Sorensen, Ervin Leslie (1920–1999) and Mildred Olivia Sather (1919–2006)

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.

Ervin Leslie Sorensen served the Seventh-day Adventist Church as an evangelist, teacher, and union president in the Southern Asia Division; as a pastor, principal, and professor in the North American Division; and as a teacher and administrator in the Far Eastern Division. His wife, Mildred, a nurse, worked faithfully with him.

Early Life

Ervin Leslie Sorensen was born in Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, USA, November 10, 1920, to Petria (Andersen) and Maurice Sorenson. His father was originally from Denmark. Ervin was the second of five children: Roy, Evelyn, Alice and Helen.1

As a boy in Minnesota, he attended Pelican Rapids schools between 1926 and 1936 and graduated from Maplewood Academy in 1938.As a result of the influence of his mother’s life, he was baptized July 1936 at Fergus Falls, Minnesota, by J. L Christenson.2

Education and Marriage

He then enrolled at Union College between 1938 and 1940, and finished his BA with a religion major and history minor from Pacific Union College in 1943.3 While on furlough during 1952-1953 and 1959-1960 he earned a master’s degree in systematic theology at the SDA Seminary at Potomac University (now Andrews University). In 1970 he began a doctoral program while teaching at Pacific Union College. On June 14, 1975, he received his D.Min. in marriage and family relations from the Theological Seminary of San Francisco.4

On September 6, 1939, Ervin Sorensen married Mildred Olivia Sather.5 Born in Duluth, Minnesota, USA, September 20, 1919, to Olaug Theresa (Donnum) (1896-1924) and Olaf P. Sather, she had an older brother, Leonard Olaf (1918-2002).6 Their father was originally from Norway and was not Adventist, although their mother was, which resulted in Mildred’s baptism in November 1939 by L. E Hutches in Duluth. She attended Maplewood Academy 1937-1938, Union College 1938-1939 where she obtained her A.S. degree, and later finished her R.N. at Pacific Union College between 1964 and1966. Later she did 2 years towards B.S. in nursing at PUC between 1969 and 1971.7

The Sorensens had two children, Ervin Leslie, Jr., born in Duluth in 1945, and Michael Roy, born in Nuzvid, India in 1951. 8

Career and Ministry

Ervin began his denominational service in June 1943 as an intern in the Minnesota Conference and worked as a part-time music teacher at Maplewood Academy during the 1944-1945 school year. Mildred started as a nurse at the St. Helena Sanitarium. 9

M. V. Campbell ordained Ervin on May 12, 1945, at Minneapolis. 10 In 1946 the Sorensen family accepted a call as missionaries to the Southern Asia Division. Toward the end of that year the couple, with their little son, Leslie, arrived in Delhi to take up evangelism in Northwest India.11 The next year they received an invitation to join the staff at Spicer Missionary College (Spicer Adventist University), and in May 1947 Pastor Sorensen began teaching Bible and evangelism as well as contributing to the music of the college.12

After two years in India, church leadership asked him to transfer to the South India Union where he initially served as the pastor of the Bangalore church, and then in 1951 as the ministerial association secretary of the union. During his time there between 1949 and until the family went on furlough in June 1952, he conducted full-fledged evangelistic programs in English, Kanarese, and Telugu, and spear-headed short evangelistic public meetings in Tamil and Malayalam. He also conducted laity evangelistic institutes in the various local missions.13 During those programs, Sorensen played the trumpet, sang solos, and even participated in a Tamil men’s quartet. Mrs. Sorensen assisted on the organ.14

After returning from furlough in the United States, in addition to his duties as ministerial secretary, he became president of the Kanarese Mission in the South India Union in 1953. The next year church administration appointed him president of the South India Union. He also held the posts of departmental secretary for the ministerial association and for religious liberty.15

In 1953 Pastor Sorensen started evangelism in Calicut, Kerela, South India, and built a church in the heart of the city,16 organizing the Kakkamukal congregation in May 1955.17 The students and various staff members at Christian Medical College, Vellore, slowly began to grow in number, until Ervin deemed it time to organize them into a regular church in November 1958.18 During this time, Mildred did medical work among the local people.19

