who taught English camps during the day and built relationships as best they could.  As of early 2013, 30 different people from the church have gone to Asia as part of these mission efforts.  During the 2011 trip, the team was able to attend a festival that culminates with sacrificing a lamb.  This set up the opportunity for one of the team members to present to a small group the redemptive analogy of the Lamb of God. Additional trips were made most later years.

The church is committed to reaching this people group.  The majority of the people in this group are animists and do not know the God of grace.  When the church took on the challenge, no one knew how long it would take to see God establish a reproducing native church, which is their ultimate goal.

Glimpses from My Life – Rebecca Mitchell

The pictures of ideal characters in fiction even under the most artistic hand, or the power of the greatest imagination, can never surpass in portraiture or characteristics the reality of individual experience.  Thinking people are loath to give out to the world their sacred experiences, hidden away within the Holy of Holies of their lives, where none dare intrude.
Rebecca Brown Mitchell

What busy days they were, spinning the wool to be woven into cloth for the winter’s clothing, caring for the lambs of the flock, driving in the sheep and cows at night, no idlers, nor drones, but each did his or her share of the daily work. Behind the farm house was the blooming orchard, laden with its perfume, or rosy with fruit, which was a never ending source of delight.

The country was new and school privileges scarce, while but few books were available, but Scotch-Irish blood and convictions in a deacon’s household made all the family Bible students.  From this Christian home I went in my nineteenth year to be a farmer’s wife, but only a few years passed when death entered the home and took the husband and father from my side.  Though I was but a child in experience, yet now I must take a woman’s responsibility with a world to face alone.  It was at that time when coming in personal contact with existing conditions, that I was awakened and took in the legal restrictions of my sex, which has been as a fire shut up in my bones, permeating my whole being and making me what I am along the lines of independent thought, and willingness to endure hardness, that citizenship for women might be won.

According to the law of the State, the Court appointed appraisers, who came into my house, overhauled trunks, drawers and closets, putting a price on my own goods which I had brought from my father’s house, with one exception, my Bible and hymn book, which they handed me, saying, “These are exempted by law.”  Thus I had to buy back that which was my own by personal right.  But if I had died, my husband would have gone on in full possession of all the property, to use or to keep as he liked regardless of the rights of the children.  This unjust discrimination of the law against women, seeing that they were not consulted as to birth, having no choice as to sex, color or country, was to me in the light of my new experience, heathen and not Christian in any sense of the word.  This was to me a violation of the sacred rights of self-government and of the oneness of the marriage relation as taught in the Bible.  I was like a prisoner in the iron cage of the law, while I studied and tolled, ever lifting my face upward to a Father which I could never believe cared less for His daughter than His son.  The voice of God and of humanity was in my soul, but I chafed in silence, for at that time women were to be seen and not heard, but still the cry from the great mission fields was ever sounding in my ears.  I sought the path of duty and opportunity along the lines of the church, but was hedged out by public opinion and sex prejudice from active service into which the Lord called me. When my two boys were grown and married, I went to a missionary training school in Chicago for a few months, in preparation for work, and in June, 1882, turned my face toward the Great Unknown West, not knowing the whereabouts of my final destination, but was led by God, and so I found myself in Idaho, in the town of Eagle Rock, now Idaho Falls, coming as a self-supporting missionary of the Baptist Church.

What this new territory was at that time can hardly be understood by people in the Old World, a part of the Great American Desert as given in our geographies of forty years ago, but the kiss of nature has transformed the desert into fruitful fields, dotted with thousands of homes, and many schools of high grade as well as primary.  Through this wild country, the home of the Redman, came a few trappers and hunters, who were largely squaw men, and miners heading to the great mining country to the North.  This road crosses the Snake River at this point.  The banks of the river are solid walls of lava rock, and the river looks like a great crack in the earth made by and earthquake while in some places it is claimed that the bottom cannot be found, the current is very swift, dashing the water upon the rocks with such force that it lashes into foam and roars like the sea.  The town was then a row of company houses, built by railroad employees, with shanties here and there, besides a few business houses and the ever-present saloon plying its trade.

It was the morning of June 5th, 1882, when I stepped from the train and into the new world.  No hotel or furnished room could be found where I could find shelter and rest.  All day long I waded the sand shoe top deep in some places, going from house to house, where I found a welcome, but no room.  Late in the afternoon I found a shanty that I could rent, which had been used for a saloon, into which my daughter and I gladly moved our trunks and were at home, amid such surroundings that a change of world could hardly be greater.  I bought a candle, and for a candlestick used an empty beer bottle.  After sweeping out the room, I spread a comfort on the bare floor for a bed, and committing our souls and bodied to the care of the ever-present Father, we slept the sleep that faith alone can give.

