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A ‘giant’ in creation evangelism passes away

Memorial services being held today

George HillestadToday the AiG ministries worldwide are honoring the memory of George Hillestad, a leading figure in international creation evangelism, who went to be with the Lord on Saturday, 3 November 2001. George was instrumental in founding the creationist publishing company Master Books, was an important figure at the Institute for Creation Research and greatly assisted in expanding the apologetics ministry of Answers in Genesis.

AiG-US president Ken Ham counted George as a dear friend—nearly 25 years ago, he helped Ken’s fledgling creation ministry in Australia get off its feet.

Memorial services for George Hillestad are being held today at 2 pm (Pacific Time) at the San Diego First Assembly of God church. The church has published a moving testimony about his life.

Ken was deeply saddened when he heard that his dear friend had passed away (after suffering a massive brain aneurysm). Regrettably, Ken is out of the country and obligated to speak at a Bible conference in Jamaica. Although Ken could not attend the memorial services, Mark Looy, a Founding Director at AiG-US, flew from Northern Kentucky to the service in California to express Ken Ham’s condolences to the family as well as his respect for George. Ken’s eulogy, to be read during the memorial service, appears below.

George Hillestad eulogy
by Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis president

Almost 25 years ago, when we were first starting the creation ministry in Australia (then called Creation Science Foundation—now called Answers in Genesis), we had no way of obtaining the creation books that Master Books was producing in America.

At that stage, Master Books had signed an exclusive arrangement with a book distributor in Australia that effectively restricted the distribution of these materials—the distributor would only buy them in very small quantities.

At that point, I did not know George Hillestad, so I sent telegrams to creationists whose names appeared in the publication called the Creation Research Society Quarterly. I did not know any of these people, but I asked them to please call Master Books and ask them to allow us to import materials into Australia. I then received a phone call from George Hillestad who told me he didn’t know what was going on, but that he was receiving phone calls from people asking what the ‘problem’ was concerning Master Books and Australia!

I shared with him that we were starting a creation ministry and desperately wanted access to large quantities of creation materials. I further explained that the agency arrangement he had with the book distributor in Australia made it difficult for us to obtain the titles of the books we needed.

He then explained that he’d already signed this agency agreement, but he said we could make one large order. We then placed an order worth $20,000. I didn’t tell George that at that stage we had no money in the bank for any of these books! However, we made the order and then asked people to loan us money or to donate funds so that we could purchase these books.

We thought these books would last for a year, but in fact we sold this first order of $20,000 worth of Master Books materials in just three months! When I called George back to tell him we’d already sold the books and we needed more, he then realized that he needed to modify the agency agreement and to allow us to import whatever books we needed. This was really a major step in the historic beginnings of the Answers in Genesis ministry in Australia about 25 years ago.

As we developed a relationship with George, he invited me over to speak in the US. The first trip I ever had to America was with Professor John Rendle-Short, who was then the chairman of our board in Australia. We arrived in San Diego; and the first meal I ever had in America, around 20 years ago, was breakfast with George Hillestad at Denny’s in El Cajon!

I’ll never forget that special time when I first visited the US and began to meet with the people involved in the creation ministry in this country. And then over the years, I traveled with George and his wife Delight on a number of occasions as we spoke in churches and made the Master Book publications available.

The Lord used all of this to eventually bring me to America and work with the Institute for Creation Research for a number of years and eventually to found Answers in Genesis. I also served on the board of Master Books for a number of years with George.

I also remember the first time I visited Disneyland. To me, as an Australian, it was exciting. It was George and Delight who took me up to Anaheim on my first visit. George also took me on my very first trip down into Mexico.

George will always have a special place in my heart—and he has a special place in the history of the creation movement in Australia and here in the US, not only with Master Books and the Institute for Creation Research, but also with Answers in Genesis.

I just wanted to say how much I praise the Lord for having had the opportunity of getting to know George and his dear wife Delight. I do pray that the Lord will comfort and encourage Delight, daughter Marlette and her family, and son Ron and his wife Dianne, who are special friends of ours.

Ken Ham, President
Answers in Genesis

The entire international staff of Answers in Genesis in six countries joins Ken in his prayer that the Lord will comfort George’s family during this time. We praise the Lord for George’s life, and we know that the Lord will be honored at the memorial services today!

George Hillestad obituary—compiled by the San Diego First Assembly of God Church

George Hillestad was born 14 December 1925 in Lodi, Wisconsin, and died 3 November 2001 in San Diego County, his home of 29 years. He was one of 9 boys born to Lawrence and Tillie Hillestad. The brothers who survive are Earl, Chester, Lester, Victor, Lawrence and Donald.

George married Delight Scharnick on 10 May 1948. Four years into their marriage, Delight suffered strokes which left her paralyzed down her right side. George is probably best recognized for his incredible love and commitment to her throughout these past 50 years of compassionate care-giving. Delight will greatly miss him.

George’s son Ron and his family Dianne, Jennifer and Jared; and George’s daughter Marlette Finger and her family Avery, Joshua and Nathan, will treasure the heritage that their father has given them of commitment and faith.

George worked with Christian Heritage College and the Institute for Creation Research in El Cajon. He was instrumental in starting Creation Life Publishers, which later became Master Books.

The San Diego First Assembly of God church family, Teen Challenge Ministries, Rancho San Miguel Rotary and many friends and neighbors have all been impacted by George’s life of serving others and God. He will be deeply missed.

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