Last week we were blessed to spend over 7 days at “Cowden Family Camp” near Cowden, IL. It’s a Free Methodist Campground that has been around, well, for a long time. Families have grown, and some who have moved away as well as those who’ve changed churches over the years – return for this communal tradition of Scripture, Sabbath, silliness, stillness, sweat, and sacrament.
Cowden is a significant part of our story, for many reasons. For the purposes of this post, I’ll keep it focused. When we returned from bringing our youngest daughter home from the DR Congo in 2016, Cowden Camp invited us to come and speak as the “Camp Missionaries” that week. We felt weird, because we definitely weren’t “missionaries”. But they asked us to speak about the 4 year journey and struggle to bring her home, and how prayer & global experiences impacted our family. (They also mentioned that the “camp missionary” was able to stay/eat for free.) So of course…we went. It did end up being a great time, where we remembered and celebrated the faithfulness of God through some years of struggle.
We enjoyed the atmosphere of family, rest, worship/prayer, and soaking in the purposeful slowness of an unhurried existence…so we returned in 2017 in our little pop-up camper. We even brought a niece along, sleeping 7 of us in close quarters. That year, Jerry & Jan Coleman (missionaries in Hungary 1996-2013) spoke. As Jerry shared stories of Hungarian culture/experiences, and Jan shared stories of how God uses Christian hospitality, our hearts were stirred. As we prayed, and even read books they’d mentioned, we simply thought God was reminding us of how to live as our family.
Little did we know, just months later, God would begin to stir something much larger than we’d ever imagined.
So there we were, again this year. This time, setting up a “Missionary Table”, and introducing ourselves as an actual “Missionary Family”. We gave out prayer cards, and invited people to join our team, whether in prayer or financially. We soaked in family time, shared great laughs with people who’ve been a part of our story, and were a bit overwhelmed as we looked back at how God had used this place and these people. On our final day of camp this year, we were anointed for ministry as these people laid hands on us – speaking blessing over both our time in Hungary, but also these months of traveling and continuing in ministry.
As the days continue to move forward, we will form new partnerships and experience the broadening “Family of God” that is coming around us to affirm, encourage, and empower us for service. In scripture, God often called on the Israelites to stand up a stone, or build an altar, to remember what had transpired there between God and humanity. Cowden is a place we will look back on from wherever life takes us, and be thankful. We look forward to returning someday, to celebrate and share what God has been up to…
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