ANCHORAGE, AK (March 21, 2016) – Covenant minister Nathan Toots died Friday, March 18. He was 79.
Nathan was considered among the most influential people in developing the Covenant church in Alaska. In 2013, he was honored at the denomination’s Annual Meeting with the Irving C. Lambert Award for the leadership he had shown in serving the people in the Alaskan bush as well as in urban areas. See previous story on his receipt of the award.
He served as pastor of Shaktoolik Covenant Church and Scammon Bay Covenant Church, and as associate pastor at First Covenant Church in Anchorage. He also served as associate field director for the Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska, now the Alaska Conference.
Toots married Isabelle Hill, on March 4, 1981. She died in 2013.
Nathan’s story was an inspiration to many in Alaska, said people who knew him. Raised attending church, he began what he called a “rebellious lifestyle” as a teenager. Over the next 20 years, he was arrested several times for driving under influence, and his alcoholism led to a divorce from his first wife.
Nathan told people his life turned around in 1973. “After much contemplation, I knelt at the foot of my bed and prayed an awkward prayer asking Jesus to come into my life, pleading for forgiveness and deliverance from alcoholism,” he said.
“His life story is one that should inspire us all to trust that the power of the gospel can reach any person, no matter their lot in life, and transform their lives,” said Curtis Ivanoff, Alaska Conference superintendent.
Ivanoff and other leaders said Nathan was a mentor to them, and they depended on his wisdom. “He invested his life to help raise up a generation of leaders to do just that, and I count myself among those he spurred on,” Ivanoff said.
Paul Wilson, superintendent of the Pacific Southwest Conference, said Toots was important to his spiritual and professional growth. “When in 1994, I moved my family to Alaska to serve as field director, I was young and inexperienced. I greatly desired to serve well, but knew I needed a wise mentor.
I found this mentor in Nathan. He served as a tutor in explaining Native cultures, encouraged the gifts he saw in me, and was a true partner in the gospel. I will forever be grateful that he, a man of far more experience, accepted my invitation to serve as associate field director of what we formerly called ECCAK.
“I last saw Nathan about a year ago. His memory clouded, Nathan grabbed me by the shoulders, looked at me with that focused gaze and said: “Paul, we need to do all we can for the young people.” I received these words not as just the conviction of a friend, but prophetic from our God.”
Services will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at First Covenant Church in Anchorage.