I found no church or church organization on this line of road from Ogden, Utah to Butte, Montana, a distance of four hundred miles.  Neither tree, nor grass, nor bird was to be seen on the streets, but sand, sand everywhere.  But when the sandstorms came, it was beyond description.  My first work was a day and Sunday school, which I named Providence Mission, because by unexpected and unplanned journeys the Lord had transplanted me into this needy field.  As nothing better could be found, I transformed my shanty into a chapel and schoolroom of the most primitive kind imaginable, having no furniture same two benches, which served at night for a bedstead and by day for seats for the larger pupils, each having a box in front for a desk.  The smaller children had two boxes, one for a seat and one for a desk.  But how those children did study, making progress not without standing for want of everything needful in the way of equipment.  I never halted, doubted or hesitated, accepting every privation without murmuring or looking back to the world left behind with regret.  My motto was “all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 8:23).

Before the end of the first month my purse was empty, the cost of living was much more than expected.  I had sent home for funds, but the expected remittance had not arrived.  My daughter had been sick and craved some pickles.  I had given her the last nickel with the assuring promise on my lips, “The Lord will provide.”  That very day at noon, a prominent railroad man and a patron of my school, (Frank Reardon) who had laughed at me for saying “Providence Mission” came and handed me the tuition for his boy.  I said with choked emotion, Mr. Reardon, why did you do this?  Did you know that I had spent the last cent, and now you come and pay your tuition before it is due?  What do you call this but the Lord’s direct provision for our need?”  He said, “It does look like it,” and ever after while he remained in this country, he and his family gave me many a comforting word, and more substantial help.

Early in November winter set in, with deep snow and severe cold, which made it impossible to live longer in the shanty.  But by this time, a better place, though very small, was secured, which served me to the end of the first year’s work, after which reasonably good accommodations were opened for my school and home.  I began at once to raise money by writing letters to people in the East who were interested in Home Missions, to build a church.  I was greatly aided by Rev. Dwight Spencer of New York, Superintendent of Baptist Missions in the West.  In this work I happily succeeded during the third year, and in November, 1884, the little chapel was dedicated.  It was the beginning of a new era in Snake River Valley when the bell rang out the hour of prayer.  The Sunday school had prospered; good attendance and faithful co-workers had made the school a landmark to be seen afar.  By this time people were coming into this new country to take land and make homes.  It was slow work, but year by year the population increased as emigrants realized the fertility of the soil and the healthfulness of the climate.  In 1886, a national organizer of the W.C.T.U. came to Eagle Rock and organized a local union of which I was president. Some months later a convention was called at Boise City, when the unions were organized into a territorial union.  I was a delegate to that convention, and took my first lesson in convention work.  I still followed my school work, but in 1891 I was elected State organize and Superintendent of the Franchise, which put the legislative work in my hands.  My daughter being now married, a pastor of the church located, and a public school running, I was free to drop the school work and enter this open door, which gave such opportunities not only to come in contact with people, but to learn much of the social, political and religious condition of the State.

My first legislative work was securing the passage of a Bill raising the age of consent for girls, from ten to eighteen years, at the same time working for an amendment to the constitution granting the right of suffrage to women.  In this I failed at first, but kept on knocking until the Bill passed the next session of the legislature.  The amendment aroused many women outside the ranks of the W.T.C.U., and much help was given by them, writing letters and personal interviews with the members.  But the great battle was to be fought at the Polls at the next general election.  In the meantime, earnest prayerful work was to be done.

 

Justice and truth are fixed eternal principles.  But the world of mankind has leaned away from this tower, until the standard of right in heathen lands lies prone upon the earth at right angles with justice.  The will or the passions of men being the recognized law.  Thus the man holds the life of his wife in his hands as absolutely as the life of his beast, or as any tyrant the life of his meanest subject.  Women are bought and sold and driven like cattle or even worse.  Then this Heathen Standard moves up a little place, where a man may not kill his wife, though he can sell her.  She may eat in his presence and speak to him.  It moves again, the woman is consulted as to her husband, though a slave in every way afterward.  Thus step by step a whole humanity is now being lifted by the Law of Righteousness and truth out of the deepest degradation and moved upward toward the perpendicular.  But as yet there is not a nation in all the world, Christian or non-Christian, that gives to the daughter the same moral, legal, educational and parental rights that the son claims for himself and keeps.  But Election Day dawned upon us, with all its momentous possibilities, cold and stormy, but the club women and W.T.C.U. were abroad at work.  Coffee rooms were opened, and by every means courteous, we urged upon the voters the justice of our cause.  In one place the women hired two boys to go out with placards on their breasts, with this petition “Vote for your Mothers.”  A day of deep anxiety and trial to many of us.  As I stood as near the polls as possible, speaking to the voters as they went into vote, I said to one of the old pioneer citizens of our town, as he was passing in, “Mr. A., won’t you vote for the amendment?”  “It’s not my ticket, it’s not my ticket,” he replied and pushed on and left me.  Afterwards a colored man, who was servant in a household opposed to the amendment came along, and I said, “You will vote the amendment, won’t you?”  “I don’t know, Mrs. Mitchell, I don’t understand it.”   “Do you understand the rest of the ballot?” I asked.  “I think I do.”  “Well then why can’t you understand this?  It is just doing for us what was done for you.  You must be willing to do that.”  “Don’t know, Mrs. Mitchell, don’t understand,” and so he went in and voted.  Some men said, “Women have too many rights now,” and some said other things cruel and hard to bear, cutting deeper than the cold wind.  But we won by a good majority, though the opposition tried to claim that it must be a two-thirds vote to amend.  So the matter went before the Supreme Court, which decided that the majority carried and the battle was over.

