More Lives than a Cat
In 1970, Bill Bathman had a head-on collision with a Porsche on an alpine road in Austria. Although thrown through the windscreen of the car, suffering broken bones, he survived that, as well as heart attacks and strokes in the 1980s. Bill Bathman distributed New Testaments to Soviet soldiers as they invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1968, ministered in Nicaragua during the communist takeover in 1979 and was preaching in Romania at the time of the revolution in 1989. Bill Bathman turned 89 on the 1st December.
Looking Forward to Heaven
When I saw him last in October, he was reading Randy Alcorn's book on Heaven. "I am reading up on my next move! This is the best book on Heaven I have ever read.", "There is far more about Heaven in the Bible than I was aware of!" Bill laughed about having two life-threatening diseases competing with each other as to which one would get him first.
"Retirement is not in my vocabulary," he said. "Whether the Lord comes, or calls, I want to be ready and die with my boots on." He mentioned that he was working on a new devotional book: Overflow: "Giving does not empty your purse, nor does loving empty your heart. The thing that blesses people is not overwork, but overflow."
Chairman of the Board of Frontline Fellowship for 14 Years
Despite having lost a lot of weight and needing an oxygen concentrator to assist in his breathing, even in his last months, Bill Bathman remained an active Chairman of the Board of Frontline Fellowship, guiding, advising and instructing us out of his wealth of over six decades of Christian service.
Evangelising Throughout the Earth
One of the best introductions to Bill Bathman that I heard was: "Two thirds of the world is covered by water and the other third by Bill Bathman!" Indeed, my Father-in-Law, Rev. Bill Bathman, was an extraordinary Evangelist, who ministered in 114 countries, throughout his long and productive life.
From the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee to the U.S. Navy
Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, 1 December 1927, Bill was driving delivery trucks already from age 14. He loved fast cars and obtained his pilot's licence to engage in extraordinarily dangerous aerial feats. Including landing on the football field of the university where he was studying, Bob Jones University (BJU). He served on a Destroyer in the US Navy and was converted to Christ shortly after entering Theological Training for the ministry! His spiritual birthday was 8 September 1948.
Missionary to Europe
In the Summer of 1951, Bill Bathman led a five-man Mission team to Europe. Within a month of graduating from BJU, Bill and his bride, Harriett Bathman, set out as Missionaries to Europe. For the next two decades, they were based first in England and then Austria, ministering throughout Western Europe and across the Iron Curtain, to serve persecuted Christians in Communist controlled Eastern Europe. For ten years Bill hosted a daily radio program In Touch and for over 20 years was the Editor of a monthly geo-strategic newsletter, Global Glance.
Steadfast and Sacrificial Service
In this superficial age of short-term ministry, Bill and Harriett Bathman have clearly demonstrated what real Missions are all about: whole-hearted, life-long commitment. For over 60 years, the Bathmans invested everything they had into the cause of Evangelism and serving the persecuted Church. They immersed themselves into the lives of the people amongst whom they were called to serve. They were 22 years into ministry in Europe before they took their first furlough. Bill and Harriett Bathman show us what it means to endure hardship, persevere under trial and stand firm to the end.
Ministering with God's Smuggler
In October, last year, I asked Bill when he first met Brother Andrew. "It was 1957 and I was conducting services across Europe. That night I was in Bensheim, Germany, when I saw two cars with Netherlands licence plates - one was a VW Beetle and the other a 1957 Chevy. They were enroute to Hungary and Poland." Then Bill remarked that sometime later, when they met to co-ordinate training programmes and Missions behind the Iron Curtain, Brother Andrew had commented on his text and sermon that night in Bensheim: "But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: 'A dog returns to his own vomit' and 'a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire'." 2 Peter 2:22. Brother Andrew said that he could never forget such an unusual Evangelistic sermon and text!
Beloved Brother Bill
When I had the privilege of accompanying Rev. Bill Bathman on Missions to Eastern Europe (both before and after the collapse of the Iron Curtain), I was struck by how much the people there love him. In Poland, Czech and Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and Albania, it was inspiring to see with what overwhelming joy he was welcomed by the pastors and local Christians and to see the shining faces and rapt attention of devoted members of each congregation. They stood, or sat, riveted, hanging on every word of their beloved "Brother Bill."
In the Darkest Times when their Need Was the Greatest
Time and again, the precious believers in Eastern Europe eagerly related to me how Bill Bathman had been the first Christian from the West to visit them, how he had visited them the most, stayed the longest, given the most and how he had come back again and again. Bill Bathman came through the Iron Curtain when their need was the greatest, during the darkest years, when it was the most dangerous. When few others seemed to care, or to dare - Bill Bathman was there for them.
