Planning- and Planting- for the Future


By Fred Koenig

Saint Paul School of Theology gave me new life. It is my seminary,” explains Reverend Cleo Kottwitz when asked why he set up a Charitable Gift Annuity benefiting the school that nurtured his professional development. That sense of gratitude is combined with a life-long devotion to the ministry of Missouri’s rural churches. 
“We need trained, committed leadership to strengthen rural churches,” states Kottwitz, echoing a passion he has held since his youthful days growing up on a farm near Bland, Missouri. He was elected President of the Missouri East Conference Chapter of United Methodist Rural Fellowship in 1980 and soon took the lead in the effort to establish a Chair for Town & Country Ministries at Saint Paul. Representatives from nine annual conferences formed a steering committee chaired by Cleo and worked closely with Saint Paul staff over 12 years to raise funds and host an annual Town and Country Consultation. Cleo recalls, “It was one of the most significant things I’ve been involved with in ministry – probably the most significant – a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.”
In 1992 the Chair in Town & Country Ministry was established. It was later named in honor of Cleo’s dear friends, Franklin and Louise Cole, who provided a major estate gift to the endowment. The Kottwitz gift annuity provides fixed payments to Cleo for life and will also add to the endowment. “I’m so impressed by what Sharon Howell [SPST President] is doing to lead this transition into 
the future.” 
And the future is where this spry octogenarian keeps a bright focus. “I had heard about the gift annuity for years, and I appreciate how it works. It makes a difference for the long-range and also has tax advantages.” 
Cleo is about to dash out the door to plant several seedling trees he received from the Missouri Conservation Department. They are tiny, bare rooted saplings shipped by mail. He wants to get them planted before the rain starts. This son of the soil and follower of the risen Lord seems to have a knack for planting things and helping them grow. 
To learn more about how you can create a gift annuity benefiting your favorite ministry, contact the Missouri United Methodist Foundation at 800-332-8238 or visit