When I first asked for the position of chaplain in the Legislature, the men said, “We never heard of such a thing,” but I said, “Why not Idaho do the unheard of thing and set the example for other States?”  But by the next Session I had learned how to work along this line.  So I wrote letters to the members elect urging my claims before the opening of the session, was nominated in joint caucus by the Democrats and Populists and elected in open session by unanimous vote.  Was re-elected the next session in the same way and by the same political parties.  The members and officials have always treated me with all due respect, except in a very few instances where prejudice overruled courtesy.  One of the most interesting events occurring while I was chaplain was when the Idaho legislature accepted an invitation from the Utah Legislature to visit them in a body.  We were very kindly received and toted around with much honor, receptions and speeches with a band concert at Fort Douglas was Saturday’s program.  On Sunday, I found my way to the State Prison, where I talked to the prisoners, went to the Tabernacle in the afternoon, and in the evening out to Fort Douglas to preach to the soldiers.  Monday morning went to Garfield Beach, and in the afternoon a joint session of the two State legislatures was held to play at lawmaking, but had the opening rollcall as usual.  To my surprise when all was ready, Idaho’s chaplain was called to open the session with prayer.  I rose and went forward hardly knowing where I was, but I opened my mouth and the Lord filled it with large petitions, as the hush of the vast assembly was something to be felt.  The after comments were all on the side of the woman chaplain.

During all the years given to legislative work, I have held service in our State Prison at Boise, and often between sessions when in the city.  The service was always favorably received by the men, winning the attention and the hearts of some to receive the truth and strive for a better life.  One man in a letter said, “I am glad I am here, for I have learned about Christ and to read and to love His word.”  The “boys,” as I called them, were especially grateful for the parole law which I had helped to secure, they always manifest great pleasure when I visit and preach to them.

My own women were astonished at the boldness of my forward movement in seeding the position of Chaplain, but when they saw that I could fill it all right, they rejoiced with me in the victory.  Letters of congratulations poured in upon me from all over the United States, and worn as I was with the long battle for citizenship, I was cheered by the honor given me in my old age, a kid of compensation for long weary miles of stage travel and storm and cold.  The jeers of men were forgotten, the haughty looks of women who had all the rights they want, faded away as a cloud before the sun.  Not for myself did I care so much, for I had learned to labor and wait, but for womanhood was the victory dear to my heart.  History will record that work done for humanity, the helpless and unprotected legally or otherwise pays a dividend far greater than any other investment, even though the recipients may not at the time appreciate the sacrifice and labor which it cost.

 

People, Geography, and Businesses

The People of Idaho Falls

Let’s start with the people, who have lived in Idaho Falls or are now living here.

About 32,000 have been buried in 24 cemeteries in Bonneville County. A little more than three times that amount, 104,234 people, were living in Bonneville County as of 2010.  The 2010 census shows the population of the City of Idaho Falls to be 56,813. More than 12,000 people from outside the city commute to jobs in Idaho Falls. The growth of Idaho Falls and the nearby communities of Ammon, Lincoln and Iona has in effect integrated these towns, with a combined (additional) population of 19,266, into Idaho Falls. Populations of Swan Valley, Irwin, and the part of Ririe within Bonneville County are at most a few hundred each, leaving a sizable rural population in the county.  A large part of this rural population can be considered part of Idaho Falls either because of geographic proximity or social, religious and business connections.

Between 1883 and 1885 the population of Eagle Rock exploded from 550 to 1500, when the railroad house came to town.  But by 1890 it had plummeted down to 472 as the railroad jobs were lost to Pocatello. The population more than tripled in each of the next two decades.  The next largest period of high population growth was in the 1950’s, in which the population grew by 73%, due to formation of the National Reactor Test Site, the forerunner of the Idaho National Laboratory.  The growth spurt of the 1950’s was followed by the slowest growth, of 7.9%, for the decade of the 1960’s.  Since then the population has grown by 10-15% per decade.

