At age 89, Nelson Cowen could spend his weekends enjoying the relaxation of retirement, but instead he spends them leading third- and fourth-graders to faith in Jesus Christ. As a long-time member of Park Avenue Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, Illinois, Cowen has been teaching Sunday School since the late 1930s and focusing on children's classes since 1945.
Each Sunday morning finds Nelson Cowen teaching a Bible story, leading a game, and telling children how they can know Jesus personally. Cowen fondly remembers this same pattern continuing for decades. He tells the tales of countless children, saved in his class, who went on to successful careers in ministry, business, and public service. One fond memory involved a boy who became a Christian in his class. Years later, the boy went overseas to fight in World War II and died in battle. Cowen remembers, "That was a joy to know he was saved in my class."
However, contrary to what you might expect from such a veteran teacher, Cowen admits that other teachers have stronger skills to communicate biblical truths to third-graders. He reveals that sometimes his eyes grow weary from reading the Bible to children and he has to turn the class over to co-teacher Patsy Reeves. But rather than lamenting over the effects aging might have on his ability to teach, Nelson Cowen takes joy in knowing that he is right were God wants him.
He says, "Kids will respond to the gospel if we will do our part." And as his part, Cowen lovingly introduces third- and fourth-graders to his Jesus. When students are with him for their second year, Cowen makes time to arrange one-on-one conversations with them about their need to become Christians. "I will talk to them privately to make sure they know Jesus can be their Savior and what will happen if they don't accept Him," he says. "I don't want to scare them, but I want them to now God's Word is real." When asked about his motivation for teaching, Cowen simply responds, "If I didn't have God, I wouldn't have nothing. It's my privilege to teach for God."
From The Illinois Baptist, September 6, 2000