Kuester Cottage - Eaton Rapids Holiness Camp


In 2013, Caroline, a personal friend and daughter of Kenn and Dot Kuester had moved out of Michigan, and I entered into an agreement with her to purchase their cottage (sometimes called wooden tents because of their unfinished interiors) on the Eaton Rapids Holiness Camp grounds as a part of my a touch of william outreach. My mother, my wife, and a number of close friends spent many hours repairing and cleaning in preparation of the approaching camp meeting. Because the camp association owns the land, any purchase requires a new lease and their approval. When the week of camp finally arrived, things did not go well. I include these letters here because mine highlights much of my philosophies, and it also shows that things do not always go as you thought they were going to, even in ministry, when trying to interpret God's will. 



Dear Tim,

A letter from the president of the ERC to me has made it clear there is much confusion regarding Kuester Cottage after my impromptu attempt to explain my intentions at camp to some of the board members.  Please attach this letter to my application, hopefully to allay some of the concerns.  The italics texts are quotes from his letter.  

His letter commented “that I do not agree with the theological commitments of the Association.” What I said was that I was not sure that I completely agreed with the theology being expressed in all of the preaching at the camp.  And, that even in the denominations, it is rare that I meet someone in complete agreement with all the doctrines and dogma of the denomination they are a member of.  I must confess it was a surprise to me, when I read the sheet that he gave me, apparently we are in complete agreement theologically, if what he wrote is the extent of “the theology of holiness.”  

His letter stated “that I do not interpret the Bible to say what you in the Association are convinced it says.” I simply tried to explain that I am open to listening to various interpretations on the part of individuals, or denominations, or organizations, in order to discover God's Truth, and mentioned that even the Jehovah's Witnesses were welcomed to the Center (from which I work) to express their views, when they came knocking at the door.  When I say “all are welcome,” I mean it.  Truth is Truth.  Scripture tells me to test all things and hold fast what is good (Truth).  The Holy Spirit has and will continue to guide me through the process.  

His letter showed concern “that we would be using the cottages and beautiful campgrounds primarily for the sake of our organization for retreats with the possible side effect that those people might also become interested in the work of the Association.”  I am not applying on behalf of the T&SC organization.  I am an independent ministry.  Because the IRS has no classification for a non-profit individual, the T&SC grew out of my ministry, the same as the BGEA grew out of Billy Graham’s evangelistic efforts.  I have them handle contributions, to avoid any question of how donations are being used, and we work together on several projects.  The difference (from the BGEA) is, I am not their employee.  We are separate.  They have no say over what I do.  I cannot tell them what to do.  IRS guidelines are very specific when it comes to independent relationships.  It was your board members’ suggestions that brought the organization back into the discussion.   I am applying to buy Kuester Cottage as an individual member of the ERC, not on behalf of an organization.  

You all should appreciate and understand why I have applied using my DBA, a touch of william.  In “THE MISSION OF A HOLINESS CAMP MEETING by John N. Oswalt,” he made it very clear what “we (the ERC) do not exist to be.”   My desire to use my legally filed assumed name, emphasizes his very point.  I want it to be clear to the IRS, and anybody else interested, that this is a ministry related choice.  And, even though the property is called a cottage, it is not something being done for any of the personal reasons shown in his list.  The use of the DBA would be no different than Samuel Clemens asking that the property be put in the name of Mark Twain.  Both names are the same person, as is the case with me.  

I have read all of the documents you (the ERC) have given me.  By every standard you have set, I qualify to own Kuester Cottage.  God has done this, not me.  On my own, I would have walked away at the first feelings of being judged.  

His letter made it very clear that “the sole purpose of cottage owning is so that the owners, their families and friends can attend annual campmeeting.  There is no other purpose.”  While I consider that a terrible waste of God’s resources, He has entrusted you with making those choices on His behalf for ERC.  That is between you and Him.  However, it does seem incongruous that the lease is for up to four weeks and weekends when camp meeting is only ten days, not even to mention the other longer leases.  The simple fact is, the use of Kuester Cottage will be no different than how others use theirs, particularly those who live in southern Michigan.  While it would have been my hope that Kuester Cottage could have connected those I know, whom I believe it would mesh well with their spiritual journey, to ERC, it is also true there are those already connected through Kenn and Dot, even some who are members, for whom the continuance of Kuester Cottage is an essential piece in their participation.  This alone would be worthy of my trying to honor Kenn and Dot’s outreach efforts by keeping the place going.  

My “lengthy presentation,” as he put it in his letter, was no presentation at all.  I was coming to ask Tim a question, and he was the one who asked me to stay and talk to you all.  My “presentation” was simply an off the cuff attempt to condense a lot of information, which had been rapidly changing and expanding in light of ERC board suggestions, Chris Bounds’ king who shot too few arrows sermon, and Bill Ury’s God as a consuming fire sermon.  My problem is I listen, and try to discern if God is speaking to me through what is being shared.  My strengths lie in taking the time to organize my thoughts, and getting things done, not in impromptu speaking.  I do find it interesting though that both the comments and questions that day, and the implications of his letter, all seem to say it is fine for me, as a servant of God, to promote and support the Association, but in no way should my participation (or ownership of a cottage) benefit my endeavors in that which God has called me to do apart from ERC.  It will likely come as a surprise to you, but I am quite OK with that.  There is nothing ERC has that I need.  God provides what I need.  And, I share.

