A Brief History of the Congregation

Our Saviour Lutheran Church was the first Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) mission in Arizona. The church in Lake Havasu City began in 1979 when Jack and Suzanne Kreienbrink and their four children moved to Lake Havasu City from West Bend, Wisconsin. As they had been members of the ELS in West Bend, they were eager to join a conservative confessional Lutheran church in Lake Havasu City. When they could find none, they placed an ad in the local newspaper, searching for others with similar confessional interests to join them in their home and listen to taped services. So many families answered the ad that soon services were moved to the local Jaycee building. Pastor G.A.R. Gullixson, who had recently retired, moved to Lake Havasu for six months and helped the group become established. In September of 1980, Pastor William B. Kessel accepted the call to become the permanent pastor.

The need for a church building soon became obvious and a 25’ x 100’ building at 3163 Maricopa Avenue was leased with an option to buy. In July, 1980, Pastors Orvick and Merseth visited the congregation and promised ELS funds to assist in purchasing the building. In November, 1980, then Synod President Orvick returned to officiate over the dedication of the building.

Through much work and many generous gifts from ELS members and congregations, Our Saviour Ev. Lutheran Church in Lake Havasu City continued to grow. Pastor Kessel accepted a call to begin a mission congregation in the Phoenix, AZ, area in 1984 and Pastor John Moldstad, Jr., answered the call to be the pastor at Our Saviour, serving until 1990. During his time in Lake Havasu City, Pastor Moldstad helped lead the expansion of the original church building which later became the fellowship hall when, in 1988, the congregation broke ground on a new church building; the new building was dedicated on Dec. 4, 1988. Pastor Moldstad served Our Saviour congregation from 1984-1990 when he accepted the call to serve as Professor at Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary. Pastor Herb Huhnerkoch accepted the congregation’s call to serve from 1990-2001. In 1994, Our Saviour Ev. Lutheran Christian Day School was started, with Barbara Huhnerkoch, Pastor’s wife, teaching nine students in a pre-K/Kindergarten program at the parsonage. By 1998, the school had grown and a new Christian education and fellowship facility was dedicated that provided additional classroom and work space to deal with the growing enrollment. A full-time principal, Jim Schneck, was also called at that time.

In 2000, to serve with Pastor Huhnerkoch, Our Saviour congregation called their first vicar, Tim Hartwig. Pastor Huhnerkoch took a call in 2001 and Vicar Hartwig finished his vicarage under retired Pastor John Moldstad, Sr., who served as interim pastor. In 2001, Vicar Hartwig was called to be the Pastor at Our Saviour when his vicarage was completed. As the congregation and school grew, in 2002-2003 a separate building was constructed to accommodate the continuing growth; on August 3, 2003, the present school building was dedicated. In 2004, an Associate Pastor was called, retired WELS Pastor James Wuebben, who served from 2004-2010. In 2009, Our Saviour congregation called Vicar Trent Saari.

About that time, the congregation authorized a satellite location on the north side of Lake Havasu City to offer a Sunday service and Bible study; an average attendance 28 people per Sunday consisted mainly of current congregation members and very few new contacts were made. In 2010, Pastor Tim Hartwig accepted a call to North Mankato, MN, and Vicar Saari was called to be the pastor, having completed his vicarage. Pastor Trent Saari served the congregation faithfully until accepting a call to serve in the Seattle, WA, area in 2015. Pastor Phillip Lepak accepted a call to serve Our Saviour Ev. Lutheran congregation that same year.

In 2008, the area’s economic downturn caused families to re-evaluate the difficulty of paying for their children’s education. In addition, the children of three large families left the school and the graduation of a large 8th grade class caused the school to downsize from K-8 to K-2; the teaching staff of four was reduced to two, then to one. At the height of enrollment, the school had 60 students; when enrollment was down to six, the family of half of the students moved away, forcing the school to close at the end of 2015.