INDIANAPOLIS – “Your donations made me what I am today,” said Edward Kawa, Second Secretary of the Sierra Leone Embassy in Washington, D.C., to more than 120 supporters, during a commemorative dinner April 28 for Operation Classroom and marking 25 years of service to Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Kawa is a living example of the Indiana Conference-related Operation Classroom, Inc. (OC), and its 25 years of service to the people of Liberia and Sierra Leone. That partnership was celebrated at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church honoring the work of the Rev. Joe and Carolyn Wagner upon their retirement as directors of OC and the work of the OC founders.

Kawa, who was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, is a product of the Albert Academy (high school), an Operation Classroom school. He continued his education at Fourah Bay College in Freetown with a degree in Political Science and now serves his nation in foreign service.

During his ten minute presentation, Kawa shared, “I grew up in a home that made my education a priority. Education contributes positively to society.”

He praised Joe and Carolyn Wagner for their 25 years of service and thanked Bishops Innis and Yambasu for their service and for making education a priority.

Bishops thankful

During the celebration, Indiana Bishop Mike Coyner expressed his gratitude to both Bishop John Innis of Liberia and Bishop John Yambasu of Sierra Leone. He said they are men of integrity, their word is good and our partnership with their conferences is good. Coyner said he commends them for their integrity, authority and friendship.

Innis said, “In Liberia education is our priority and for 25 years you have gone to Liberia.” In modesty, Innis said, “I am just here to say ‘thank you’ and to recognize Joe and Carolyn Wagner, ambassadors through education. You have graced our lives.”

Yambasu followed his colleague bishop by saying, “For all you have and continue to do – thank you. I wonder what Sierra Leone would be like without Operation Classroom.”

He went on to say, Operation Classroom has become a household name in Sierra Leone. Thank you for your leadership.”

Yambasu said he was looking forward to a full partnership (between Sierra Leone and the Indiana Conferences). “Through you,” he said, “you took Kissy Clinic and helped it become Kissy Hospital.”

The future

During the dinner presentation, Mark Eutsler, president of the Operation Classroom’s board of directors, introduced the Rev. Bob and Sandy Coolman of Valparaiso, Ind., as the new president/CEO and operations manager of OC.

Coolman commented that trying to follow Joe and Carolyn Wagner almost seems impossible with their 25 years of intense service. He also commented that circumstances have changed, because much of the funding from the General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Committee on Relief and the Indiana Conference have gone away.

“Challenges here are significant but the challenges in West Africa are still huge,” he said. “Operation Classroom must be more focused just as it was 25 years ago when Bishop Leroy Hodapp launched it.”

Eutsler followed with a plea to support, both financially and by volunteering time, this important educational and medical ministry in both West African countries.

Distinguished Hoosiers

During the Operation Classroom Dinner and on behalf of Gov. Mike Pence, State Senator Patricia Miller presented the Governor’s Distinguished Hoosier Award to Joe Wagner, Carolyn Wagner, and founders John Settle and Bob Bowman.

More information about Operation Classroom, Inc., was featured in the previous March-April issue of Together available online at For more information about OC and how you can be involved, visit: Send tax deductible donations and questions to Operation Classroom, Inc., 359 S. Franklin Street, Valparaiso, IN 46383.

OC dinner

The Rev. Joe and Carolyn Wagner, pose with Bishops Yambasu, Innis and Coyner during the 25th anniversary celebration of Operation Classroom and their retirement after 25 years of service.

“Education contributes positively to society.”

– Edward Kawa

Operation Classroom by the Numbers

  • 278 congregations have had direct involvement in OC teams to West Africa.
  • 131 teams have gone to West Africa.
  • 96 people have served as district coordinators for OC.
  • 81 pastors have participated in teams.
  • 76 people have served on the OC Board.
  • 3 Indiana Bishops have gone to West Africa under OC.