Florence pastor depicts faith amid fatal diseasecomment (0)
April 27, 2000
By Sarah E. Pavlik
It was three years ago Bill Trapp realized he was having trouble articulating the words of his Easter sermon at Woodmont Baptist Church, Florence.
He mentioned the problem to a doctor a few days later during treatment for what he thought was a sinus infection. As soon as he opened his mouth for the examination, the doctor’s face fell.
Trapp’s tongue was quivering — a sure sign of neurological disease or a brain tumor. Within a few weeks his neurologist diagnosed him with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) — a fatal condition that progressively destroys the nerves controlling body movement.
For Trapp and his wife, Laura, the diagnosis was the beginning of renewal and revival in their own lives and the lives of everyone they touched.
A 24-hour prayer chain sprang up at Woodmont almost immediately after the diagnosis, and prayer requests for Trapp were soon being read by believers throughout the world via the Internet. Lately, “Pray for Bro. Bill” bumper stickers have been appearing all around Florence.
“There are people praying for Bill everywhere,” Mrs. Trapp said. “I am convinced that’s why he has done so well. I believe if they stopped I would fall on my face.”
Commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is relatively painless, but extremely aggressive, taking the lives of 80 percent of those diagnosed with it within five years.
Trapp, who has served as senior pastor at Woodmont since 1987 and was voted the Alabama Baptist Minister of the Year in 1998 by Samford University, continued to preach two Sunday services every week until April 1999. He realized he didn’t have the energy to keep up that kind of pace and knew people had trouble understanding him because the disease had started destroying nerves in his mouth and face.
“From a human standpoint, this is a horrible disease,” Trapp said. “But now that I have it, I see how God has used it in my life to cut through our pride and draw our church closer to Jesus and to reveal in us our need for revival.”
Trapp continues to lead the staff at Woodmont. He also leads Wednesday night services using PowerPoint slides and videos.
“Some people say it’s just a comfort knowing Bro. Bill is there,” Mrs. Trapp said.
Trapp’s vision for his church has always been the same — “to be those who seek the heart of God and therefore reach the lost” — but since his diagnosis, it seems his vision has taken on wings.
“God has used this (disease) to plow up the fallow ground of the heart and make us better soil,” Mrs. Trapp said. “It has shaken us out of the church’s usual mode and made the people pray more.”
While people were on their knees praying for their pastor’s healing, they began to see their own relationships with God grow. The Trapp’s oldest son, Brady, was saved about a year after his father’s diagnosis, having spent several years addicted to drugs and alcohol.
Trapp’s disease has done little to thwart his vision, especially his desire to reach the lost. Since his diagnosis he has begun a church-wide outreach to the people in two lower income apartment complexes. Once a month Trapp and other members from Woodmont volunteer to clean windshields, change oil and give hair cuts.
“One can share Christ best when an unbeliever sees us show God’s love in a practical way,” Trapp said.
Although the disease has progressed much slower in Trapp’s body, signs of progression are evident. But Trapp refers to Luke’s account of the 10 lepers, in which the Scripture says, “and as they were going they were healed.”
“From the beginning my approach has come from this passage,” Trapp said. “I need to hear the voice of Christ in my heart and do what He says and be in the center of His will. And then ... healing will come.”