Sunday, December 04, 2005

Our Background
We grew up in a small community north of Chicago, IL called Zion. Zion was founded by a faith healer named John Alexander Dowie back in the early 1900's. The city has a fascinating history filled with hope, miracles and controversy. My great grand parents followed Dowie to Chicago in the late 1800's where he had his ministry. Dowie had come to America from Australia. My great grandpa experienced an instantaneous miraculous healing after being prayed for by him and my great grand mothers sister was healed. Dowie had a dream for starting a utopian society. It would begin along the banks of Lake Michigan near the Wisconsin Illinois state lines where Dowie and his church purchased a large parcel of land. It was to become Zion City the New Jerusalem.
Zion was a theocracy. The church owned all the land and the citizens leased it from the church. It was a closed society and a dry town. No alcohol or tobacco was allowed. Dowie had grand idea's for his utopian paradise. The city would produce everything it needed and would provide employment for it's people with the Zion Industries. They had a lace factory which exported fine lace around the world. They also had other factories one of which was the Zion Cookie Factory which was in existence up until the 1980's. You can still find Zion fig bars being sold in stores today. Zion even had land holdings in Mexico which was intended to provide natural resources for the industries.
It is a well documented fact that Dowie indeed had a rare gift for healing. Countless individuals experienced divine deliverance from all sorts of ailments. And so the City of Zion was born. It didn't take long for word to spread about this man of God and his community that was stamped with the approval of the Lord himself via Dowie and his healing touch.
Before long some men surrounding Dowie suggested to him that perhaps he was the Elijah who was to come who would prepare the way for the second coming of Jesus. They apparently had taken liberties in interpreting the prophetic word. At first Dowie rejected the claims, but in time it festered away within him and he began to believe that it might be true. How else could one explain this powerful gift if it weren't true that he indeed was some special messenger sent from God. Soon Dowie excepted it wholeheartedly and began prancing himself around in flamboyant apparel designed to authenticate his appointment of being Gods own prophet, “Elijah the Restorer“.
This was the beginning of the end for this fiery latter day prophet. His heart was filled with pride and he became very sick with an unexplainable illness. Dowie prayed for himself to no avail. So he enlisted the services of all kinds of doctors, eventually putting the city in financial distress to pay for all the medical treatments. If pride comes before a fall this was certainly the case for poor John Alexander. He never recovered and died in 1907 before his dreams were fully realized. Dowie had dreams that went far beyond little Zion City, Illinois. He had world conquest on his mind. He envisioned this utopian society spreading across the entire globe. Zion was just the beginning. If it were up to him the entire world would have become a theocracy with him at the head. He intended to empty all the hospitals, end poverty and rid the world of vices such as alcohol and tobacco, which he believed to be the source of many of civilizations ills.
After Dowies death, Zion was in financial ruin. His predecessor Wilbur Voliva attempted to carry the torch but, the dream of a utopian world would eventually fade away. Ultimately the city fathers sold themselves out and Zion has since turned into a bastion of low income housing. The way I understand it is they attempted to build Navy housing but, the apartment complexes that they built turned out to not meet the Navy's standards. The military rejected the housing and so the city leaders then changed the ordinances to convert the project into low income housing. Zion was forever changed. Crime and violence would become common place in this City with such lofty beginnings.
And so that is where our families originated. With Zion being situated about half way between Chicago and Milwaukee it didn't take long for the once rural area to be over run with roads, commerce, traffic and noise. When I was about 10 year old a horse pasture next door to where I grew up was sold and an apartment complex was built which hovered over the west side of our yard. I found this to be terribly intrusive with scores of windows overlooking what once was my own private play ground. From that moment on I dreamed of moving to the country and began a life long search for just the right place.
But, I'll save all that for another day.


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