Skau, Olaf Alexander (1914–1972)

By Cheryl Christo Howson

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Cheryl Christo Howson earned a graduate diploma in computer aided interior designing at the Dr. Bhanuben Nanavati College of Architecture for Women in Pune, India. She co-founded an interior design company in Sri Lanka and worked as a copywriter. She contributed to the morning devotional published by Women’s Ministries at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the Shepherdess International Journal magazine, and the Adventist Review. She has written several plays. Currently (2020), she lives in Hosur, India while preparing for a piano exam.

Olaf Alexander Skau, a Norwegian by birth, an American by adoption, chose to be a life-long missionary to Southern Asia Division and was involved in varied responsibilities of the church: teacher, school administrator, departmental director, publishing house manager, and a caring leader of needy children who turned out to be strong workers and leaders of the church.

Early Beginnings

Olaf Alexander Skau was born in Oslo, Norway, on May 15, 1892. A year after he was baptized in 1914,1 Olaf moved to the United States and enrolled in Walla Walla College (Walla Walla University) and graduated with a B.A. degree in 1920.2 After graduation, Olaf married Maude Elizabeth Kipp in Pulaski, Minnesota on June 15, 1920.3 Maude was born in Excellsior, Minnesota, USA on January 2, 18934 to Anna Estella Corey and Frederick William Kipp. In 1918, five years after her mother’s acceptance of the Adventist message, Maude was baptized.5 She was musically versatile and was qualified to teach strings, wind instruments and piano, and had taught orchestra in academy and college in the USA.6

Sadly, early in their married life, tragedy struck Olaf and Maude: in March 1922 they lost their first son two days after he was born.7 One year later, the couple set out to India as missionaries. Three children were born there: Phyllis Helena in Bangalore on April 22, 1924, David Hans born in Kodaikanal on May 1, 1926 (who later served in Southern Asia as a missionary), and Paul Frederick in Bangalore on July 26, 1927.8

Career and Ministry

While studying at Walla Walla College (Walla Walla University), Olaf took much interest in public evangelism. His first evangelistic involvement was in Idaho in 1917. Shortly after graduating and getting married in 1920, he and his wife joined the staff of the Hutchinson Theological Seminary, Minnesota, where he was engaged as a teacher and dean of men for three years,9 while Maude was a violin instructor.10

In 1923 the Skaus responded to a call from the Southern Asia Division.11 The couple left New York City in September,12 travelled via London, and reached Bombay (Mumbai), India, on November 2.13 From there the Skaus traveled south to Bangalore (Bengaluru) to teach at the South India Training School (Lowry Adventist College), and later became its principal, when that position fell vacant. Pastor Skau was the first Adventist missionary to study Kannada, the language of the local state, Karnataka.14

After the first year of his administrative leadership, the school’s enrollment doubled from the previous year enrollment, even after many students were denied admission because of their lack of funds. To help such students, Skau introduced new administrative techniques: merit based scholarships, work-while-you-study opportunities in industries such as printing, binding, carpentry, agriculture, campus maintenance, lace and embroidery, etc. Skau also laid plans to introduce blacksmithing, bakery, and silkworm raising.15

While serving as school principal, Skau was ordained on February 16, 1929. Besides his work in the school, he also served as director of four different departments in the South India Union until 1930.16

In 1931, the family moved to Nazareth, Tamil Nadu, in the southern most part of India to be the principal of the Tamil Missionary Highschool. In 1932, Skau was appointed superintendent of the Tamil Mission in Kodaikanal,17 a pleasant little town in South India set in an area of granite cliffs, forested valleys, lakes, waterfalls and grassy hills. After six years in Kodaikanal, the family went to the USA on furlough, when Skau was serving temporarily in Michigan as principal of Cedar Lake Academy for one year.18

The family returned to India in 1939 and after a brief service there as secretary for four departments, was sent to Burma (Myanmar), where Skau served as the Principal of Meiktila High School as well as the education secretary of Burma Union.19 During this period of service, World War II broke out, and the Skau home was taken over as a hospital to care for war casualties. Instead of evacuating to safety, the Skaus volunteered to work with the allied army medical staff caring for the wounded. Elder Skau’s knowledge of the geography and language of the country was of great use to the army. The army officials came to respect the Skaus so much that when it came time for the final air evacuation by, they were invited to board before anyone else.20 They were offered transportation back to Washington, but the Skaus moved back to India in 1942.21

For the next two years the Skaus lived in South India where he was the pastor of the Madras Church and the acting Union Superintendent until 1944 General Conference Session.22 While on furlough in the USA, they lived in Berrien Springs, Michigan, and then moved to Angwin, California. The children, now college age, were left behind while Pastor and Mrs. Skau returned to India.23

Upon reaching India in 1945 Pastor Skau was appointed the President, Education and Missionary Volunteer Secretary of the North East Union in Baragain, Ranchi (now part of Jharkhand).24 During his stewardship of this area, the first church in Orissa (Odisha) was organized with ten members in February 1946.25 The same year, he was also appointed as the Sabbath School and Home Missionary Secretary.26 He served in all these posts until the Skaus went on furlough to Angwin, California in 1950.27 When they returned in 1951, they were back where they began their mission service: to Bangalore (Bengaluru) where Pastor Skau appointed principal of Lowry Memorial Highschool (Lowry Adventist College).28

The family moved yet again in 1953, this time to Poona (Pune), Maharashtra, to an altogether different, but challenging work. Pastor Skau was appointed the Manager of the Oriental Watchman Publishing House at the Division Headquarters.29 Skau’s readiness to take on any new challenge in the advancement of the church’s cause came to his aid once again 30 years after he entered mission service in India: he plunged into new ventures of publishing Christian literature and challenging colporteurs throughout Southern Asia Division to promote literature sales to new heights. Many magazines and books were translated and published in local languages such as Gujarati, Marathi, and Malayalam.30 His leadership at the publishing house for two years pushed literature ministry to new heights.31

