Alaska Congress brings Juneau officer home

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By Robert DeBerry

For Juneau Corps Officer Major Gina Halverson, the 2018 Alaska Congress in Hoonah was more than a time to worship and share her love of Christ—it was a homecoming.

Halverson grew up in Hoonah and in The Salvation Army. Her parents and grandparents were always involved with the organization, but it wasn’t until she worked at a summer camp that she herself forged a deep connection with the Army.

“I worked there for a couple years and Service Corps, and that’s where I think God just really sold my heart on The Salvation Army,” she said.

Juneau Corps Officer Major Gina Halverson hugs her cousin, Edna Skaflestad, after speaking during the 2018 Alaska Congress in Hoonah. | Photo by Robert Deberry

So, to be able to stand in front of those that know her best is a privilege and an honor, even if it is a little scary.

“This is special to me because I’m from here, but it’s nerve-racking because I am preaching to the people that helped me become who I am today. That is a cool thing…just to be able to come home and be with my family. It’s nice to be able to show my kids their family and where I’m from.”

Although coming home is always comforting, Halverson admits things are different. For one, her family has gotten older. But beyond that, the congress itself has changed.

“Growing up it was the Corps Sergeant Majors who ran the congresses and my dad was a Corps Sergeant Major, so when congress would come to town my dad and The Salvation Army and other leaders within The Salvation Army would make committees,” she said. “So Alaska Native Sisterhood was in charge of food, Alaska Native Brotherhood was in charge of the building. My mom was always on the housing committee.”

Juneau Corps Officer Major Gina Halverson, right, and Tim Eide Sr., unroll a flag before the March Of Witness during the 2018 Alaska Congress in Hoonah. | Photo by Robert DeBerry

For Halverson, this visit was under much more favorable circumstances than the last one. The last time she returned to Hoonah was seven years ago, following the deadly shooting of her cousin. She came back to do the funeral.

This time around, the focus was on the congress and her sermon. As she found out she would be preaching and as soon as the theme “Christ and Him Crucified” was confirmed, she began to narrow down her talking points.

“I put a lot of prayer and attention into what I say when I speak,” she said. “I work really hard on my delivery. I worked hard on my content. I really want it to be the Word of God.”

Her cousin Edna Skaflestad, noted her passion for preaching.

“I went to her service in Juneau with my son, and when we left he said, ‘Aunt Gina and Uncle Shane always look so happy up there. Genuinely happy. It’s nice to go to service with them.’

“I am so proud of her,” she said.

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