Anointed and Empowered Evangelist
Rev. Bill Bathman is a world-class preacher and an extraordinary Evangelist. However, one could never compare his preaching in the West with the incredibly anointed ministry God poured through him in Eastern Europe. Leaders in Romania, such as Rev. Josef Tson, Dr. Nicolai Gheorghita and Dr. Paul Negrut, in Oradea, told me that the outbreak of Revival in Romania began while Rev. Bill Bathman was delivering a particularly powerful series of sermons, in January 1983, at Second Baptist Church (now Emanuel Baptist Church). It was an extraordinary Evangelistic Crusade which resulted in Revival blessings flowing across Western Romania.
Going On and Going Through
It often seems that modern missionary volunteers just want to dabble in Missions - for the experience. However, Bill Bathman's books, Going Through - Even if the Door is Closed and Going On - With a Nod from God, present inspiring examples of dedicated discipleship and serious service, not just splashing in the shallows, but delving into the deep. Spiritually speaking, Missions need more than short-distance sprinters, it needs long-distance marathon runners. Rev. Bill Bathman can now declare: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the Faith." 2 Timothy 4:7
Faith in Action
In Missions, obstacles abound. Disappointments, dangers, difficulties and discouragements are occupational hazards of cross-cultural Missions. Bill Bathman persevered for 67 years, demonstrating that sacrificial service is the most eloquent sermon of all.
I also had the privilege of ministering with Bill Bathman in Mexico, South West Africa/Namibia, Angola, Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Sudan. In fact, Rev. Bill Bathman was 74-years old when I flew with him into Western Equatoria, South Sudan, in 2001. Bill Bathman went right up to the frontline of the battle front, preaching in areas where we had come under aerial bombardment and artillery barrages. He so enjoyed this ministry to the persecuted Church in South Sudan, that, upon returning to Cape Town, he purchased a land cruiser, loaded it up with Bibles and essential supplies for the Church in South Sudan and drove it overland, 8,000km to donate both vehicle and contents to the Church in South Sudan.
His example reminds us of Caleb, who could, at the end of his life, say, "Give me that mountain!" "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." Hebrews 12:1
Blessing His Grandchildren
Bill Bathman founded three Missions: Network, Pioneers and ITMI. He also poured his life into the Mission of Frontline Fellowship, especially during the seven years that they were based in Cape Town, from 2001 to 2008. Our eldest daughter, Andrea, had the joy of being trained by her Granddad in how to play chess and win! He also taught her to swim, to ride a bike and to drive, long before she was old enough to have a drivers licence! All of his grandchildren in Cape Town thoroughly enjoyed having their Grandparents close at hand and involved in their daily lives and schooling. Bill and Harriett Bathman have three daughters: Deborah, Linda and Lenora; ten grandchildren: Thomas, Lenora and Oliver, Vincent, Daniel and Jesaja, Andrea, Daniela, Christopher and Calvin; plus seven great-grandchildren: Johannes, Matthias, Madilyn Mae, Emmalyn Grace, Miriam, Sebastian and Jeremy.
Triumph Amidst Tribulation
Bill Bathman lived an action-packed life ministering throughout Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War and throughout the tumultuous events of the Cold War, ministering in Rhodesia during the Bush War in the 70s, during the Revolutions in Central America, ministering despite repression in Red China, ministering in the Revival in Zululand and the Revival amidst persecution in Sudan. His fervent Faith under fire in the war zones of Africa, documenting many of the triumphs of the Gospel amidst tragedies and the tremendous testimonies of God's grace, provision, protection and guidance during the turbulent times of terrorism threatening Faith and freedom today. Bill Bathman's writings in Going On and Going Through take one behind the lines and beyond the news headlines to what really happened in these conflict and Restricted Access Areas. If you have not yet read these books, you are missing out.
Calling Sinners to Repentance - Even in Churches
Even at 88 years old, he was still able to be banned from a pulpit - for giving an altar call! Bill was not one to miss Evangelistic opportunities. He called people to Repentance and Faith in Christ at every opportunity. I met people who recalled how they saw Bill Bathman go into pubs in Britain, stand on the bar counter and proclaim the Gospel to the customers!
Living in the Light of Eternity
With physicians, pharmacists and nurses, he would often be heard saying: "I have learned one thing in life." (That caught their attention and aroused curiosity. What had this old man learned about life? There would be a brief pause while waiting for the answer).
"We never get out of it alive!" There was usually a laugh and agreement with this obvious truth).
"So, the only way to live… is to be ready to die." That is logical. "It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the Judgment" Hebrews 9:27). "The only way to be ready to die - is to know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour." ("For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16 "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His Name." John 1:12).
Be a Fisher of Men
Bill Bathman sometimes said to us: "Jesus Christ once said to professional fishermen, 'Follow Me, I will make you a fisher of men." He would then challenge us to win souls. "Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever." Daniel 12:3
Resurrection of the Body
We are all the better, and stronger, for having known Bill Bathman. We grieve because we have lost a father, grandfather, or husband and friend and because it may be a long time until we see him again. But we also rejoice in the blessed hope of the resurrection of the body at the Day when our Lord, Christ Jesus returns to Judge the world. Death for the Christian is not fatal, nor is it final. Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the Life. Bill is now free from pain and, when God raises his body, it will be healthy – free of every physical affliction which he had to endure in his last days here on earth.
