Lettie Burd Cowman was born on March 3, 1870, in Afton, Iowa to Isaac and Margaret Burd. She met her future husband, Charles Cowman, a young telegraph operator at the age of 13. Six years later, on June 8, 1889, they were married. Charles was also one of the co-founders of The Oriental Missionary Society. Lettie and Charles lived in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, for the first year of their marriage. After living there for a year, the high altitude of the Rocky Mountains caused Lettie to become very ill. They were forced to move back to Chicago, where they lived for the next 10 years. While there,
The Cowmans left the United States to work as missionaries in Japan on February 1, 1901, where they worked with Juji Nakada, a friend they met at their church in Chicago. In 1902. Soon after Ernest Kilbourne, a friend from work at the telegraph office joined them to help with the growing ministry. That same year Kilbourne started a monthly publication called Electric Messages. And that is when Lettie started writing and submitting monthly reports of the work being accomplished.
As Lettie watched her husband’ suffer due to declining health she wrote Streams in the Desert her bestseller a daily devotional based on her hardships and her experiences of fellowship with God. Each daily section contained a Bible passage and a quote from another author. Cowman often stated, “I did not write Streams. God gave me Streams.” After Charles’ death in September 1924, Lettie found a note addressed to her in his Bible, stating, “Go on with my unfinished task.” Despite her grieving that following year she wrote Missionary Warrior, a biography of Charles Cowman’s life. In writing this, she hoped that “a worldwide crusade [would] be launched to reach every living member of this generation with the gospel.”
In the midst of her new writing career, Lettie served as President of OMS as her first priority. She was determined to carry out the Every Creature Crusade (now known as Every Community for Christ), which Charles started in Japan as the Great Village Campaign. This crusade marked one of the last great evangelistic efforts in Europe before Nazi Germany took control. Over the course of five years, the total evangelical church membership doubled. In the fall of 1949, Lettie resigned as President of OMS. However, the mission’s book department and crusade department were released to form another corporation of which she accepted the presidency for the new corporation under two names: Cowman Publications, Inc. and World Gospel Crusades.
Lettie became very ill in September 1957 at the age of 87. Three years later, she died on Easter Sunday, April 17, 1960.
The Cowmans, Nakada, and Kilbourne are considered the four cofounders of the Oriental Missionary Society.
- Cowman, Lettie B., Missionary Warrior, OMS International, Inc., 1989.
- Erny, Edward & Esther, No Guarantee But God, OMS International, Inc., 2000.
- Pearson, B.H., The Vision Lives, OMS International, Inc., 1982.
- Accessed Wikipedia.org 16 April 2022.
ALSO ON THIS DAY
1695 – Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, one of Latin America’s most renowned female thinkers died in Mexico City. She wrote secular and religious plays and poetry—in Latin, Nahuatl, and Spanish.
1713 – William Law is suspended from his pulpit for non-conformist views. He became famous as the author of A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, but his book Power of the Spirit will be more evangelical.
1937 – The first day without missionary support, the little Wallamo church found itself having to stand on its own feet. “We knew God was faithful,” wrote missionary Raymond Davis, “that he was able to preserve what he had begun among the Wallamos. But still, we wondered—if we ever come back, what will we find?”
1947 – Harold John Ockenga, Charles E. Fuller, and Wilbur Smith meet to discuss founding an evangelical seminary, one of the crucial meetings and contacts led to the establishment of Fuller Theological Seminary.