Let me say at the outset that I am deeply grateful for [Taylor’s] support of the Liberian journey with budgets, encouragement and prayers. The need for "miraculous" intervention was evident even before I got on the plane. My passport was lost in the U.S. mail system for ten days and found in Philadelphia just two days before departure time. A member of our team hand-carried it (drove) to Washington and personally saw to its processing at the Liberian embassy by Wednesday afternoon, the day before I was to leave from Indianapolis. He sent it overnight to the Starbucks location in Indianapolis. It arrived there ten minutes before I had to leave for the airport.
Needless to say, the other team members were greatly relieved when I arrived on time at the Washington Dulles boarding gate for the flight to Monrovia. It was a sign to all of us that God was blessing our journey.
We were met in Monrovia by drivers who had brought vehicles belonging to the United Methodist University. Dr. Emmanuel Bailey, President of the UMU, welcomed us to his beautiful home, where we enjoyed comfortable lodging and tasty meals while we were in the capital.
One of many official appointments we had during the first week in Monrovia was with the Samuel Morris Legacy board of directors. They are the official trustees of the incorporation under which the Morris interests will be managed. I was impressed with the make-up of this board. Among them there is a lawyer, several high-ranking business and NGO leaders, a university president, an assistant to one of the senators in the legislature,and the Director General of the General Services Administration for the entire country. Several among them see the President of the country on a regular basis.
A visit by our group to see the President seemed both crucial to our goal of finalizing the deed for the Morris Legacy property in Sinoe County, and improbable, at least to me. The President has to sign all such deeds due to the conflicting claims to land caused by historical factors. Whether she would have time to see us was another matter. My SCAA friends have many contacts in Monrovia. One is a lady named Medina, who is President Sirleaf's personal confident and advisor. By Saturday of that first week in Monrovia, we learned that Her Excellency had agreed to an appointment for the following Monday.
We were ushered into her conference room right on time. President Sirleaf was moved by the story of Samuel Morris. Her questions regarding his life and influence, and the tone of her voice in making this inquiry, showed that she was deeply touched. She asked her personal attendant to keep the two books we gave her about Morris handy so that she could read the story more fully. She also promised to do all she could to see that the deed to the Morris property was finalized as quickly as possible.
We left two days later for our week-long visit to Sinoe County. All of my Liberian colleagues spent their childhood years in Sinoe or have close relatives there. We were warmly greeted by all sorts of officials and public figures in Greenville and surrounding towns. We stayed in one of the nicest homes in town owned by an uncle to one of our delegation members. All of my colleagues were deeply moved with the emotions of "coming home." They openly showed those emotions as they let me in on their memories. It led to a wonderful sense of bonding among us.
Visiting the Morris Legacy Foundation property was a highlight of the Sinoe visit. The County Land Inspector, his deputy and the Land Commissioner showed us the property.
Let me conclude with some summary "convictions" I sense as a result of this memorable journey:
- God has led Taylor University and the SCAA in pursuing this joint venture. The leading of the Spirit throughout this trip seemed to confirm this.
- The building of the Samuel Morris Learning Enrichment Center would serve a crucial need in the Greenville area, to bring hope to the community, and give a spiritual and educational uplift to the children and young people there.
- Also, this center could well serve as one of Taylor's Centres for Global Engagement under the Lighthouse program. If the SCAA/TU partnership should decide to move forward fairly soon in building the Morris Center and adjacent two-apartment staff housing unit, the Lighthouse involvement could begin in two years or so.
- Fund raising goals for this project would be modest. The architect's estimate for the cost of construction is about $200,000.
Could it be that God wants to bring that war-ravaged region of Africa "back to life" partly through the influence of this young man who was used to change our own university in a similar way more than one hundred twenty years ago?