Bill Brown

  • July 10, 2017
  • #9181

At 90 years old and a double amputee, Bill was still eager to reach out to others for Christ.

Bill Brown

Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada with a heartwarming story.

It was in 1977, 40 years ago, that Bill Brown approached me about making the “Joni book into a movie. He saw it as a golden opportunity to reach more people for Christ. I thought it was crazy. But this tall, handsome executive from the Billy Graham association, he quieted my concerns. Two years later, the “Joni” film was completed and released. More than 250,000 decisions for Christ were logged in the U.S., with untold thousands more around the world. All this was a drop in the bucket though, given the many other films that Bill produced resulting in millions coming to Christ.

Now, I want you to fast-forward to a breezy April afternoon earlier this year. While vacationing in Hawaii, my husband Ken and I, we couldn’t resist the chance to go see Bill; he and his wife had retired to the islands years earlier, and he was old now. Diabetes had taken one leg, and we had recently learned about his second leg being amputated. When I wheeled into his hospital room, I was expecting to see a fragile near-90-year-old man, haggard, weak, weary of the battle. I was only half-right. Oh, true, Bill was fragile and physically weak, but weary of the battle? No way! With a booming voice, he warmly welcomed Ken and me, reaching out his hand, laughing with excitement. Rather talk about himself, he patted Ken’s arm saying, “Thank you Ken for being such a good caregiver to Joni all these years.” Then he turned to me: “And Joni, you’ve got to hear my great idea to reach for Christ all these old people in nursing homes!” With that, he rattled off statistics on how many care facilities there are in the U.S. with precisely how many residents—most of whom do not know Christ. “Oh, we just have to tell these people about Jesus! I’ve written my idea in a letter and you’ll be getting one soon.”

Ken and I felt as though we were awash in this powerful wave of ethereal, spiritual energy—all of it exuding from the 90-year-old double amputee in the bed. I gave Bill the news that the “Joni movie is now digitized, and a red-carpet premiere is planned for August, marking the 50th anniversary of my diving accident. He wistfully shook his head, and said, “Oh Joni, just look at all that God has done through your broken neck.” After mugging for snapshots, and I posted one of them on my radio page of Bill in his hospital bed, we ended up singing a few rousing hymns about heaven. It was really hard to say goodbye. We stood outside his room for a moment, feeling like we were standing just outside the gates of heaven.

Less than 24 hours later, those gates opened wide to receive Bill Brown home. Ken and I were stunned by the news—I mean, just hours earlier he had seemed so vibrant, so full of life. But we were oh, so grateful that God had picked Ken and me to be part of his farewell party, singing and saying goodbye to him on earth, while others were about to welcome him into heaven. Second Peter Chapter 1, describes it as “… a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom.” Bill’s grand entrance had to be ringing with applause from the numberless thousands, all saved through his ministry. And there will be more to come when we all get to heaven. I share all this because Bill Brown is such a powerful example. As Christians, we are called to keep living and striving to reach others for Christ, no matter how old you are—even if you are a 90-year-old double amputee in a hospital bed. Your dreams should always exceed your memories. Never be busy dying; today take Bill’s example and get busy living. Oh, and I forgot to mention I posted on my radio page at a photo of Bill and me together back in 1977, forty years ago.

© Joni and Friends


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