Greenland is one of the largest islands on earth. Located in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, it is also one of the most uninhabitable places on earth. A Norseman, Erik the Red, father of Leif Erickson, first explored it. Norse settlers established a few colonies along Greenland’s coast in the 10th century but contact with those colonies was lost some time later. English explorer John Davis rediscovered Greenland. Henry Hudson and William Baffin further explored and mapped its coastline.
Denmark claimed Greenland as its own territory for many years. But a 1979 referendum in Greenland gave the country self rule, with Denmark retaining control over external affairs. During World War II, the United States Coast Guard protected Greenland from Nazi intrusion, and later handed over several military facilities to Denmark. American civilians, military and Danish personnel still maintain a small presence there.
Lutheran missionaries tried to establish a church among the people of Greenland in the 1800s, but the Danish government resisted their attempts to “westernize” the island. Denmark forbade foreign missionaries from visiting Greenland until the 1950s. Scandinavian missionaries were the first to arrive there. Nine churches or missions’ houses were established in this time. From June 1975 to November 1982, Agnes Rodli, an Assemblies of God missionary, traveled to Greenland once a year to help and encourage the Pentecostal churches. Finally, in 1989, the Assemblies of God were able to send its first resident missionaries to live and work in Greenland, Alan and Karen Algee, although they are no longer serving there.
The Movement Today
The Algees helped establish the Inuit Bible Institute to train and strengthen believers in the national church. Today, the Assemblies of God in Greenland report the following statistics: two ministers, 7 churches and outstations, 300 members and adherents. Jan Berthelsen, an Inuit Pastor, is in full-time traveling ministry with The Inuit Bible Institute. Today it is very easy to gather a thousand people together for evangelistic meetings all over Greenland. Meetings and campaigns are being held across Greenland. The Assemblies of God is working with the Free Pentecostal Church and a Danish missionary, assisting the development of these ministries.
Additional Facts About Greenland
- Official Name: Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland)
- Capital: Nuuk (Gothab)
- Area: 836,109 square miles
- Population: 55,984
- Urbanization: 85%
- Languages: Greenlandic, Danish and English
- Ethnic Groups: Greenlander (87 percent), Danish and others (13 percent)
- Industry: Fishing, seal hunting, fur trapping, handicrafts and some shipbuilding