Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2011-01-24


Samford University Auxiliary members and guests heard a compelling message of how God’s grace can turn tragedy into triumph at its January 20 scholarship luncheon.

Sherri Burgess, whose two-year-old son, Bronner, accidentally drowned in early 2008, shared her story of the painful loss and the spiritual journey she has followed since the toddler’s death. God, she said, has used her son’s death to help her tell the story of the love God has for all of his children.

“God wanted to use me to help his other children, and the best way he had was to give me the worst the world had to offer, the loss of a child,” said Burgess. Yet, she said, God has given her strength to endure.

“When we come face to face with death, we come face to face with the power of God. My hope is to see my life used by God to help, to teach, to make a difference in all the lives that I can,” said Burgess, who speaks of her faith at frequent speaking engagements.

Burgess and her husband, Rick Burgess, co-host of the popular nationally syndicated Rick and Bubba radio show, have four other children. Each has a special place in her heart, just as Bronner did, she said. And while she knows that one day she will hold Bronner in her arms in heaven, God won’t get that with all of his children, she said of those who stray from his flock.

The luncheon program also highlighted the Auxiliary’s scholarship emphasis for the year, which is to raise funds to endow a scholarship for children of missionaries.

Auxiliary president Karen Cowley Bergquist, a Samford graduate and “MK,” as missionary kids are known, spoke of the value of such funding. “Our Samford education could not have been possible without the scholarships that were available to us,” she said of the help that was extended to her and her husband, John, who also was a Samford MK in the late 1970s.

Her father, former missionary to Nigeria and Samford religion and speech professor Dr. William A. Cowley, told the luncheon audience about Samford’s special place as an “MK school.”

In addition to the beauty and dignity of the school, Samford provided encouragement and moral support for students who had grown up overseas and were not always accustomed to American ways, he said. In part because of special financial assistance, at one time some years ago as many as 90 MKs were enrolled at the school.

Their presence brought a world view to the campus and enriched the college experience of all Samford students, said Cowley.

“They had first-hand knowledge of how the gospel could be shared in many places,” he said of the students who hailed from many nations and continents. In recent decades, changing financial aid policies and competition from other Baptist schools for MKs have dropped the number of Samford MKs to about 20.

“I am delighted to see the Auxiliary set its sights on the resurrection of an MK scholarship program so that once again Samford can be known as the ‘MK school,’” said Cowley, who with his wife, Audrey, served 23 years on the mission field.

Burgess underscored the value of missionaries and other social action workers she has met during recent mission trips.

“Not all of us are called into fulltime mission work, but we are called to share the good news of the gospel and pray for and support the missionaries who have been sent out,” said Burgess, who teaches Sunday School to eighth-grade girls at Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Vestavia Hills, Ala.

And while missionaries are a special kind of servant, she said, “We are all ambassadors for Christ and representatives of God.”

“Everything we have belongs to God,” she said, adding that we are to give of our talents, resources and time for the Kingdom of God.

The luncheon at Vestavia  Country Club was the first of two events targeted to raise money for the Auxiliary’s MK scholarship program. 

A scholarship gala on May 3 will feature an afternoon and evening with former Arkansas governor and 2008 U.S. presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. The schedule will include three ticketed events: a town hall meeting, private patron reception and gala dinner. For information, call (205) 726-4373.

Luncheon program leaders and participants included pianist Jon Michael Ogletree, Auxiliary executive director Dr. Jeanna Westmoreland and ways and means committee chair Dianne Walters.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.