Bill* was an intelligent man who worked as a software developer for a large restaurant chain while living at his parents’ home in Beamsville, Ont. He had a love of flying and a gift for music. In his last days of life, he developed a relationship with the Lord thanks to God’s grace, a new friendship, and a devotional booklet from Back to God Ministries International.
Bill had no connection with a church, but through a support ministry of nearby Providence CRC in Beamsville, he was introduced to Paul Vandersteen. Bill suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Vandersteen was asked to walk alongside him during this season of his life.
Vandersteen is a member of Providence CRC and church advancement officer for Back to God Ministries International (BTGMI). He admits that meeting Bill for the first time was a bit awkward and uncomfortable.
“Bill was 49 years old, but he could hardly speak and was very weak,” recalls Vandersteen. “He used an iPad to communicate with me through voice recognition and typing. Though Bill was not a believer, he was receptive to my visit.”
By their second meeting, Vandersteen asked if he could pray for Bill. Through this prayer, a seed was planted.
For nearly six months, the two met weekly for about an hour. They talked about their lives and laughed together. As their relationship grew, Vandersteen also brought Bill a Today devotional produced by ReFrame Media, the English-language outreach of BTGMI.
“We started reading from the July 2016 issue, where author Jimmy Lin wrote about how we don’t walk alone. Christ is with us,” said Vandersteen. “That’s when it occurred to me how the Today hits you wherever you are in life. When you’re sitting with somebody who is facing death or feeling down, the words are so powerful.”
They continued with the devotions, but as Bill’s physical state worsened, the symptoms of his illness wouldn’t allow him to comfortably read.
“That’s when I thought of sharing the audio version of Today,” Vandersteen explained, pointing out that in addition to print, the devotional is available as an audio program, email subscription, on a website, and through the Today app.
“When Bill heard the audio program he gave me the biggest smile. He started listening to it daily on his own.”
As Christmas came closer, VanderSteen also gave Bill access to Providence CRC sermons available on a new Christian Reformed Church mobile phone program called the Bridge App, which allowed him to connect and have access to the church.
“Over and over, Bill would thank me for the prayers and for sharing these messages and devotions with him,” said Vandersteen. “It’s amazing how such a small part of Back to God’s ministry can have such a large purpose and impact in someone’s life.”
As Bill went in and out of the hospital, Vandersteen continued to visit and disciple him. Meanwhile, God was growing the seeds of faith planted in Bill’s heart.
“He could no longer speak, but he would hold my hand and nod and smile and give me the thumbs-up when I was with him and when I prayed with him,” Vandersteen recalled.
In February 2017, Bill was hospitalized for the last time. Though his illness was terminal, Vandersteen said that Bill’s sudden death caught him off guard. Even sol, Vandersteen is confident that his new friend is with the Lord.
“He wasn’t able to verbalize that he accepted Christ, but I have no doubt that God had a claim on Bill,” he said.
In the days that followed, Providence CRC held a funeral for Bill. Many of Bill’s friends and family attended, as well as members of the church.
Vandersteen gave the eulogy. He said that through his relationship with Bill, he was able to tell the mourners about God’s goodness and how he believed Bill was healed and in a better place. “I knew him for only six months, lying in a bed,” said Vandersteen. “He had 49 years where others knew and loved him. But I knew him when his heart was changing.”
Since Bill’s passing, Vandersteen has been able to connect with his family. Bill’s father has also attended services at Providence CRC and communicates with Vandersteen regularly.
*Last name has been withheld to protect the privacy of the family.
Growing Faith through Radio Outreach
Pascaline*, 20, lives and works in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, where the majority of the population adheres to the Muslim faith. It wasn’t until she heard the radio messages of BTGMI French ministry leader Rev. Marc Nabie that she wanted to learn more about following Christ.
“Pascaline called me and said, ‘Pastor, I’ve listened to the broadcast; I want to give my life to Jesus. Will you come and meet with me?’” Nabie recalled.
Nabie met with Pascaline. When she accepted Christ, Nabie suggested that Pascaline join a church close to her village even though such a public display of her faith could have consequences. Pascaline’s Muslim employer noticed that she had begun attending church. He expressed his disapproval of Pascaline’s new faith and told her that if she continued to go to church he would fire her.
Pascaline continued to follow her heart, and her employer followed through on his threat. Pascaline called Nabie and said, “They have chased me away because I won’t quit going to church, but I will continue to pray.”
Three weeks after she had been fired, Pascaline called Nabie again, this time to report that while she was on her knees praying, her boss called her to come back to work.
“I love Christ and will never forsake him,” Pascaline testified.
*last name has been withheld to protect privacy
- The mission of BTGMI is to proclaim the gospel, disciple those who come to faith, and strengthen the church.
- BTGMI works internationally with indigenous leaders and ministry teams in ten languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.
- Through radio and TV broadcasts, resource distribution, and discipleship centers, BTGMI reaches people in 80 countries. Through the Internet, social media, and digital apps we connect with people in an additional 106 countries.
- ReFrame Media, the BTGMI English-language outreach, provides discipleship resources for individuals and churches to bring people to Jesus and help them grow spiritually. See reframemedia.com.
The BTGMI volunteer prayer team has grown to nearly 4,000 people. To join us in praying for those around the world searching for hope in Christ, visit backtogod.net/help/prayer.