Minister’s work extends beyond Aurora
By Linda Girardi For The Beacon-News October 21, 2012 8:38PM
Bishop William Bonner preaches at Greater Mt. Olive Church in Aurora.| Sun-Times Media File
Updated: November 23, 2012 6:08AM
AURORA — While Bishop William Bonner’s work in the Aurora area has been well known for more than 60 years, he has also been a major figure over the past two decades in an effort to help the homeless in Waukegan.
“It is my joy to help others,” said Bonner, who established the Greater Mt. Olive Church of God in Christ in Aurora in the 1940s.
Bonner, 91, has made it his life’s work to be a disciple of God and serve beyond the church walls. “I believe it is the will of my Father to help others,” he said from his church office last week.
Among those he has helped is Gospel singer Mary Lacey, founder of Mary’s Mission and Development Center in Waukegan.
Lacey believes God had a higher calling for her 38 years ago when she recovered from cancer.
She began to travel the world singing and preaching and performed for four U.S. presidents along the way.
In 1989, Lacey was ordained a pastor under the leadership of Bonner.
A member of the Aurora church, Lacey turned to Bonner nearly 20 years ago for support to open Mary’s Mission at 642 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. in Waukegan.
Bonner, who has invested considerably of his own finances to support the mission, was there for the first bank loan to purchase a former day care center and took out the second loan for plans to care for the homeless with a new two-story building.
“For a time we were very successful — we had mission workers and the state was providing assistance to carry-on,” he said.
Mary’s Mission, within the jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ, is now at a crossroad to repay a $167,000 debt.
But Bonner thanks God for the work accomplished and he has faith “God will help us go further.”
“The responsibility really fell on his lap,” Church Elder Nelson Gray said.
He said Bonner has financially supported the mission out of his own finances. And his contributions go far beyond just finances.
“His office door is always open,” Lacey said.
A couple came to the shelter last week with a baby sleeping in the backseat of their car and the mother who had the flu. “We took them in,” Lacey said of the 35-bed Mary’s Mission shelter.
Lacey said when she is out of debt, her vision is to establish a family center, but state and federal funding cuts have made her ministry difficult.
“We have no funding — we operate with Bishop Bonner’s support and private donations,” she said.
Lacey has called on her connections in the Gospel music world and local performers to host a fundraiser for the mission this month — appropriately, at Bonner’s church. The fundraiser will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27 at the Greater Mount Olive Church of God in Christ at 1039 Bonner Ave. in Aurora. She has invited several Gospel recording artists and choirs to perform and pray.
She is hoping members of the public join in and make a donation to the mission. Donations can be sent to Mary’s Mission, c/o the Greater Mt. Olive Church, 1039 Bonner Ave., Aurora, IL 60505.
“There are so many people who are homeless and hungry — it breaks my heart to see them outside with no place to go,” Lacey said.