Pastor Cleon's Story
Pastor Cleon Eugene Laughlin, age 89, of North Mankato, went to Heaven on November 14, 2017. Cleon longed and eagerly desired his homecoming to be in Heaven with Jesus Christ. Like Abraham, Pastor Cleon was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God (Hebrews 11:10). Today he is in Heaven and is more alive than ever!
A service of celebration of his life and legacy will be held on December 8th at 7:00pm at New Creation World Outreach Church in North Mankato.
Cleon, the second son of Lowell and June Laughlin, was born on August 1, 1928 in Defiance, Ohio. He grew up in Peoria, Illinois with his five brothers and one sister.
While attending Mt. Olive Missionary Church, Cleon accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior at the age of 10. As a young boy he received a definite call from the Lord to be a missionary. He graduated from Manuel High School in 1946, then attended Bradley University in Peoria where he graduated in 1950 with a Bachelor of Science degree in pre-Medical Science Studies. His oldest and youngest brothers both suddenly died from kidney failure after graduating from high school. This challenged Cleon to become a doctor, to specialize in urology. The call of God on his life though was stronger than even the pursuit of medical school. He laid down his medical career ambitions and enrolled at St. Paul Bible College and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Missions in 1953.
Cleon met his wife, Alita Joy Lindberg while attending St. Paul Bible College. The rest was history! Cleon married Alita on August 1, 1952 in Ronan, Montana. Cleon and Alita were married for 64 years. Alita was the love of his life. After her death in December 2016, he deeply missed her and awaited the day when he would again be with her in Heaven. They were both graduates of Bible College and went on to serve as youth pastors at Bethesda Church in Madison, Wisconsin from 1953 to 1955.
In 1955, Cleon and Alita, with their first son Douglas, were called by God to the rugged, tropical interior, of Papua New Guinea as missionaries to the primitive and cannibalistic natives. There they served as missionaries in PNG for 12 years. Most people thought going to New Guinea was too dangerous, but Cleons life was best exemplified by the Apostle Pauls words: If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God, for Christs love compels us (1 Corinthians 5:13-14). Cleon and Alita pioneered together Hairo Mission Station on the land that was once a tribal battle field. They lived among the people and like the people. The Laughlins first lived in a native house, with bamboo sides and thatched roof and dirt floor until a wooden home could be built. They had a church, a Bible school, did medical work, and taught the people a better and cleaner way of life. Cleon and Alita loved the people of PNG. They brought them the gospel and today the people still honor him and call him Papa Cleon for forever changing their lives eternally! The news of his death brings much sadness to the people of PNG, yet they rejoice knowing he is in Heaven. Cleon saw thousands of Stone Age, uncivilized natives, liberated from their heathen customs to follow Christ. Before returning to the United States, three more children were born in PNG, two sons and a daughter.
In 1967 Cleon and Alita and their four children returned to the United States. Cleon waited for Gods timing and direction which brought them to North Mankato. On October 8, 1967, they planted a new church known as Trinity Church in the YMCA building. He reached out to the unchurched families of Mankato. He became widely known as Mr. Sunday School Man as he personally picked kids up, piled them in the back of a station wagon, and brought them to Sunday school. He knew if he touched the kids he would touch the parents, and that happened! The early days were small and humble, and at times even discouraging, but Cleon stood on the faithfulness of Gods word and quitting was never an option. Two years later, the church moved to North Mankato. It was also just the beginning of what was known as the Jesus People moment of the seventies. Cleon warmly and lovingly opened the doors to the church to Hippies who were now getting saved. He helped start the River of Life charismatic prayer meetings, supported other para-church ministries like Full Gospel Business Men meetings. Cleon has always been a leader who was passionate for unity and for any cause that would build and advance the Kingdom of God on the earth. Cleon never officially retired. It never even crossed his mind ever! He finished his race, kept the faith, and fought the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7).
On June 8, 1990, Cleon received his Doctorate of Theology degree from International Seminary of Orlando, Florida. He also served as treasurer and later, Vice-President of the Mankato Ministerial Association. He was on the Board of Directors and served as Vice-President and President of the Evangelistic Missionary Fellowship, the denomination he was ordained and affiliated with.
Cleon loved reading the Bible. He spent time daily in the Word up until his death. His hobbies were studying biblical archaeology and painting. He toured the Holy Land ten times. The mere mention of the city of Jerusalem brought tears to his eyes. He knew that this world has nothing eternal to give, it had no hold on him, his eyes and mind were always on Heaven. Just before his death, he was going through the Bible studying everything it had to say about Heaven. His passing was unexpected yet not surprising. The Apostle Paul said it this way; The time of my departure has come (2 Timothy 4:6).
Cleon was a caring and wonderful husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. He left an incredible legacy and his fingerprints over all the nations, the church, and his family. We will deeply miss him, but also know that the hope we have is that we will again see him one day.
He is survived by his three sons, Douglas (Esperence) of Greencastle, PA, Rick of Mankato, David (Tyra) of Mankato, one daughter, Renee Thomas (Kent). He has 14 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. One brother and one sister. He was preceded in death by his wife Alita, his parents, and four brothers.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the continuing work of world missions. Memorials can be given through New Creation Church.
Published on December 4, 2017