The Sorensen family went on furlough again in 1959-1960 during which Ervin completed his M.A. and then back to India in July.20 Pastor Sorensen returned to his post as president, establishing more churches such as the one in Puliyanaki in 1960.21 Unfortunately, Mildred became ill and in early 1962, after a prolonged illness, the family left India after serving for 16 years, and went back to the USA where she was admitted to the White Memorial Hospital.22

They did not return to India, but instead Pastor Sorensen joined Pacific Union College as Bible instructor and associate pastor in 1963. He then became the principal at Sandia View Academy for the 1967-1969 school year.23 After that he served on the faculty at Pacific Union College from 1969 to 1972 as a teacher and assistant professor in the religion department. Between 1972 and 1976 he began conducting family relations seminars in the Southeast California Conference. 24

Once again the Sorensens accepted a call to serve overseas, and 1976 found them in the Far Eastern Division. Ervin served as director of the ministerial and stewardship department in the West Indonesia Union Mission until 197825 in addition to being the acting president of the union in 1977.26

In order to maintain her R.N. license, Mildred worked as a nurse in the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital beginning in 1979, while Pastor Ervin taught theology at the South China Union College. 27 When the college separated from the high school in 1981 and became the Hong Kong Adventist College,28 Mildred became a part time secretary in the religion department in December of that year. 29 Pastor Sorensen continued to teach, and in acted as a Loma Linda University liaison officer for 1981 and 1982.30

Later Life and Contribution

Ervin Sorensen passed away on January 16, 1999 at the age of 78 and was buried in Fair Oaks, Sacramento County, California.31 Mrs. Sorensen died July 24, 2006, in California at the age of 86 and was buried beside her husband.32

Pastor and Mrs. Sorensen spent more than 22 years serving as missionaries when health permitted it. Whether holding evangelistic meetings, teaching college, serving in a hospital, or holding family seminars, their devotion and dedication were always apparent. In addition, many appreciated their music.

Sources

Chacko, K. C. “Progress in Nedumangadu.” Southern Asia Tidings, February 1, 1957.

Clive, H. C. “Puliyanaki Church is Dedicated.” Southern Asia Tidings, April 1, 1964.

“Ervin L. Sorensen, Sr.” Find A Grave. Accessed November 26, 2019, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/33055296.

“Ervin Sorensen,” Ancestry.com. Accessed November 26, 2019, https://www.ancestry.com/1940-census/usa/Minnesota/Erwin-Sorensen_3dmntz.

“Gleanings.” Eastern Tidings, April 15, 1947.

“Gleanings.” Eastern Tidings, January 1, 1947.

H. W. Pritchard., “E.L. Sorensen Appointed New Principal at Sandia View.” Southwestern Union Record, September 23, 1967.

Lukens, Melvin L. “Elder E. L. Sorenson Takes Sunnymead Church Pastorate.” Pacific Union Recorder, September 25, 1972.

Mattison, O. O. “Dear Friends.” Southern Asia Tidings, March 1, 1962.

Moses, I. K. “A Farewell.” Eastern Tidings, July 15, 1952.

_______. “Closing Meeting in Salem Effort.” Eastern Tidings, July 15, 1949.

“Mildred Olive (Sather) Sorensen,” Find A Grave. Accessed November 26, 2019, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/33055278/mildred-olive-sorensen.

Rhodes, John D. “Sunnymead Pastor Earns A Doctor’s Degree.” Pacific Union Recorder, July 21, 1975.

“S.M.C. News.” Eastern Tidings, May 15, 1947.

Small, Carol S. “Medical Missionaries at Vellore Win Converts.” ARH, May 25, 1967.

“Sorensen, Ervin Leslie.” Service Records, Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research, at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, MD, USA.

Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. Second rev. ed. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1996. S.v. “Hong Kong Adventist College.”

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association 1954, 1955, 1977-1979, 1983, 1983.

