FC: Ken's Diaries: Making of a Missionary | "Integrity is doing the right thing, even when nobody is watching." C.S. Lewis
1: Introduction If Kenneth Whitfield Powlison's life story were divided into chapters, it could probably be summed up with three: his early years in North and South Dakota, his young adult years in California, and his final years as a missionary in Bolivia. This book is not an exhaustive history of Ken's life; instead, it is a magnifying glass into the middle chapter. It was during these years that Ken kept detailed diaries which have been preserved. Many family members have seen pictures of Great Grandpa Ken. But these diaries give us a glimpse into the personality, character, and faith of the man behind those pictures. These diaries also reveal a timeless love story. By the end of all four diaries, two central themes emerge: Ken loved his Lord and he loved his lady down on 49th Street. His service in Bolivia became the fruit and expression of that love. | "... Ken loved his Lord and he loved his lady down on 49th Street".
2: Chapters Chapter 1 - Seeds of faith (birth - 1913) Chapter 2 - Spiritual Growth (1916) Chapter 3 - Love awakens (1917) Chapter 4 - It All Comes Together (1917-1919) | January 1, 1916 "...I dedicate this book & its contents to the Lord Jesus Christ & to whatever cause He leads me to use it for." -
3: Kenneth Whitfield Powlison was born on May 19, 1895, in Grafton, North Dakota to George and Maude Powlison. His younger brother, Keith, came next and his baby sister, Edris, arrived in 1899. By 1903, when Ken was eight years old, his father had left the family. His mother had moved him and his siblings to Grand Rapids, South Dakota, where her brother lived and practiced law. | Chapter 1 - Early Years
4: Ken's parents: To this day, many mysteries remain as to the reasons for George and Maude's separation. No one even knows if the couple obtained an official divorce. If anyone would have had the resources to, it would have been Maude, with her brother being an attorney. George did go on to re-marry in Iowa; he and his new wife had two children together. Maude became a schoolteacher and never re-married. She and Ken remained close until Ken's death in 1935. | Did Ken ever see or talk to his dad again? According to Ken's diaries, the answer is "yes". They had contact through letters for a short time. It sounds like George initiated the contact. Feb. 16, 1916: "...answered dad's letter and chucked it full of scripture..." March 8, 1916: "...Was surprised to receive letter from Geo. Powlison with testimony for Christ & offer of a typewriter..." Then, about a month later, he wrote the following in his diary. April 16, 1916: "...Morning sermon fitting & homely (Fatherhood & childhood)..." Clearly, as the last entry reveals, the recent reunion with his father was weighing heavy on his mind and heart.
5: 1912 In 1912, Ken was living in Los Angeles, California, with his widowed step-grandmother, who was a retired doctor. He lived with her while attending high school and college, His mom and siblings lived in Riverside, California. | Ken was a junior at Polytechnic High School when he started his 1912 diary. The picture to the left was taken in November of 1912, when he was 17 years old. | Monday, January 1 "A Happy New Year to all. This has certainly been the grandest and happiest New Year's Day I ever spent. I arose late but because I retired late. Had a good breakfast and visited the dentist. I packed my suitcase in the forenoon. Also had my last chat with Ruby over the phone. I went to Los Angeles in the afternoon arriving 1:15. Was cordially welcomed."
6: EASTER Sunday, April 7 "I got up at 7 o'clock this morning & went down to sunrise prayer meeting at YW bldg. Came back for breakfast & was late for Sunday School. I staid(?) church. I wrote letter to mother after dinner & also to Dr. Porter. I read some in Young People. Ate & went to C.E. meeting: Lorraine led. Few present. I was baptized by immersion in evening services. Communion and Easter songs." | Committed Ken was baptized at a C.E. meeting. He was very involved in "Christian Endeavor" - a national organization that still exists today; its purpose is to challenge youth to put their faith into action. The entries below show that Ken was learning to serve, both in leadership positions and behind-the-scenes. | Sat., January 6 "...I worked trig after school awhile and then went down to feed at the Y.M.C.A. free. Talked over plans for year. I was appointed on organization committee. I came home and studied some more." | Sat., March 23 "...Went to Boy Scout meeting at Y.M.C.A. in evening." Wed., March 27 "Elected secretary for Boy Scouts."
7: Making memories Ken's 1912 diary reveals a typical teenager, juggling schoolwork, classes, friendships, dating, and extra-curricular activities.