Share a special moment from William's life.

A Poem by Jenny to her Dad

Shared by Douglas Gwinn on March 30, 2019

to my dad

you gave me your brown eyes and my brown called me your doll babe whenever you picked up the phone to talk to me.
you're the reason I have a campfire in my front yard and a skylight over my baby's bed.
you taught me that Jesus isn't a crutch, he's the whole hospital.
I got my first speeding ticket driving your convertible.
you taught me to laugh at myself.
I learned to whistle just like you and when I do, my kids come just like I did for you.
you're the reason I love to eat out at least once a day, preferably twice if possible.
you taught me to pull the weeds in my yard and the weeds in my life, before they got out of control.
you're the reason I know 299 camp songs and am teaching them to my kids.
remember " 'Wissahickon'? what a funny name!"
you must of played tennis with me a hundred times and I never did win a set from you until you were 68 years old.
you bought me my first Subaru and my first golden retriever
and you said sending her to heaven was the hardest thing you ever did.
you took that pain for me.
you and I always wanted to climb Mount Whitney together—How 'bout on the New Earth?
you always washed my car when I visited you, any visitors car, because you had a servants heart.
you taught me "He is Risen, He is Risen indeed" ..... how was the buffet your first Easter in Heaven?
you're the reason I can't drive through a tunnel without honking.
you put me on your shoulders so many times and we looked for "potholes" in all those swimming pools over the years.
and your Halloween boogey-man with the trenchcoat—outside in the dark—you'd stagger and moan with the flashlight smashed under your contorted face.
your silliness will never be duplicated.
you had a father who you didn't dare ask for a nickel.
yet you became a dad who gave me everything.
but most especially you showed me Jesus' love and taught me that heaven is our forever home.
i can't wait to play with you there
and we'll talk and love again.
Jenny (Gwinn) De Frates  Colorado  August 2009

Excerpts from Chuck Swindoll's Address at the Memorial Service in Mount Hermon May 12, 2009

Shared by Douglas Gwinn on April 1, 2019

[Prayer] Thank you for loaning (Bill) to us for just a little while, not long enough for us but long enough for You, and we bow before Your sovereignty now, in removing him from us.

