Making Dreams Possible


Did you ever see Walt Disney’s Pinocchio?  One voice and excerpted lyrics rocked my world. 

Nestled in the comforting and quiet pathos of a nocturne, Jiminy Cricket sang passionately and prophetically, “When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires, will come to you.”  Those words and that cartoon taught me to believe in the power of a dream. 

IGRC dreamed another dream in 2013.  We saw ourselves educating nearly eight African students at Africa University “until end of time” by using the interest of a one million dollar Endowment Fund.  Now, we are compelled to make that dream come true on or before Annual Conference in 2016.  Our dream will be one of the latest wishes to come true. Nevertheless, I have surfaced a few fulfilled dreams that point out what I mean: 

  1. Bishop Joseph Crane Hartzell conceived the idea of Africa University during his tenure in Africa 1896-1916.  He was a native of Moline.
  2. Two African Bishops resurrected Hartzell’s dream of Africa University in 1984.  Bishops De Carvalho of Angola and Arthur Kulah of Liberia challenged the church to build its first institution of Higher Education on African soil.
  3. Zimbabwe Annual Conference donated 1,500 acres of land for the AU campus near Hartzell’s mission station.
  4. Dick Reeves, a retired engineer from Decatur, brought designs and plans on paper to life during the early years of Africa University.  It is said that Bishop De Carvalho told Reeves, he was “the only engineer on the Board of Trustees needed to build the campus.”
  5. Dick Reeves supervised the construction of a bridge over the Nyagambu River. One of the main entry points to Africa University, the bridge cost $75,000. Named, The Bridge to Dreams, in honor of Bishop Woodie and Kim White, the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference picked up the tab.
  6. From a few buildings constructed at its genesis one score years ago, AU’s campus contains 12 residence halls, 14 staff houses and seven schools within the university.  All buildings are debt free.  Part of the AU dream involved a commitment to build no buildings unless the money was raised up front.  Worldwide denominational giving and God’s help have made this possible.  AU has continued debt free to this very moment.
  7.  In the current academic year, Africa University has 1,274 students enrolled from 23 of the 55 African nations. Women comprise 55.1 percent of the student body.  Typically, African colleges and universities have half the number of women registered than that of Africa University.  AU has made a way for women.
  8. Currently IGRC has four Endowed Scholarships educating African students.  Two honor this conference.  The other two are named in honor of Bishop and Mrs. Lawson.  Raising $1 million for more Endowed Scholarships will put our number at 12 like Jesus’ 12 Disciples.
  9. One of the students we supported told a story about his education at AU.   Ivan Milosi earned a Bachelor’s of Divinity from AU and has returned to the Congo and is working as a community worker.  A native of the Congo, Ivan offers this testimony about his AU experience in the August 2014 edition of The Current: “When I came here, I had another view of the world, knowing that we as Congolese were at war with all these countries.  My mind was transformed when I had to share a room with someone from Burundi and…Uganda.  And through living that transformation, we can transform others.”
I am excited about the opportunity that we have to educate seven students annually and 90 percent of the cost for an eighth student by raising $1 million. For the life of Africa University or until Christ comes, African students will “increase in wisdom and in stature and in favor God and humankind.”  Help your church, Pastor, District Superintendent, Bishop and denomination succeed at “Making Dreams Possible.”

Quite frankly, I can’t wait to sing a few bars of “When you wish upon a star” for you when the last dollar of our Endowment Campaign is raised by Annual Conference 2016.  Can’t you hear the Bishop singing with pathos and power, “If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme, when you wish upon a star as dreamers do…Like a bolt out of the blue, fate steps in and sees you through, when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.”            

Postscript: I ask you to please join me in celebrating the excellent work of Paul Black, Director of Communication Ministries, and his talented Communications Staff, Michele Willson, Suzy Burns, Jill Stone and Kimberly Halusan.  At the 2014 United Methodist Association of Communicators meeting in Savannah, Georgia, they won seven awards.  Here’s the litany.
  Bishop and Mrs. Keaton wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving.