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JL's Journal

May 29, 2012

Dear Friends & Partners,

 

It is a joy to send you this email about the "3rd Retirement" of Dr. William "Bill" Wilson.  We have been in close friendship and partnership for over 30 years.

 

 

Bill & Elizabeth at commencement; Words of recognition by me; Bill, Elizabeth, me & Patt after receiving his honorary Doctorate of Ministry

Soon after his conversion to the Lord Jesus as a renown psychiatrist, God networked our lives together.  At that point he had already reached the pinnacle of success in the medical, scientific and academic world at the Duke University Medical School.  But he was struggling with what he termed as "existential despair."  In other words, he was not happy and fulfilled.  In spite of all of his scientific and academic achievements, there was still something missing.  There was an existential hole in his soul that none of his achievements or accomplishments could fill.  As C.S. Lewis wrote, he had not found that "permanent satisfaction."  

But the "Hound of Heaven" was on Bill's trail!   He relentlessly pursued him all the way to the backwaters of Canada where he was on a canoe trip with the Boy Scouts.  There in the beauty of nature, the Creator revealed Himself to Bill through the Lord Jesus.  It was his transformational moment.  He was forever changed.  Radically converted!

After his return, he desired to begin to apply his new faith in the field of his expertise – psychiatry.   In doing so, Dr. Bill became the pioneer in Christian psychiatry in America.  He founded at Duke University Medical School the very first Department of Christianity and Medicine, which he presided over as Head.  Through that program he led the research on the positive impact of Christianity on psychiatric patients.  Some of the results of those studies and his counseling are documented in his epic book, The Grace To Grow.  

While at Duke Medical Center, Bill also hosted scores of Conferences for doctors, psychiatrists and other medical professionals who wanted to learn more about how to integrate their faith into their practices of medicine.  During these years, Bill also personally mentored 108 medical students, 30 residents and 10 practicing physicians.  They would spend from a month to a year with Bill to be mentored in their faith and medical careers.  Those men and women are now across America and the world continuing Bill's legacy of Christianity and medicine.

After his "1st retirement" from Duke Medical Center in 1984, Bill joined us at NDI, where he founded the "Institute of Christian Growth" and "Life Way Mental Health Associates."  He directed those programs from 1984 until his "2nd retirement" in 2008.  He was also a member of the Board of Directors of NDI for over 20 years.

It was during that same time that Bill and I began to travel and minister overseas together.  Through my travels around the world, I had come to realize that in every country there was a group of "elite people" who were largely untouched by the Gospel.  And the medical community was always a part of that upper elite echelon.  They were generally out of reach of any missionaries who might be in those countries.  So they were an "unreached people group" unto themselves.  Most of these professionals had little interest in spiritual things -- especially Christianity.  They associated it with the "ignorant faith" of the poor and disenfranchised among them.  There was a high "social wall" separating them from authentic spirituality.

But Dr. Bill's many academic credentials became the key to open up a hearing for the Gospel.  He would lecture and deliver scientific papers on timely subjects to these medical and academic professionals.  At the end, he would conclude by a winsome presentation of his conversion to Jesus Christ and application of faith to medicine.  God dramatically used him to touch many of these "up and outers" with the Gospel.  Some came to America to study under him so they could go back home and better apply their new faith to their medical practices.  They are still doing so today.

During these same years, Bill began to teach at the Carolina Graduate School of Divinity as the Distinguished Professor of Pastoral Counseling.  As the consummate teacher, Bill poured himself and his experiences into scores of students from 1996 - 2012.  Because of his passion for discipleship, Bill also wrote another book during this time entitled, The Nuts and Bolts of Discipleship, which I wrote a recommendation for on the back cover (this book can be ordered directly from Bill).

Just recently, Dr. Bill had his "3rd retirement."  It was my joy as a fellow professor there to share some words about Bill and Elizabeth at the Commencement and Retirement Party (note pictures above and below).

The faculty of Carolina Evangelical Graduate School of Divinity; The 2012 graduating class; Dr. Bill & Elizabeth Sharing at their Retirement Party

So one of the great joys and privileges of my life has been to be a friend, partner, mentor and covenant brother with Dr. Bill!  He has impacted my life and ministry more than he will ever know.  At 89, his mind is as sharp as ever…his spirit as passionate as ever…his love of the Lord Jesus as strong as ever…and his marriage to Elizabeth as rich as ever!  Both of them remind me of the prophetic words of the Psalmist:

"The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon, planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God.  They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, 'The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him" (Psalm. 92:12-15).

So while both Bill and Elizabeth are increasingly experiencing physical "aches and pains," they are still "flourishing."  They are still "fresh" and "green" in their spirits.  While some people are "growing old," they are still "old and growing!"  As a result, they continue to "…bear fruit in old age." 

What positive lives and legacy they have given their physical children, grandchildren and spiritual children!  Be blessed and challenged by these pictures.   Also, take a few moments to look over the two attachments listing his impressive biographical data and many publications.  To God be the glory!

In His Faithful Love,

JL

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