Shortly before his death in 1834, Samuel Taylor Coleridge took the time to write a piece that never really got much press. It was titled Youth and Age. In that little book he wrote, “Nought cared this body for wind or weather when youth and I lived in't together.” But I think the best line is the small statement in only a few words, five of them, toward the end of the book…. “Friendship is a sheltering tree."
You can’t think of Mount Hermon without thinking of trees and you can’t walk among these trees without realizing how they shelter all of us. The blast of wind is broken by the presence of this forest of trees. The hot rays of the sun cooled by the sprawling limbs and leaves of the trees.
Friendship is like a sheltering tree. Isn’t it? We stop and think about it… all the way through the Bible we find individuals sheltered by the tree of another life. It was Joshua who found great encouragement under the sheltering tree of Moses. And it was the older Elijah who was sheltered by the presence of Elisha the prophet. David, when he was hunted and haunted by King Saul for a dozen or so years, found himself sheltered by the tree of Jonathan.
Even our long-time friend Paul had a grove of trees – when you stop to think of his life – there was a physician named Luke who was there with him to the end. There was a traveling companion named Barnabas and another named Silas, then of course, that unusual name inserted in Paul’s last letter, Onesimus…. “who oft refreshed me and he wasn’t ashamed of my chains.” Unknown to us but not forgotten by Paul were those who refreshed him. Even our Savior at the little hamlet of Bethany enjoyed the friendship of Martha and Mary, and their brother Lazarus. In unguarded moments, He could kick his sandals off, relax, and be refreshed under the sheltering tree of that family of those two sisters and their brother.
A little over a hundred years after Coleridge wrote his piece, Carl Sandberg finished his massive four-volume work on Lincoln in the war years. And when he got to the next to the last chapter of the fourth volume, which is the chapter covering that very delicate subject of those days following Lincoln’s assassination, he was at a loss to know what title to choose. He selected an old woodsman’s proverb for the title of that 75th chapter, “A Tree is Best Measured When It’s Down.”
For 37 years I enjoyed the sheltering tree of Bill Gwinn. For a number of you it was many years longer than that, but I will tell you without hesitation that he is one of those men who has marked my life and I am honored beyond words to be asked to speak today. I spend my life surprised, and this is another of those surprises, that the Gwinn Family would ask me – of all the people they could have asked – to stand here today and speak about the man who sheltered us so many ways.
I’m looking into the face of a wife who knew the love of this man for almost six decades, imagine that! And I can’t imagine how lonely you must feel, I really can’t, I just have to tell you. Cynthia and I have thought of you hundreds of times. And for the first time you go to bed alone, and for the first time you enter a home alone.
The tree is down. And now these four children – grown admittedly and have their own families – but for the first time in their lives they are fatherless. I’ll never forget when my father died – and please allow me a little bit of time to go through some of this – it’s all part of what I think the Lord would have us hear. For the first time in my life I felt orphaned. And I feel there’s a little of that in these four children. And the best part of today were the tears of Karianne… I loved the fact that you just couldn’t do all the song. There’s a great beauty in that… it may not make for great concert work but it makes for magnificent authenticity. We all melt with tears. It’s because the tree is down…. 
So my task today is to measure the tree. We couldn’t measure it while it was standing, but now that it is fallen we can look it over. The leaves are withered, the branches are now gone from our sight. This great massive trunk of a life knows enormous roots; they’re now there for us to look at. And I thank God for imagination, we can do that together, and we must. Though the tree, 79 years old when it fell, a little after 3 o’clock on that fateful Friday afternoon in April. April 17. None of us was ready for it… and it fell. So we come today to mourn his passing and also to celebrate his homegoing (Chuck reached up toward heaven in saying this).
It may be of interest to you that when Bill got to the bottom of the barrel and invited me to come to Mount Hermon (my first time), I know he had gone through his lists several times and they all had said “no.” We stayed at Ellenrock, which used to be back here (he pointed behind the auditorium). Leaned a little (he laughed)… The wind didn’t blow around it, it blew through it. And so it was a cold June day in 1972. Our youngest had just turned two. His older sister, Colleen, turned five just before we got here. Carisa was then only eight. Our oldest, Curt, was ten.
When I called Curt to tell him that the tree had fallen there was a long pause on the phone. He said, “Dad, do you know my first memory of Bill Gwinn?” I said, “I don’t know.” He said, “We were at that crummy little cabin back behind the auditorium.” He said it was cold… you had just tucked Chuck in the crib and we heard this knock at the door – it was pouring down rain and the wind was blowing. I opened the door and here stood a man with an arm-full of firewood in a driving rain. And the rain was dripping off his nose and he kept going “whew”, “whew” (Chuck demonstrated by blowing air from his mouth across his nose) to get the rain. He said, “You Swindolls must be freezing your butts off in there.” “That was the opening line that I remember,” said Curt. (and we are). I told him to come in… I had no idea who he was, we had never met. And he came in and he lit the fire and stayed there till it got going and he did that every day of our seven days at camp. Curt says, “That’s Bill Gwinn.” It is Bill Gwinn.
A servant at heart never once called himself anything significant when he was with us. He was a servant, a friend, a sheltering tree.
Bill put up with a lot from us but did we have fun ??? He put the fun back into the faith (Chuck described the hilarious episode of the pancake throwing in the auditorium)….
But when you come back to Mount Hermon, you are coming back home…. Bill set the stage for what a camp ought to be and my prayer is that it will never get sophisticated….
So we’ve come to the reality as Joshua had to come. He heard the words, “Moses, my servant is dead.” Bill Gwinn is dead. He is dead. We will never see him on this earth again.
So what can we say that will be for us worth remembering? I decided to turn to the words of a man who was as close to death as anyone – and knew it – when he took up his stylus to write his last memoirs. Paul’s words in 2nd Timothy. His tree hadn’t fallen but it was leaning and the sheltering of his life was just about done. He’s filled with memories. And he writes to his friend and he says in 2nd Timothy 4:6, “The time of my departure has come. And then he looks back and there are like three short bursts, like little staccato notes on the score. “I have fought the good fight.” Literally, it reads, “the good struggle, I have struggled.” The word rendered “struggled” is the word from which we get our word, “agony.”
Let’s be candid with one another, Bill was not a perfect man. This is not a day to rehearse scars and failures, but he had them, as we all do…. there were heartbreaking, painful times, as is true of every one of us… and this is what made the tree magnificent. Like a gnarled old tree near the beach with the roots twisted and turned… my Mother used to say, “The roots grow deep when the winds are strong.” And with all the struggles, Bill’s roots went deep. He had fought the good fight. I admire him and I admire you, Colette, and I admire each one of you his children for hanging in there with him through the struggles. You know him better than anyone. Bill had his crucibles and his agonizing moments. But he fought them.
“I have fought the good fight,” and then with the struggles passed he says, “I have finished the course.” The course that began way back at his years at seminary, including Lake Avenue. There was a wonderful story I heard just this morning, the two men who came from Mount Hermon to talk with Bill about becoming a part of this team. Bill had dreamed of them the night before… isn’t that amazing? And just as he had dreamed, they said “We’d like you to consider being at Mount Hermon.” Bill said, “Wait a minute, I gotta sit down, I just last night dreamed this.” And Bill wasn’t one for dreams and all that jazz… he just had that dream and it was sort of verified. So he came… 1957 and on through 1978, and then on to areas of ministry that others of you have had your lives touched by him: Whittier, Outdoor Resorts and other places.
And then Paul says, “I have kept the faith.” That may be the best part of all. I fought the fight, I finished the course but all the way through I never ditched the faith. I kept it, I stayed true to it.
I never once could call Bill Gwinn and talk with him without having my faith deepened. Never once was there not a word of affirmation or an encouragement. You can’t say that about too many people. He not only kept the faith, he kept it strong for others.
So that course he ran with zeal and passion and joy, and that faith he kept… and here’s the current testimony, listen to what’s happened, because we weren’t there to see it. “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge will award me on that Day.” So along with all the other great delights where he is, is the reward in words now, and later when they are given – in a crown. The crown for what? Fighting the fight, finishing the course, keeping the faith. I love the end, I just saw this in a new way… “and He will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory for ever and ever.”
Guess what the next word is? “Amen.” Amen? Doesn’t mean I’m through, but it does say “Amen.” And so we go on with our lives, we go on with the struggles, and every person in this room has them. How we love at times to rehearse them. The struggles are there, they will stay there, that’s part of being on this old earth. That’s why we need trees, called “friends” who shelter us. That’s why it’s invaluable to measure the tree when it’s down. And as we do that we remember that he has come to that magnificent heavenly reward.
I failed to mention one thing and I can’t end without mentioning it. Once the tree fell we were able to see what was carved on the trunk. “Bill loves Colette.” And on the other side if you could push it over, “Bill loves Melissa, Doug, Casey, and Jenny.”
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” Now that’s Bill. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, so shall we ever be with the Lord.” And the next verse we often forget… “Comfort one another with these words.” Comfort one another with these words. You kids, comfort your mother with these words. Colette, comfort the grandchildren with these words. We will forever be with the Lord. Comfort them with those words. We’ll be home at last. - Chuck Swindoll