Later Life

Two years later, in 1955, Skau was appointed as the Division Education Director.32 In 1957,

after 34 years of service to Southern Asia Division, Skaus retired and returned to the USA permanently.33 The Skaus settled in their home at Angwin, California, although they returned to India again in 1965 to spend some time with their son who followed his parents as a missionary there.34 The elder Skau passed away on January 28, 1972, leaving a record of illustrious mission service.35 Maude Skau continued in missionary work after her husband passed away, accompanying her son to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) later in 1972.36 She passed away on September 2 1980 in Seattle, Washington.37

Contribution and Legacy

Pastor Skau was the first to open up and carry on an Adventist co-educational training school in India. He was the first to build up Adventist training schools in India to junior college level. He was also a leader of many talents, with readiness to take up new challenges, during war years in Burma when he began his mission work and in leading up the publishing ministry as he neared the end of his career. His wife Maude’s musical gifts added much strength to her husband’s evangelistic work.38

Sources

Berthelsen, P. E. “Obituaries: Kipp, Anna.” ARH, February 28, 1924.

“Correction.” ARH, November 6, 1980.

Cubley, E. S. “Missionaries Recount God's Providences.” North Pacific Union Gleaner, January 30, 1945.

“Died: Maude Shaw.” ARH, September 18, 1980.

“Educational Notes.” ARH, July 3, 1924.

“From Home Base to Front Line.” ARH, December 21, 1972.

Haynes, C.B. “Greater New York.” Atlantic Union Gleaner, September 26, 1923.

“Minnesota Items.” Northern Union Reaper, May 28, 1929.

“Miscellany.” Southern Asia Tidings, September 1, 1955.

“News from Here and There.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, April 1, 1965.

“Obituaries: Skau, Olaf.” Gleaner, April 17, 1972.

“Olaf Alexander Skau.” Service Records, Southern Asia Division Headquarters, Hosur, TN, India.

“Pacific Union College: Back to India.” Pacific Union Recorder, February 26, 1951.

Palmer, Mr. and Mrs. S. W. “En Route to Africa.” North Pacific Union Gleaner, November 22, 1923.

“Seminary News Notes.” Northern Union Reaper, March 7, 1922.

Skau, O. A. “A Retrospect with Comparisons.” Eastern Tidings, June 15, 1946.

Skau, O. A. “Miscellany.” Southern Asia Tidings, February 1, 1954.

Skau, O. A. “Our Training School in South India.” ARH, April 2, 1925.

Notes

  1. “Olaf Alexander Skau,” Service Records, Southern Asia Division Headquarters, Hosur, TN, India.

  2. Ibid.

  3. Ibid.

  4. Ibid.

  5. P. E. Berthelsen, “Obituaries: Kipp, Anna” ARH, February 28, 1924, 21.

  6. “Olaf Alexander Skau,” Service Records.

  7. “Seminary News Notes,” Northern Union Reaper, March 7, 1922, 12.

  8. “Olaf Alexander Skau,” Service Records.

  9. Ibid.

  10. “Minnesota Items,” Northern Union Reaper, May 28, 1929, 7.

  11. “Olaf Alexander Skau,” Service Records.

  12. C. B. Haynes, “Greater New York” Atlantic Union Gleaner, September 26, 1923, 2.

  13. Mr. and Mrs. S. W. Palmer, “En Route to Africa” North Pacific Union Gleaner, November 22, 1923, 2.

  14. “Olaf Alexander Skau,” Service Records.

  15. O. A. Skau, “Our Training School in South India,” ARH, April 2, 1925, 11.

  16. “Olaf Alexander Skau,” Service Records.

  17. Ibid.

  18. “Olaf Alexander Skau,” Service Records.

  19. Ibid.

  20. Ibid.

  21. “Olaf Alexander Skau,” Service Records.

  22. Ibid.

  23. E. S. Cubley, “Missionaries Recount God's Providences,” North Pacific Union Gleaner, January 30, 1945.

  24. “Olaf Alexander Skau,” Service Records.

  25. “Olaf Alexander Skau,” O.A. Skau, “A Retrospect with Comparisons,” Eastern Tidings, June 15, 1946, 6.

  26. Service Records.

  27. “Pacific Union College: Back to India,” Pacific Union Recorder, February 26, 1951, 16.

  28. “Olaf Alexander Skau,” Service Records.

  29. Ibid.

  30. O.A. Skau “Miscellany,” Southern Asia Tidings, February 1, 1954, 16.

  31. “Olaf Alexander Skau,” Service Records.

  32. “Miscellany,” Southern Asia Tidings, September 1, 1955, 16.

  33. Ibid.

  34. “News from Here and There.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, April 1, 1965, 20.

  35. “Obituaries: Skau, Olaf,” Gleaner, April 17, 1972, 23.

  36. “From Home Base to Front Line,” ARH, December 21, 1972, 22.

  37. “Died: Maude Shaw,” ARH, September 18, 1980, 24; See: “Correction,” ARH, November 6, 1980, 31.

  38. “Olaf Alexander Skau,” Service Records.

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Howson, Cheryl Christo. "Skau, Olaf Alexander (1914–1972)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Accessed January 27, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CGUW.

Howson, Cheryl Christo. "Skau, Olaf Alexander (1914–1972)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Date of access January 27, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CGUW.

Howson, Cheryl Christo (2021, April 28). Skau, Olaf Alexander (1914–1972). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved January 27, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CGUW.