Freddie Wilson was a well-known personality in the medical community in El Dorado during the years of my medical practice there. I would run into him in various places in both hospitals and initially wasn’t quite sure where he worked, but his primary employment was with Dr. Ken Duzan and Dr. Wayne Elliott who were the pathologists. He had other jobs including working part-time for the Country Club and assisting other physicians in various capacities.
Freddie had an outgoing personality with a continuous smile and was quick to express his love and devotion for the Lord Jesus. His cleanly shaven head and his rapid walking pace made him easy to spot at a distance. I loved stopping and having a three to five minute chat concerning things of the Lord and ministry opportunities. He seemed to always know what was currently happening in town because of his multiple jobs and his genuine love for people. At one point I told him about the International Congress on Revival with which Cathy and I were involved and mentioned the ministry included South Africa. He said, “some day I would love to go to Africa.”
In the early spring of 1999 I began making plans to attend my first conference in Africa during the month of August and without going into details of how it happened, Freddie obtained the necessary funding to join us. John Morgan, a local businessman and outstanding Bible teacher in El Dorado felt led to go and the three of us traveled together. Early in our planning Freddie asked me, “Now just what am I going to do while I’m in Africa?” I jokingly said, “Freddie, it will be your job to go ahead of us with a machete and make a clear path for all of us white folks to walk.” Freddie quickly said, “Doctor, I ain’t going out in no woods!”
Upon arrival in Johannesburg after a grueling twenty-one hour flight we boarded a van driven by an ICR team member for an additional five hour trip southeast into the Drakensberg Mountains. This mountain range is in the South African province of Kwazulu-Natal and is the home of a large number of Zulu villagers. The contrast between the majesty and beauty of the mountains and the poverty of many Zulus is striking.
The conference was held annually in a beautiful lodge called The Drakensberg Sun and upon arrival we were thrilled to have a few hours to recover before the conference began. The purpose of the conference is to bring South African pastors and their wives to a conference setting and give them five days of rest and encouragement in the Lord. All of their expenses are covered by the organization because most of these pastors are serving long hours without a great deal of compensation. By making investments in the spiritual enrichment of these pastors the dividends are multiplied by the number of people they serve in their churches. The speakers for the conference included pastors and lay leaders from America and some of the South African pastors who also serve with ICR in other parts of the world. In addition to leaders from South Africa there were present also pastors and wives from surrounding countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.
Freddie was an instant encourager for everyone at the conference because of his outgoing and winsome personality. During the preaching and singing he was verbal and expressive in his hand clapping and Amens. When there were breaks in the sessions Freddie introduced himself to all the attendees and learned as much about them as he could.
Several afternoons were free for everyone to relax, rest and visit some of the nearby Zulu villages. The photo above shows Freddie at the home of one of the villagers. The children had flocked to Freddie to get an up-close view of an African-American, and he didn’t disappoint any of them by being aloof or unfriendly.
For the morning session on the third day of the conference Brother Bill Stafford, the ICR President asked me to prepare a message. He notified me the afternoon before and in order to have the right word and have my heart prepared I awakened at 2:30 A.M. to study and prepare. At approximately 3:30 A.M. while preparing my notes I heard some muffled sounds from the adjacent room. I knew it was from Freddie’s room and he was rooming alone. The sounds got a little louder and more animated and because of the hour I assumed Freddie was talking long distance by phone to his wife Verna. The conversation continued for at least thirty minutes, and I thought at the time a conversation for that long from South Africa was going to be very expensive for Freddie.
The next morning at breakfast Freddy joined me at the table, and I asked him how everything was in El Dorado. He said, “I’m sure Verna is doing fine.” “Didn’t you talk to her on the phone last night?” I asked. He looked rather puzzled and said he had not spoken to her since we left. I said, “Freddie, I heard you talking to someone last night, and you were pretty loud.” He laughed and said, “Doctor John, I was praying for your talk this morning and also thanking the Lord He let me come over here and meet all these wonderful people. I was especially glad so I got down on the floor and put my nose to the floor!” He told me often at home when he can’t sleep he goes into his living room and has a “little talk with the Lord Jesus;” and when he gets real happy, sometimes he talks pretty loud.
Freddie’s prayer touched me so much I mentioned it to Brother Bill, and when I finished speaking, Brother Bill asked Freddie to give a short testimony of his prayer for the conference. I happened to record his testimony on video, and it still inspires me when I relive the moment. Praise God that “He does exceeding abundantly above anything we can ask or think” and He allowed me to travel to South Africa with Freddie, John and the ICR team. None of us will ever be the same for what He allowed us to experience so far from home.