“Bill, you’re going to have to choose.” – God
That’s how Bill Dooley remembers the stirring in his heart some 35-ish years ago as he considered life with one foot in the world and the other in pursuit of Jesus.
Bill has been on Young Life staff for almost two decades now and was a volunteer leader before that. He’s become highly respected in his community and the mission of YL regionally and nationally. But he, just like the kids he serves and the other leaders he serves with, started his journey with Christ with plenty of questions and uncertainty.
Bill grew up in a family that had respect for the church but wasn’t all that interested in being a part of it. There was a standard of right & wrong in his home but, for the most part, Bill recalls needing to find his own way. Some of his more vivid memories of being introduced to God included an evangelistic movie he attended in the mid ‘70s, as well as a curious respect for the Catholic icons and art in his best buddy, Dave’s house.
As a young teenager, faith in God seemed more like a good idea – akin to an insurance policy against going to hell. Bill grinned as he told me that part of his story. But, as they say, you don’t know what you don’t know. And, for Bill back then, the thought of God as a Loving Father was distant compared to the idea that God was probably upset or angry. He knew some of the things he was doing were wrong. But he had yet to understand how God deals with sin through Christ. That was coming.
A latchkey kid down in the Tri Cities, Bill’s life included an interest in sports and academics but he also wandered down some pathways that have left some regret. He was a sophomore in college with one foot in the world and one foot trying to follow a commitment he’d made that June, 1977. “New Life – Going For It!” he wrote in his calendar when he was 17. But the deeper commitments were still to come.
Two years later, walking along “The Ganges” canal on Central Washington University’s campus he felt God speak to his spirit. Bill, you’re going to have to choose. He knew what God was asking him to give up and what He was inviting him to receive. He was going to have to let go of the sin that entangled his life, the things that hindered his life and he was going to have to give the full focus of his life to Jesus.
A few years later, after graduating with a Public Relations degree, he took his first stab at professional life selling radio advertising in Moses Lake, WA. His dream was to share Jesus and use his love for music, especially Christian music, as a means to both underwrite the start-up costs of young adulthood as well as his passion for the gospel. One of his first clients was Dion (Pettygrove) Herndon, the manager of Federal Land Bank. During his first sales call she invited him to come be part of Young Life, and he has been hooked ever since.
And that’s how his future YL career got its first look at the mission that now is such a big part of his life. A friend inviting a friend to come and see…
Bill and Carol Strole were the team lead coordinators back then. It was the early 80’s and there was no staff person in the area he lived. They nurtured Bill’s faith and poured into his life. They fostered a strong sense of community around him. During that time he got his first taste of camp, going to Malibu as a leader. He recalls the gospel becoming all the more present in his life and knew the barriers of fear were coming down all the more. He described being “captivated by Christ” and the call He had for his life. He moved to Wenatchee in ’83 and, soon after, connected with Don Myers and the Young Life ministry again.
A twisting and winding next 6-7 year followed as Bill moved up and down the West Coast a bit. He tried to make it in a rock band as a road manager, tried corporate life a while but, ultimately, landed back in Wenatchee for good in 1992. He hasn’t left and it doesn’t appear that we could pry him away from the valley.
Carmen and he have been married now for 15 years. “I was smitten by her” is how he described falling in love with the girl of his dreams. What a picture for a guy to have, being captivated and smitten by the two who have changed his life most completely, namely Christ and Carmen.
Their two kids (Jaden and Conor) are busy with growing up and will, soon enough, be off on their own launched lives. His marriage and his fathering are so very central to Bill’s heart and mind. They are busy but extremely close knit. His love for them shines in his eyes as he talks about them. They are, undoubtedly, his best friends.
Bill and I met @ Café Mela on the Ave last week. Sitting near the door it was apparent that he’s well known and well liked in the beautiful community of Wenatchee as there seemed to be a smile or a wave for everyone that walked through the door. It was clear to me that, bottom line – Bill is just a darn good friend to lots of folks! His friendship style is a testament to the truth of friendship he enjoys with God, the God who did not send His son into the world to condemn us but to save us.
It is no surprise that he is such a loved and admired friend in his community and within the mission of Young Life. I encourage you to write a note on his wall or text him a little something when you have a minute.
Bill – You chose well back there along The Ganges, my friend.
Way to go, Bill & Carmen! Way to go, Jesus!