Thomas, M. U. “Calicut.” Southern Asia Tidings, May 1, 1987.

“Welcome Visitors.” Pacific Union Recorder, May 2, 1960.

Notes

  1. “Ervin Sorensen,” Ancestry.com, accessed November 26, 2019, https://www.ancestry.com/1940-census/usa/Minnesota/Erwin-Sorensen_3dmntz.

  2. “Sorensen, Ervin Leslie,” Service Records, Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research, at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, MD, USA.

  3. Melvin L. Lukens, “Elder E. L. Sorenson Takes Sunnymead Church Pastorate,” Pacific Union Recorder, September 25, 1972, 3.

    “Sorensen, Ervin Leslie,” Service Records.

  4. John D. Rhodes, “Sunnymead Pastor Earns A Doctor’s Degree,” Pacific Union Recorder, July 21, 1975, 5; “Sorensen, Ervin Leslie,” Service Records.

  5. “Sorensen, Ervin Leslie,” Service Records.

  6. Mildred Olive (Sather) Sorensen,” Find A Grave, accessed November 26, 2019, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/33055278/mildred-olive-sorensen.

  7. “Sorensen, Ervin Leslie,” Service Records.

  8. Ibid.

  9. Ibid.

  10. Ibid.

  11. “Gleanings,” Eastern Tidings, January 1, 1947, 8.

  12. “Gleanings,” Eastern Tidings, April 15, 1947, 8; “S.M.C. News,” Eastern Tidings, May 15, 1947, 7.

  13. I. K. Moses, “A Farewell,” Eastern Tidings, July 15, 1952, 2, 3.

  14. I. K. Moses, “Closing Meeting in Salem Effort,” Eastern Tidings, July 15, 1949, 4

  15. “Southern Asia Division,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association), 1954, 206, 207.

    “Southern Asia Division,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association), 1955, 169.

  16. M. U. Thomas, “Calicut,” Southern Asia Tidings, May 1, 1987, 10.

  17. K. C. Chacko, “Progress in Nedumangadu,” Southern Asia Tidings, February 1, 1957, 5.

  18. Carol S. Small, “Medical Missionaries at Vellore win Converts,” Review and Herald, May 25, 1967, 14.

  19. “Welcome Visitors,” Pacific Union Recorder, May 2, 1960, 9, 10.

  20. Ibid.

  21. H. C. Clive, “Puliyanaki Church is Dedicated,” Southern Asia Tidings, April 1, 1964, 15.

  22. O. O. Mattison, “Dear Friends,” Southern Asia Tidings, March 1, 1962, 4.

  23. H. W. Pritchard, “E.L. Sorensen Appointed New Principal at Sandia View,” Southwestern Union Record, September 23, 1967, 15.

    “Sorensen, Ervin Leslie,” Service Records.

  24. “Sorensen, Ervin Leslie,” Service Records.

  25. “Far Eastern Division,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1977), 194.

    “Far Eastern Division,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1979), 204.

  26. “Far Eastern Division,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978), 198.

  27. “Sorensen, Ervin Leslie,” Service Records.

  28. “Hong Kong Adventist College,” Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. Second rev. ed. (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1996), 2861.

  29. “Sorensen, Ervin Leslie,” Service Records.

  30. “Educational Institutions,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1982), 374.

    “Educational Institutions,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1983), 391.

  31. “Ervin L. Sorensen, Sr.” Find A Grave, accessed November 26, 2019, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/33055296.

  32. “Mildred Olive (Sather) Sorensen,” Find A Grave.

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Howson, Cheryl Christo. "Sorensen, Ervin Leslie (1920–1999) and Mildred Olivia Sather (1919–2006)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Accessed January 19, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CI5Q.

Howson, Cheryl Christo. "Sorensen, Ervin Leslie (1920–1999) and Mildred Olivia Sather (1919–2006)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Date of access January 19, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CI5Q.

Howson, Cheryl Christo (2021, April 28). Sorensen, Ervin Leslie (1920–1999) and Mildred Olivia Sather (1919–2006). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved January 19, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CI5Q.