One day my dear friend and long time partner in the insurance industry Al Sweet, had invited me to an early morning bible study.
Early morning? I wasn’t interested.
“A weekly bible study group that meets at 6:00am, in another city… and you want me to attend? C’mon, you’re putting me on!” I exclaimed.
“It’s not as bad as it sounds,” Al retorted, “afterwards we go upstairs and have breakfast in the restaurant. Besides, I want you to meet someone.”
“Who?” I asked.
“Just a guy, name’s Bill. He comes after the meeting in time for breakfast.” Al said with a little smile.
“Oh great… I can hardly wait.” I thought unenthusiastically.
Honestly, I was reluctant about going to such an early meeting. It was during the meeting my attitude changed. The meeting was attended by five or six other businessmen, another good friend, Dr. Gil Wedekind, a professor at Oakland University, and friend Al. I had forgotten about this ‘Bill’ Al wanted me to meet. The meeting was a quality time together as we studied the scripture. The hour passed quickly and I was surprised when the group leader said, “We better move upstairs and have breakfast before the regulars show up.”
Just as we were being seated Al’s mystery guest, Bill, showed up. He stood at the table looking at us. “C’mon Bill, sit down,” invited Al. Bill quickly sat down next to him. Whatever expectations I had about Bill left me ill prepared for the man I was about to meet.
Physically, Bill Hall was intimidating. He was of average height but with very large shoulders and arms. His neck was as wide as his head and at first glance, you could see that there was something different. The expression on his face revealed that he was experiencing great turmoil.
Al told Bill to order whatever he wanted. It seemed to me that Bill did not chew his food, but rather swallowed it whole. Within a few minutes Bill had finished his food, pushed his plate away and began rocking in his chair and raking his thighs with his fingers. His jaw moved from side to side and his eyes took on the appearance of a caged animal.
We continued our breakfast when suddenly Bill shouted in his loud booming voice, “What am I going to do?!”
We all sat confused for a moment, and Bill continued, “I woke up again in the night screaming, there was blood all over my hands!”
Attempts to calm him were futile. Seated next to me was Dr. Gil. Quickly we both decided that we needed to remove him from the restaurant so as not to cause a scene, and take him somewhere to pray for him. After getting permission from the restaurant manager, we returned to the restaurant basement with Bill. “Bill, please come with us.” He followed us with no response.
Dr. Gil and I knew that Bill not only needed prayer, he needed deliverance from an unholy bondage he was living in. Just as we were about to pray we were startled by a loud angry voice that emanated from Bill’s throat. “If you try to cast me out, I will scream so loud everyone upstairs will run out of the restaurant!”
The voice came from Bill’s throat, but the speaker was clearly a demonic spirit that was oppressing Bill. What were we to do? We prayed silently and bound the demon in the Name of Jesus.
We all spent time prayerfully discussing what to do next. Here we were, a group of businessmen, gathering together for a friendly bible study and breakfast, now facing a demonic spiritual realm. It was a most awkward and strange moment, and yet a peace from Lord rested upon us all. We were to learn later that this demonic oppression had tormented Bill for years. It was on that morning that we decided to address the situation at a different time and location.
During the period the breakfast and the “another time and another place” we learned much more about Bill. Though we did not know the extent of his situation, we could clearly see that Bill suffered from a form of mental retardation. That first morning though what we had observed from Bill in the restaurant was far removed from his physical condition.
Two weeks following our first meeting, we met again. This time we were in a home that was ideal for the purpose for which we had gathered. Three or four men from the bible study group were present. Prayers had been offered on Bill’s behalf prior to his arrival, and much to our surprise a we were greeted with a much calmer man. The rocking, shaking or moving of his jaw had completely stopped.
As we sat with him he began to explain some of the hellish experiences he had suffered in his life. With regards to the nightmares of waking up with blood on his hands, he told us of a number of fights he had with both old and new acquaintances. These people had ridiculed him for the way he talked, looked and, sadly, the way he “was.” When the teasing or ridicule would begin, he told us was filled with hatred, a rage that would overwhelm him. He shared with us that, “After each fight I made sure that the next person that called me a name would be beaten worse than the last one.” He also shared that he had been put in jail a number of times for his “fights.”
This poor man had suffered a lifetime of taunting, jeering and disdain, all because of his disability. Through spiritual discernment we all agreed that through the rage that he experienced, it left an open door for the enemy to enter and manipulate this poor soul.
We shared Christ with Bill and asked if he wanted to be free from his hurts. Bill said yes.
We as believers began to confront the evil spirits in the Name of Jesus. As we proceeded identifying, binding and casting out the spirits, a change began to engulf Bill. He had been oppressed by so many demons for so long that during this deliverance we saw a fresh new man emerge. With every evil spirit identified and cast out, he would praise and worship God. His voice became clear, his face changed and relaxed. The transformation that took place at the time was truly miraculous.
It was some weeks later that Bill told me, “some guys are still afraid of me, but I won’t hurt no one no more.” Bill had been transformed from a ‘pugnacious mountain goat’ (what some had called him) to a gentle lamb by the grace of God.
Bill’s new life in Christ had begun. He started attending church, and loved to sing the hymns at the top of his lungs. He became a favorite attendee at a Christian summer camp called Camp Farthest Out (CFO). He made new friends wherever he went and loved praying for hurting people. Even the local police became aware of his remarkable transformation. The transformation was so great that the police kept him employed with small jobs around the station and in the community.
As the years passed, Bill grew stronger and stronger in the Lord. We became great friends, and I spent many times taking him to breakfast or lunch just talking.
One day I had to break him some bad news. My wife and I were planning to move to Florida. I knew of this for some time, but had not broken the news to Bill. I had a visitation planned with Bill the day before I was to move, as he was in the hospital. Bill had been suffering from a number of health issues stemming from diabetes. I brought my communion supplies along. There was Bill in bed, with his mother Birdie sitting bedside. We had a blessed time together with the Lord. I told him about the move, and he was okay with it.
Little did I know that the next day, the day we left for Florida, the Lord would call Bill home. I didn’t learn of his passing until ten days later. I was told by many that the funeral service for “Gentle Lamb Bill” (as the community now called him) was standing room only.
Little did I know, that years ago a simple bible study, that I was hesitant to attend, would lead me to a man who needed Christ’s love and deliverance.
Never pass on an opportunity to gather with the saints. When two or three gather in His name, so shall He be among them.
What an amazing God we serve.
– Wesley Peterson