This whole thing started out as one Christian ministry (me) trying to help out another Christian ministry (ERC), because that is what Jesus would do, and I thought He was asking me to do likewise.  It has traveled in some rather bizarre directions from its humble origins.  I will still be obedient to His will if this is what He wishes, but now it feels like I am crashing someone’s private party.  If it were only me, I would pray that He allow me to simply move on.  But, it is not.  My wife, who has never shown much interest in ERC, has put numerous hours into cleaning and organizing Kuester Cottage.  She continues with (guarded) enthusiasm even now.  Mutual friends (also ERC members) of ours and Kenn, Dot and Caroline’s also have been putting in long hours and efforts hoping to have a place they too can continue to use during campmeeting.  Two of the most faith filled men that I know visited ERC this camp meeting for the very first time.  They both expressed gratitude for being made aware of ERC.  I have not shared with them any of my growing concerns about whether ERC leaders are more focused on their many rules, rather than justice, mercy, and the love of God.  This is God’s choice to make, and mine is a life surrendered.  Discouraged, when I asked Him during camp for further instruction, He sent me to the verse 2 Chronicles 20:15 which, as I read it, took the matter completely out of my hands.

My conversation thus far has been about the purchase of Kuester Cottage.  As mentioned above, I have read all of the documents you (the ERC) have given me.  By every standard you have set, I qualify to own Kuester Cottage.  God has been preparing me financially for a year to do this.  It is still my stated desire to do so.  The other (free) place is a different matter.  When it was brought to my attention by a friend who is an ERC member, I thought nothing of it until my morning prayer, meditation, and Scripture reading time.  After having heard Chris’ sermon, I began to question if God was asking me to go an extra mile (shoot more arrows), and share a little more of my gifts.  I was a licensed home builder in my 20s.  I never did much with it because I went into the insurance business at age 24.  I had the knowledge and skills then to qualify, and have done much of my own repair and remodeling over the years, but I have not kept up with the changes these past 35 years.  Yet, when Tim told me the board was going to tear the place down if nobody showed any interest, I decided that would be my fleece test.  If anyone else offered to take on the project, I would walk away from it.  If not, I would offer to the board I could take it on if you preferred to have it fixed rather than tearing it down.  If you would rather tear it down, fine.  However, all of this transpired before another contractor identified asbestos as being in the building.  I have no experience or knowledge in asbestos removal and disposal.  If you have anyone else willing to deal with the situation, that takes care of my fleece test.  What I have been able to ascertain thus far is that it appears there is no way to do the work yourself.  A licensed asbestos removal contractor apparently must be hired to do the work.  I suspect this is not a cheap proposition, and I usually work with minimal cash resources.  That would be enough for me to walk away from it, but the others I involved in the decision making process still think it is a possibility.  The board will have to deal with the asbestos issue even if you tear it down, so it is really up to you, if no one else wants it.  If after you remove and dispose of all the asbestos, you would prefer salvaging the building rather than tearing it down, I would be willing to discuss if we all think it is God’s will that I personally take on the responsibility of a second cottage as a part of my outreach.  If that is against the rules, I am fine walking away from trying to help you out there. 

I sincerely hope this does not add to the confusion.  God’s will is always the bottom line for me.

God’s peace,

servant in Christ
Acts 5:29


Camp meeting was the end of July. The board did not meet again until September, when they would officially consider my lease application. A week after the board meeting, I had still heard nothing, so I emailed Tim. His reply was sent on my birthday at 11:11 AM.  I mention this because God often reinforces His will or attention to me with a time where all the numbers match. Rejection never feels good, but in light of the date and time, I interpreted the ERC refusal as a birthday gift from God (not adding to my workload burden). It turned out fortuitous as well, because in 2015, my sole-proprietorship days ended after 40 years (20 in insurance, 20 in my outreaches) when we merged my work into the Teaching & Sharing Centers non-profit organization as a new branch. 



From: Tim and Anna Rowden
Sent: Saturday, September 21, 2013 11:11 AM
To: a touch of william
Subject: Approval for purchase application results

Hello William

Sorry I did not get in touch with you, before now, concerning your application to purchase a cottage. I have been very busy at work and all the other things I have going on and the ERC responsibilities aren't my highest priority. I did present your application to the Board at our meeting last Saturday. Dr. Oswald explained to the board members much of what we have already discussed and he was in favor of you being approved to purchase the Kuester cottage from Caroline. However, when the rest of board were informed that your application was made out using your company name and not your personal name the majority were not in favor of approving the application to purchase, if it were not being made by and for you as an individual. From what I understand, there had been another case where they had approved the purchase of a cottage by an organization and it ended up being  something that caused problems in the years after. Therefore, it was moved to not act on your application until you were given the chance to reapply in your own name. This means I need to give you another copy of the application and on the first line you need to put your personal name only with no mention of your assumed name or dba. I firmly believe, if you are willing to do that, you will be approved to purchase the cottage. If you want to pursue it under these conditions, I can send you another copy of the application. If you fill it out and get it back to me before November, I can submit it for approval at our November board meeting. Sorry for the inconvenience and delay this causes but the board's job is to make these kinds of decisions based on what they think is the in the best interest of the Association.


Tim Rowden


From: a touch of william
Sent: Monday, September 23, 2013 9:52 AM
To: Tim and Anna Rowden
Cc: Caroline Thurston; John & Karen Oswalt
Subject: Denial of purchase application

Hi Tim,

Not that it matters now, but a touch of william is not an organization.  The a touch of william name applies only to me individually as a domestic missionary.  I tried to make that clear using the Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens illustration.  I have no interest in pursuing ownership other than in my role as a domestic missionary.  That would have clearly delineated it for the IRS as a ministry expense.  I am not a person of (financial) means and cannot afford to add it as a personal expense.

I will Cc this to the interested parties, so Caroline can return the check she has been holding and look at other alternatives.

God’s peace,



15 He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 

2 Chronicles 20:15 New International Version (NIV)


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You can see Eaton Rapids Camp in my Scrapbook Photos section.