[caption id="attachment_1216" align="alignright" width="233"]Dr. Karl K. Stegall Dr. Karl K. Stegall[/caption] (Karl K. Stegall) - As Christmas draws near, I am reminded once again of those words that the angel of the Lord spoke to the shepherds, “Behold, I bring you GOOD NEWS of great joy, which shall be to all people.” Of course, this good news was none other than the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, in Bethlehem’s manger. Because of the good news that has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ, Christians are motivated every Christmas season to open their hearts and wallets in extraordinary ways as they reach out to others. Because of the outpouring of generosity that we have experienced among our donors, we have been able to give away over $1,000,000 in cash scholarships over the past ?ve years. We were giving away $1,200 to each student annually when our Foundation began in 2007. E?ective December 1 of this year, we have increased our cash scholarships to a minimum of $6,000 for each seminary student on an annual basis, plus supplements to those who are married and/or have children. Yet, we are mindful that it costs approximately $40,000 per year for a full-time student living on campus at seminaries such as Emory, Duke, or Asbury, so we still have a long way to go! I continue to be amazed at the number of United Methodist church members who think seminary is free. Many are surprised to learn that clergy seeking ordination as United Methodist ministers are required to attend four years of college and three years of seminary. Others do not realize that some of our seminary students graduate with accumulated loans that total approximately $100,000. It is hard for us to realize how di?cult it is for seminary graduates with families to begin repaying large loans in their very ?rst appointments when they are receiving a salary of approximately $37,500. However, the GOOD NEWS is that because of the great generosity of our donors, we are now beginning to see a decrease in the amount of money our seminary students have to borrow. I have personally discovered that when the “people called Methodists” learn the “real story” of our seminary students, they open their hearts and wallets saying, “We want to help!” They come to the realization that these are OUR seminary students reared in OUR local churches, recommended by OUR pastor/parish committees, con?rmed by OUR charge conferences, and preparing to serve OUR local churches. The seminary students pictured on the front of the Winter 2012 brochure will one day be returning home to our Alabama-West Florida Conference where they will be appointed to serve YOUR local church, preach from YOUR pulpit, visit in YOUR homes, baptize babies at YOUR baptismal font, o?ciate at YOUR weddings, and o? ciate at funeral services for YOUR loved ones at the altar of YOUR church. Thank you for all that you have done in the past! As we come to the close of this year, I can think of no greater investment that you could make than a ?nancial investment in the life of one of our seminary students. Your gift will make a signi?cant di?erence in the Kingdom of God! Merry Christmas and God’s blessings upon you in 2013.