Lettie Burd Cowman
Lettie Burd Cowman (March 3, 1870 – April 17, 1960) was a missionary and author, who helped found The Oriental Missionary Society (which is now known as the One Mission Society).
Lettie was born and raised in the small town of Afton, Iowa. It was also in her hometown that she met a young telegraph operator named Charles Cowman. After four years of knowing each other, they were married on June 8, 1889 and lived for about a year, in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. However, Lettie began suffering from altitude sickness, so they moved to Chicago. During their time in Chicago, both Lettie and Charles came to know Christ, and began wanting to serve Him. Due to this growing interest, Charles and Lettie attended a convention at the Moody Church in Chicago in 1894. The main speaker at the convention, A. B. Simpson, spoke on missions, strongly encouraging believers to fulfill the great commission. Persuaded that this was God's will for them, they committed to become missionaries and Charles began training at Moody Bible Institute.
In February 1901, Lettie Cowman and her husband Charles arrived in Japan. With the help of Japanese minister Juji Nakada, they opened a mission where they held regular services and offered a Bible institute. Not long afterwards, another telegraph operator from the United States named Ernest Kilbourne joined the Cowmans, and together they started The Oriental Missionary Society. From 1912 to 1918, the new society ran the Every Creature Crusade. This was perhaps their greatest work, since it provided a written version of the gospel to every single one of Japan's 10,320,000 households. They also took preaching tours in Korea and China throughout their ministry.
All the Cowmans' efforts took a toll on them, especially Charles. After twenty years, he was physically exhausted to the point that his doctor even described him as "worn out." So that Charles could recover, the Cowmans returned to the United States. However, Charles' health did not significantly improve. After suffering a heart attack, he was ill for about six years, during which time Lettie cared for him, and read an assortment of encouraging literature to him from their library. Then in September 1924, Charles died.
After Charles' death, Lettie began studying the writings of Paul in a far more personal manner, than before. Taking 2 Corinthians 1:4 ("...we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God") to heart in particular, she compiled all the quotes she had collected for comfort and encouragement during and after Charles' illness. This includes writings from Andrew Murray, Charles Finney, George Mueller, and Charles Spurgeon. She published this entire collection in her book, Streams in the Desert. This book was so successful, that Lettie soon decided to expand her book and republish it.
Following this success, she also wrote several other books, including a second devotional titled Springs in the Valley. In 1928, she wrote a biography on her late husband, titled Charles Cowman: Missionary Warrior.
Her other books include:
- Consolation (Words of Comfort and Cheer)
- Count it all Joy
- Praise Changes Things
- Sit Still, Until
- Thoughts for the Quiet Hour
- Mountain Trailways for Youth
- Traveling Toward Sunrise
- Handfuls of Purpose (God-After All) (her last book, published at the age of 85)
In the fall 1949, Lettie stepped down as president of The Oriental Missionary Society. The society's publishing was split off as a separate organization at that time, along with the crusade department. She accepted presidency of these two organizations, now known as Cowman Publications, Inc. and World Gospel Crusades. As Lettie's age continued to increase (now at 87 years), she eventually also became ill in 1057. After three years of sickness, she died at the age of 90 on Easter Sunday, April 17, 1960.
- Erny, Edward & Esther, No Guarantee But God, OMS International, Inc., 2000.
- Petersen, William and Randy Petersen. 100 Christian Books That Changed the World. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2000.
- Pearson, B.H., The Vision Lives, OMS International, Inc., 1982.