Covenant Pastor John Wilkens Dies, Services Pending

MOUNT VERNON, WA (December 23, 2013) – Retired Covenant pastor John C. Wilkens passed away on December 21, 2013, at the age of 90. He was active through the last day of his life, and died peacefully in his home in Mount Vernon, Washington.

Service and memorial arrangements are pending and will be announced by Lemley Funeral Chapel in Sedro Woolley, Washington.

Wilkens was born on January 17, 1923, on a farm near Niota, Illinois. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and served as a flight engineer. He later attended Officers’ Candidate School and until the end of World War II served as a transportation officer with convoys on the Burma Road.

After returning from the war, he worked in the neon sign industry before attending Azusa Pacific University (then Pacific Bible College) and eventually received a master of arts in theology there.

Wilkens married Ruth Spurling in 1959. Between the time they were engaged and married, he went to the Philippines for eighteen months of missionary service. After their marriage the two of them returned to the Philippines and served as missionaries together for a year.

When the family returned in 1960, Wilkens accepted a call to pastor a church plant in Grand Junction, Colorado. In 1962 Azusa Pacific asked John to return to campus as their dean of students, a position he served in for seven years. While working at Azusa he earned master of arts in educational administration from Claremont Graduate School.

The family moved to Miltonvale, Kansas, where Wilkens had accepted a position of dean of students at a small Christian college. They had lived in Kansas less than a year when the chair of Brantford Evangelical Covenant Church near Clyde, Kansas, called and asked if he would fill the pulpit while they searched for a new pastor. After a short time, the church called Wilkens to be that new pastor, and he served there for 18 years.

He pastored the church through a large building project in 1982, enabling the church to expand its vacation Bible school, outreach, and fellowship ministries. Because the church was situated in a rural farming community almost equidistant from four different county seats, Wilkens generally drove more than 25,000 miles each year as he visited people in hospitals in those towns as well as more distant cities like Salina, Topeka, and Wichita.

While at Brantford, Wilkens also became well known throughout the area as the preacher of the church’s weekly radio broadcast. After retiring in 1988, he continued to preach on the radio in a weekly program of his own. He self-published a commentary on Genesis in 2008.

The couple moved to Oak Harbor, Washington, in 2000. Ruth died earlier this year in March.

He is survived by his son, Randall Wilkens, worship pastor of Bethany Covenant Church, in Mount Vernon; a daughter, Laurel Littrell of Manhattan, Kansas; and two grandchildren.

Service and memorial arrangements are pending and will be announced by Lemley Funeral Chapel in Sedro Woolley, Washington.

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