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Bill Degenkolb

Retired Support Staff
"God Has a Reason"
By Rachel Elwood, Staff Writer, September 2013

With a passion for missions and for preaching the message of holiness, Bill Degenkolb dedicated his life to following God’s call. Because he grew up in a broken home, Bill turned to the church for spiritual and emotional support. He accepted Christ as his Savior at the age of 16 at a camp meeting, and soon after, received the call to preach.

Originally from rural western Pennsylvania, Bill attended Marion College (now Indiana Wesleyan University), in Marion, Indiana, where he met and married his wife, Joan. He pastored two churches in Indiana before returning home to pastor a small church near the family farm. During those years, he grew in his understanding and love of missions. The church took on several WGM missionaries to support and held large missionary conventions in cooperation with four other local churches.

During one of those conventions, he talked with John Kunkle, a former missionary to Bolivia who—unbeknownst to Bill—was the director of Men With Vision, a program that encourages men to be a part of missions. “I asked John if he knew of any group that would help get men involved in missions. He said, “Well, yes, I know of one!” That year, Bill founded his first MWV chapter with 10 men from his church. He would eventually help over 40 chapters form in the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, and Honduras.

In 1976, WGM offered Bill a job with Men With Vision. After much prayer, Bill said yes. He sold all of his farm equipment and cattle to prepare for the change. For some reason, however, the offer was put on hold; Bill was told to wait a year.

“We were greatly discouraged,” said Bill. “But God has a reason, even if we can’t see it at the time.”

During that year of waiting, it became clear why the offer was put on hold. Coal and gas were discovered on Bill’s farm. “I was going to sell the farm to go into missions work, but God provided coal and gas to finance our missions work! I didn’t have to worry about money when we traveled; I just went. God financed it. God allowed that delay to come into my life to bring about what He wanted.”

Soon after, in 1978, Bill was invited to begin working at WGM as the director of Men With Vision. This role took Bill on the road—and in the air—as he traveled to 49 states and 30 countries. He estimates that he led over 50 work teams. Although Bill thoroughly enjoyed talking with people and seeing God lead them into deeper spiritual commitments, spending so much time away from home wasn’t always easy.

“Being away from home so long was tough, but my family supported me. Once I called back home and was thinking about resigning because I was feeling so guilty, but my son and wife told me not to. They said I was called of the Lord and I should keep going. So I did!”

Throughout all the teams Bill led to the mission field, some of his favorite experiences were the most challenging “when God really took care of us.” One of those experiences was when half the team ended up in jail in Argentina after a paperwork misunderstanding. “It was right before the Falklands War…they finally let us go. God always took care of us.”

His absolute highlights, however, were when the team would build church buildings and then dedicate them. “I preached one day after building a church in Masaailand, Kenya. Over 1,500 people came and the church couldn’t hold them, so we held the service on the hillside. Through two interpreters, I told them that we are sitting in the valley of war between two tribes. But it’s no longer the valley of war; it’s the valley of peace because Jesus Christ has come and helped us build a church. It was truly beautiful.”

In addition to serving with Men With Vision, Bill served as a WGM representative for the Northeast Region of the U.S., speaking at revivals, camps, and retreats. During that time, the number of churches involved with WGM missionaries grew from 1,200 to 2,000.

Bill and Joan ministered together through speaking and music until Joan’s death in 2003. During their 48 years of marriage, Bill and Joan owned and operated two Christian bookstores, traveled extensively in evangelistic work, worked in Christian radio, recorded three music albums, pastored two churches, owned a dairy farm, and raised four children.

In 2004, Bill married Marna Stone, a friend from his college days who had also been a member of one of the churches Bill had pastored. Bill retired from WGM in 2009, after 30 years of service. Bill and Marna still live on the old family farm in Indiana county, Pennsylvania, and continue to be involved in their church and in missions.

“I’m going to talk this Sunday at a Nazarene church about the abundance of life with Jesus Christ,” Bill said. “There’s nothing like it! When you mind Him, God is so good!”

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