The Victory of Christ
Many religions believe there is an after-life. But what is unique to Christianity is the distinctive belief in the resurrection of the body. Christ’s Resurrection guarantees that those who die believing in Him shall one Day be raised in His likeness to be with Him forever. Through Christ’s victory, death has lost its sting. Because there is an empty tomb in Jerusalem we can face death in the sure knowledge that Christ has delivered us from the coming wrath and from eternal Judgment through salvation by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary.
We grieve, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope. At this time when we feel such heartache, pain and loss, the Bible offers us great comfort, encouragement and direction in life.
In the Bible we are told that it is better to go to a funeral than to a party - because the living should always be reminded that death waits for us all (Ecclesiastes 7:2). "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die…" Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
You Have an Appointment
There is one appointment none of us will miss. In fact none of us will even be able to be late for this appointment. "It is appointed unto man once to die and after this to face Judgement." Hebrews 9:27
There is nothing more certain than death and nothing as uncertain as the time of dying. We should therefore be ready at all times for that which may come at any time. We do not know when, or under what circumstances, our lives will come to an end. But we do know that when we die we will stand before Almighty God - our Creator and Eternal Judge - and we will have to give an account of our lives - to Him.
"Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out - those who have done good will rise to live and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned." John 5:28-29
"For we must all appear before the Judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."2 Corinthians 5:10
"I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve."Jeremiah 17:10
"And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the Throne and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. If anyone's name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." Revelation 20:12-15
Live in the Light of Eternity
At death we leave behind everything we have and we take with us all that we are. The character with which we die is the character with which we will appear at the Judgement. If you are prepared to die then you are ready for anything. Until you are free to die - you are not free to live. It ought to be our business every day to prepare for our last day. If we take care of our life - then God will take care of our death. Being mindful of death should make us serious, industrious and conscientious.
As Cricketer, turned pioneer Missionary, C.T. Studd declared: "Only one life, it will soon be past - Only what's done for Christ will last"
We need to work out our priorities in the light of eternity. We need to invest our time and talents and treasure into those things that are going to last for eternity; our family, the people of God, the Word of God and the Kingdom of God. These are what are ultimately important.
Life is full of choices. We can make over a hundred choices in a day, from deciding when to get up, to what clothes to wear, what to have for breakfast, which things to do, how to do them, where to go, which route to take, when to accelerate or stop, who to phone, what E-mails to respond to, what articles to read. All day long we have to make choices, from the trivial and routine, to the important and vital, choices affecting our relationships, our health, safety and security.
Well, today, at Bill's Memorial service we should make another choice: Where are we going to spend eternity? Some of us have already made that choice and can say: I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. Praise the Lord! No turning back. Others of us may not want to think about our eternity right now. But, in time, death will come to us all. As we gather at any funeral we should soberly consider our immortal soul and the day when we stand before our eternal Creator and give an account of our life. At that point our choice will be final. What will God say to you on that great Day of Judgment. Will you hear: "Well done! Good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord"?
God is just and merciful. He is Holy and He is loving. Each one of us here today has to choose to face the reality that we only have one life and it will soon be past, only what is done for Christ will last. Are we living in accordance with the Creator’s instructions (the Manufacturer’s Handbook) in the Bible? Are we loving God and loving our neighbour? Do we forgive others when they offend us? Each one of us needs God to forgive us. We need to forgive our loved ones whatever we may have against them. We dare not carry grudges, bitterness or unforgiveness in our hearts. Forgive one another as God, in Christ, has forgiven you.
In the light of eternity, knowing that you are going to die and stand before the Creator and Eternal Judge, you need to review your life's work, your family relationships, habits and activities.
One day you and I will stand before the Judgement Throne of Christ where "God will judge men's secrets…" Romans 2:16, "all the harsh words…" Jude 15 and "judge each man's work impartially…" 1 Peter 1:17
"But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgement for every careless word they have spoken."Matthew 12:36
"So then, each of us will have to give an account of himself to God."Romans 14:12
In eternity: will any of us regret praying too much? Being too forgiving? Being too generous? Studying the Bible too intently? Sacrificing too much for others? Being too concerned about the welfare of others? Investing too much in our family? No, I do not believe any of us will regret being too forgiving and generous, in the light of eternity. But we will regret missed opportunities, unresolved conflicts and wasted time.
If you knew that you were to die next year - what would you do differently this year?
We must work out our priorities and repair our relationships, in the light of eternity.
We must be ready at all times for that which may happen at any time. Are you ready?
Can you say: "For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain!" Philippians 1:21
Dying Christ destroyed our death.
Rising Christ restored our life.
"Jesus said: ‘Whoever hears My Word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life and will not be condemned. He has crossed over from death to life." John 5:24
Dr. Peter Hammond
The audio of this message has been uploaded on our SermonAudio.com page of www.frontline.org.za.
This Tribute can be viewed as a PowerPoint, with pictures on the Slideshare page of www.frontline.org.za.