Years ago at a weekly Bible study that I was attending, one of my good friends, Dr. Jim Weedman handed me an audio tape and said he thought I would enjoy it. It was a monthly tape sent to him by an evangelist of whom I had never heard. The evangelist was Bill Stafford from Chattanooga, Tennessee. The message delivered in Brother Bill’s unique preaching style was loud, compelling and convicting. I had never heard a preacher say “Amen” more times in one message. He interlaced Biblical truths with such force and humor that I re-played the tape 3 or 4 times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. I asked Jim to allow me to listen to the tapes each month after he was finished with them, and I looked forward with great anticipation to receiving them. I listened to each tape multiple times and practically had them memorized by the time I returned them.
Months later on one of the tapes, Brother Bill said that he would be preaching a revival meeting in a local Baptist church in El Dorado within the next 6 weeks, and I was very excited to finally hear him in person. I also anticipated joining his monthly tape club, so I wouldn’t always have to depend on Jim giving me his tape each month. I planned to attend the Monday evening service, because I had commitments at my own church for both the morning and evening Sunday services.
On the Monday afternoon clinic schedule in my surgical office, a good friend, Johnny Beebe had a minor procedure scheduled for 3 PM. As I was prepping the surgical site, I asked him if he was going to hear Brother Bill preach that evening since I knew they were good friends. He said, “Yes, I’ll be there tonight. In fact Brother Bill is staying at our home, and he came with me for this appointment!” I said, “Johnny, you mean he is in my waiting room?” “He sure is,” he said. “Would you mind waiting a few minutes while I go out to meet him?” Johnny was lying on his stomach with a sterile surgical drape over the operative site on his back and he said, “I’m comfortable, so go ahead and meet him.”
I walked to the waiting room and called Brother Bill back to my office suite. Following the usual introductory remarks, I told him how I had heard about him, and how much I had been blessed by his tapes each month. We had a lively conversation that lasted at least 20 minutes, and it seemed as if we had known each other for years. I lost track of time and had completely forgotten that Johnny had been lying on my exam table for over 20 minutes! At that moment, I was thankful that he was a very good friend who would be forgiving for such a delay.
As Brother Bill and I walked to the door of the procedure room, I jokingly said to Johnny, “The reason it has taken so long, there has been an anointing, and the gift of healing has been transferred to Brother Bill. He is going to perform your procedure as his first act of service for the Lord!” Johnny said, “No sir; the only one doing this procedure is you, no matter how much anointing he has received!” Fortunately, despite the unusual delay, the procedure went well, and Johnny healed quickly.
A significant reason for the appointment that day was to allow me to meet Brother Bill and begin a life-long friendship. Over the next several years our relationship grew to the extent that he invited me to become a member of the governing board of the International Congress on Revival which he headed as President. This world-wide ministry to pastors and their wives, afforded my wife Cathy and me the privilege of travelling overseas for 15 years with Brother Bill, his wife Sue and the entire ministry team. We were able to invest our lives into the lives of hundreds of pastors and their wives, and to encourage them to remain faithful to the ministry which God had called them. The pastors attending those meetings represented at least 20 countries; including those in Western and Eastern Europe, England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, South Africa and several of the countries of the former Russian Republic. Our investment into those pastors lives was multiplied many times over through their ministry to the members of their congregations. As a result of Johnny Beebe’s introduction of Brother Bill to me, Johnny and his wife Martha Sue accompanied Cathy and me 12 years later in attending an ICR meeting in Newcastle, Ireland. It was a lively spirit-filled conference that ministered to 75 pastors and their wives, and gave the 4 of us the opportunity to spend a wonderful 2 weeks together. In addition to Ireland, we also travelled to London and spent time touring that city and a portion of the English countryside.
Brother Bill has had a profound impact on Cathy and me since that first meeting. He has encouraged and challenged us, and even rebuked me a few times when needed. On more than one occasion when there was a crisis situation in our family, Brother Bill was one of the first to respond with counsel, with prayers and with tears. Next to my brother who was my professional and spiritual mentor, Brother Bill has meant as much to me as any other man, and I thank God for him. I am so glad for those initial audio tapes from my friend Dr. Jim, which stirred my interest in a preacher known then as “Wild Bill”, and equally thankful for the appointment Johnny Beebe had that afternoon in my clinic. God used those two men to arrange for me to meet Brother Bill. Divine appointments are always perfect.