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  • Writer's pictureJill Jarrell Newsome

Witnessing to Willy Wonka

Years ago Mike and I were staying at an ocean front hotel in Hilton Head. That afternoon we had gone out to the ocean and sat at the ocean side lounge. My family knows that I am the worse at recognizing celebrities and this is really bad! Mike said, "do you know who that is?" I looked and before I could think about it, he said, "Gene Wilder." Now, you know Gene Wilder does have his own look. He was very nice and friendly. Most of the people at the bar were too young to recognize him unless you told them it was "Willy Wonka."

After a little while he began talking with us. When he learned I was from Wilmington he said he would like to go to Wilmington. Somehow church came up. I think he asked me what I did and I told him I volunteered at church a lot. We were laughing about what he could do in Wilmington and I told him he could go to church with us. He told me he had gotten a lot of offers from women but never one to go to church! Now how sad is that!?

After an hour or so, I asked Gene Wilder to sign a napkin for me to give my preacher. He said this was another first! I asked him to write, "it's a rich, rich mission field." (My preacher, Sam, always reminded us that Wilmington was a rich, rich mission field!) So is the ocean side bar in Hilton Head!

As the afternoon progressed the younger women realized he was famous and they were flirting with him. Good for him, he was just polite. We moved on and my new friend continued partying. Mike kept saying, "only Jill would be witnessing to Gene Wilder!" Why not? He is one of God's children also! There was something sad and lonely about him. He may have had all the money in the world but I had something far more valuable! I have joy and the promise of eternity in Heaven.

Because I believe I am a child of God and it doesn't get any better than that , I do not tend to get star struck. In fact, I really do feel sorry for a lot of celebrities. I just saw two movies that make my point, A Star Is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody. Both were wealthy people who were so sad and lonely and did not know who they could trust. They may not have the financial concerns we have and they may have all the help they need but I think they have it much harder than we do. So much so that the Bible speaks of it being hard for a rich man to get into Heaven!

Matthew 19: 23-26, "Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

In August of 2016 Gene Wilder died after a three year bout of Alzheimer's. I could not help but wonder if he ever got his life in order. Whether he was a Christian or not he was one of God's children. We should never give up a chance to witness. Mark 16; 15, "And he said to them, 'Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.'"

2 Corinthians 5: 20, "We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God." This is a huge honor we have! Merriam Webster says an ambassador is an authorized representative or messenger.

Only you can tell your story. Only you can describe the wonderful things that God has done in your life since you surrendered yourself to Christ. It is your story; no one else can tell it. As a Christian we desire to share with others what God has done for us! Never give up a chance to witness! Is there someone God is bringing to your mind today that you need to witness to?


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