150 years old, HLG Christ-like in every way
Sesquicenntennial: That’s a big word. And, deservedly so. The American Heritage College Dictionary, 4th Edition, page 1268 defines that big word this way: ses•qui•cen•ten•ni•al (ses’kwi-sen-ten’e-al) adj. Of or relating to a period of 150 years. n. A 150th anniversary or its celebration.
Anyone or anything that lasts long enough to celebrate 150 years deserves a big word to describe that celebration. I don’t know of any persons, only a few churches, and not very many institutions, with a lifespan of 150 years. When it happens, it’s a big deal.
And, Sept. 15 I was privileged to take part in the sesquicentennial celebration for Hannibal-LaGrange College (HLG). What a thrill to be on that campus again. What an honor to be a part of the program of that celebration. For 150 years Hannibal-LaGrange has been educating Missouri students, training future Missouri leaders, and making disciples of future Missouri Baptist leaders. Hannibal-LaGrange College and the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) have been partners in missions and ministry for 150 years.
In this article, I want to share with you what I shared with the other celebrants on Founders’ Day at HLG. Following is a resolution I read to the administration, faculty, students, and alumni at HLG. The resolution is in bold print. The additional commentary is from my personal experience with HLG.
WHEREAS for 150 years, it has been the privilege of Missouri Baptists to be partnered with Hannibal-LaGrange College in the extension of the Gospel, the edification of the saints, and the education of young Christians;
In 2009, the Missouri Baptist Convention itself will celebrate 175 years of missions and ministry. Hannibal-LaGrange College has been involved in more of those years than any other institution of the Missouri Baptist Convention. I hope you appreciate, as I do, the heritage and legacy of partnership between HLG and the MBC.
WHEREAS for 150 years, Hannibal-LaGrange College has been educating and discipling students, offering knowledge for service, preparing students for spiritual and career success;
Even beyond the danger that I would miss some, space in this article will not allow me to list all the distinguished graduates of HLG. Just know that some of the premier pastors, directors of missions and other ministry positions within the MBC are held by proud graduates of HLG.
WHEREAS for 150 years, Hannibal-LaGrange College has remained unapologetically Christian and unashamedly affiliated with the Missouri-Southern Baptist Convention;
Even though the trustees of five other institutions and agencies of the MBC, voted to remove themselves from accountability to the MBC, Hannibal-LaGrange College, along with the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home and Southwest Baptist University, chose to remain loyal and committed to its MBC roots. God bless HLG.
WHEREAS the decidedly strong and deeply spiritual leadership of several college presidents, including the Christ-like leadership of current President, Dr. Woodrow W. Burt, has led Hannibal-LaGrange College to be the premier academic institution that it is today;
Many of you will remember the fire of 1989. June 22, 1989 was the day when the HLG administration building was destroyed by fire. Paul Brown was HLG President at the time. Brown travelled to churches and associations all over Missouri, telling the story of the fire and giving Missouri Baptists an opportunity to be involved in rebuilding the administration building. At that time, I was pastor to the Friendship Baptist Church just outside of California. What a thrill for us to receive a personal visit from the HLG president. And, we were thrilled to help rebuild the campus of HLG and what is now the Burt Administration Building. Many Missouri Baptists participated in the rebuilding of HLG. But not everyone was supportive. Read the words of Woodrow Burt during the aftermath of the fire: “I remember going to Jefferson City the July after the fire to speak with the convention about going into churches with a special campaign to raise funding for the rebuilding of the college,” said Burt. “While we were there, a gentleman proposed that it was time to close the campus. Someone who had never even visited the school seconded the motion. Fortunately, wisdom prevailed and the motion was withdrawn, but it was very devastating to expect support and be met with oppression. – devastating but memorable. I think it prompted us even more to overcome.” I am so glad that Burt was as persistent as his predecessor concerning the future of the college. I cannot imagine the Missouri Baptist landscape without HLG.
WHEREAS Hannibal-LaGrange College has been recognized by the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention for their passion for missions and the participation of Hannibal-LaGrange students, faculty and administration in short-term missions trips;
Students at HLG are repeatedly given opportunities to participate in home mission trips to Houston, New Orleans, Chicago, and international mission trips to Switzerland, Hungary and Panama. In fact just last year, the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention honored Hannibal-LaGrange College as the No. 1 college in the United States for mobilizing students for missions.
WHEREAS for 150 years, Hannibal-LaGrange College has personified its current statements of Vision, Mission and Purpose and is, in fact, “… a coeducational, biblically-based Christian institution in a covenant relationship with the Missouri Baptist Convention” and does, indeed, “… seek at every point to give Christ the preeminence;”
A personal story: In 1996, Myra and I sent our “baby girl” to HLG. I have to admit that I actually encouraged her to attend a different MBC school that was closer to home and one that was offering her more scholarships – stop trying to guess which one it was, I am not going to tell you (but it was not located in southwest Missouri). But our baby girl wanted to go HLG because, in her words, “It just feels right. I think God wants me at HLG. The other students seem to genuinely love God.” Now, how are you going to argue with that? Baby girl won and HLG became her home for the next four years. Everything I know about her experience on the HLG campus is positive.
But the most important thing I have to tell you about HLG involves a trip made by her mother and our son. Myra and our son were driving to HLG for the Booster Banquet. On the way from St. Louis to Hannibal, they were involved in a head-on collision on Highway 61. Long story short … they are both fine today … but the significance of the story is that when I arrived at the hospital a couple of hours later, most of the HLG administration was in the waiting room of the Hannibal-Regional Hospital waiting for me, checking with doctors and nurses on the condition of Myra and our son, and they were praying.
Not only do the HLG family “… [seek] at every point to give Christ the preeminence.” They also are Christ-like in word and deed. Thank you HLG.
AND, WHEREAS the year 2008 marks the 150th anniversary of the Gospel partnership that exists between the people and the churches of the Missouri Baptist Convention.
And, should the Lord tarry His return, I am praying for another 150 years of partnership in missions and ministry with HLG.
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the Executive Board, the staff, the people and the churches of the Missouri Baptist Convention offer hearty congratulations to the administration, staff and faculty, students and alumni of Hannibal-LaGrange College on the occasion of their 150th anniversary;
Amen! Congratulations HLG!
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Executive Board, staff, people and churches of the Missouri Baptist Convention offer to Hannibal-LaGrange College our continued prayers and generous support – moral, spiritual and financial support for all the years ahead;
Amen! We support you HLG!
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the Executive Board, staff, people and churches of the Missouri Baptist Convention pledge to Hannibal-LaGrange College continued partnership in the extension of the Gospel, the edification of the saints, and the education of young Christians.
Here’s a little preview: I will be asking the MBC Executive Board and the messengers to the upcoming annual meeting of the convention to adopt a very similar resolution. I pray that all Missouri Baptists are as enthusiastic about support for this ministry partner.