In recent years, the fastest growing segment of the Idaho Falls and Bonneville County population has been Hispanic, increasing from about 2% of the population in 1980 to nearly 12% in 2010.Based on the 2010 census, 57% of the people living in Bonneville County were born in Idaho.  It’s highly probable that most of those were born and grew up in Idaho Falls.  In our highly mobile society, that’s a high number, suggesting strong attachments to the city or area. Based on the same census, 37% of Bonneville County residents came here from other states, while 5% were foreign born.

In contrast, in 1880, only 12% of the population of Eagle Rock and Willow Creek had been born in Idaho, about 33% in Utah, 27% in 22 other states and 19% in eight European countries or Canada.

In 2010, there were 2,412 births in Bonneville County and 890 deaths.  The net in-migration from other states to Bonneville County from 2000-2009 was 8,057 people, but in 2010 turned negative as 107 more people left than came.  The net in-migration of people born outside the United States to Bonneville County was 853 from 2000-2009 and remained positive in 2010, when 128 more came than left.

The geography of Idaho Falls and the surrounding area

Geologically, the most obvious feature of our city is the river that runs through the town, and supplies electric power to most of it.  Not quite so obvious is the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer, of which Idaho Falls sits on the eastern edge. One reason water is so essential to the city is the dryness of our climate, with an average annual precipitation of only 10.5 inches.

Located near the eastern edge of the Snake River Plain, the terrain of Idaho Falls is nearly flat.  The elevation at different points in the city varies in an irregular pattern from about 4,700 to 4,735 feet.

While many Idaho Falls residents enjoy recreational opportunities in mountains within easy driving distances in any direction from Idaho Falls, the closest mountains are the Blackfoot Range, southeast of town.  Taylor Mountain, rising to 7,414 feet, is included in this range, named for James “Matt” Taylor who built the first bridge in what became Eagle Rock.  The highest point in Bonneville County is the top of Mount Baird, at 10,025 feet, in the Snake River Mountain Range.  The highest point in Idaho, 12,668-ft Borah Peak, is 96 (cross-country, straight-line) miles from Idaho Falls.

Idaho Falls Businesses

Once canals began supplying water to pioneers in Eastern Idaho, agriculture became the economic base for Idaho Falls and remained so until the early 1950’s.  As early as 1869, geologist Ferdinand Hayden, who led numerous expeditions in the West and has left his name in numerous places in Yellowstone Park, reported that the Snake River Valley “was composed of a rich, sandy loam, that needs but the addition of water to render it excellent farming land.”

A 1920’s brochure included the following in its description of Idaho Falls:

“It is in the center of one of the greatest irrigation districts of the West, and the trade center for 1,300,000 acres of irrigated lands, exclusive of hundreds of thousands of acres of dry farming, grazing and forest lands.”

“[Among businesses] located in this city might be mentioned the largest sugar factor in the West, grain elevators, feed mills, wholesale grocery houses, three strong and successful banks, wholesale potato houses, bonded warehouses, cheese factory, bottling plants, bakeries, oil distributing plants, some of the finest garages in Idaho, planing mills, steam laundry, one of the largest wholesale seed pea companies in the world, honey shipping house, several lumber yards, cream buying stations, ice cream and candy factories…”

The above quotation mentions four of the agricultural products (potatoes, grain, sugar and honey) – two of which are now largely forgotten – that were important in the history of Idaho Falls.

To some, Idaho is synonymous with potatoes; Idaho Falls along with other parts of southern and eastern Idaho is a center for marketing and processing potatoes grown in the area. In recent years six billion pounds of potatoes have been grown in Idaho leads each year; potato processing in Eastern Idaho accounts for 44% of the total in the state.

Idaho also leads the nation in barley production, and two of the three barley processing facilities in the State are in Idaho Falls, Anheuser Bush’s Idaho Falls malt plant and the Idaho Falls Modelo malt plant.

In 1903 some Idaho Falls citizens formed the Idaho Sugar Company and constructed a sugar factory in Lincoln.  The History of Idaho, published in 1914, reported that this sugar factory was the largest in the world, processed sugar beets from 10,000 acres, and disbursed a million dollars annually in payment for beets and labor.   It’s original capacity of 600 tons of sugar beets a day was expanded to 4400 tons/day.  Over 75 years of operation, the plant produced over 4 billion pounds of sugar.  As late as 1970, the plant was the second largest sugar factory in the nation, employing between 350 and 400 workers, and producing about 150 million pounds of sugar a year.

In the early 20th century Idaho Falls was recognized as one of the largest producers of honey in the world.