The Pacific Northwest is a region of great variety, ranging on the west coast of North America from the 40th to the 51st parallel. It includes southern Alaska, British Columbia, Washington State, Oregon, and Northern California. Its broadest definition also includes the province of Alberta, and the states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Oregon and Washington are often considered the center of the Pacific NW. Early fur traders explored the area. Later, others came by wagon train to new homesteads. The independence of early settlers and the spirit of helping newcomers is evident in present-day residents.
Washington has a population of over six million and Oregon over three million. Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver are the major cities and melting pots of almost every nationality. In contrast, some rural areas are isolated and sparsely populated. Recent years have brought changes in transportation, economic conditions, and basic values. Environmental issues and the New Age movement are prominent. Among the lower 48 states, Oregon reportedly has the lowest church attendance.
The needs and opportunities are great, but historically only small numbers have responded to gospel work. Ralph Goff reminded us years ago that if the laborer could not be content with small numbers, then he wouldn’t stay long working here.
In the early days, workers traveled by foot, horseback, or wagon. Later, they took a train to head into new areas. Hector Alves spoke of labors along the Montana border using a horse drawn covered wagon. Bootleggers thought this was an excellent method; posing as preachers, they moved about in a double-walled wagon, filled with liquor bottles. A dusty Bible gave them away to customs agents!
Brother Alves stressed that one of the lessons learned the hard way was that if God saved souls, then the worker should stay in the area. On one occasion when he had left an area, he returned only to find that the enemy had come, sown false doctrine, and, like wolves in sheep’s clothing, had devoured the converts.
In recent years, the Lord has worked and souls have been saved. Two new assemblies have been planted: one in Tri-Cities, Washington, and one in Corvallis, Oregon. While some are saved, many do not want the whole counsel of God. We have enjoyed times of getting into areas where we knew no one. We preached the gospel and souls were saved. Extremes of weather and distances can be daunting. God can, however, strengthen the laborer.
In the work of the Lord there is great need for guidance and control by the Spirit of God. The will of God never contradicts the methods of the Word of God. We seek every Scriptural means to bring the gospel to souls. God has blessed tent work. Schools and Grange halls are still available to rent in new areas. Meetings in the home with an open Bible and neighbors gathered in have also been used. Many people go nowhere and their only exposure to the gospel is the evangelist. The cults, however, also preach their “gospel” to these people. In the north, oil camps and mining centers may contain as many as 30,000 people. These ranches are open to literature and visits, as are harbors, fishing fleets, and coast guard stations.
I have found that one good conversation is worth more than delivering to thousands of homes like the newspaper boy. Follow-up is essential for long-term fruit.
A large population of Spanish-speaking people live in California, Oregon, and Washington. They readily accept literature and are very open to the Word of God. A real work could be done here. Some who are here are migrants, but many have settled down and live here permanently. They visit in the evening with friends. Such times provide a great opportunity to share the gospel with them.
Who will leave all for the sake of the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ? Who will bring them the glorious message of the gospel? Ground can be possessed by local men, working by day and preaching by night. Rented rooms, store fronts, schools, and homes will be provided as the Lord opens doors. Visitation door-to-door, accompanied by wisdom, is vital. Are we too busy here in life, and never hear the Lord’s voice and call? “Pray ye the Lord of the harvest…”