By NJ Clausen
Hello and Happy Fall to you all! This month I would like to introduce you to a man with the mission of helping to make this world a better place, Dr. Bill Greenwood, Jr.
Bill was born in a rural farming area of Virginia and grew up on a 200-acre tobacco farm. At first, the family lived with his paternal grandfather, however when the third child came along Bill’s father was encouraged to build his own house on a nearby hill. When Bill was six they moved into the new house. As a child he was his grandfather’s shadow, following him all around the farm. Exploring the land and spending time outside as well as hunting with the dogs and riding bikes with friends were other favorite activities. Bill fondly remembers Sunday’s, when the family would travel the 20 miles to his maternal grandmother’s house for dinner. Bill’s grandmother was the mother of eight children, and with the aunts, uncles, and cousins there were 18 family members at dinner!
Bill was a Boy Scout and part of the Royal Ambassadors. With the Boy Scouts, he would go on bicycle trips and camp out on the sides of creeks and ponds. Bill’s mother encouraged him to join the Royal Ambassadors to develop leadership and missionary skills.
In his early years of high school, a senior asked Bill to be on his ticket as his Sergeant of Arms…perhaps because he had been President of the Junior National Honor Society, President of the Science Club, and President of the Latin Club. In his junior year, Bill ran for Student Council Association President and won with his promise to represent everyone, breaking a long-standing tradition of the ‘townies’ (those who lived in town) being chosen over the ‘rurals’ (those from farming communities). As Bill had relatives from the various rural schools that came together at the high school and had made friends with members of the town group, he was able to act on behalf of both groups.
Following high school, he went to Richmond College on a full scholarship. He was active in the Baptist Student Union throughout his years, and it was during his junior year that he was selected as the only male in Virginia to go on an overseas mission trip during the summer. Bill was originally told he would be going to Hong Kong, however during the orientation he was told that he would be going to Jamaica. After his very first plane ride brought him to Montego Bay, he and the other missionaries were met by the local missionary and his family. They were posted to six different rural communities for six weeks of vacation Bible school and occasional evening revival meetings. These missionaries would live with the Jamaican families with little or no indoor plumbing and no electricity.
Bill spoke of how this experience stretched him. He recounted how the father of this family saved his life when Bill had accidentally cut himself on a big crosscut saw, cutting his leg right to the bone. They rushed him to the hospital, and all the while the father held his leg together so that he would not bleed to death. On the mountain in Jamaica, Bill’s task was to work with a theological student to teach vacation Bible school for a week. When finally arriving at the schoolhouse/church, Bill was given food, a brief tour, and brought to a small room they would share with one bed they would sleep in. It was during this time that Bill discovered that he was serving a global God and has since returned to Jamaica three more times.
Before graduation, Bill was encouraged to attend seminary at the urging of his religion professor. He attended the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. It was midway through his third year that he met the love of his life, Sheryl. He laughs as he described asking Sheryl to marry him and how he got down on one knee and waited and waited for her answer… the yes that came after the longest 2 seconds of his life!
Bill graduated with a Master of Divinity degree and was offered a position in Lexington as an Associate Pastor. In 1991, after serving as a pastor in different communities, Bill, Sheryl, and their daughter all moved to Kernersville while his son attended college at UNC.
Throughout the years, Bill has been part of mission trips, working to close gaps in a divided world. One of the most memorable trips involved meeting with student nurses in Kirov, Russia. Bill arrived with two boxes of medical supplies, including antibiotics that had to be signed for when leaving and upon arrival. When Bill delivered the boxes to the hospital administrator, he was told that although he could not pay him, he would like Bill to speak to his student nurses on break. When Bill turned to his translator and asked what he should say, he was told to preach the gospel…they had not heard it in 70 years.
When asked what he would like to share with our community, Bill pointed out that many cultures have come to Kernersville, with people from all over the world. We need to learn, listen, be patient and understanding; to be encouragers and to lift each other up.
Dr. Bill Greenwood, Jr., with the assistance of Patty Jo Sawvel, has written a book entitled Be the Bridge which describes in more detail his journey of self-discovery and various missionary trips.