Monday, July 20, 2009

Yearbook Experience -"Captain" Fred Williams

(experience & photo on pgs 101-102 of the 2009 Yearbook)

*I was gonna hold off on posting this one since it takes place in Apia (Samoa) and I haven't even done an intro for Samoa and the surrounding islands yet. But this story is so cute I couldn't resist. lol. =)

"The Whole Town Turned Out" One of the largest funerals ever held in Apia was that of Fred Williams back in the 1950's. The Captain, as he was known, was a tough, old retired seaman who was married to one of Jehovah's Witnesses. He had sailed the seven seas and was well-known throughout the South Pacific. His many exploits included navigating his crew back to safety in an open lifeboat across a thousand miles of ocean with barely any rations after being shipwrecked on a remote reef. The Captain believed that the practice of religion in general was insincere. Nevertheless, this former whiskey-drinking, poker-playing sailor studied the Bible with Bill Moss and became a zealous Witness. By the time he got baptized, the Captain was practically blind and more-or-less bedridden. Yet, he never failed to share his newfound faith with his numerous visitors, including many religious leaders.

When the Captain died, his will specified that Jehovah's Witnesses conduct the funeral and that he be buried at sea. "It seemed as if the whole town turned out for the funeral," writes Girlie Moss. "The radio station announced his death, and business firms in Apia lowered their flags to half-mast as a sign of respect." In addition to all the Witnesses present, there were lawyers, schoolteachers, prominent religious leaders, and many from the business community. Everyone paid rapt attention as the speaker, Bill Moss, using many Bible texts, explained the Captain's hope of a resurrection on a paradise earth. "I felt a great wave of love for the Captain," says Girlie, "because he had prepared for this witness to be given at his funeral to so many who are normally hard to contact or to talk to in the door-to-door ministry. I thought about Abel who, 'although he died, yet speaks.'" (Hebrews 11:4) "The Captain, by means of his funeral, gave a great witness on the day that he died."

After the funeral talk at the Captain's home, a convoy of over 50 cars proceeded to the harbor. "The wharf was so packed with onlookers," writes Girlie, "that the police had to keep the way open for us to get to the boat. Then, along with the family, the high commisioner, and prominent citizens, we boarded the yacht Aolele (Flying Cloud) and put out to sea." The name of the yacht was most appropriate, as Bill had to cling to the mast because the yacht was tossed like a cork in the waves and the wind tugged ferociously at him, his clothing, and the pages of the Bible. Finally, Bill read the Bible's promise that 'the sea will give up those dead in it' and said a prayer. (Revelation 20:13) After that, the Captain's wrapped and weighted body slipped into the tempestuous waters of his beloved Pacific Ocean. People talked about the funeral long afterward, providing many opportunities for a further witness.