ABANDONED BY PEOPLE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN BY GOD
Bill Wilson’s mother abandoned him at just twelve years old on a street corner in Brooklyn, NY. He sat and waited for her in that same spot for three full days, but she never came back for him. Countless people walked by this young boy sitting out on the street corner. Then, finally, a man who was on his way to see his son in the hospital stopped and asked him if he was okay. After learning of his situation, the man got him some food, made some calls, and within five hours, he was on a bus headed to a Christian summer camp.
Bill’s family hadn’t been the particularly religious type, so that camp was the first time he heard about God or Jesus. But, much to his dismay, Bill discovered that at that “Christian” summer camp, nobody would pray for him at the altar because of how badly he looked and smelled. So instead, he went to the altar alone and attempted his prayer to God: “My mother doesn’t want me. The Christians don’t want me. But if you want me, here I am.” God’s response to Bill was instant and resounding. That moment forever changed the course of his life.
That first experience of knowing he was loved and wanted by God put Bill on the path to the Christian ministry. While a teenager, he was given a job at his local congregation. After his high school graduation, he was encouraged to attend a seminary. So, he studied at Southeastern University and got his degree in theology. But a pulpit and a steeple were not the kind of ministry into which Bill felt called. Rather, in 1980, he established Metro World Ministry in Bushwick, Brooklyn. At the time, Bushwick was one of New York’s toughest neighborhoods, known for its gang violence, crime, drugs, and poverty. Armed with a bull horn, a station wagon, and Yogi Bear costumes, Bill went through the streets inviting and driving children to his fun, welcoming Sunday School program.
When he quickly outgrew the station wagon, Bill bought a bus and took his ministry onto the streets, creating the idea of a Sidewalk Sunday School. He converted trucks to serve as portable stages from which his team of ministers could share their message in hard-to-reach neighborhoods. Soon, he expanded his ministry into all five boroughs of New York City. Today, Pastor Bill’s unique concepts of school bus outreach and weekend-long Sunday School programs that feed and love kids who otherwise would have none of these things are now global.
After getting saved, one woman from Puerto Rico came to Bill with an urgent request. Unfortunately, she didn’t speak English, so she told him through an interpreter, “I want to do something for God, please.”“I don’t know what you can do,” he answered. “Please, let me do something,” she said in Spanish. “Okay. I’ll put you on a bus. Ride a different bus every week and just love the kids.”
So, every week, she rode a different bus – at the time, the ministry had 50 of them – and she loved the children. She would find the worst-looking kid on the bus, put him on her lap, and whisper over and over the only words she had learned in English: “I love you. Jesus loves you.” After several months, she became attached to one little boy in particular. “I don’t want to change buses anymore. I want to stay on this one bus,” she told Bill. The boy didn’t speak. He came to Sunday school every week with his sister and sat on the woman’s lap, but he never made a sound. And each week, she would tell him on the way to Sunday school and back home, “I love you, and Jesus loves you.”
One day, to her amazement, the little boy turned around and stammered, “I-I love you, too.” Then he put his arms around her and gave her a big hug. That was 2:30 pm on a Saturday afternoon. At 6:30 pm that night, the boy was found dead in a garbage bag under a fire escape. His mother had beaten him to death and thrown his body in the trash. “I love you, and Jesus loves you.” Those were some of the last words he heard in his short life – from the lips of an ordinary older woman who could barely speak English.
The days of religious rhetoric are over. People have to see the reality of the Gospel. And, for most people, YOU are the only scripture they will read. YOU are the only sermon they’ll ever hear. YOU are the only Jesus they will ever see. YOU – one person – can make a difference. So, in Jesus’ name, let yourself get close enough to people who hurt. Love them however you can. Tell them the only words you need to learn: I love you, and Jesus loves you. It may save their souls.
(A true story by Bill Wilson, Pastor, Metro World Church, Brooklyn, NY)