"Lord, Why Not Tonight?" Faith to Move a Mountain by Jim, Doug, and Casey Gwinn

Shared by Douglas Gwinn on April 1, 2019

   One of Bill Gwinn's great dreams after he arrived at Mount Hermon in 1957 was to see Mount Hermon Road closed so that 16,000 cars and trucks per day would not be barreling through the conference center, destroying the peace and tranquility. He traveled to the state capitol seeking support in 1958, advocated for a legal injunction against the sand and gravel trucks in 1959, and built a pedestrian Overpass in 1965 to provide safety and security for staff and visitors. Most of all, he challenged everyone to pray that God would close the road.

   Finally, in the winter of 1968, a series of major storms and slides began to close the road again and again, near the sand and gravel plant. One night, in the spring of 1969 as a heavy rain was falling, Bill prayed, "Lord, why not tonight?" That night, eight inches of rain fell on Mount Hermon. The next morning, Bill walked down to the slide area and the road was nowhere to be seen. A mountain of earth had buried the road.
   Bill said, "I was absolutely ecstatic ... there were trees, underbrush, telephone poles, chunks of asphalt and dirt everywhere. The pavement was fractured. In one area, the road had dropped two feet and in another had risen five feet. The solitude of an impassible and irreparable road was a testimony to God's desire that Mount Hermon would now be free of the noise and danger." Bill gave all the credit to God, "God did it His way!"
   Santa Cruz County ceased their aggressive and expensive maintenance efforts on the road and abandoned the "Mount Hermon slide." With the leadership of Bill Gwinn and assistance from the local congressman, a new and better road was built around Mount Hermon to serve the San Lorenzo Valley. 
   In 1976, holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom was visiting Mount Hermon and Bill Gwinn gave her a tour. As Bill relates the story, "Corrie loved the flowers and she thought Ponderosa Lodge was impressive, yet she took only one photograph that day. As we walked over to the slide area, I told her the story of the road, the rain and what happened that night after praying for years and years. Corrie pulled out her camera and snapped a shot. 'Why are you taking a picture?' I asked."
   "Because God did it!"
   God's fingerprints are all over Mount Hermon. But one of the most visible of His prints is that road with the sign that says "Closed." The massive chunk of land that rose up and divided the pavement; the mountainside that slid down and covered it and the rains that washed it away — are definitive witness to the power of God to move mountains when our faith calls on His Holy Name. Broken pieces of asphalt can still be found as far as 300 yards below where the road once was. Go anywhere in Mount Hermon today (not just the slide area) and if you are tuned in to your Creator and look with the eyes of faith in Christ, you are bound to see the Hand of God yet at work and mountains still on the move. Could it be that since 1969, the voice of the Lord can more readily be heard on these sacred grounds? "If you leave God's paths and go astray, you will hear a Voice behind you say, 'No, this is the way; walk here.' "

They made the Christian Faith Fun: Bill & Colette Gwinn [by Douglas Gwinn]

Shared by Douglas Gwinn on March 30, 2019

   When my sister Melissa called me on April 17, 2009, I was not prepared to hear her say, "Our Dad has died." It hit me like a ton of bricks. A few hours later, my wife Linda came home from work and I had to tell her the news. She and I cried our eyes out for at least 30 minutes. Dad was such an encourager to me, it created a huge hole in my heart to lose him. But our loss was his gain.

   Let me tell you about Bill Gwinn, not just as our Dad but as a person who greatly influenced people in their walks with God. Those who spent time with him found themselves becoming better people, better servants of Christ who loved God and loved people the way He does. Bill Gwinn invested his life in his family and in so many other people who God brought into his life. More than anyone else I have known, Bill Gwinn was somebody who people sought out and wanted to be with.

   I never personally knew another person who was as well-liked as my Dad. His priorities in life were first God-centered. Bill Gwinn was a "people-person" by divine calling. A Bible verse which could summarize his perspective on life might be this one.... "I being in the way, the Lord led me" (Genesis 24:27). He walked with the Lord and let Him lead. And God led Bill Gwinn to minister to people. I'll give you some examples...

   One of Dad's favorite places was Westmont College in Santa Barbara. Many students or staffers from there came to work at Mount Hermon, not the least of which was Dave Talbott. Dad became Trustee emeritus there and as you can see from what David Winter and others said (below) had a large positive influence on the campus. But one of Dad's favorite things in life to do was to attend Westmont basketball games, usually along with Mom, and later with my wife, Linda & me. Dad was like "friend-emeritus" (if you will) to all the coaches (Chet Kammerer, John Moore, Jeff Azain, etc.) and would go down on the floor and greet the players (by name) after the games, even pray with them in the locker rooms. He was sometimes referred to as the unofficial volunteer chaplain for the team.

   At Mount Hermon, Dad learned the names (and faces) of EVERY person on the summer staffs, often greeting them by name, that's anywhere from 200 to 350 summer staffers. Even Redwood Camp and Ponderosa Lodge staffers.

