Ken Crowe experienced the world through a small lens until he joined the Army in 1993.
“The Army has taken me out of my small context of growing up in Ware Shoals, South Carolina—small population, small church, very homogeneous—on this grand adventure to exposing me to the world and multiple cultures,” said Crowe, 49. “I had only been out of South Carolina one or two times before joining the Army and that was to visit relatives.”
Crowe grew up attending a Methodist church of about 100 people and about a third of those were family members.
“I believed my world was easily defined, somewhat controllable and relationships were easy because most of them were relatives,” Crowe added. “We all somewhat thought alike and acted alike. With each move with the Army, especially international assignments, that idea crumbled. The Army was going to send me where they were going to send me. People all thought differently, acted differently and looked differently, but we could all get along and work together.”
Crowe, a Southeast Christian Church elder who attends the Southwest Campus, is a colonel serving with the Army Cadet Command overseeing ROTC programs at different universities and colleges.
“I commissioned into the active Army believing I would do four years of that as a short mission and eventually end up back in South Carolina,” he said. “Twenty-seven years later, I’m still on my short adventure with the Army and God has taken me to some tremendous places and countries, meeting such a diverse array of people and—through every bit of it—reminding me of how big He is and how many ways He’s working in the world.”
Casual to radical
Crowe’s upbringing consisted of attending church a few times a week, and though he knew a lot about God, he didn’t become serious about his faith until he went to Furman University and met some “radical” Christians through Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
“I was still in that youthful, rebellious, exploring the world outside of God phase in high school and heading into college,” Crowe said. “I was going into school a Christian, but hiding that when I wanted to party or do other things. So that perspective of being radical for Christ and having a relationship with Him was new for me.”
Crowe committed to Christ his freshman year and signed up for the ROTC program because—with three siblings and not a lot of money—it paid for his tuition.
After graduating with a business degree, Crowe planned to work in the business world while serving in the Army Reserve. However, he soon put business on the back burner.
“I felt God was calling me to serve in the active Army because this could be my mission field—that the Army would be the ministry God would take me into instead of the business place,” he said.
Crowe has moved to many states over the years—Georgia, Texas, Colorado, Kansas—finding a new church home, serving in different ministries and constantly “starting up” again forming new friendships.
“Every time the Army moved me to a different place, I was disappointed and frustrated that I was losing relationships because I felt God was using me, teaching me and growing me where I was at,” Crowe added. “I couldn’t imagine why He would take me from that, but in every case, He took me to a new community that I needed in the moment.”
In 2000, Crowe took a hiatus from active Army to pursue business again and enter the Army Reserve, but the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks jolted him back into action in 2003.
“As 9/11 happened and the Army shifted from being a peacetime Army to being a wartime Army, I felt a call to come back,” he said. “It was that renewed sense of purpose in a country that was at war. When I left the active Army, I was frustrated practicing doing what I didn’t think we would ever do, so I felt like we were training for a war that would never happen.”
In 2007, Crowe was selected and went “begrudgingly” (because he was going to miss ministry and relationships in Georgia) to the Army’s prestigious Command and General Staff College in Kansas.
During that time, Crowe met his wife, Tami, at church. Three months after having their first child, Bella, Crowe was deployed to Iraq.
When Crowe returned to the States in 2010, his family celebrated with a big sign in the front yard that still means a lot to him today.
“My neighbor was a Vietnam veteran,” Crowe said. “He said, ‘When I came home from war in the Bronx, it was very unpopular. I couldn’t wear my uniform off the base and had to change into civilian clothes. My parents had a welcome home sign, but it was on the inside of the front door so no one would show anger towards our family.’ In the past, we’ve failed to recognize and appreciate our veterans and that has given me a renewed perspective of how important it is to thank our veterans from all wars for what they endured.”
Army to adoption
Crowe’s first international assignment with the Army was in Korea, and that taste of the world beyond the United States eventually led him to consider adoption years later.
“It wasn’t a stepping into, it was a jumping off because I went halfway around the world into a completely different culture,” Crowe added. “I got exposed to Korean Christians. In the mid-90s, Christianity became the majority world religion … and understanding how they worship the same God in different ways and meeting Korean orphans eventually led to the heart to adopt from South Korea. I think being exposed to multiple cultures through the Army is what shaped me to adoption internationally.”
Crowe transferred to Fort Knox in 2013, and he and Tami, who by then had two children, Bella and Eli, adopted Nate, now 5, from South Korea in 2016.
Crowe knew about Southeast because he read some of Senior Pastor Kyle Idleman’s books, so he jumped at the opportunity to serve at the Southwest Campus.
After a three-year process, the Crowes adopted siblings Mylove, 10, and Madoche, 7, and brought them home from Haiti about a month ago.
“The thing I love about bringing them home in 2020 is a lot of people are struggling to see goodness out of 2020, but when we brought them home, we started seeing 2020 through a whole new set of lenses,” he said. “When rainstorms come in 2020, they don’t see a rainstorm coming into their house. When there’s a political season, they just see colorful signs in the yard.”