A banquet to support Evangelical University and Seminary raised at least $15,000.
But the biggest news to come out of the May 3 fundraiser came from Les Keylock, one of three founders of Evangelical. He announced that he was leaving his New Tampa home to fund an endowment for the university and seminary.
He challenged others to consider making a similar move.
Keylock said he felt blessed by God and wanted to leave his home to help make sure the college, on the campus of Plant City’s First Baptist Church, would be in operation indefinitely.
Myrle Henry, a trustee who organized the banquet, said it was by far the largest pledge to date for Evangelical, which opened in 2007.
At the banquet, supporters paid $25 each for a meal and then were asked to pledge or outright donate money to help the university and seminary.
Robert Westlake, who also helped found Evangelical along with the Rev. Ron Churchill, said pastors and church leaders and volunteers have received hundreds of hours of religious training. The college has handed out 33 degrees.
“It has had an immeasurable impact on students and ministries,” he said.
The banquet’s keynote speaker was the Rev. Jim Henry, who is filling in as First Baptist’s pastor until one can be hired to replace the Rev. Michael Lewis, who resigned to take a job with the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board. Henry has an impressive resume that includes service as president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church of Orlando.
The pastor, who is not related to Myrle Henry, said Christians ought to support seminaries, which date back to Old Testament times.
“What you’re doing here is having a tremendous impact spiritually,” Henry said of Evangelical.
Ministers have changed the course of history, he added. “Who can estimate the power of (evangelist) Billy Graham,” he said.
Seminaries help ministers mold their beliefs and teach such basics as how to conduct baptisms and serve communion, he said.
“I don’t know where I’d be without seminary training,” Henry said.
Two students, including freshman Paul Mincey, and local pastor, the Rev. Marc Mashburn of Bethany Baptist Church, took turns at the fundraiser praising Evangelical and its inspiration in their spiritual lives. Mashburn said he was already in the pulpit at Bethany when he reluctantly decided to take courses there and found out how little he knew compared with other students about the Bible.
Mashburn said he learned while he had a passion and talent for preaching, he was lacking in pastoral skills until he took courses at Evangelical.
“”Preachers are a dime a dozen but pastors are rare,” Mashburn said.