   At Christmas time, when we lived at Mount Hermon, Dad got a staff person to drive the large Mount Hermon truck that had wooden slat sides. They would fill it with hay and all the staff kids and a few adults would pile in the back and off we would go Christmas caroling. Several other vehicles would lead or follow the truck, Dad being in the first vehicle. He had a short list of houses that we would go to sing carols. These were often "shut-ins" and other elderly folks and widows who lived in Mount Hermon and in nearby communities, such as Amy Clendendon, Mrs. Mapes, Mrs. Nyquist and the Gilchrists. We would stop the truck at their houses, and in some cases we would pile out to get closer to the door of their houses. Dad would knock on their doors and greet them Merry Christmas, share a Christmas hug, talk with them a bit, and we would sing to them. After this modern "sleigh ride" the entourage would gather for hot chocolate and goodies at Youth Memorial. But this love Dad shared was not only at Christmas; it characterized Bill Gwinn the year round, not just among those who were lonely but within our own family as well. He modeled the love of Christ and taught our family to do the same.

   We must remember the kindness and gentleness of Bill & Colette Gwinn. This is the kindness of Jesus. Bill learned it from his mother, found it in Colette, and they passed it on to us kids. We must remember, and keep on remembering until Jesus returns. Ours was a godly family founded on the love of Christ and the fellowship of the Spirit. We have a godly heritage, a lasting legacy to thank the Lord for.

   When I was a kid I remember how we used to try to go across the mall at Mount Hermon during a summer conference, trying to get to the dining room or fountain.... but we could hardly traverse that short 100 feet because person after person or couple after couple or family after family would run into us and talk and laugh and share with Dad what God was teaching them or doing in their lives or in their families. I have no recollection of Dad ever turning anyone away who needed his advice, counsel, godly wisdom or just an arm around their shoulder. They loved Bill Gwinn and they wanted to spend time with him because he loved them. Just by being himself, Dad could inspire people to be their best.

   We would go out for dinner at restaurants, almost anywhere in California (it seemed) and there would inevitably be someone at the restaurant who would come up to Mom and Dad and greet them. They would start reminiscing about Mount Hermon and pretty soon our food was cold. They loved Bill Gwinn and they desired to spend time with him because he loved them and showed it consistently.

   My wife, Linda and I would attend the L.A. County Fair with Mom & Dad and almost every year, someone would come up to Dad and greet him. His friends were not just folks from Mount Hermon, but from many other places too. When Mom & Dad came with us to our Baptist church one time in Glendora, turns out they knew people there who had attended Whitworth College with them. Bill Gwinn was someone you remembered and you wanted to spend time with him because.....

   Who we are and what we become depends largely on the people who God brings into our lives and who love us unconditionally as Dad did. Through his one life, countless thousands of lives were touched and challenged to follow the Lord more deeply and serve Him more effectively. To spend time with Bill Gwinn was to find the happy side of life because he was fun to be with. For example, nobody could tell a good joke better than he could, such as the one about "I'M GONNA WAKE UP LEROY!"

   Dad was the richest man I ever knew, and I'm not talking about money, except that he was so generous. It was very common to have people show up at our house unexpectedly just to rub elbows with Dad. But most of all, our home was a refuge for people, a place where they could go to feel safe and accepted, to kick back and have fun or a dish of ice cream with all the fruit toppings. A place where we praised God and spoke with Him. A place where God's Word didn't just sit on a podium or shelf, but was read and heard and digested, producing the fruit of the Spirit and faith in the hearers. This is the home that Bill & Colette provided for their children and I am thankful.

   In his sermons and Sunday school lessons, one of Dad's favorite teachings was on the subject of "Justification." He would quote Romans 5:8-9 and tell us that when we repent and God cleanses us from sin through the blood of Christ His Son, it is like becoming "JUST - AS - IF - I'D - NEVER - SINNED." God is able to forget what we have confessed to Him, removing it "as far as the east is from the west" — and so we are "justified," pure, and holy in the Father's sight, because He now sees us through His Son Jesus who died for us.

   Other sermon ideas Dad would share included that if you visit a cemetery and there are funerals or burials happening. Dad would point out that there are no U-Haul trucks... nobody takes anything from this earth. Dad would say, "You know how much they left behind? Answer: all of it, you can't take anything with you once you die. Either you know the Lord Jesus and enter into His presence with great joy or you meet Him at the Great White throne for judgment.

   Another sermon phrase he would say was that "we ought not to be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good [and conversely] we shouldn't be so earthly minded that we are no heavenly good." We need a balance that is winsome to other people and that reflects the Christian life of holiness to which God has called us.

   One of Dad's trademarks was his ability to find and use Bible passages, such as during his sermons, or any time. At home, he enjoyed seeing how fast he could recite the 66 books of the Bible in correct order, Genesis to Revelation. Typically, he accomplished this in about 24 seconds. The Bible was near and dear to Dad's heart. In 1978 when he was between jobs, he and I memorized the entire books of Philippians and Colossians together, sometimes reciting these over the phone when I was at college (in that case you had to trust the other person not to be reading it ... ha ha). Memorization of Scripture was a key to Dad's character and he found tremendous encouragement in the Word of God, which he also would share with others. He and Mom made sure to give Bibles to each of us kids for Christmas and birthdays. He always carried a New Testament in his pocket, well-worn, and had to be replaced several times with new ones.

   He would drill us and teach us Bible verses and conduct "sword drills." Dad selected most of the verses to memorize or find. Dad's "life verse" (as he called it) was John 10:9... Jesus said, "I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture."

