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Casino Assembly of God | Dan & Karin Johnson

Ask anyone familiar with the heritage of the Assemblies of God in Minnesota which church was first established and you’ll get mixed answers. While friendly debate often bounces between Brainerd and Casino, there’s little doubt that the beginnings of our MN District are rooted in our East Central section.

In the fall of 1921, Reverends James Menzie and Frank Lindquist were leading revival services in and around Brainerd. At the request of a woman from Staples, they held two weeks of meetings at Sunrise School in Casino. The next summer, following weeks of tent meetings, Pastor Menzie and a small group of people built the Full Gospel Church in Casino and held their first business meeting on October 28, 1922. Three years later the church joined the General Council of the Assemblies of God.

A “Declaration of Fellowship” was signed with the North Central District (MN, WI, ND, SD, and MT) in 1928. That document, still on file at the District Office, reveals the rich legacy of this rural church. Two of the document signers have the last name “Martin,” the maiden name of Steph Peterson, Jen Loukinen, and Carrie Espeseth, who all attended the church years ago.

Steph Peterson has many great memories like singing on Sunday nights and spending time at the altars at Casino AG. Her great Aunt Alma, one of the Martins who signed the “Declaration of Fellowship” in 1928, preached a sermon on idols that Steph has never forgotten. She has used that same message at Winona State Chi Alpha and was even able to share it at the last service held in the old Casino AG church building before it was torn down last year.

Steph and her family aren’t the the only ones with ties to this great church. Other familiar names who have been a part of Casino AG include: Angie Kjeldergaard, Richard Broberg, Gary Kingsriter, John Venske, Mike Broberg, Dave Lundstrom, Chris Ramsey, and Chris Gjovik, among many others.

Pastor Dan describes Casino AG as a “rural church doing our best to exalt God, edify the Church, and evangelize the lost.”

There have been 24 couples or individuals that have led the church in Casino. Currently, Dan and Karin Johnson are pastoring the church and have been faithfully serving since 2004. Pastor Dan describes Casino AG as a “rural church doing our best to exalt God, edify the Church, and evangelize the lost.”

The church actively engages the community with a number of different outreaches each year. The Wild Game Feed is a night of food and testimonies for men; the Spa for the Soul pampers women from the community; and the Fall Festival is an evening of candy, games, and hayrides. They partner with a church in Pillager during the Christmas season to present a Live Nativity drive-through experience for people in the surrounding area. They recently opened a new building which Pastor Dan says will continue to be a place for “conversations with believers about the faith in which we are walking together, and with unbelievers about doubts and disbelief.”

So which congregation was the first Assemblies of God church in the state? It’s still debatable, but one thing is clear — we have been blessed with strong roots. And as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:7 (NLT), “It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.”