Longtime pastor will retire, but won’t go too far

Hilmore Williams has spent nine years at Faith Evengelical Free Church in Austin as relational ministries pastor. He will retire on Aug. 30 after a total of 32 years in ministries. Matt Peterson/matt.peterson@austindailyherald.com

Hilmore Williams has spent nine years at Faith Evengelical Free Church in Austin as relational ministries pastor. He will retire on Aug. 30 after a total of 32 years in ministries. Matt Peterson/matt.peterson@austindailyherald.com

After 32 years of shaking hands and mailing cards, a soft-spoken storyteller with a notable chuckle will retire from the ministry. Well, mostly.

One can expect more cards and handshakes from Hilmore Williams, and he’ll remain a fixture at Faith Evangelical Free Church, where he has been pastor of relational ministries for the past nine years. He is set to retire on Aug. 30 after decades of ministry that took him on a journey through Minnesota and South Dakota.

“This is my office,” Williams said on Tuesday, surrounded by a menagerie of goods and packages for Operation Christmas Child.

His desk sits in the corner of what’s more of an activities room. Ten boxes of cards sit above his computer. Sending cards may be a dying form of communication, but not for Williams.

“People don’t send cards anymore,” Williams said, “but I do.”

Williams, 74, was born in Osage, Iowa. He began his journey in ministry shortly after high school, when he went to St. Paul Bible College, which is now Crown College. He pastored at churches in Hawley, Remer and Echo, Minn., and in Highmore, S.D. In between those stops, he also worked in factories, worked for Schwann’s Ice Cream, managed a shoe store, helped coach a high school wrestling team, worked at a hardware store and helped mentally disabled through a program called REM.

“My goal was to be a history teacher and a wrestling coach, but God had different plans,” he said with a chuckle.

The second time Williams went back to college, with three kids and a wife at home, he prayed for two things: a job for his wife and an apartment. Otherwise, he wasn’t going to do it. He got both within a day.

Over the years, Williams amassed many stories of triumph and sadness.

In Remer, he consoled with a mother and father after seven family members and a friend died in a house fire. Six of them were children, ages 8 to 12. During that same period, he worked with a youth pastor who nearly shot a man who accidentally fired his hunting rifle and killed his son. He’s even had a stray slug fly through his own house, but nobody was injured.

Years ago, Williams settled in Austin before he began working at Faith Church. He wasn’t involved with ministry at the time, but he was bound to return to it. He has another story.

About 10 years ago, sitting in a Missouri restaurant after attending a Benny Hinn presentation, Williams had a peculiar encounter, possibly forced by the hand of God, he says.

A woman entered, a woman he had never seen before, or since. She looked at Williams, approached him and said, “God told me to come and talk to you,” Williams said.

The woman said God wasn’t done with Williams, and that Williams had unfinished business. Perhaps this woman simply says that to everyone, but Williams remembers it clearly because he believes it is true. Six months later, Faith Evangelical Free had an opening, and Williams was the right guy. Had Williams simply kept working at a hardware store or helping mentally disabled, he may not have thought anything of it. But he remembers it now. He still wonders who the woman is.

“I couldn’t even tell you her name today,” Williams said.

Williams has spent more than 30 years of his life making people feel good. He sends get-well cards, graduation cards, congratulations cards, encouragement cards, engagement cards, thank yous and more.

“My favorite part is getting to know more people, holding the new babies,” Williams said.

New mothers always get roses and knitted hats for their infants.

“It’s been great,” Williams said about meeting people. “I’ve loved it. I’ve really loved it.”

Family and friends will hold a celebration for Williams on Aug. 25 in honor of his retirement. But he’s not going anywhere soon. He’ll be waiting just inside the church doors with an open hand, smiling, laughing, hoping to meet new members and their little ones.

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