An Overview of the Covenant Mountain Mission
We’re glad that you have stopped by to learn some of the history of the Covenant Mountain Mission, an outreach of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) that started in 1941 in the Appalachian Mountains of southwestern Virginia.
Although the Bible Camp is the main focus of the mission today, it was not always so. In the 1940’s the mission focused on establishing trusting community relationships in area schools and churches to bring the gospel to the people of Lee County in Virginia and Hancock County in Tennessee. Both Saturday and Sunday Bible School programs reached many young people. The annual report of the Mountain Mission in the 1950 Covenant Yearbook reported ‘reaching over 5000 boys and girls.’ (1950) Into the 1950’s the Mountain Mission built three churches and a bible camp it. The ministry entailed work in Mulberry TN, the Mt. Washington community, the Stickleyville community, the Sugar Run community, and schools all across Lee County Virginia and a few in Hancock county TN.
Today’s Covenant Mountain Mission Bible Camp (CMMBC) is rooted in this missionary endeavor. CMMBC was born out of the ECC’s movement to reach beyond the Swedish people they had historically supported and begin to become a denomination with a missional outreach to all Americans, not just Swedes.
We are blessed to have the memoirs of Naomi Sundberg and Winifred Swenson written in 1985. These two women dedicated their entire adult lives to ministry at the Covenant Mountain Mission and are affectionately remembered as Miss Winnie and Miss Naomi or The Missionaries to anyone who grew up in Lee County public schools into the 1980’s. Rachel Hamilton Doyle (daughter of Pastor and Mrs. Helge Hamilton who served at the Mission from 1954 to 1965) also wrote an article for the Covenant Companion in 1993 to tell their story.
Here is the start of the story in their own words:
Naomi Sundberg of Stanton, Iowa had for years felt an interest in becoming a full-time Christian worker, but it wasn’t until she was at North Park College that the place of service seemed to crystallize. While there, she visited the Covenant Missions Office, then on Belmont Avenue, and talked with Rev. Gust E. Johnson about the possibility of missionary work in the Appalachians. He said we had no work in that area, and so she didn’t pursue it further at that time.Another young lady, Gertrude Warner of Lincoln, Nebraska, also had a vision of missionary work in the Appalachians and felt called of God to go to the southern mountains. While at North Park, she visited the Covenant Office also to inquire about work there. She, too, was told that the Covenant has no work in that area. Her reply was: “They will have when I get there!” Her aggressiveness and determination was stronger than that of Naomi. She continued to pray and plan and the Lord answered by prompting someone in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area to send a check of $1000 designated “for work in the southern mountains.”
The Covenant Mountain Mission grew from the obedience of several young ladies, who answered the call to spread the Gospel in Appalachia. Through their faithfulness, the generosity of the Covenant Women, the Home Missions Office and the availability of missionaries that had been forced out of China, the Covenant Mountain Mission made immediate and great inroads into a place and culture that was isolated and suspicious of outsiders. The success and longevity of the Mission is a testament to God’s blessing on the Covenant’s work in Appalachia.
The Evangelical Mission Covenant Church of America. (1950) Year Book 1950. Chicago IL. Retrieved from http://collections.carli.illinois.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/npu_covyb/id/16540/rec/26
Olsson, K. A. (1962). By one spirit. Chicago, IL: Covenant Publications.