Minfield Children's Home
Many years before Auke Bay Bible Church opened its doors, there was Minnie Field. She was not a politician or an activist, not a teacher or a missionary, she had no education, wealth, or status - but she was a woman who contributed a great deal to the "least of them," Alaska's needy children.
Minnie welcomed all children - unwanted, racially mixed (segregation was in place at the time), physically handicapped, and neglected children; as well temporarily boarding children whose parents had to leave town for work. The Minfield Home was located on the beach at Lena Pt. She started caring for children around 1927, by the time of her retirement in 1949, nearly 2,000 children had passed through Minfield's doors.
Though Minnie didn’t have more than an Elementary education, she read the Bible to her children and taught them Biblical values. At a court hearing in 1949, in which Minnie was opposing legislation that would put an end to children’s homes, Minnie said of her children, “Old Minnie ain’t much of a teacher, but I have a feeling they know more Bible stories than some of you. They are growing up to be good, law-abiding citizens. And listen to this: out of pretty near 2,000 boys and girls who have come and gone from Minfield Home, not one has ever seen the inside of a jail. Not one has become a drunkard or a gambler.”
We are grateful to Minnie Field for her obedience, hard work, self-sacrifice, and her walk with our Lord. Auke Bay Bible Church has a rich spiritual heritage thanks to this humble heroine.
Auke Bay Bible Church
The Minfield Children’s Home got the attention of the Gospel Missionary’s Union who sent up several young missionary couples to help carry on her ministry after her retirement in 1949. In 1967 the Welfare Department phased out children’s homes in favor of foster care and Minfield Children’s Home closed permanently. These Missionaries then moved on to church planting in South East Alaska. The Churches they started were the Chilkoot Bible Church in Haines; Douglas Island Bible Church in West Juneau; and Auke Bay Bible Church. Among the couples sent up with GMU, were Jake and Hilda Hoffman.
Jake Hoffman purchased the property where Auke Bay Bible Church stands now in 1963 and he became the first Pastor.
Echo Ranch Bible Camp
In the early 1940's, a Logger named Allen McMurchie, homesteaded a piece of property 40 miles north of Juneau at the mouth of Echo Cove.
Despite the obvious economic value of the land he homesteaded, McMurchie dreamed that one day his land would house a full-time Christian institution, possibly a Bible college or a home for troubled youth.
From his strategic location on Berner's Bay, Allen had easy access to Lynn Canal to move his timber and enough privacy to give a pioneering logger peace. But he did not enjoy this land alone for long. In 1950 Allen married a local doctor, Catherine Sherwood, and asked her to share in his life and in his dream. Their dreams began to take shape in the 50's as they became acquainted with Avant Ministries, then known as Gospel Missionary Union, through the Minfield children's home and the church planting effort in Auke Bay.
The first involvement the McMurchies homestead had with Avant was in October 1961. They allowed Avant to keep a herd of cattle on their farm to help supplement the needs of the Minfield home. Out of this contact evolved the idea to have a summer youth camp held on the premises. In the summer of 1964, the first camp was held on the McMurchie farm, with the site given the title, "Echo Ranch."
Fifty-five campers attended this first, two week camping experience and soon work began on a dining hall/kitchen complex and several cabins.
Providing important leadership from Avant's side of the ministry were Jake and Hilda Hoffman, the first directors of Echo Ranch. Jake Hoffman was Pastoring Auke Bay Bible Church at the time Avant asked him to go to Echo Ranch.