An Example of Compassion and Concern
The life of Bill McDougall is a tremendous challenge of steadfast Evangelistic zeal and compassion for the poor and needy. In the early part of my adventure of Discipleship, God used Bill McDougall to challenge and train me in ministry in old age homes and to some of the most poor, needy and neglected people in our society. We would complete six, or more, church services in the local old age homes, before making it to the morning service at Pinelands Baptist Church.
Ministering to Miners and Prisoners
William McDougall was born in Johannesburg in 1914, the fifth of twelve children. His parents were Scottish Missionaries from Australia. They worked under the South African Compounds Mission, ministering to migrant workers in the gold mines. On the average Sunday, Bill McDougall's father, Lauchlen McDougall, would minister to between 4,000 to 5,000 miners. After completing his schooling, Bill McDougall conducted Sunday schools and children's Gospel work in the locations near Johannesburg, and from 1935, he assisted his father in chaplaincy work in the Johannesburg Prison.
A Soldier for Christ
In 1940, Bill McDougall joined the South African Medical Corp and served in Egypt and Libya as a Medic. He later served in Italy, returning to South Africa in 1945, to take over his father’s Chaplaincy ministry of Johannesburg Prison. From 1957, he served the Leprosy Mission throughout the Cape Province and South West Africa/Namibia. From 1968, realising that no Sunday church service were held in the Zerilda Steyn home for the frail aged in Pinelands, he began outreaches which reached an average of 400 elderly people every week.
"Whatever you do unto the least of these"
From 1984, he added another ministry, that of caring for the unemployed. He started a scheme called "Inasmuch" to feed the unemployed men at lunchtime on weekdays and Saturdays. His project soon involved five participating churches. He would daily buy and prepare food and sandwiches, serving it along with coffee and/or soup to people near the Epping Market. He also developed the habit of taking shoe glue to fix the worn out shoes of the unemployed men.
Never Give Up!
As a new Christian, I remember being very discouraged after a morning of back-to-back services amongst the aged in Zerilda Steyn. I had retreated to his Peugeot station wagon. He came out and said to me: "We shall reap in due season, if we faint not!" Many hundreds of times in the last 34 years, God has used that exhortation to galvanize me back into the fight and to keep on keeping on, persevering beyond what I thought was possible.
The Happy Band
Ministering at a Baptist Church in Troyeville, a group of people made themselves known to me, that they had been part of Bill McDougall's "Happy Band." Before moving to the Cape and the Leprosy Mission, Bill McDougall had run very effective children's ministries amongst the down and out in the slums of Joburg.
Caring For the Poor and Needy
Bill McDougall always had an eye for those in need. He boldly declared the Gospel in open air street meetings. He visited disadvantaged families in slum areas on Christmas Day. He ran children's meetings. He brought many strangers and ex-prisoners home for meals, or a bed for the night. He regarded his vehicle as God's taxi and was continually giving lifts to weary hitchhikers.
A Ministry of Hospitality
His wife had to always have extra food on hand, as he was continually bringing different people home for a meal. Bill McDougall lived a life that was significant. He left a lasting legacy because he invested in people, seeking first the Kingdom of God. He literally washed the feet of beggars, and put feet to his faith, loving the unlovely and caring for the casualties of society.
Character Outlasts Reputation
One of his favourite sayings was: "A diamond in the rough is a diamond sure enough." He would also frequently remind us: "Character outlasts reputation." One of his mottos was that he would rather burn out than rust out! He used to tell people: "If you push God's wagon, he will give you the steam!"
Frugal and Generous
Many funny stories were related at the Memorial service, of Bill McDougall writing letters on the backs of other letters, recycling envelopes and cards, refusing to waste a penny. He was both frugal and generous.
A Heart For the Poor
One winter when it was freezing and there was snow on the mountains, his wife gave him a thick arctic jacket for his birthday. He went to the local shopping centre and when he returned, his wife asked him where his new jacket was. He had given it to a car guard who had a thin cotton shirt with holes in it!
The Wedding Cake
At one time a local confectioner phoned to say that a wedding had been cancelled at the last minute and they wanted to donate a large wedding cake to his "Inasmuch Ministry". Bill McDougall faced a dilemma. There was too little cake for 80 people. What could he do to be fair? So he went to the group and said: "I want to put up a fence in front of my house. I need someone to come and dig six deep holes in the ground for the fence posts. I am too old to be able to do so, but I'm sorry I am unable to pay anything." There was no response. After three more requests for help, a young Xhosa man stepped forward and said: "Mfundisi, you are old and I am strong. I will dig the holes for you for no money." At that Bill McDougall smiled, opened the boot of his car and said: "God loves a cheerful giver! You offered to help me for nothing. I do not need to have any holes dug, but in appreciation of your kind offer, I'm giving you this cake!" A
Friend to the Friendless
Bill McDougall loved the Psalms and he loved to sing. He was like a tree planted by streams of living water. He overflowed with words of encouragement and a wonderful sense of humour. He had a love for the lost and believed that a stranger was just a friend that you hadn't met yet.
He always had time for God, time for people, time for his family and time for his dogs. Bill McDougall's life is a challenge and encouragement and a rebuke to all of us. Along with the Apostle Paul, he can say: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the Faith" 2 Timothy 4:7