Greenland is one of the largest islands on earth, but due to its location in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, also one of the most uninhabitable. Erik the Red, a Norseman and the father of Leif Ericksson, first explored the island. Norse settlers established a few colonies along Greenland’s coast in the tenth 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 U.S. Coast Guard protected Greenland from Nazi intrusion and later handed over several military facilities to Denmark. American civilians along with 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 mission houses were established in this time. From 1975 to 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 sent its first resident missionaries to Greenland, Alan and Karen Algee, who lived and served there until 1992.
The Movement Today
The Algees helped establish Inuit Bible Institute to train and strengthen believers in the national church. Today the Assemblies of God in Greenland reports the following statistics: 2 ministers, 7 churches and outstations, and 300 members and adherents. Jan Berthelsen, an Inuit pastor, is in full-time traveling ministry with Inuit Bible Institute. Today it is very easy to gather a thousand people together for evangelistic meetings all over Greenland. The Assemblies of God is working with the Free Pentecostal Church and a Danish missionary, assisting in ministry development.
Additional Facts About Greenland
Capital: Nuuk (Godthaab)
Area: 836,330 square miles
Languages: Greenlandic, Danish, and English
Ethnic Groups: Inuit (88 percent), Danish and other (12 percent)
Industry: fishing, seal hunting, fur trapping, handicrafts, and some shipbuilding