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Alaska Quake Damages AG Ministries

Two Assemblies of God churches and the Alaska Network's campgrounds suffered significant damage due to Friday's 7.0 earthquake.
The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Alaska Friday morning, with an epicenter seven miles north of Anchorage, caused structural damage to two Assemblies of God churches and seriously damaged the Alaska Ministry Network’s Little Beaver campgrounds. However, no serious injuries were reported.

King's Way Ministry Center in Eagle River, pastored by Lance Smith, and Calvary Church in Anchorage, pastored by Mark Glover, both experienced structural damage to their facilities.

Smith, whose church also has a Pre-K3 through 12 school, says that the earthquake struck while children were in the classrooms. “It first hit about 8:30 a.m. and the shaking lasted for about 90 seconds,” Smith says. “The children did as they’ve been drilled to do — took cover under their desks — and then we evacuated the building when the shaking stopped and got the children home.”

What many in the continental United States may not readily realize is that even though the earthquake occurred at 8:29 a.m., in Alaska, it was still dark outside — sunrise didn’t take place until about 9:50 a.m. Sunset came shortly after 3:40 p.m.

At King's Way, the most severe damage occurred in the church sanctuary, the oldest of the three buildings on the property, as the balcony had visibly pulled away from the side walls. In addition to cracks in plaster and drywall in the buildings, much of the church’s rock facia also fell or was loosened to the point it has to be removed. Damage to items being shaken off walls, shelves, and other resting spots was also widespread. However, at this point, Smith hopes the school will be able to be inspected and re-opened by Wednesday.

Services were held on Sunday at Calvary Church, but Glover says the foundation on the south side of the church fractured and destabilized material underneath the pad.

“However, the sanctuary sits on separate foundational piers and didn’t experience structural damage,” says Glover, who lived through the massive 9.2 magnitude Alaskan quake in 1964. “But this was still a pretty substantial earthquake – it actually tore light fixtures out of the ceiling.”

Due to the weather, the church will be unable to repair the fracture until spring, but Glover says that the church is already assisting hurting community members. On Saturday, the church delivered food to distribution locations for people in need and members are currently helping people, whose home are no longer safe to live in, find shelter.

“This is a great opportunity to show people the love of God and provide for the community,” he states.

According to the Alaska Network superintendent, Bill Welch, the network’s campgrounds are located almost at the epicenter of the earthquake, which led to extensive damage to the camp. At the time of the quake, more than 40 children and adults were at the camp for an MK-PK retreat. All escaped safely, with only one young person experiencing a minor injury when she was struck by falling debris.

Pastor Barry Orzalli, the Little Beaver Camp director, has surveyed the damage at the campground. He says that four buildings were knocked off their foundations, septic and water lines were severed, a two-story double-fireplace crumbled, and extensive damage was done to equipment inside of the buildings, especially the kitchen area.

“We have to check the wells yet and we haven’t been inside of some of the buildings because we’re not sure of their structural integrity,” Orzalli says. “Once the structural engineer comes for an inspection, we’ll be better able to access damage to the buildings’ structures as well as hopefully get inside to look for things such as cracked sinks and toilets. The buildings had been winterized, so we’re not worried about freezing water lines, but getting buildings jacked up and back on their foundations is a little trickier in the winter than in the summer.”

“All in all,” Welch observes, “the Lord was with us and got us through it pretty well. Churches do have damage, as does the camp, and people’s homes were tossed pretty good, but we are thankful to the Lord there was no loss of life.”

Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.