Brookhaven business aids college reclamation effort

Published 9:04 pm Friday, March 5, 2010

In the fourth chapter of Nehemiah, the Jews rebuilt the walls ofJerusalem with haste because “the people had a mind to work.”

In the second chapter of a Christian school on the west coast ofAfrica, a war-torn campus is being rebuilt with help fromBrookhaven because a few workers here were of the same mind.

To put the finishing touches on a project to reclaim African BibleColleges University Liberia from the jungle after 16 years ofabandonment, local metal manufacturing industry Reed’s Metals,Inc., is providing an expansive metal building to serve as thecollege’s new gymnasium. The company sold the building at a farreduced price after a chance meeting with three local ABCsupporters that must have taken place, they say, due to theguidance of God.

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“Sometimes we try to force things to happen, but God makes ithappen for us,” said Brookhaven’s Johnny Lynch, who helped closethe deal on the building. “There was a lot of prayerinvolved.”

ABCUL was built in 1976, the first of three colleges – ABCUniversity Malawi was built in 1988, and ABC University Uganda wasadded in 2005. Dr. Del Chinchen founded the school after years ofmission work in Liberia, and it soon began to turn out classes ofChristian-educated leaders.

The school operated successfully until 1992, when it was abandonedduring the First Liberian Civil War.

The war began in 1989 in Nimba County, where ABCUL is located, whenthe infamous future dictator Charles Taylor staged a rebellionagainst the government. The war would end with Taylor’s election aspresident in 1997, by which time around 200,000 Liberians were deadand hundreds of thousands more had fled the country.

After ABCUL was abandoned, Taylor’s rebels looted the school,stripping away anything valuable and leaving the shells ofbuildings to be taken by the jungle. In 2005, Ellen Johnson-Sirleafwas elected president and peace was finally attained. Taylor hassince faced trial in The Hague for war crimes and crimes againsthumanity.

ABC leaders returned to Liberia in 2005 to inspect ABCUL. The sightwas overgrown and barely recognizable. But rebuilding began withJohnson-Sirleaf’s support.

By the time Brookhaven’s Ed Williford, ABC’s director ofdevelopment, visited the campus last November, rebuilding wasnearing completion and the first class in 16 years was well intoits sophomore year.

Only one building remained unrestored – the gymnasium, the pride ofthe campus and at one time likely the only gymnasium in Liberia.Williford received instructions from Chinchen.

“He said we’re going to rebuild our gymnasium. Y’all go back andfind someone to help us,” Williford said.

Williford returned to his home at The Inez, wondering what to do,until he picked up an October edition of The DAILY LEADER and reada story about the success of Reed’s Metals, which was thenundergoing its third expansion. Here was the answer, hethought.

“I figured that was the Lord’s message to me, to find some way tosee that guy,” Williford said.

Williford tried to arrange a meeting with Reed’s Metals ownerBernie Reed. He enlisted the help of his son-in-law – Johnny Lynch- and his friend and former mayor Bob Massengill. The three calledon Reed numerous times, but was unable to track him down.

Then, as they see it, God took over the negotiations.

“Two weeks later, Johnny called and said, ‘Guess who just walkedinto my office?'” Williford said.

Reed came into Lynch’s office by mistake, looking for anotheroffice. The two businessmen talked shop, and Lynch brought upABCUL. A meeting was planned for the following Monday.

At that meeting, Reed sealed the deal by selling ABCUL a125x95-foot metal building at cost, generating no profit for hisown company and saving ABC $8,000 to $10,000 on the project. Healso agreed to ship the material to the port, where Firestone -which manages a rubber plantation in Liberia and has a goodrelationship with ABC – will deliver the parts to Liberia.

To Williford, it was a relief and a message from God.

“We knew none of what (Reed) was made of when we read that article,but I think the Lord just put it on his heart,” he said.

For Reed, charity is nothing new.

“We always try to help churches, colleges and that sort of thing.Every church we give a discount to, help them with fees or justthrow something in there to help them out,” Reed said. “It’s justwhat I feel like I should do. I’m just glad we could be a part ofit.”