   To know Bill Gwinn was to know someone who had a vision for what God could do. This vision was best displayed in his drive, determination, and dedication to bring about Ponderosa Lodge at Mount Hermon. Of all the many aspects of seeing this new High School camp come to reality, one thing I remember most was Dad's including his own children in such things as planting hundreds of little Pine trees which we watched over the years grow up and supplement the beautiful Pine plateau at Ponderosa. Bill Gwinn planted, thousands of Mount Hermon staffers watered and are still watering, but God gives the growth in changed lives. Part of Dad's legacy is this: in all that he accomplished for the Lord, he left a trail for people to follow, a pattern of life and ministry that enables and instructs others to carry on with our calling as faithful witnesses for Jesus until He returns.

   High above Ponderosa, at the top of Mount Hermon, is a cross that was so very special to Dad. He loved to lead Easter Sunrise Services there, and the favorite phrase he always used for celebrating the resurrection of Christ was to say loudly, "HE IS RISEN !!!!" and the people would reply, "HE IS RISEN INDEED." (repeated three times)

   Dad was very much into music. Whenever I would play the piano at home (usually hymns) he would take a seat and whistle the hymns I was playing. And I loved playing for both Dad & Mom as they sang the hymns (they knew the words of so many hymns by heart). I sometimes wonder.... did they sing duets together in any venues? They must have.

   One of Dad's favorite things was to organize "antiphonal singing." He only had to find two spots the right distance apart, split a group in half between the two spots and then each group of people would alternate singing lines or verses in songs while the others listened with a great sense of praise in their hearts to God. One place we did this was at the Bonnie Doon airport on Father/Son sleep outs. When we lived at 10 Madrone (1 Ridgeway) in Mount Hermon, and the Mount Hermon Summer Staff came over to our house for "Staff Sings", and Dad would leave a bunch of staffers on our patio, then off he would hike with a dozen or more staffers up to "Inspiration Point" above Ponderosa Lodge, to be the other group in the antiphonal singing. Bill Gwinn knew how to raise your soul to the heights of heaven. Dad was very instrumental (pun intended) at leading these "staff sings" or assisting those who were leading.

   Dad got along great with his family members, the Gwinn tribe, who mostly lived in the Seattle area. He related very well to his mother, (everyone called her "Nana"); he spoke frequently on the phone with his "Mom," especially as Dad would elicit her advice about child-rearing. His father had been abusive toward the family, but in his mother, Dad found the antidote for abuse and followed her excellent advice.

Casey calls Dad, "a giant for the Kingdom of God." Not only here at this memorial blog page, but also in his books, speeches, interviews and elsewhere, Casey lavishes praise on our father Bill Gwinn. He states in one of his books that when he was young, Dad was his "protector and hero;" that as Casey became a teenager Dad was his affirmer, encourager, cheerleader, anchor, foundation and moral compass. Such superlative character traits are why Bill Gwinn had a tremendous positive impact on not only our family but to so many young people and a host of folks with whom Dad worked, lived, played, ministered, fellowshipped and had every day contact.

   One passage of Scripture which Dad often impressed on us was Joshua 1:8-9. Joshua commands the people of Israel to speak the Word of God into their lives, hearts, and spirits, to meditate on God's Word constantly. We can surmise that both Joshua and our Dad, Bill Gwinn, were teaching us to keep close to God's Word, to speak it to each other daily (often) so that through it, God could mold us into the men and women He intended us to be, and so that we would be salt and light to others.

   Bill Gwinn had an uncommon degree of dedication to Christ which resulted in an uncommon perseverance in life. Besides being illustrated in his actions, it was emblazoned on our door, reminiscent of Deuteronomy 6:1-9. We are enjoined to write the Lord's commandments everywhere and remind ourselves of His Word every day, especially in our hearts, but also on "our doorposts." And so at our house in Mount Hermon Dad installed a plaque which I believe is still there today, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." {Joshua 24:15}.

   Dad's relationships with his siblings were remarkable. The families often got together at Christmastime in Seattle or at Mount Hermon or vacations at Lake Chelan. Dad used to talk for hours on the phone with his brother Nobby and they were the biggest clowns when together, joking around. They had this frequent phrase, "lousy cockroach" that they used to say to each other. You had to be there.

   Dad was more than just a friend and brother to his siblings. To everyone in the extended family, Dad was like the spiritual advisor or chaplain. His spiritual and personal advice was much sought-after and given liberally as Dad pointed his relatives to Jesus and prayed with them.

   If there is any passage of Scripture that Dad lived up to the most, it was the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). Dad was like the father in the story, always watching expectantly for his son to come home. I had more than a few episodes of being confronted, confessing, and being forgiven. But there never seemed any distance to which Bill Gwinn would not come running to meet you and help you onto your feet.

   In all Dad's life but especially (perhaps) in his last fifteen years or so, I sensed a deeper (than previously) closeness and warmth from Dad toward myself and toward my wife, Linda. I cannot forget the hundreds of times when he would first see me (or see us) and he'd give us big hugs and say, "Hello my son!" (and on the phone, minus the hugs) He made sure I knew that I belonged to him as his son (and to Mom), and it was a great picture of how our heavenly Father looks at His children with the greatest of love and compassion. I remember the numerous times he and Mom would just show up at our house without notice. They were always welcome! And one time when they had a cell phone (round about 2005), they were driving through the state of Washington and I called them. Dad answered and said this was the first phone call (and from farthest away) he had ever gotten while driving in a car and it was very exciting for both of them. Another time, Linda and I drove the one hour to their place. I think it was Christmas 2008. We snuck up to the front door. From there, we called their land line at the house and I could hear it ringing, then Dad answered. I said something like, "Merry Christmas! It's Doug & Linda, you got any plans for today?" and before he could finish saying "no" we rang the door bell. He said like, "Hold on, there's someone at our door." And he came over and opened it. HA! There we were! Nice little surprise and they were delighted to see us!

