“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you“- Matthew 6:33
My father, Broadus Littlejohn, taught Sunday school for over fifty years, and every year offered a silver dollar to any of his 13-year-old boys who memorized the above verse. Over the course of the year, he would similarly incentivize them to memorize various other key passages. His passion was to get Christian faith and practice into the hearts of young men. He poured his life into these young men and changed many for the better. Some went on to become successful businessmen; one became a congressman. A surprising number became pastors, four of whom delivered eulogies at his funeral.
The land where Davenant House now sits was purchased by my father in bits and pieces over the decades from the 1950s to the 1980s. It provided countless young men a place to develop work habits, earn money, and just walk in the woods and talk about their struggles and the love of Christ (Rom 8:35). Broadus Littlejohn had a vision for the land to be a place of natural beauty and retreat. Over the years I acquired the 140 acre tract by gift or purchase. With my dad’s blessing, my wife and I built the home that is now Ridgeview House, bringing our family of seven to live there in 1999. We convinced two other families to join us on “the hill”, in the homes that are now Broadus House and Davenant House. There were a few great years, but ultimately our simple attempt at a small Christian commune failed. One family moved away in 2003. We moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2007. After my father passed away in 2010, I began the process of preparing the land for sale. I was committed enough to my father’s vision to plan it as a development that would retain large natural areas, but didn’t consider it a place for discipleship.
The Lord evidently had other plans. Multiple complications arose. First, land values remained depressed for several years from the lingering effects of the 2008 financial crisis. Second and most notably, the property had been purchased in many pieces, and was a combination of dozens of individual parcels; as a result there were a number of issues with conflicting deed histories. As we worked through the process of clearing the title, legal and ownership costs mounted. We turned one of the homes into a vacation rental, called Laureldale Cottage, to help offset the expenses, and continued working towards developing the land. Then things took an interesting turn.
By the time Brad graduated from the University of Edinburgh with his Ph.D in Christian Ethics, he had developed a vision for a new type of organization. He desired that Reformed Protestant academics, pastors, and theologically interested laymen form bonds of friendship, study, and collegial mission to reinvigorate the modern church with the insights that emerged in the Reformation. In June of 2013, Brad asked my wife and I if he could use Laureldale Cottage as a place to gather with friends from an online group called the Reformed Irenics. I was fortunate to attend that gathering, which was an incredible time of fellowship and intellectual discourse. That event resulted in the formation of non–profit to be known as The Davenant Trust, and Brad asked me to be its treasurer. Confident that the job would be no more demanding than treasurer of a Boy Scout troop, I accepted. I soon found myself in the middle of an ever growing number of transactions, programs, and categories that rapidly overwhelmed my limited time and bookkeeping skills. I was thrilled, however, to be a part of this exciting new organization. The Davenant National Convivium is the most intellectually stimulating environment I have experienced since my college years at Princeton, and I look forward to participating every year. In fact, I am the only person other than Brad to have attended every one (Andrew Fulford was close, only missing a single Convivium due to the Canadian border still being closed in June of 2021).
As I was familiar with the property and the surrounding area, I became the de facto operations manager of each Convivium. Davenant and Ridgeview Houses were lightly used most of the year, so the influx of 40 plus people at once often precipitated a crisis. One year the well-pump malfunctioned, and we had no water. Another year the septic tank clogged; I had to post signs instructing guests to “pee in the woods.” On a more mundane level, I was the errand boy and ran out multiple times a week–mostly for ice to keep the beer cold. At least once every Convivium, Brad would chastise me for missing an especially compelling lecture, to which my response invariably was, “I was getting ice.” I was excited when Michael Hughes moved to Davenant House and was able to keep the property in running order, and more importantly for me, do the “ice runs”
In 2021, Davenant purchased the surrounding property (having acquired Davenant House in 2016) and Brad moved his family into Ridgeview House. I began to see that God had been working through the arduous process of preparing the land for development; He had been holding it for Davenant, and the fulfillment of the vision my father had seen through a glass darkly. It was an odd but exciting feeling to visit Brad in the house he had grown up in, and watch his kids roam the woods on trails we had built. It all reminded me of the “Twitch Upon a Thread” chapter in Brideshead Revisited when God’s providences in the Flyte family start to converge into unexpected redemption. Watching my grandchildren grow up on the land I loved as a child has been a powerful reminder of how God works intergenerationally in ways we often don’t perceive until the threads come together. It is reminiscent of Old Testament stories and Christ’s parable of the mustard seed to see Davenant’s ministry shine forth from those ancient woods where moonshiners once tended their stills. Seeing what God has done over the past decade gives me great excitement for the future of Davenant, and confidence He will continue to use this organization for His glory.
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Rick Littlejohn holds a B.A. Cum Laude from Princeton University, and co-founded the Davenant Institute in 2013. He has been vitally interested in Christian ethics and public policy since studying under the late Paul Ramsey. After spending the first portion of his career in the supermarket industry, he has been involved in real estate management and financial fields since the late 1990s. He is currently employed as a financial consultant with Thrivent Financial. He serves on the founding vestry of Christ the King Anglican Church of Moscow, Idaho, and spends as much time as possible reading and enjoying his 13 grandchildren