A Place of Restoration

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The phone call came on a typical spring day in 2013. As Wayland Cossey drove home from work on Friday, April 26, he received word his father, “Coss,” had been murdered in the Woodinville, Washington, home where Wayland grew up.

“I’ll never forget driving to my family’s house and seeing police cars and sheriffs and firefighters and investigators,” Wayland said. “This is the house I was raised in; a very humble house in a wooded area outside of Seattle. The house was ransacked and my father’s body was found in the garage.” That was a sleepless night, understandably, for Wayland and his wife, Courtney.

The next day, amidst the shock, confusion and sorrow, Courtney also experienced a strange feeling of comfort. “On Saturday I had this crazy peace that God was doing something big here; far more than we could know.”

It didn’t take long to find out what He had in mind. The next day, as the couple drove to church, the message became clear.

“Just two days after the tragedy,” Wayland said, “the Lord spoke in a unique way I’d never experienced before — clearly and separately to each of us. The message was simply, ‘You’re moving back into this house where this occurred.’”

Courtney had heard the same message, too, but waited until after church to broach the subject. “On the way home, I told Wayland, ‘I think God is asking us to move into this house.’ Wayland didn’t say a word; he just started weeping. We both knew this was from God.

“Not only did He tell us to move back in, He kept saying over and over again before, during and after church, ‘Woodinville Young Life house.’ The message rang in both our ears. We were on the same page.”

As they continued the ride in silence, they knew God was calling them to reclaim this house for His purposes — a place where they could restart the Young Life work in Woodinville.

Wayland understood the vision seemed to fly in the face of what most would do with the property. “Every ounce of common sense in a normal person would have said, ‘Sell the place, get rid of the memories and never go there again.’

“God told us exactly the opposite.”

A Double Portion

The Cosseys didn’t wait long to begin the process. After a period of grieving and healing, the couple started the process of reconstruction. They would tear down the house to its very foundation and build it back up from scratch.

They hired an architect to design a new two-story house — with the vision to create a Young Life club room upstairs, large enough to host 100 kids.

The vision started with destruction, Wayland said. “We did all the demolition ourselves; friends who knew my dad and what had happened came over and together we knocked the house down. It was sad to see many things of my childhood go.”

With the sadness came hope as well, as the skeleton of the new house began to rise up.

“One of the great memories during that time,” Wayland said, “was the invitations for dozens of our friends to come write Bible verses on every wooden beam, floor panel, ceiling joist, to ‘seal’ the place in Scripture.”

Three of these scriptures were the following:

“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” Psalm 127:1 (NIV)

“He has sent me … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes.” Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)

“Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” Isaiah 61:7 (NIV)

“When we moved into the house I kept hearing the same Scripture over and over,” Courtney said. “Isaiah 61:7 — a ‘double portion’ — we could have been left devastated with what happened; instead it was all redeemed.”

The Numbers Add Up

“It was crazy to see God’s faithfulness in walking us through every step of the process,” Courtney said. “Before we started we knew we had a tight budget for this. We were advised to create a fixed-price bid, where we pick everything out up front and we’d be given a bottom-line price by our contractor.”

Nervous about the price, the Cosseys prayed regularly about how much to spend. “I kept hearing this specific number,” Courtney said. “Eventually our contractor gave us the final draft and numbers — it was the exact dollar amount God had given to me!”

It turned out that not only was the figure God-approved, but also God-sized ...

“Honestly that was a sacrifice on our end,” Wayland said. “We learned to be uncomfortable to a point where God said, ‘You are going to spend significantly more than you budgeted and I’ll figure out how to cover it.’ It was one of the greatest things to have to be financially dependent upon Him. We had many people in the Woodinville community come in and be a part of that process, whether giving financially, providing food or meeting other needs.”

The community was well aware of Wayland’s dad. Coss had lived in the house since 1971 and worked his entire adult life as an algebra and aeronautics teacher down the street at Leota Middle School. The nearly 50-year resident’s murder was big news for the town.

It was at Woodinville High School where Wayland and Courtney were both introduced to Jesus through Young Life. Rebuilding the ministry in many ways was for them “coming full circle.”

As the house underwent rebirth, so did the local Young Life work. “I volunteered with another leader,” Wayland said, “and we began contact work. We did everything every other area does to get Young Life started in a place it hasn’t been in for years.”

The process in many ways mirrored the timing of the house. The Cosseys were able to move in to their new house in August 2015, and just one month later hosted the first Young Life club meeting.

77 Pairs of Shoes and Counting

As kids flooded into the house on September 22, 2015, they embraced the club room awaiting them. On the staircase, festive string lights and a metal sign with an arrow pointing out, ‘Young Life this way,’ greeted them. Entering the club room they immediately saw themselves in a huge photographic collage from past years; they even danced to their favorite music pumping out of a state-of-the-art audio/visual system.

Wayland’s most vivid memory, however, wasn’t in the club room. “The indelible imprint in my mind from that night will be standing at the top of the staircase and looking down at 77 pairs of shoes, representing 77 souls (and more to come) ready to find out about abundant life.”

Running Parallel

Today the Cosseys’ home serves kids and leaders as a warm space custom made for club, Campaigners, leadership meetings, prayer times and so much more.

“I take so much joy in knowing we’re a living fulfillment of God’s ministry in God’s house,” Wayland said. “We’re seeing many young people meet the Lord in a place some would regard as a place of tragedy, but we regard as a place of redemption.

“There’s an overriding theme when young people are trying to escape bad things in their life and God wants to redeem their story in the same place He’s redeemed my dad’s story. It runs parallel.”

“This is a story no one could make up,” Courtney said. “His hand was in the whole thing.”

Beauty out of ashes, indeed.