   They often had a little Swedish horse on display outside their house sporting the word, "Välkommen," which is Swedish for "Welcome!" And whenever you came to their place you felt a huge sense of being that! I could probably summarize Mom & Dad's lives in three words: kindness, gentleness, and "Welcome." Linda and I always felt welcome when we arrived at their home or wherever they were. "The welcome will not end" and it still hasn't ended. Heaven awaits. Even up to Mom's last days in 2016 (see her bio here) whenever Linda and I arrived wherever Dad and/or Mom was, I always said, "Mom, we're home!" They loved to hear it.

   One of Dad's strongest character traits was to be forgiving. In case you are wondering where Bill Gwinn might have learned about forgiveness, I would first say that it ran in the family. His brother Ralph, for example, knew a lot about forgiveness, largely in relation to their Dad, Gardner Gwinn, the abusive father. Dad really liked Uncle Ralph's book, Restoring Relationships, and I'm happy to say you can read it entirely online. In addition, Dad taught us that perhaps the most important aspect that helps a family or marriage to stay together is for people to apologize and forgive each other. A song which Dad often sang to us kids after he tucked us into bed was:

If I have wounded any soul today

If I have caused one foot to go astray

If I have walked in my own willful way

Dear Lord, forgive.

   Secondly, Dad was a close adherent (in all his relationships) to the principles Jesus outlined in Matthew 18:15ff about the need to reconcile with those who offend us. He told me a story once about when he worked at Lake Avenue Church as the Youth Minister. Senior pastor Henry Hutchins would be in his office and someone would inform Dr. Hutchins about a conflict between two other people in the church which had not been worked out, or of a parishioner who was unhappy with Dr. Hutchins or was criticizing Lake Avenue. Dad recalled several times seeing Dr. Hutchins suddenly jump up from his desk, hustle to his car and drive off to see those disgruntled people, and he wouldn't return until the issue was resolved. That was the framework behind Dad's irrepressible desire to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

   Dad fulfilled Scripture continuously in his life. "Let your gentleness be known to all" was a character quality he embodied, and especially the part, because "the Lord is near." He had a continual sense of anticipating and expecting the Lord's return, the certainty of living with Him, and the tremendous desire to introduce people to Jesus so that they too would enjoy eternity in God's presence.

   The best example of Dad's gentleness that I experienced was when I was seven years old. I was a novice bike rider but I loved to come down the hill in front of our house and turn the corner at a high speed. On one such occasion I didn't see a car coming from around the corner and I slammed right into it. My left hand on the bike handlebar went through the car's glass headlight virtually severing my index finger (you know those thick headlamps on the old cars?) and the impact knocked me out cold. The good news was that the driver had stopped already for seeing me coming. When my Dad heard the noise of the crash, he came running down from the house, saw me bleeding, ripped off his shirt and wrapped it around my hand. The first thing I remember was Dad being over me telling me I'll be okay. He picked me up and carried me to his car and rushed me to the hospital where the doctor was able to save my index finger. I still have a scar there which is testimony to my father's love. When you were down and out, you needed Bill Gwinn to come along and pick you up!

   One of my fondest memories was when Dad would take me and my brother to see a San Francisco Giants baseball game. At opening day game in 1968, we were sitting in the right field bleachers, Dad, me, and Casey. Willie McCovey hit a home run and dozens of people were poised to try and catch it, but it landed between all of them and Dad snagged it on the bounce. Without even thinking about it, he handed the ball to me! What a prize, what a gift! What a Dad! When Bill Gwinn handed you the ball, you'd better know what to do with it!

   Many times, Dad would organize a "Giants Baseball Trip" and bring a dozen or more Mount Hermon summer staffers to the game. After the game, we would go into downtown San Francisco and walk the streets and ride the cable cars, dancing and singing songs like "Now let us sing... sing to the power of the Lord come down..." and other camp classics. Is that "urban evangelism with a flare" or what? Summer staffers praising the Lord, spreading the good news of Jesus to all who would hear. Dad's enjoyment of people and of life equated to this: He made the Christian faith fun !!! Space does not permit me to tell of the many Gwinn family activities, vacations, games we played together and fun we had with Dad. Yet in all the fun or even in trials, he often would encourage us, "Never forget Whose you are," a not so veiled reference to "You are not your own, you were bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body." (1 Corinthians 6:20)

   No one can ask for a better Dad and nobody has one, because Bill Gwinn loved me and spent time with me, and I will never be the same. Perhaps there was no other activity that Dad and I did together more often than play golf. He was my biggest fan on the golf course; he thought that I was just a magician with a golf club. I will say he probably brought out the best in my golf game, and in fact the best round I ever played (in 1991 in Whittier) was with Dad. And we must have played 70 times or more at Outdoor Resorts, once with Dad's brother Nobby, the three of us. That was fun! But the golf I liked the most with Dad was at Boulder Creek Golf and Country Club. Dad would drive up there to meet me after school sometimes but it was late in the evening by the time we finished. We usually played the last hole (a par 3) in the dark. You hit the ball and then you listen for where it lands (no splashes please!) .... And if you find one ball on the green, you hope it's yours and not his! Oh the memories!

