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Bagley author still on a mission

Mildred (Millie) Larson will be greeting the public at her book signing Saturday at Kat’s Book Nook in Bemidji. Patt Rall | Bemidji Pioneer

BAGLEY – Perhaps a few readers will recognize their names in the book that Octogenarian Mildred (Millie) Larson recently published while others, with certitude, will accept her question, then premise: divine intervention does occur.

At age 10, Larson and her family, including four brothers, moved to Solway from South Dakota. She began to attend summer camp at Oak Hills and taught vacation bible schools at many area churches. After graduating in 1943 from Bemidji High School, Larson went to Wheaton College in Illinois to study literature but she still heard the same voice that had been calling her since childhood, “come follow me.”

“I knew since I was a little girl that I would be a (Christian) missionary,” Larson said. “I had heard a missionary talk of the need to have translations of the New Testament in native languages while I was at Wheaton.”

Larson then attained a master’s degree in linguistics and decided to join the Wycliffe Bible Translators in 1950. Wycliffe is an internationally recognized group devoted to evangelization and translations of the New Testament into native languages.

At that time, Wycliffe was a small group of people who worked primarily in Mexico and Peru. Larson went to northern Peru near the Ecuador border to work with the Aguaruna people which had no written language at the time.

Larson joked about how she was told by others that she worked among headhunters but she said she never saw any (shrunken) heads.

Folks back home in Bemidji and environs learned of Larson’s work through letters sent home and stories of her successes. A 1975 article in the Pioneer reported: “One of the world’s newest translations of the New Testament is the work of a Bemidji area woman Millie Larson. … She worked primarily in linguistics and translation … and helped develop an extensive bilingual school system.”

Larson stayed with the Aguaruna for 25 years and wrote of her time with them in her book, “Treasure in Clay Pots,” printed in 1982.

Larson’s next 25 years were spent with Wycliffe in Dallas. The new direction in her career prompted her to travel the world as a teacher, administrator and author of scholarly works and texts still used today.

Larson’s newest publication, “Coincidence or God: Stories from the Road Gone By” is the fruition of her desire to share her faith and adventures among those people she loved so well in the villages along the Maranon River in Peru with her numerous nieces and nephews. Larson started writing vignettes of those times in her life when she felt the presence of God in miracles that cannot be attributed to coincidence. Memories flooded back, and Larson wrote of trips with other missionaries to the different villages.

She relates the “miracle” of being on the river in the dark of night, the guide unable to see, when they prayed for light and received the blessing of lightening to show the way. Some of the stories tell of how she decided in 2000 to return to Minnesota after retiring from her administrative position. She wrote about how her prayers for discernment and assistance were answered sometimes by strangers and oft times by people she knew or family members.

And then it all came together for this 87-year-old author when she started to look for a publisher for her collection of memories underscored by promises that can be found in verses from the Bible. She discovered a step-by-step guide to self publishing, “Inspiring Voices,” a component of Guideposts, a magazine printed for general distribution in churches for daily Christian devotionals.

Larson contacted them and was assigned a series of consultants. But she pointed to the cover of her book, painted by her niece Jane Larson, and the technical expertise supplied by another niece, Mary Larson, as reasons why she was able to finish the volume.

A project that started out as a gift for her family became a gift from her family as they were integral in its final printing.

Although hampered a bit by age and physical limitations, Larson continues to be active in her faith life.

Recently, in Bagley, Larson’s brother, Glenn, and his wife Celia picked her up for a Christmas party at Calvary Evangelical Free Church.

“If I weren’t working, I’d be at the party with Millie,” Julie Sten, kitchen manager at Corner Stone, said while Larson waited there for the ride. “Millie is taking my blueberry crisp dessert there for me. I enjoying talking with her here at the residence and she is also a member of my church.”

A signing for Larson’s book is scheduled from 1-3 p.m. Saturday at Kat’s Book Nook, 750 Paul Bunyan Drive NW, Bemidji. Her books also are available for purchase at Gallery North in Bemidji, Corner Stone Residence in Bagley and online at Inspiring Voices Publishing.