Four years ago, we arrived dead tired. Moving from the capital city of Michigan to the capital city of Illinois was a challenge. Packing the house, leaving our two daughters behind, saying goodbye to the good folks in Michigan, embracing our new leadership role in IGRC, moving in the Springfield residence etc. left our energy reserves virtually depleted. Once again, we obeyed the call trumpeted anew in the theme of the 2016 General Conference, “Therefore Go.”
Retired Bishop Charles Wesley Jordan had been “part instigator” in my last assignment. Four years ago, I informed Bishop Jordan that I was thinking about retiring. With the speed of light and profound clarity, the bishop said “You can’t retire.” His lightning quick response struck a nerve in my spirit. It threw me into an unexpected period of deep discernment and prayer. Ultimately, I decided that God used Bishop Jordan as a divine instrument. His three little words helped me decide whether I should retire in 2012 or 2016. You know now what I discerned.
Had Beverly and I retired in 2012, we would not have been around to experience the joy and blessing of mission and ministry in Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference. Excerpts can’t do justice to the joy of serving but they’ll have to do: a. a beautiful and spacious Episcopal Residence, b. spacious conference center, c. a gifted Cabinet, Area and Conference Staff, d. IGRC's focus on Mission in Liberia, San Pedro Sula, the Philippines etc. our five Childcare agencies and hundreds of other places locally, nationally and globally, e. raised $2.7 million for Imagine No Malaria, oversubscribing our goal, f. tornados in Washington, Coal City and numerous towns in between, g. pilgrimages to the Holy Land with Ordinands and others, h. a 2013 visit to Africa University for her 20th anniversary Celebration, i. Schools of Christian Mission/Mission, j. met hundreds of IGRC folk at local churches, mission events, and four Annual Conferences.
You made our Annual Conferences great times to be together. We focused on themes such as the Laity, Native Americans and Disabilities. We experienced powerful worship services. Men women and children came forward responding to the call of Jesus Christ. We laughed. We worked. We debated and emerged the better for it, hopefully. At our last Annual Conference, we didn’t complete our goal of raising a million dollars for the Africa University Endowment Fund. We had hoped, worked, prayed and begged to make it happen. While the 2016 Annual conference was not able to have a corporate celebration acknowledging the completion of our goal, IGRC will raise a million dollars to educate eight students annually till Jesus’ comes. It's when not if.
Our retirement celebration brought, delight, joy, fun, happiness, surprise to IGRC and my family and friends. You really blessed us. To put it in a playful way that may get me in maternal trouble, “I was not only pleased, but overjoyed.” (Smile, someone will have to tell you the story). Most importantly, we could not have been sent to a better place from which to retire
Will the Keaton’s leave Illinois Great Rivers Conference “dead tired?” YEP!! But we’ll leave IGRC happy and blessed by precious memoires that time cannot wash away. In you, we saw and experienced the goodness of God. Our time in Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference can be summed up in three little words. “God Is Good.”