Civil war erupted in the Congo (Zaire) in the 1960s, and among the missionaries caught in the crossfire was William McChesney with Worldwide Evangelization Crusade. Though only five foot two, 110 pounds, Bill had an outsized personality that radiated cheer wherever he went. His coworkers dubbed him “Smiling Bill.”

On November 14, 1964, suffering from malaria, Bill, 28, was seized by Congolese rebels. Ten days later he was beaten mercilessly, his clothing ripped off, and he was thrown into a filthy, crowded cell. Catholic priests gave him their garments, for he was shaking violently from malarial fever. The next day he was dragged from the cell and killed.

Before leaving for Africa, Bill had written a poem explaining his desire for overseas missions. It said, in part:

I want my breakfast served at eight,
With ham and eggs upon the plate;
A well-broiled steak I’ll eat at one,
And dine again when day is done.
I want an ultramodern home
And in each room a telephone;
Soft carpets, too, upon the floors,
And pretty drapes to grace the doors.
I want my wardrobe, too, to be
Of neatest, finest quality,
With latest style in suit and vest:
Why should not Christians have the best?
But then the Master I can hear
In no uncertain voice, so clear:
“I bid you come and follow Me,
The lowly Man of Galilee.”
If he be God, and died for me,
No sacrifice too great can be
For me, a mortal man, to make;
I’ll do it all for Jesus’ sake.
Yes, I will tread the path He trod,
No other way to please my God;
So, henceforth, this my choice shall be,
My choice for all eternity.

You cannot be my disciple unless you carry your own cross and come with me. (Luke 14:27)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Nov. 14.

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