James "Jim" Michael Palosaari (1939 – 26 May 2011) was a second generation Finn, was born in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and grew up on a goat farm near Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. He was a pastor and evangelist and was one of the leaders in the Jesus Movement of the late 1960s and 1970s. In March 2011, Jim married Jo Sappenfield whom he met back in the days of the Jesus People Army. They lived in Jim's native state of Wisconsin until his death on 26 May 2011.
Palosaari spent his early adult years in the Chicago theater, and eventually became a Christian through the late 1960s Jesus movement in Seattle with his future wife, Susan Cowper. Together, they helped form Linda Meisner's army of "Jesus People" and were discipled by her. After Meisner had the Jesus People Army join up with the Children of God Jim, then living in Wisconsin, flew out and tried to dissuade her, but was unsuccessful.
Jim and his wife Susan went on to start a number of communes, including Jesus People Milwaukee, which dispersed to become "Christ is the Answer" under Bill Lowrey, and Jesus People USA in Chicago under Dawn and John Herrin, and Jesus People Europe. With 30 members of the original commune the Palosaaris' flew to Sweden as guests of the Full Gospel Businessmen's Association, and there made a decision to continue traveling the next six months through Western Europe, including Denmark, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands, eventually invited to Great Britain as part of an expose of the cult, Children of God.
Jesus People Europe included many new converts who joined along the way as well as the commune's first band, "The Sheep". During the Milwaukee period, Jim's wife, Susan, had edited the commune's paper, "Street Level," and this eventually became the magazine, "Everyman" when the group settled in London. In Europe, "Sheep" eventually became the back-up band for Jesus People Europe's rock musical, with stories made from testimonies of the original group, "Lonesome Stone," financed by UK millionaire, Kenneth Frampton. This musical, opening at the Rainbow Theatre in London, eventually toured Great Britain and many air force bases in Germany, as well as touring Canada and the upper Midwest before it closed. Together with a British national the three started the largest Christian music festival in the world, "Greenbelt Festival", which still was operating in the early 21st century.
Back in the United States, the Palosaaris formed a second commune in BC, Canada, calling it the "Highway Missionaries," which traveled around North America evangelizing, calling the church to repentance, and living communally. They often traveled about showing the movie Brother Sun, Sister Moon, about the life of Saint Francis of Assisi with whom Jesus Freaks greatly identified. An abortive record company and the rock band Servant also came out of the Palosaari's efforts, and was the first Christian rock band to use lasers or have an extensive light show, eventually producing 6 records, and traveling throughout the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain. They in turn gave Petra their start. Eventually this group settled in Grants Pass, Oregon, on land next to the Applegate River, where they honed their deepening interest in developing Christian community, and were supported through farming, tree-planting, and a small school started by Susan.
In 1981, the Palosaaris' suffered a vital blow to their family and ministry when their eight year old son, Seth, died in an automobile accident with two other members of the community. Two years later, the Palosaaris' and their two remaining sons took themselves out of ministry to study and work with YWAM on the island of Hawaii for one year. Returning to the mainland after one year, Jim lived in Texas with Bill Lowrey's group while Susan stayed another year in Oahu. The pair separated at that time, divorcing in 1992. Jim continued off and on to promote other Christian rock groups, such as PID and Whitecross. He is now remarried, and he and his wife Susan live in Huntington Beach, CA.