Jim and Gail Williams have been in ministry with the Luis Palau Association for over fifty years. Still happily married (and still working together in ministry!), their story is a testimony to the grace of God and a willingness to follow His leading, even when things are difficult. Hear from Gail as she shares about the real-life ups and downs. We pray it will be an encouragement for you, wherever you are in the trenches of ministry.
Describe what ministry was like for you in those early days. Was Jim on the road a lot and how did you do with his travel schedule?
Jim began traveling with Luis when we moved to Mexico City. He would be gone for a week to three weeks at a time. Then Luis and Pat moved back to the US to live, leaving Jim in charge of the office but still traveling.
I would go to the office to help or spend time with my neighbors, getting to know the culture and witnessing to them. We started both an English and a Spanish-speaking church near us. Along with some of the missionary wives, we began an English-speaking Bible Study for women in a home in the Country Club area.
This was a great evangelistic tool, not just for the wives of foreign executives of the multinational companies—but also for the richer Mexican women, living in that area who wanted to practice their English.
Were there times you felt lonely or discouraged?
There were, and to counter the loneliness I looked for ways to minister with other Christian women in our area of the City. However, after our son was born, I was home alone, figuring out how to parent a child and run a house. I developed an attitude of “poor me”, and one day I stood outside our house, crying out to the Lord that I had “rights” too. Why couldn’t I have my husband at home to help me?
God in patience and lovingkindness began to teach me that I was never alone. The more I studied the scriptures, the more my attitude changed, and I realized the depth of grace God was giving me to be able to run the household, raise a child and minister to women. I did not have the grace to face the problems Jim was facing, but God had given me grace to meet all my needs.
What were Scriptures or ideas that came to you at that time that became an encouragement?
I often read the Psalms where I learned of God’s wonderful care for us, such as: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” (Psalms 37:4); another was: “The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right” (Psalms 84.11).
As I taught a Bible study in 1 Peter the Lord brought home how I was to conduct myself: “You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God” (1 Peter 3:4).
When I was overwhelmed the Lord brought me to Matthew 11:29: “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
When I felt defrauded, Peter’s words spoke to me: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the appropriate time” (1Peter 5:6).
What role did friendships with other women play in helping you when Jim was out of town?
We had a wonderful group of wives on our team that found ways to support and encourage one other. When our husbands were traveling together, we got together for meals, created special events for fun or ministry, planned outings with the kids; we even enrolled in a sewing class.
When just one of the husbands was away, Jim and I would take the family out for some event or have them over for dinner. Others would take our son out for fishing or a movie. We found this very important.
What would you say to the wife who is feeling lonely or “let down” by her husband and by this life of ministry? Are there Biblical principles you would encourage her to look at?
Husbands and friends can fail us, but we can be sure God knows and he can be trusted. Deuteronomy tells us: “The Lord your God will delight in you if you obey his voice and keep the commands and decrees written in this Book of Instruction” (Deuteronomy 30:10).
When we were married, I knew we were headed for the ministry and I took God’s word seriously when he said in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” I discovered that I was a very important part of Jim’s life and his ministry because I was made to be a “helper just right for him.”
One time our mission wanted a change we thought was wrong, so Jim wrote a fiery letter, called me up and read it. My response was “Send the letter.” When Jim returned that night I’ll never forget what he said: “I tore it up. When I called you I was hoping you would stop me. I realized my response to the mission was ungodly.” Believe me, I have been very cognizant of my need to always respond to Jim with “wisdom from above” since then.
The more I understood and was involved in Jim’s ministry, the less I resented the time that it took, and I was more willing to let Jim leave. When the ministry is my ministry also, not only do I want it to succeed, but the problems are easier to handle.
Now, looking back, what challenge would you give to young women as they start down a path of ministry with their husband?
The ministry is God’s, we have the privilege of serving, yet serving has a cost: “But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering” (Romans 8:17). My sister, a missionary in India for 25 years, was asked how she could face the problems there: “We never looked at them as problems but as challenges.”
Looking back over our ministry I have discovered that the tough times were God’s blessings in disguise as Philippians 1:29 says: “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.”
Probably the most important thing I needed as the wife of one of God’s servants is Colossians 3:12: “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
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