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Whose faith follow: Mr W H Wills (1894-1972)

J G Hutchinson, Belfast

Mr Wills had the great favour of having Christian parents, and in Chudleigh, Devon, where he was brought up, he went with them to many meetings and was taught to fear God and reverence His Word. At nineteen years of age he left England to seek work in Canada hoping that out there someone would make clear to him the way of salvation, for he longed to have peace with God. God had purposes of grace regarding him and he was given work and lodgings with a Christian family. The family attended the local Methodist Church but one of them went to a place in Toronto, which later Mr Wills found to be Central Gospel Hall.

An evangelist, Mr R McClintock, visiting the home where William worked, asked about his spiritual welfare. William tried to put him off by telling him he was a church member etc., but he was told plainly it was no use and unless he was born again he would be in hell. These words, he said, never left him until he was saved. About this time an older sister in England sent him a book entitled Grace and Truth which, later on, God was to use to lead him into the knowledge of salvation.

On Lord’s Day, 25th January, 1914, the family with whom he then lived and worked were going to church, but he declined to go, being in deep anxiety about salvation. Sitting at the fire reading John 3.16 he clearly understood for the first time the way of salvation and entered into peace with God. Often in later years, he would tell with tears and emotion how God saved him in a farmer’s kitchen in Canada. When the family returned from church that evening, he told them of getting saved while they were away and they said he had gone crazy. He became, almost at once, a devout reader of Holy Scripture and was firmly convinced he should be guided by it and it alone, a truth that he believed as long as life lasted.

Recalling how a former employer went to a place where the gospel was preached in Toronto, he decided to try and find this man on the street car. Early one Lord’s Day afternoon he was successful. Instead of being en route to visit a sister in Toronto, as the former employer thought, he said, "I have got saved and I want to go with you to your meeting".

He was at once asked about the details of his conversion which when related seemed to satisfy his friend. Arriving at the hall, he was introduced as "a good Methodist who had found Christ as his Saviour". He was kindly shown into a side seat at the rear of the hall, where a number of others, recently saved, were seated to observe the activities of the assembly. After asking about his conversion, they encouraged him to read and see what God said about baptism and kindred matters. This he did with great care, and soon was baptised and received into assembly fellowship.

At the Easter Conference, in 1914, he again met Mr McClintock, who warmly welcomed him and said, "Well, Willie, I thought you were too foolish to get saved"! From then until he passed away Mr McClintock took a real interest in his spiritual progress and, when he was commended to Venezuela, he often wrote and encouraged him. Being involved in all assembly activities and developing spiritually, he became aware God had a plan for his life and he became exercised about it. The war of 1914-1918 found him in a lumber camp, due to his convictions as a conscientious objector. Again God was guiding, and in that camp he met Mr A Joyce, who later was greatly used of God and highly esteemed in Canada. They helped each other and formed links that were severed only by death.

After the war he returned to Toronto and in 1920 was commended to the work of the Lord in Venezuela by the Central Hall assembly. He joined Mr G G Johnston, Mr Fletcher, and Mr Williams. From the beginning God blessed his labours. Their first meetings were in San Felipe in a tent. God worked and fruit remains until the present day. The assembly was formed there in 1921, Mr Wills helping in the erection of the hall. He lived there until 1923 with his wife, the former Miss Lily Flattley, originally from Adam Street assembly in Belfast. In those early days they suffered a good deal, enduring opposition, want, and hunger. On one occasion Mr Wills was waylaid and badly beaten and would possibly have been stabbed to death had not two men on horseback passed by causing the attacker to flee.

In 1923 they moved to Duaca. The hall was built and an assembly formed which continues well until this day. He laboured with God’s blessing until 1935 when, due to Mrs Wills’ ill health, they returned to Ireland. In 1937 his wife passed away after a long period of illness. Deciding to make his home in Ireland and care for his two children, he was soon found busy in the gospel and with a special aptitude for children’s work. He spent six months in Newtownhamilton, County Armagh, as well as many places in Counties Down, Londonderry, and Antrim. He was usually alone in meetings, though always valuing the fellowship and prayers of fellow labourers. During the war years, when a large number of people from Gibraltar were living in camps in Ulster, he was found carrying not only the gospel to them, but food and whatever comforts he could; he really cared for others.

In 1953 he suffered a severe heart attack. The doctors stated that he had only three days to live. But God had other work for His servant yet to do. The remaining nineteen years he spent in untiring visitation. The sick and sorrowing, in homes, hospitals, etc., saved and unsaved, were lovingly and diligently cared for. In his visitation and approach he was wise and careful, gaining entrance not only into homes and other places, but also into the hearts and affections of the people. He was kind and considerate with a warmth of heart that touched many.

The end came suddenly, while driving to a Breaking of Bread meeting at Ballinaloob on 31st December, 1972. When he passed away, our loss in Northern Ireland was much greater than some would have thought. From the point of view of visiting and his constant care for the aged and lonely, few, if any, were more missed than he.

The Scriptures (Mt 25.35-40; Acts 10.38) read at the funeral service, when many from all over the province came to pay their respects to a brother beloved, aptly described him: "He went about doing good". At the service J Grant and J G Hutchinson gave words of comfort and gospel, W Campbell and J Storey taking part in prayer.


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