   The highlight of my golf days with Dad had to be when we entered to play in the Mission Aviation Fellowship (charity) tournament held at Industry Hills Golf Course in 1991. There were two divisions for the golf that day, the "medal" half and the "Calloway" half. Dad and I were in the Calloway division. It was my first time to ever play in a Calloway system, so I didn't know much about how it works. Anyways, we had a lot of fun playing "The Babe" course and I believe our score for each hole was the better ball. Dad's score was lower than mine on about three holes, so I give him credit. But I was thinking, as we played the 18th hole, I ought to try and finish with a birdie and see what happens. Sure enough, I got the birdie on the 520 yard par 5. Then the scores were tabulated. The announcements of winners would be made at the banquet which followed. Couldn't believe it when they announced the winners of the Calloway division: "Bill and Doug Gwinn!" The prize was a new set of golf clubs for each of us! Not very many people can say, "Hey, I won a golf tournament with my Dad!"

   When Dad was pastor at Plymouth Congregational Church in Whittier and when he was chaplain at Outdoor Resorts in Palm Springs, he often asked me to participate in the services by reading Scripture. He had a pastor's heart toward so many thousands of people, drawing them closer to Jesus and helping people to exercise their spiritual gifts and talents in the Body of Christ.

   In his sermons, Bible teaching, and leading of family devotions, Dad often said, "A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument." He often spoke of "the Incarnation Principle"; that God became Man in Jesus Christ, not just saving us from our sins as crucial as that is, but identifying with us and coming along side us. In a similar way, we ought to model Christ to others as well, pointing them to Jesus, being their friend.

   Another subject he pounded the pulpit for was like a pet-peeve he had .... People often say, "The Lord led me (or while referring to someone else) into full-time Christian service." Bill Gwinn says, that's not a good description of anyone's Christian life. Bill says rather that if someone is a pastor or missionary or in other Christian ministry work, they should be referred to (or refer to themselves) as being in "vocational Christian work (or service)." What Bill means is that everyone who is a believer in Jesus is a full-time Christian. Maybe you get paid for it, maybe you don't. But we are 24/7/365 representing the Lord. Maybe you are doing it well, maybe you aren't, but if that's the case, don't think that unbelievers aren't taking note. They are! Let your talk be also your walk! Bill Gwinn walked the talk and talked the walk.

   He was well studied, well read, and sound in doctrine, but didn't let his great knowledge and acumen change his ability to listen, to comfort someone who was hurting, or to view others as better than himself. There were a number of other phrases he liked to use when preaching.... He would say like when you are at church or anywhere with other people, you shouldn't ask them "How are you doing?" if you do not make a concerted effort stay there for the answer, to listen and be a friend to them. Another was, "People won't care how much you know until they know how much you care!" (meaning, for them as persons, family members, brothers and sisters in the family of God, unbelievers, or anyone).

   Dad had an experience of Jesus.... it was like God was his best friend ... and happily that was true ... Friend, Savior, and Lord. He often spoke of "the Incarnation principle", God living among us in the form of His Son and always being with us in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Bill Gwinn was "one of us" but he reminds me of how the people in Jerusalem felt about Peter and John, taking "note that these men had been with Jesus." And if you were ever there when Bill Gwinn led in prayer, you knew immediately that God was in the room. You would be sorely tempted to open your eyes during the prayer to see if Jesus was physically there. Dad didn't just practice the presence of Christ, it was his moment by moment experience of Christ that is indelibly etched in our memories.

   One weekend in the summer of 2004, Mom and Dad were visiting us. On Sunday morning the four of us went to Lake Avenue Church. We sat in a pew that was about fifteen rows from the front and to the side. Dad had not greeted the pastor, Gordon Kirk, yet that morning. About twenty minutes into the service, it was time for the pastoral prayer. Suddenly, Pastor Gordon announced how pleased he was to see "Bill & Colette Gwinn with us this morning." And Gordon reminded people that Dad was the first youth minister at Lake Avenue Church under Dr. Hutchins. Then Gordon said, "Bill, would you be so kind to lead us in prayer?" (I was like, WOW, are you kidding me?) Someone quickly came over to Dad with a remote microphone. So without thinking twice, Dad stood up and led the congregational prayer in front of 1800 people. Pastor Gordon knew Bill Gwinn. He knew you could call on Dad to pray without any advance notice because he knew that Bill Gwinn was already in touch with the Lord Jesus. It was only a matter of audibilizing.

   Mom and Dad's prayer life was notable and effective. They prayed for their children to love the Lord and love one another and they prayed to praise and thank God and as well to petition Him when needs arose. The best example of this was perhaps when I was about 2 1/2 years old. I caught pneumonia, perhaps in a church nursery. The local doctors tried their best with me but said I must be taken to San Francisco for more in depth treatment. I was rushed to the city by the bay and extraordinary efforts were made to try to save me. But the doctor said, "We've done all we can. Only a miracle can save him now." Mom and Dad prayed; our extended family and friends prayed; and the miracle happened. The doctors were pleasantly surprised and acknowledged that God had done it. Prayer in the Gwinn family changed things!

   The challenge that Dad leaves us with is this: to model ourselves on the life of Jesus, to make our hearts Christ's home, to be transformed into His likeness by the Holy Spirit, to speak and live for Jesus as He leads us; and to honestly assess our relationship with God at all times. Indeed, He who began a good work in Bill and Colette Gwinn, has now completed it. They are together with the Lord and awaiting the "voice of the archangel," "the trumpet call of God", the resurrection of the saints at the Return of Christ.

