Eddie Gibson’s whole life is different because of a school—several schools, actually.
In 1975, Southern Baptist missionaries started teaching Bible in the school he attended in Lamco Yekepa, an American-Swedish iron ore mining site in Nimba county, Liberia. It was the first time he had been introduced to Jesus.
That started his faith journey.
Then several years down the road, his wife, Charlesetta, started working at a publishing company with another Southern Baptist missionary—Edie Wells, who became the Gibsons’ good friend and hosted them in her home often. Around the time Wells returned to the U.S., the Gibsons came too, fleeing the brutal civil war in Liberia. Among the few things Gibson carried with him was his school paperwork, tucked safely in his backpack.
And Wells again overwhelmed them with hospitality—she gave Gibson the scholarship she was supposed to use at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School.
“She had planned to come to Beeson herself, but when we got out of Liberia, she went to the school and asked if she could trade her ‘missionary kid’ scholarship with someone who needed it more,” Gibson said.
That someone was a Liberian pastor who wanted to grow in his faith and leadership skills so he could go back to his home country and give other children what someone had once given him.
He wanted to start more Christ-centered schools.
“Our mission is in the classroom,” said Gibson, who earned a Master of Divinity from Beeson in 1993. “Education is a major need, and I felt God telling me we could use it as a platform. If 25 students out of 100 became disciples of Jesus, that would be a success. We wanted to touch their minds and hearts.”
So he formed Eddie Gibson International Ministries in Birmingham—the city that had become his home base—to raise money to do just that. In 2003, he bought the land for the Dellanna West O’Brien School, named after the late national Woman’s Missionary Union executive director. That school is located outside Monrovia, Liberia, and serves preschool through high school age students.
He later started Marla H. Corts Mission School, a pre-K to ninth grade school in Gibson’s hometown named after the widow of former Samford University President Tom Corts.
A third school is in the works—an agricultural college named after the late John T. Carter—as well as the Fran Carter Woman-2-Woman Microloan Program, named after his wife, who was a riveter in World War II.
“We wanted to prepare people for life,” Gibson said.
But the mission hasn’t come without struggles. In February, a man in the community who was angry over a land purchase contract dispute allegedly drove a bulldozer through the buildings on the campus of the Dellanna West O’Brien Learning.
“Everything is down—pillars, foundations, everything,” said Gibson after traveling to Liberia in March to see the damage for himself. “To do anything else with the school, we would have to take everything down and rebuild.”
The controversy over the land began in 2015, and for the past six years, Gibson said he has been trying to resolve it in court. As the situation has escalated, he has focused on helping the school decide what to do next and how to keep going.
“The students, the community, our ministry supporters—everyone wants us to rebuild to the glory of God,” said Gibson, who also currently serves as pastor of Brewster Road Community Church in Birmingham. “We’re praying for wisdom, praying to make the right decisions.”
He said the school’s impact has been broad, providing jobs for some in the community and teaching needed job skills to others. Gibson himself has baptized both students and teachers who have decided to follow Jesus.
Despite the massive damage to the campus, classes haven’t stopped meeting at the school. Students have done lessons outside under trees and sat under tarps when it has rained.
Gibson said his “heart is aching,” but he is trusting God. Friends of his ministry are ralling around him to do what they can to help the school get back on its feet.
And support came in another way that surprised him in the midst of that valley—he learned he had been named Beeson’s Distinguished Alumnus of the Year for 2021.
“It blew my mind,” Gibson said. “It was good timing—God encouraged me because my heart is still broken right now.”
Renee Pitts, a Beeson alumna who nominated Gibson for the award, said over the years she has observed him to be “extraordinarily generous with his time and resources.”
“He lives his life open to those around him, ready and available to give and to serve in any way,” said Pitts, who serves as STEP Coordinator at Entrust, a cross-cultural training organization that comes alongside local church leaders around the world to help them develop strategies to multiply leaders and churches.
She called Gibson a faithful husband, father and pastor who tirelessly serves his community in Birmingham and “the people of Liberia he loves so deeply.”
“Eddie preaches the gospel with his words and with his life daily,” Pitts said. “He is a man of prayer and obedience, and the life he lives with Christ is the source out of which he gives to so many.”
For more information about the schools or to connect with Gibson, visit brccbham.org.