Earlene Carnley, who was born in Texas in 1930, and married at age fifteen in 1946, began her ministry as the singer/piano player complementing her husband’s evangelistic ministry. She did not feel the call to the pulpit ministry as a young bride, but she did feel the call to do whatever was needed to get the gospel out to whoever would listen.
Ten years into their marriage, Delton Carnley made a shocking announcement to his young wife. He had heard from God and was determined to fulfill this call to the foreign mission territory of Alaska! Earlene, who now had three young children and was pregnant with number four, felt that the call was not just to her husband, but she and her children would be a part of the “family” call. That became her “call” for her entire life. In whatever ministry her husband would be involved, that would be her call to ministry also. She included, in her loving and kind way, her children, and they grew up being trained to answer to the higher call of God. They learned from their mother that sometimes the “call” comes because of a need or because you are asked to take another step in the ministry of God. That is why four of the five Carnley have been involved in the pulpit ministry. They have never been afraid of answering the “call”!
Alaska, at that time, was on foreign mission status. It was a rough-tough frontier, populated by many military young men (who were not allowed to bring a family to this remote assignment), leftover grizzly-sourdough miners from the early 1900s, and natives. Foreign missions only provided Christmas and birthday monies for the missionary children—but no support for the missionary family. Alaska’s status did change to home mission status in 1969.
The Carnleys lived in a tiny quonset hut (these were standard living quarters for the military) for a time; they then moved into a fourteen-foot trailer, where anything up against the wall or on the floor would freeze stiff and be stuck against the wall/floor. She remembers living on beans day after day and often had no bread or means to make bread. Her children remember “water gravy!”
But their ministry flourished as they began to minister to young military and local people of Fairbanks and North Pole. Then came the need for Sister Carnley to begin a pulpit ministry. She and her husband were working in two areas, connected by a fourteen-mile long dirt road. Each of these communities was home to a military base. And now, she had to preach and teach along with her husband. When he became ill, she had to take over the work of building these churches for a time. God, and her husband, called her to become a “lady” preacher.
From their combined ministry, many young military men were saved and went on to do great things for God. They still express their love and appreciation to Sister Carnley, who went to the “end of the world” to proclaim the gospel. At least seven ministers came from their ministry.
Sister Carnley worked with Ladies Ministries in the Alaska District for over twenty years; cooked over an open fire for the emerging district camp meetings; learned to repair furnaces, water pumps, cars, or anything that needed repairing; cooked for crowds; kept an open door for the people of their community; and provided a bed for anyone in need.
Sister Carnley’s advice to young women going into the ministry is to remember that you are a lady, and you must maintain your femininity. You must keep the respect of men as well as the women, keep unity in the church, and be willing to do whatever is needed. She wants young women to know that they should be more than a music minister, a speaker, or a leader. They must be first be a prayer warrior and a lover of the Word.
Sister Carnley loves all devotional books, especially Hind’s Feet in High Places, which she reads along with her Bible. Romans 6:15, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” has been her guiding verse of Scripture through the years. And she has never been ashamed to share this wonderful gospel