News Articles

Drug convict-turned-minister leads teens, dad, mom to faith

HUNGRY HORSE, Mt. (BP)–“He showed up one Sunday
morning. He was a rough-looking character,” Andrew Goodwin,
pastor of Hungry Horse (Mont.) Baptist Church, says in
describing his youth director, and former drug dealer, Will
“He had hair all the way down his back and a real thick
long beard.”
Will, and his wife, Tamera, had just arrived in Hungry
Horse after hitchhiking from Fresno, Calif., where Will, 39,
had been serving a prison sentence for grand theft auto and
drug possession.
Being in prison wasn’t new to Will, who reflects on his
life and confesses, “I was involved in some very bad, bad
things.” However, as he awaited his court appearance, his
cell mate, who had been saved through a prison Bible study,
began witnessing to Will and invited him to attend the
Tuesday evening study.
As the story of the prodigal son from Luke 15 was
presented, Will accepted Christ as his personal Savior. “As
soon as I heard that story, I began weeping,” he says. “I
was that son.”
The focus of Will’s life instantly changed. He began
studying the Bible, choosing Ephesians 6:12 as his favorite
Scripture because it showed him that his real enemy is
Satan: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but
against principalities, against powers, against the rulers
of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness
in high places.”
“Everything I’d been struggling against all my life was
something I couldn’t see,” Will explains. “You can’t serve
God and serve drugs.”
As Will served out his prison term, he fervently
witnessed to other inmates, some of whom knew him from his
former life and others who had heard of his reputation for
violence. During an eight-month period at a work camp, more
than 40 prisoners accepted the Lord through Will’s
witnessing efforts.
Upon his release from prison, Will and his wife, who
previously had become a believer, left the Fresno area.
Although uncertain of their destination, Will says he knew
God had a ministry for him in a different part of the
country. After several months of hitchhiking, they arrived
in Hungry Horse, a tiny community located near the entrance
to Glacier National Park.
“As soon as I walked out on Main Street,” Will
recounts, “I realized this was the place God had shown me in
two different dreams.”
Will and Tamera began meeting with the small group of
believers in Hungry Horse Baptist Church, one of only two
evangelical congregations within a 90-mile radius of an area
known as a hideaway for troubled people.
Within a short time, Will had won several drug dealers
to the Lord, and he and Tamera began ministering to the
youth. As the church grew, the Lord miraculously opened
doors for the purchase and remodeling of an old saloon
located on the town’s main street.
Goodwin attributes much of the growth of the church to
Will’s gift of evangelism. “He’s a very strong witness. He’s
been as low as you can get, and he can relate to people who
are there. He helps people see the need of coming to know
Jesus, gets them in church and keeps working with them.”
Elmer Killian, for example, a former drug user, was
recently baptized and reunited with his wife, Rhonda, after
Will led Elmer’s two teenagers to the Lord.
“I had brought myself down to the bottom through
drinking and fighting and using drugs,” Elmer admits. “I had
built up an area of my life that was void of any love or any
One day when Elmer’s two teenagers returned from
attending a youth activity with Will, however, he found
himself listening to Will’s testimony. “Will started talking
about the Lord and invited me to a Promise Keepers
breakfast,” Elmer recalls. “I was hungry and living out of
my car, so I decided to go.”
After attending the breakfast, Elmer says he began to
think seriously about the Lord for the first time in his
life. However, it wasn’t until after he landed in jail
following a drinking binge that he heard the Lord speak to
“The Lord told me I was here for a reason, and that
this was my last opportunity,” Elmer says.
Elmer went to the jail’s library and found a Bible.
Although he knew nothing about the Bible, he says the Lord
led him from Scripture to Scripture to show him his lost
When he got out of jail, he went down to the church. “I
humbled myself at the altar,” Elmer says, “prayed and asked
the Lord to save me.”
Following Elmer’s conversion, Will recalls praying for
Elmer’s wife to be saved.
“I told the Lord I knew he was the great miracle
worker,” Will says. “I knew he could do something in her
life.” Shortly afterward, Rhonda received some troubling
news about her health that she says made her realize her
need to give her life to the Lord.
When Elmer became reconciled to his wife, Goodwin
baptized the entire family. Rhonda is presently the church’s
financial secretary.
“I give all the glory to God,” Rhonda says, reflecting
back on her life of drug and alcohol use. “No matter how
strong the storm is raging, he’ll always be there for you.
You just have to step out in faith.”
While Goodwin believes the Lord has especially gifted
Will O’Neal with a ministry of evangelism, the pastor
continues to teach his congregation about personal
“Every Christian needs to be busy being a soul-winner,”
he says. “Christ could come back at any day, and every
Christian needs to be leading others to the Lord.”

    About the Author

  • Luana Ehrlich