The United Methodist Church has always emphasized an educated clergy. For most aspiring United Methodist ministers, this means 4 years of college and 3 years of seminary, or a total of 7 years in academic preparation. Since there is no United Methodist seminary within the bounds of Alabama or northwest Florida, our young men and women within the Alabama-West Florida Conference, who answer God’s call upon their lives to become United Methodist ministers, find it necessary to travel out of state to complete their seminary educations. This has been true for many decades. [caption id="attachment_2254" align="alignright" width="300"] Brenda and Karl Stegall[/caption] It is not inexpensive to attend Asbury, Duke, Emory, Gammon, Vanderbilt, and Wesley where we presently have students. As a matter of fact, it costs approximately $42,000 a year or $126,000 over three years. In light of this, many of our seminary students, especially those who are married with children, have accumulated loans from college and seminary that total approximately $100,000. While many of our finest attorneys and physicians within our churches hold degrees from Duke, Emory, Southern Methodist University, and Vanderbilt, it is much easier for them to repay their loans when they return back home as leading laity within our churches. However, it is a different story for our seminary students owing approximately $100,000 graduating from these same institutions. When they receive their first appointment out of seminary, receiving approximately $36,500 a year, while providing for a family with as many as four children, it presents an insurmountable obstacle. Among our group of 48 seminary students, it is not surprising that I have received telephone calls in the middle of the night when the voices at the other end say such things as, “My son had a seizure tonight, and he is now in the hospital. Can you possibly help us?” or “My daughter is facing unexpected surgery in the morning, and we don’t know which way to turn,” or a voice of a parent almost in a sense of panic, asking, “Is there any way that you could send our check overnight? We do not have a dime to our name.” That is where you make a huge difference! I love serving as the volunteer president of our Seminary Scholarship Foundation. I have a heartwarming experience every week whenever I am given the opportunity to share within churches of all sizes the story of our seminary students. Someone always comes up to me at the close of the service and says in various and sundry ways, “Thanks for sharing with us the story of our seminary students. I never knew that there was such a great need. I want to help. You can count on me!” I would invite you to send a gift and join this growing number of donors who are making a tremendous difference! Karl Stegall