   George Sweeting of Moody Bible Institute wrote in 1973, "Many people never read the gospel in a fine leather cover, but no one can escape from the gospel in shoe leather." Someone should write a book about Bill Gwinn and all he accomplished for the Lord (a biography), how he pointed people to Jesus, how he helped get people back on track in their spiritual walks, how he lived the Gospel of Christ, and how he loved. It would be difficult, however, to get it all into one volume.... yet it ought to be done. The obvious writer for such a book would be Casey. I think a good title would be, "Bill Gwinn : The Gospel in Shoe Leather", or maybe "Bill Gwinn : He Made the Christian Faith Fun!"

   May I take this moment now to thank everyone who contributed to this valuable collection of remembrances of our Mom and Dad which I will always treasure. 

   When Dad first went into the hospital in mid-April ... I called and spoke with him. His spirits seemed good, he wasn't complaining. He asked how I was doing, imagine??? Linda and I had been planning to drive out to the hospital at the end of the week for his surgery; but he went to Jesus the day before it. The last words he ever said to me on this earth were: "I love you" and "give Linda my love." I thank Dad and God for this tremendous last conversation with him; goodbyes seldom get any better than that. See you and Mom soon and very soon, when we go to see the King! — Douglas Gwinn

Shared by Douglas Gwinn on April 2, 2019

The Ice Cream Cone That Lasted 28 Years!

{a.k.a., Un Intercambio de Bondad entre una Espanola y Estadounidense}
    In 2018, I (Doug) received an email from someone in Madrid, Spain. "Susana" wrote to me only in Spanish but I've been able to piece together the gist of the story. Attached to this woman's email was a page she scanned. On that attached page was a note written by Colette Gwinn (our Mom) to this woman; her name is Susana Camara. The note from Mom is dated June 21, 1990.
   I had forgotten, but evidently Mom & Dad went on a vacation trip to Europe, or at least to Spain. It seems that on Mom & Dad's final evening in Madrid (perhaps they were flying home to America the next day?) Mom was out for a walk and went to an ice cream vendor (kiosk) or store. It was late on a Wednesday evening (June 20, 1990), and Mom asked the lady for an ice cream. But Susana indicated that they were closing shop; nevertheless, Susana made an exception and fixed an ice cream for Mom, but couldn't take any money since the day's receipts had already been counted. She made Mom very happy with this gesture of kindness with a final ice cream courtesy of the Spanish people.
   The next morning, before Mom & Dad left town and before the ice cream place opened, Mom scrounged together two dollars and fifty cents, put it in an envelope, and managed to have it given to Susana upon Susana's later arrival at work. So the scan that Susana sent to me included this note of thanks by Mom and copies of two ratty one-dollar bills. Mom had also given Susana a Kennedy half dollar.
   For twenty-eight years Susana kept both of these dollars and Mom's note. She intended to send Mom a "thank you" but in the hustle and bustle of life, had put it off. Then she began to search the Internet for Mom's name ["Colette Gwinn"]. She wouldn't have found much online as to "Colette Gwinn" until after Mom's name was more prominently displayed here after her 2016 home-going. Susana found this page! But gladness about finding Mom's pictures, etc. was mingled with sadness for discovering that Mom had died before Susana got around to thanking her. It would also be true that in Mom's lifetime, she never knew whether or not Susana received the $2.50. [I think she knows now!]
   This story is amazing because of the number of years that went by while Susana kept Mom's note AND the two ratty dollar bills. It is a story of kindness by Susana in Madrid, kindness by Mom the next morning, and kindness again by Susana to remember Mom so fondly. Muchas gracias to Susana! No dear, you are not too late. I am sure Mom is looking down and smiling at you right now! I will never forget you! — Douglas.
   I reproduce for you here, the exact and full text of Susana's email to me on August 15, 2018:
Hola, me llamo Susana!, he tardado mucho en escribir ahora veo que es tarde para hablar con Colette, su mama. Me hubiera encantado volver a verla, me pareció tan entrañable y dulce. Soy de Madrid (España) y conocí a su mamá cuando era jovencita y trabajaba en una tienda dentro de la Galería del Prado en el Hotel Palace. Ya estaba cerrado pero aún no habíamos guardado la máquina de los helados, cuando apareció Colette y me pidió que le diera un cono, ella observó en ese instante que estaba ya cerrado y se disculpó pero me pareció tan dulce que la quise atender y darle su heladito, ella se disculpaba por lo tarde que era pero para mi fue un placer, de verdad. Al día siguiente Colette volvió a mi tienda y dejó un sobre, en él había una nota junto con dos dólares y medio para cambiarlos en el banco. Fue un detalle tan bonito que nunca los cambié y tampoco me deshice de la nota, para mi era el recuerdo de una mujer maravillosa que apareció en ese lindo momento para enseñarme que la gratitud es parte de nuestra vida, de nuestro día a día y he seguido su ejemplo durante todo este tiempo. Gracias Colette, desde Madrid siempre te recordaré como tú también me decías a mí en tu nota.
Les dejo copia de mi recuerdo por si quieren guardarlo. Lleva conmigo 28 años.
Me entristece no haber dado este paso antes, me hubiera encantado conocerla mejor y decirle personalmente que fue especial para mí.
Un abrazo para toda la familia!!
P.S. Siento escribirlo en español pero mi inglés no es muy fluido. [Susana, you have written to me, not only in Espanol, but in the universal language of love. Your kindness and joy come through loud and clear; thank you again dear ... Douglas]    

Share a story

Illustrate your story with a picture, music or video (optional):