Once upon a time, a chubby little blonde haired, blue eyed,
During my grade school years, I learned the larger world around me was not always a safe, happy place. There were children, unlike me, who did not have a safe and loving home to grow up in. It was in those early years that I traveled to the hills of Oklahoma, with my youth group, to visit Cookson Hills. There I found some really unique people; families who chose to live at Cookson Hills and share their home with other children and families in need. They gave these precious children a safe, clean home with a loving, Christ-centered, environment.
Coming from a small family, I was most impressed with how the houseparents managed to get through their daily chores with a household of 12 children. I don’t think the mom I stayed with ever stopped washing clothes. It was fun eating our meals in the dining hall with everyone else. It was like church camp. (And, we didn’t have to wash and dry the dishes. Yipee!) We got to snack on apples from their very own trees. We rode horses. I remember riding and falling from a very beautiful, but large, horse; and how my Cookson host insisted I get right back up on that horse! Though I didn’t want to, I intuitively knew he was insisting, so I would not be fearful of horses in the future. Well, that part worked, but as I got older, I never did get better at staying in the saddle.
In my twenties, I taught Sunday school for the 2nd and 3rd graders in our church. As a class project, the children decided to save their class offering during the year in order to purchase school supplies for the kids at Cookson Hills. I saw God’s hand of protection and grace every mile of the trip. Often times I wonder where the kids who shared and received those supplies are today. Hopefully, the lessons of caring and sharing have born much fruit since then.
Through the years, I’ve not been able to visit Cookson Hills as much as I would have liked to. But recently my husband and I had the pleasure of getting to visit once again. We are retired now so this trip was much different than those of my childhood. This time we went with a very spirited group of Prime Timers from First Christian Church of Washington, Missouri. We went together to participate in a short term mission project. I was delighted to see the growth that had taken place at Cookson Hills.
While on campus we learned more about the mission, we got to see all the new homes and other structures, as well as, work in the donation center. Our senior citizens came home with many ideas of ways they could be of further help. It made them feel so good to know they were still useful.
The focus of Cookson Hills has changed a bit over the years. In the recent past, many children stayed for a shorter duration; just long enough to get through the crisis at hand before returning to their families. Children may have stayed from a matter of weeks to a few years. The focus now is to provide a stable environment and good education for the duration of the child’s school years, which is very similar to the original focus of the ministry. This change will hopefully provide a greater impact on the children, helping them to be productive adults, equipped with Christian principles.
Our time serving at Cookson Hills was just as much a blessing to us as it was to them. We got to see first-hand that no matter one’s age, God uses His people to bless others. I am blessed to have this full circle experience of a beautiful campus in the hills of Oklahoma. I look forward to many more years working hand in hand.