Craig Cornwell built a distinctive cabin across from his Riverview Campground with the dream it could be used as a missionary outreach.
Cornwell, a member of the Methodist faith, said he had dreams to offer the cabin to families coming to the area for retreat and meditation.
This week, the cabin has become home to three Franciscan nuns from Brazil as they sought retreat from their work with the homeless and drug addicted in Birmingham.
Sisters Liz, Melanie and Clare arrived in Guntersville Monday and have hiked through Cornwell’s property to a waterfall, taken a boat ride along the shores of Lake Guntersville, roller skated around the campground, and had plans to undertake some pottery lessons from Cornwell and other sightseeing adventures while they are here.
Melanie said the trio arrived in Birmingham in mid-November and have plans to continue the mission work for five years. The women reside near Blessed Sacrament Church in Birmingham working to provide clothing, food and recovery assistance to those in need in the inner city.
The women, who have never been to America before, said the trip to Alabama has been full of welcoming people and fun activities.
“We have had a very good time here,” Melanie said using a translation app between Portuguese and English.
“People have been very warm and welcoming to us all,” Liz said.
The trio returned to Birmingham at the end of the week to undertake an intensive English immersion program before returning to their charitable works. They currently speak some English, but primarily speak Portuguese and Spanish.
Cornwell translated for the women, but also worked with them on English. On their first night in Guntersville, they spent time blowing bubbles and working to pronounce words like bubbles. Wednesday, the word of the day was Birmingham and how to properly pronounce it.
The women live simply, owning very few possessions. Cornwell said the Franciscan order relies on alms and gifts given by their faithful followers.
Last January, Cornwell opened the cabin up to a trio of Franciscan friars from Brazil.
“I got a call from someone who had seen the property online and asked if the friars could come and stay,” Cornwell said. “They came and stayed and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They recommended the cabin to the group of nuns. We’re happy to have them.”
The cabin started life as a mobile home that had fallen into disrepair. At the time, he said it was basically unlivable, but they were able to remodel the basic structure of the home into a cabin.
Looking at it today, however, it would be near impossible to guess at the origins of the now cozy cottage. The building fits right at home in the lakeside forest off of Cha-La-Kee Road in Guntersville and it would be hard to picture a better place for a peaceful getaway.
When he built the cabin, Cornwell said he thought it would be nice to use it as a way to help out those in ministry roles or missionary work by providing them with a place to rest when on leave.
Originally he was thinking of local Baptist or Methodist missionaries, so when he received a phone call from a group of Franciscan friars from Brazil serving in the inner city communities in Birmingham, it was surprising, but he welcomed them all the same.
“It’s been a blessing to me,” Cornwell said. “I’ve learned a lot and it’s been a lot of fun.”