(I posted this message on Sept. 6, 2019. Here is the long version of my post in memory of Bill)
In the early morning on Sept. 6, 2019, I received a text message that my dear friend Bill had passed through this world and went home with the Lord.
On my way to work, my time with Bill in the past 22 years played like a photo slides thanks to my kind of photograph memory.
22 years ago, I met Bill first time at a retreat in an Oklahoma ranch. I was not a Christian yet at that time. A Christian friend invited us to spend a few days in the ranch. Bill was part of the hosting party. Bill took us to fishing and horse riding. That is how I met Bill first time. The picture was so clear that Bill shook my hands and said: “I am Bill”. He insisted on knowing my Chinese name. Bill did not share message of Christian faith with me the whole time during the retreat. He just served us with smile on his face.
22 year later, we went to see Bill in August a few weeks before he passed away. We spent almost an hour at Bill’s house. When we were about to drive away, Bill walked out his house and wanted to tell me something before we left. He told me that Lord may call him home sometime, and he may not need his golf clubs anymore. He wanted me to give to someone else to use. I gave Bill the golf club sets as gift a few years ago. I told Bill to keep the golf clubs. That is the last conversation that Bill and I had during his time on this earth.
Bill was a pastor and had served in Christian ministry for a few decades. But my first time meeting with Bill and last conversation with Bill seems not theological or spiritual related. First, he took us to fish and horse riding. Last, he told me to give his golf clubs to someone else since he no longer need them. It seems more meaningful if he shared a Bible verse with me in his last words to me.
For the past 22 years, Bill and I actually did talk a lot of theology, Bible, Christian apologetics, and Biblical value based politics. We talked in person, by phone and in text message, and via emails. However, for some reason, those pictures did not stand out in my photograph memory. What came out to play in front of me seems less theological or spiritual. One of the pictures is my golf time with Bill. Especially, how did Bill play a par 3 hole.
Bill was a natural born athlete. He was avid runner. He also loves playing golf. I played golf with Bill many times in Oklahoma and Texas. Many of us, the amateur golfers, usually are driven by our pride to select a less golf club to hit the ball. When playing a 150-yard Par 3 hole, I need a 7 iron, but often I would pull out an 8 iron and hit 10 yard short of green, and make boggy or double bogies. That is not Bill. To my surprise, Bill pulled out his driver, which is the golf club for furthest distance. If I had used driver for a Par 3 hole, my playing partners would have asked me why I picked my driver. I did not say anything when Bill pulled out his driver. I was very curious to see how he hit and where the ball would land. I could not believe that Bill hit the ball closer to the green than I did, and eventually he had better score than I had.
This is a good analogy how Bill lives his life differently from many of us. I do not speak on behalf of others. I can say that I am short of my many targets because of my lack of humility. Bill reached his goals because of his humility. He does not care if others would laugh at him or do not understand why a driver is for 150 yards hole. He was focusing on his target ahead and used whatever the best to reach his goals, not driven by pride, but by humility. Bill went to the top college in the US. You never heard about that he mentioned it. Bill was willingly serving in a deputy position even though he was offered to lead the ministry. Bill always served behind the stage. He may not be preaching like Paul, but he is very close to Timothy who supported Paul and encouraged others.
When I think about other Christian pastors, and ministry leaders in my life, I mostly admire their teaching, their sound doctrine, their excellent sermons, and their moral characters. When I think about Bill, it’s just Bill, a servant walking with Christ in life. When we met and sit down at a table, he did not start to ask me what I am serving, and which topic I am studying in my Bible study group, and which Bible reading plan I am on, but asked me a very simple question. Not many people would ask me. “Brother, how are you walking with the Lord recently?” That is the question that Bill asked me. I know that he was not trying to examine my life in a judgmental way. That is how he lives his life. He wants me, his younger brother in Christ, to do the same. I do not think that I had given good answer to Bill every time. But this question stays with me and became a question that I often I ask myself. “How am I walking with the Lord?”
During the time when I saw Bill before he passed away, we prayed for Bill and his wife Pam. Bill prayed for our two families who came from Dallas to see him. He prayed by name for us and our children. That is how Bill always cares others even at the time when cancer was spread all over his body, and he only have weeks to live. The last words that Bill told me is to ask me to give his golf clubs to others. Bill was thinking about others in all things include a set of golf clubs.
The more I think about Bill and my time with him, the more I realized that evangelism is the most important of Bill’s ministry, and the goal for Bill in life is to walk with Christ in his own life. These are not two competing goals, but one united in Christ. When I think about Bill, I actually saw Bible verse, and Christian doctrine, not on paper or on screen, but from Bill’s life, and his walking with Christ. Bill asked me how I was working with the Lord because he wanted to share this important message with me. By walking with Christ, it is not just to have knowledge of Bible verse, and Christian doctrine, and express by words how Christian should live, and do the good things, but the whole life abides in Christ.
Bill, my dear friend, my golf partner, and my brother in Christ, I thank you for that you live as an example for me in walking with Christ. Bill, I will see you in Heaven. I know that you may still use your driver to play the par 3 hole in Heaven, and you are making hole-in-one every time. I will join you some day in Heaven and play golf with you. While you hit driver for a par 3 hole, I will still use my 8 iron not because of pride, but the glory of the Lord.
（米勒的油画 – 《撒种者》）