Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference (IGRC) or its predecessor bodies, the former Central Illinois and Southern Illinois conferences and their lay, clergy and episcopal leaders have earned a good name around Africa University.
Over 100 years ago, missionary Bishop Joseph Crane Hartzell, native of Moline, dreamed of children coming from all over Africa to get an education to lead Africa into the 20th century. Groundbreaking occurred in 1991 and up came Africa University.
Bishop David Lawson (1992-1996) prepared a mission statement for the School of Theology that became the mission statement for the University. Retired engineer Dick Reeves and his gifted spouse of Decatur oversaw the construction of 19 buildings on the campus of Africa University (AU). On campus, Reeves was often referred to as Mr. Africa University.
Through the fund raising efforts of the Central Illinois Conference, Bishop Woodie White (1984-1992) and Mrs. Kim White had a bridge built and dedicated in their honor circa 1994. Reeves drew the architectural plans for the bridge. Annual and Endowed scholarships were provided for high school students who had the desire but no financial ways and means to attend college. You, IGRC, have opened the way for these students to help transform their own countries and the world.
Yes, I read about your good name in The Current and other places. But faculty, staff and students told me about your good name when four IGRC persons (including myself) attended the 20th Anniversary Celebration of Africa University in Old Mutare, March 2014. Proverbs 22:1 said it best: “A good name is more desirable than riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”
At the 2014 Annual Conference, we reaffirmed our desire to go deeper, to raise FUNDS that would go further than a one-time gift. Like the Nobel Prizes which have been distributed for more than 100 straight years from an Endowment Fund, we created the Africa University Endowment Scholarship Fund.
When we raise $1 million by the 2016 Annual Conference, we will educate EIGHT STUDENTS ANNUALLY for the life of the institution. I’ve said, “till Jesus comes.” We have FIVE months left in our two-year campaign to raise about 65% of our total. I have asked my District Superintendents to contact every church about its fair share goal. A few of you I will call at random, so be prepared for my call and how you’ll help us reach our goal by Annual Conference.
You’ve heard the saying “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Make my joy complete. With God’s help and yours, we will finish this campaign on time. No, I don’t want to wear my RED FLANNELS at Annual Conference. But I will sit at the piano and sing two gospel hymns, one a bit stoic; the other more lively with humming perhaps, a patting of the feet, and if moved, finish with expressions of pneuma based on visitation of the same, all to the BEST name. “There is no other name on earth or in heaven whereby humankind can be saved other than the name of Jesus.”
Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton