The White House Honors Pastor Smith for His Support of the World’s Persecuted Christians
In recognition of his decades-long work supporting persecuted Christians and those impacted in conflict areas around the world, a Bronx pastor who served in Vietnam and was awarded the Purple Heart was given the President’s Volunteer Service Award on Friday night.
At a gala luncheon held at the Hilton Hotel in Melville, Long Island, New York, Pastor Bill Devlin, who oversees the ministries REDEEM! and Widows and Orphans and serves as co-pastor of Infinity Bible Church in the South Bronx, was recognized. The award event was organized by the President’s White House Council on Service and Civic Participation.
The prize recognizes people whose contributions to their communities have a positive effect and motivate others to take action.
Devlin told The Christian Post he is “grateful to God” for the award, which came more than half a century after he first abandoned his ways as a “God-hating atheist” and came to Christ.
“I was a radical God-hating atheist, and when I was hitchhiking on the San Diego Freeway on June 23, 1971, a Jesus freak shared the Good News of Jesus and the Gospel with me,” he recalled. “And that night, I received Jesus into my heart and life.”
As a young Christian, “I immediately began in ministry,” he continued. “And I volunteered to join the United States Navy a week after I accepted Christ as my Savior.”
Devlin served in Vietnam up until a bomb hit his ship while it was off the coast, at which point he was “shot up.” Given that he still had all of his limbs, Devlin “originally denied the Purple Heart,” but his commanding officer insisted that he accept the award.
The 70-year-old has made headlines over the years for his willingness to travel the globe to stand in solidarity and provide practical aid to Christians persecuted for their faith.
Devlin was nominated for the award by Nate Butler of the Righteous Church of God in Washington, D.C., whom he described as a “dear friend.”
After learning of his nomination, Devlin was instructed to provide a “brief synopsis” of his volunteer efforts and discuss why he should receive the award. He said none of the employees at his volunteer ministries receive a salary or benefits.
“We are all volunteers, which is probably unique in the nonprofit and ministry world,” he noted.
His ministries receive funding from 46 churches of “every different flavor or color,” providing payments ranging from $10 to $100 a month.
Devlin outlined the story behind the formation of REDEEM!, which helps persecuted Christians around the world.
“While I was doing ministry in Philadelphia some 22 years ago, I was invited to Islamabad, Pakistan,” he said.
At that time, Devlin had not traveled overseas in more than 25 years. He first received the invitation to go to Pakistan in January 2001 from his Pakistan-born friend Victor Gill at a “dinner of the Pakistani community in Philadelphia.”
“It was me and probably 25 Pakistani leaders in Philadelphia, and they said, … ‘You’ve got to go to Pakistan. We need you to see what’s going on and you need to hear the cry of the persecuted Church and persecuted Christians in Pakistan.'”
Devlin said, “hearing an hour of stories and seeing people who bore the marks of persecution” with “scars on their back” from where they had been “whipped or beaten” prompted him to announce at the meeting, “I will go.”
With Gill, Devlin traveled through seven cities in eight days.
“I just heard and met with story after story of persecuted Christian believers in Pakistan, and my eyes were opened,” he said.
A couple of years later, Devlin was invited to Sudan to see the persecution of Christians there.
“And then a year after that, I was invited to Cuba,” he added.
Over the years, Devlin received invitations to witness persecution in other places, including Gaza, Syria, Iraq, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Hong Kong, Nigeria and Jordan.
He became a pastor in 2008 and served as an interim senior pastor at Manhattan Bible Church, a Spanish church located in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, from 2008 to 2013.
God, according to Devlin, “burned a hole in my heart about the persecuted church, about widows, orphans, the broken, the neglected, the forgotten, the disenfranchised, the persecuted believer, [and] the beleaguered church” during that period.
““What eventually drove me over the edge was when President Obama was in office and people kept telling him that we needed to send troops into Iraq,” the author said.
“One day, God spoke to me and asked, “Where are your boots, Pastor Devlin?” “You’ve seen the persecuted church, you’ve seen persecuted believers, you’ve been in their living rooms, you’ve been in their prison cells, and you’ve seen the scars on their bodies while you’re in the safety, security, and comfort of the United States of America.” Where are your boots?
This conversation with God struck a nerve with Devlin. A couple of months later, Devlin said he had another conversion with God, instructing him to “look at these three words: God, Gospel, [and] Good News.”
God urged Devlin to “look at the first two letters” of those three words: “go.”
From there, Devlin saw it as his mission to “go to war zones” and minister to persecuted Christians on a full-time basis. Devlin insists that he only goes to war zones that are “hard” and “dangerous” and located “where nobody else is going.” He only travels to places if he receives a direct invitation.
Devlin says he travels out of the country for three weeks out of every month. He provided examples of his ministry work in the synopsis he provided to the President’s White House Council on Service and Civic Participation.
During the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in the mid-2010s, Devlin, through his ministry, provided financial support to hundreds of Yazidi girls and women captured by the brutal terrorist group in Iraq, many of which were used as sex slaves.
He’s also supported displaced families residing in camps for the internationally displaced in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. His charity has also assisted in rebuilding Iraqi cities destroyed by the Islamic State in 2014 and he’s volunteered at a Syrian hospital caring for those injured in the Syrian Civil War.
His ministry has also supported rebuilding two churches destroyed by terrorists in the African nation, purchased an orphanage where dozens of children were about to be evicted, and funded the private school education of children orphaned by terrorism.
Devlin makes an attempt to offer psychological and emotional support in each of the nations he serves.
Devlin assisted in raising funds in Sri Lanka to repair churches that had been damaged by bombs.
According to Devlin, his ministry has assisted in the construction of schools and churches in East Pokot, Kenya, which has decreased the rate of female genital mutilation and child marriage there, which were formerly prevalent due to a lack of infrastructure, electricity, and water.
“The Biden White House has finally acknowledged all of that, and we are incredibly appreciative of this acknowledgement. But once more, we offer God all the honor that “Devlin came to an end.”