I was reading through Olive Tree’s latest newsletter this morning and was intrigued by Streams in the Desert, a title featured in our Leap Day sale. I wonder who L.B. Cowman is, I thought, and when he lived. Curious, I googled L.B. Cowman and immediately realized my ignorance. L.B. Cowman is Lettie Burd Cowman, a woman who lived from 1870 to 1960!

My search turned up a wealth of information about Lettie Cowman’s life. She and her husband Charles E. Cowman worked as pioneer missionaries in Japan and China from 1901 to 1917. During that time, they led evangelistic campaigns to bring people to Christ, trained indigenous Christian leaders, and opened a Bible School in Tokyo at which Oswald Chambers stayed in 1906 and 1907.

By all accounts, Charles was an inspiring leader and experienced great success on the mission field. But the Cowmans were forced to return to the United States in 1917 because of Charles’ poor health. For the next six years, Charles’ health steadily declined, and Lettie spent the majority of her time tending to her failing husband. Charles died in 1923, leaving Lettie a widow until she died on Easter Sunday in 1960.


Though the title of Lettie’s greatest work might give us a clue to times of hardship in her life, the words of this devotional became even more poignant while reading that Lettie’s life with Christ was marked by active witness, prolonged hardship, and significant leadership in the mission world, both before and after her husband’s death. Lettie’s words of encouragement, words that are both her own and borrowed from other Christian authors, are never trite or untested. Rather, Lettie writes assured words of encouragement because she experienced it firsthand in a life of hills and valleys, of high points and low points.

I pray that you’ll take Lettie Cowman’s example to heart this Leap Day. Hear these words with a glad heart: “In Him are springs, fountains, and streams that will never be cut off or run dry. To those who are anxious comes the gracious promise of our heavenly Father: If He is the Source of our mercies, mercy will never fail us” (January 1 reading). Be assured that God’s mercies are new every morning, even Leap Day mornings!

Check out Olive Tree’s eBook version of Streams in the Desert on OliveTree.com.